The complementiser system in spoken English

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This paper looks at the use of complementisers (especially indicative <i>that</i>) in the contemporary spoken English of live unscripted radio and TV broadcasts. Descriptive grammars of English generally claim that indicative <i>that</i> is restricted to occurring in C1/Complementiser-First structures where the complementiser is the first word in a declarative subordinate clause. However, I report a wide range of other structures containing indicative <i>that</i> occurring in spoken English (including interrogative C1 structures), together with a wide range of C2/Complementiser-Second structures. I note that C2 (but not C1) structures occur in root clauses and conclude that (for speakers who produce such structures), <i>that</i> can lexicalise any head on the periphery of a finite clause which is licensed by a superordinate constituent. I briefly explore possible psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic factors which may have shaped complementiser use. Keywords: broadcast English; cartographic analysis; complementisers; root clause complementisers; wh-clauses


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