The great regression
Utilizing the variationist method, this contribution is concerned with the alternation between the <i>s</i>-genitive (<i>the president’s speech</i>) and the <i>of</i>-genitive (<i>the speech of the president</i>) in Late Modern English news prose as sampled in ARCHER. A frequency analysis reveals that text frequencies of the <i>s</i>-genitive collapsed in the early 19th century, but recovered afterwards. Linear regression analysis indicates that slightly over half of this frequency variability is induced by “environmental” changes in the news genre habitat, such as varying input frequencies of human possessors. To investigate the remaining variability, we fit a logistic regression model and show that genitive choice grammars changed genuinely in regard to four language-internal conditioning factors: POSSESSOR ANIMACY, GENITIVE RELATION, POSSESSUM LENGTH, and POSSESSOR THEMATICITY. Applying customary grammaticalization diagnostics, we conclude that while the <i>s</i>-genitive was subject to grammaticalization in the 19th century, it actually degrammaticalized during the 20th century.