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Academic Paper


Title: An existential problem: The sociolinguistic monitor and variation in existential constructions on Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Author: Miriam Meyerhoff
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Auckland
Author: James A. Walker
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.yorku.ca/jamesw
Institution: York University
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: Existential constructions in a corpus of spontaneous English from Bequia (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) are used to explore a linguistic problem (Is variation in verb form in existential constructions best viewed as grammatical or lexical?) and a sociolinguistic problem (What aspects of variation change over a lifetime?). We compare “urban sojourners” (Bequians who have been away) with their home village norms. We observe differences in the frequency of the TYPE of existential preferred in different villages and by the urban sojourners. We also observe differences in whether or not the main verb agrees in number with a postposed plural subject. Building on William Labov's early discussions of constraints on variation imposed by the “sociolinguistic monitor,” we suggest that variation in individual speakers supports the notion that variables that are fundamentally grammatical are less likely to mark social factors than lexical variables are. (Bequia, Caribbean English, existentials, subject-verb agreement)

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 42, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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