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Variable article usage with institutional nouns: An “oddment” of English?


Hundt, Marianne (2018). Variable article usage with institutional nouns: An “oddment” of English? In: Ho-Cheong Leung, Alex; van der Wurff, Wim. The Noun Phrase in English. Past and present. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 113-142.

Abstract

In English, singular institutional nouns like church or hospital are variably used with or without a definite article following verb-preposition collocations like go to and be at. British English has been reported to prefer the bare NP use whereas American English allegedly tends towards the variant with the definite article. Corpus data from the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English are used to test this hypothesis. In addition to regional variation, language-internal factors (choice and form of head noun, modification, semantics of the construction, collocational effects) are investigated. A variable rule analysis shows that regional variation is, in fact, not the most important factor and that choice of head noun and modification play a more important part. The results confirm that grammar often has a strong lexical base. Theoretical background to the study is provided by construction grammar, on the one hand, and previous work on category gradience.

Abstract

In English, singular institutional nouns like church or hospital are variably used with or without a definite article following verb-preposition collocations like go to and be at. British English has been reported to prefer the bare NP use whereas American English allegedly tends towards the variant with the definite article. Corpus data from the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English are used to test this hypothesis. In addition to regional variation, language-internal factors (choice and form of head noun, modification, semantics of the construction, collocational effects) are investigated. A variable rule analysis shows that regional variation is, in fact, not the most important factor and that choice of head noun and modification play a more important part. The results confirm that grammar often has a strong lexical base. Theoretical background to the study is provided by construction grammar, on the one hand, and previous work on category gradience.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
06 Faculty of Arts > Center for Linguistics
08 Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:15 Feb 2018 11:00
Last Modified:19 Mar 2018 12:25
Publisher:John Benjamins
Number:246
ISBN:9789027200723
OA Status:Closed
Related URLs:https://benjamins.com/#catalog/books/la.246/main (Publisher)

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