Irregular verbs

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Both language history and mathematical modeling suggest that the English irregular verbs will generally evolve to become more regular. Yet closer investigation of individual verbs and verb groups shows that evolutionary expectations can be overstated. Data from the ICE-corpora for Australian, New Zealand and British English show differing endorsements of nonstandard past tense forms, whether these are long-established ones as for <i>ring/shrink/spring</i>, or latter-day variants such as -<i>t</i> for <i>burn, learn, spell</i>. The data put Australian and New Zealand English closer to each other than either is to British. Australian population surveys show that younger citizens are more inclined to nonstandard/nonstandardized forms. Sociolinguistic and regional preferences may thus run counter to the broad evolutionary trend for English verbs, at least in the short term.


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