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Social constraints on syntactic variation: The role of gender in Jamaican English ditransitive constructions


Röthlisberger, Melanie (2021). Social constraints on syntactic variation: The role of gender in Jamaican English ditransitive constructions. In: Bernaisch, Tobias. Gender in World Englishes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 147-175.

Abstract

The present study explores the effect of speakers’ gender in the well-known dative alternation (e.g. Mary gives John an apple vs. Mary gives an apple to John) and weighs the impact of this language-external factor against language-internal factors such as length of the constituents or semantics of the verb. Following up on previous research (Röthlisberger, Grafmiller & Szmrecsanyi 2017) that explored the dative alternation across nine varieties of English, the focus of the present work will be on Jamaican English, one variety where male and female speakers seem to use the two variants differently (see Röthlisberger 2018: 202). 615 variable dative tokens of acrolectal Jamaican English speech were annotated for 11 language-internal and three language-external factors and subjected to conditional random forest and mixed-effects logistic regression analyses. The results of these analyses indicate that the predictor GENDER plays only a marginal role vis-à-vis other language-external and -internal constraints. At the same time, if only the two most important language-internal predictors are considered, GENDER turns out to significantly affect dative choice with male speakers preferring the prepositional variant more than female speakers. These results not only highlight the potential of syntactic alternations to serve as sociolinguistic variables but also point to possibly different social dynamics between male and female speakers in Jamaica.

Abstract

The present study explores the effect of speakers’ gender in the well-known dative alternation (e.g. Mary gives John an apple vs. Mary gives an apple to John) and weighs the impact of this language-external factor against language-internal factors such as length of the constituents or semantics of the verb. Following up on previous research (Röthlisberger, Grafmiller & Szmrecsanyi 2017) that explored the dative alternation across nine varieties of English, the focus of the present work will be on Jamaican English, one variety where male and female speakers seem to use the two variants differently (see Röthlisberger 2018: 202). 615 variable dative tokens of acrolectal Jamaican English speech were annotated for 11 language-internal and three language-external factors and subjected to conditional random forest and mixed-effects logistic regression analyses. The results of these analyses indicate that the predictor GENDER plays only a marginal role vis-à-vis other language-external and -internal constraints. At the same time, if only the two most important language-internal predictors are considered, GENDER turns out to significantly affect dative choice with male speakers preferring the prepositional variant more than female speakers. These results not only highlight the potential of syntactic alternations to serve as sociolinguistic variables but also point to possibly different social dynamics between male and female speakers in Jamaica.

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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 > Zurich Center for Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Uncontrolled Keywords:Dativalternation, syntaktische Variation, Sprachwissenschaft, English, Gender, World Englishes
Language:English
Date:2021
Deposited On:22 Sep 2020 10:52
Last Modified:27 Jan 2022 02:36
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
Series Name:Studies in English Language
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108696739.007
Related URLs:https://osf.io/gz6bv/ (Research Data)

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