The outer circle varieties of English in Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Island show similarities as well as differences, among other things due to the Melanesian and Polynesian substrate influence. Another possible source for the unity and diversity of the South Pacific Englishes is the fact that - due to geographical, political and economic reasons - New Zealand English and Australian English may in some of the islands supersede the former prestigious American and British varieties as a model for the national standard.
To discuss the unity and diversity of the new Englishes in the South Pacific, the focus of this paper will be on aspects of subject-verb agreement. In Fiji English the verb is often used in singular even if the subject is plural (Mugler & Tent 2004: 782). This may also be of some relevance for the usage of collective nouns, where normally both singular and plural concord marking on verbs is available. The paper will discuss whether preference of singular verb with plural subject or a particular usage of collective nouns is a common trait of all three varieties in question and whetherthe local substrate languages and/or New Zealand English as a model for the national standard have some influence.
Data will be provided by a corpus of newspaper articles downloaded from the internet from newspapers representing the three different outer circle varieties. For Fiji English the press section of the ICE-Fiji will also be included. The paper discusses the results as a step towards a general description of the 'South Pacific Englishes' and also considers the suitability of the WWW as a source for such a case-study.