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Thesis Open Access

Regional variation in probabilistic grammars: A multifactorial study of the English dative alternation

Röthlisberger, Melanie

Thesis supervisor(s)

Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt; Grafmiller, Jason

This thesis grew out of the project "Exploring probabilistic grammar(s) in varieties of English around the World" and explores the underlying constraints that shape syntactic variation in new varieties of English around the World. More precisely, the research is concerned with the probabilistic constraints that influence the choice between a ditransitive (e.g. "Mary gives John the apple") and a prepositional dative (e.g. "Mary gives the apple to John") and the extent to which these constraints are socially or regionally malleable. Situated thus at the cross-roads of research in Cognitive Sociolinguistics, the probabilistic grammar framework and World Englishes, the study aims to tease apart the extent to which speakers' grammatical knowledge differs across a wide set of different varieties of the same language. Using mixed-effects modeling, conditional random forests, collexeme analysis and multidimensional scaling techniques, the study shows that probabilistic grammars are not as stable as hitherto assumed and that their presumed stability or variability is dependent on the lexical items and the syntactic alternation included in one’s analysis.

Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) grant no. G.0C59.13N
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