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A guide to English grammar and usage for the twenty-first century, pairing grammar rules with interesting and humorous quotations from American popular culture.

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Academic Paper

Title: Are Clefts Contagious in Conversation?
Paper URL:
Author: Andreea Simona Calude
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Reading
Author: Steven Miller
Institution: Trinity College Dublin
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: It is well known that conversationalists often imitate their own body language as a sign of closeness and empathy. This study shows that in spontaneous, unplanned conversation, speakers go as far as emulating each other's grammar. The use of a family of focusing constructions (namely, the cleft), such as 'it was my mother who rang the other day', or 'what I meant to say was that he should go Thursday', was investigated in a corpus of conversation excerpts in New Zealand English. Findings show that clefting is contagious. In other words, if one speaker uses a cleft, others will be likely to do so too.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: English Language and Linguistics. 13: 127-132.

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