Universidade de Vigo

Grammatical variation across varieties of English

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On February 29 and March 1, Professor Ulrike Gut, from the University of Münster, gave an eight hour seminar on “Grammatical variation across varieties of English and the compilation of corpora for their study”. After a brief introduction to the study of world-wide varieties of English – including a short overview of past and current research methods and the central research questions of the field – the seminar started by reporting on two studies concerned with use of the progressive in Nigerian English, which showed that the progressive is used in Nigerian English in a systematically different way from British English, both in terms of stylistic variation and the type of verbs that appear in the progressive (Gut & Fuchs 2013). The two studies furthermore try to give answers to the difficult question of when a grammatical feature that can be observed in a postcolonial variety of English can be considered a learner error, substrate influence or an innovation and the methodological question of how well cross-sectional data is suited for the study of ongoing language change in postcolonial varieties of English. In a different session, Professor Gut presented two other studies (Gut & Coronel 2012 and Fuchs & Gut in press) investigating causes of grammatical variation across varieties of English. Fristly, she showed that the English speakers’ norm-orientation in postcolonial countries can explain variation in the use of relative markers across Nigerian, Jamaican, Singapore and Philippine English. Secondly, she argued that a combination of register differences, especially the degree of formality, and cross-varietal preferences, explain the differences observed in intensifier use in Indian, Singapore, Philippine and British English. Another session was devoted to presentation and discussion of the corpus-based method of studying varieties of English. After an introduction to the aims and fundamental parameters of corpus linguistics, the compilation of ICE Scotland that is currently underway at the University of Münster is described in detail. ICE Scotland was presented as belonging to the ‘new generation’ of ICE corpora that is characterised by the data format XML, text-to-tone alignment of the transcriptions of the spoken part, the integration of metadata as well as an agile corpus compilation process (Voormann & Gut 2008). In a final session Professor Gut kindly addressed the questions of the professors, Postdoctoral and PhD students in the audience. Her seminar is available online, click here.

It was a pleasure having Ulrike at the University of Vigo; we hope to see her again soon!