Zero complementizer, syntactic context, and regional variety

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This paper presents empirical findings on the alternation between <i>that</i> and zero complementizer in a range of syntactic environments, including clausal complement to a verb with or without an intervening indirect object or adverbial, complement to an adjective, complement to a noun, <i>it</i>-extraposition sentences, and cleft sentences. The data were taken from British, United States, Australian and New Zealand newspapers. It is shown that Australian and New Zealand English have significantly higher rates of zero complementizer than American and British English, and that the effect of syntactic context on zero rates differs across regional varieties. In particular, New Zealand and Australian English show little or no inhibition of zero in contexts where the complementizer position is not adjacent to a potentially licensing lexical head. New Zealand and Australian English also show comparatively high zero rates in the complements to nouns, but no general syntactic patterns (such as light verb constructions) were found to be involved here. Instead, the higher rates of zero in noun complement clauses appear to be associated with particular collocations.


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