Explaining syntactic and grammatical variation


On March 5 and 6 2012 Prof. Britta Mondorf taught the seminar "Determinants of grammatical variation in English".

CV details

Prof Britta Mondorf holds the Chair in English Linguistics at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. She obtained her Habilitation in English Linguistics in Paderborn, and her PhD in Düsseldorf. She was a visiting scholar in institutions such as Wuppertal and Duisburg-Essen Universities. Prof Mondorf has published on linguistic variation, functional grammar, sociolinguistics, semantics, pragmatics and historical linguistics. Well known are her monographs More support for more-support: the role of processing constraints on the choice between synthetic and analytic comparative forms (2009) and Gender differences in English syntax (2004), as well as the co-edited volume Determinants of grammatical variation in English (2003). In her current research Britta Mondorf is dealing with reflexivity and (de)transitivizing strategies, the role of language processing in grammatical variation and change, British-American contrasts in syntax and morphology, the functional motivation of synthetic-analytic contrasts, and gender differences.

Outline of the seminar

Which factors constrain the choice between functionally equivalent constructions? This is the central issue explored in the seminar. Prof Mondorf dealt with recent research providing new insights into the factors that determine grammatical variation in English. Thematically the workshop focused on the following four variation phenomena:

  1. Comparative alternation: which factors constrain the choice between more proud vs. prouder?
  2. Gender differences in syntax: Why do women and men differ in their use of causal and concessive clauses?
  3. Way-constructions: What is the function of way-constructions, eg. Grabski slurped his way to the bottom of the soup bowl?
  4. Dummy it: What is the function of non-referential it in eg. leg it, move it, shove it.

In addition to showing that grammatical variation is systematically constrained by factors from all levels of linguistic analysis, Prof Mondorf discussed pertinent research in terms of its relevance for linguistic theory-building.

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