Language users are creatures of habit with a tendency to re-use
morphosyntactic material that they have produced or heard before. In other
words, linguistic patterns and tokens, once used, persist in discourse. The
present book is the first large-scale corpus analysis to explore the
determinants of this persistence, drawing on regression analyses of a
variety of functional, discourse-functional, cognitive, psycholinguistic,
and external factors. The case studies investigated include the alternation
between synthetic and analytic comparatives, between the s-genitive and the
of-genitive, between gerundial and infinitival complemention, particle
placement, and future marker choice in a number of corpora sampling
different spoken registers and geographical varieties of English.
Providing a probabilistic framework for examining the ways in which
persistence - among several other internal and external factors -
influences speakers' linguistic choices, the book departs from most
writings in the field in that it seeks to bridge several research
traditions. While it is concerned, in a classically variationist spirit,
with internal and external determinants of grammatical variation in
English, it also draws heavily on ideas and evidence developed by
psycholinguists and discourse analysts. In seeking to construct a
comprehensive model of how speakers make linguistic choices, the study
ultimately contributes to a theory of how spoken language works.
The book is of interest to graduate students and researchers in
variationist sociolinguistics, probabilistic linguistics,
psycholinguistics, and computational linguistics.