Current trends in analyzing syntactic variation
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Over the last 20 or so years, research on syntactic alternations has made great strides in both theoretical and methodological ways. On the theoretical side, much of the research on syntactic alternations was restricted to generative linguistics debating how near synonymous constructions differed slightly in meaning and/or how one (and which one) was derived from the other (transformationally). On the methodological side, much research consisted of monofactorial studies based on relatively simple text counts. By now, however, syntactic alternation research has become much more functional (in a broad sense of the term) and much more methodologically sophisticated: Much work is now motivated/interpreted psycholinguistically or in a broadly usage-based/cognitive linguistic framework and much work has now adopted a regression-based analytical strategy. These attractive developments notwithstanding, much remains to be done and, in this paper, I sketch some recent developments in (largely) separate alternation studies that I would like the field to adopt more broadly. These developments can be heuristically grouped into ones that have to do with (i) the statistical analysis of corpus-based and experimental alternation data, (ii) new predictors that explain typically unexplored aspects of variability in alternations.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Attneave, Fred
    1959Applications of Information Theory to Psychology: A Summary of Basic Concepts, Methods and Results. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Baayen, R. Harald
    2011 “Corpus Linguistics and Naïve Discriminative Learning.” Brazilian Journal of Applied Linguistics11(2): 295–218.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Baayen, R. Harald , Jacolien von Rij , Cecile de, Cat C. , and Simon N. Wood
    . to appear a. Autocorrelated Errors in Experimental Data in the Language Sciences: Some Solutions Offered by Generalized Additive Mixed Models. InMixed effects regression models in Linguistics ed by Dirk Speelman , Kris Heylen , and D. Geeraerts . Berlin and Springer.10.1007/978‑3‑319‑69830‑4_4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69830-4_4 [Google Scholar]
  4. Baayen, R. Harald , Shravan Vasishth , Douglas M. Bates , and Reinhold Kliegl
    . to appear b. “The Cave of Shadows. Addressing the Human Factor with Generalized Additive Mixed Models.” Journal of Memory and Language.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Barr, Dale J. , Roger Levy , Christoph Scheepers , and Harry J. Tily
    2013 “Random Effects Structure for Confirmatory Hypothesis Testing: Keep it Maximal.” Journal of Memory and Language68(3): 255–278. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2012.11.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2012.11.001 [Google Scholar]
  6. Bates, Douglas M. Reinhold Kliegl , Shravan Vasishth , and R. Harald Baayen
    . submitted. “Parsimonious Mixed Models.”
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Bernolet, Sarah , Timothy Colleman , and Robert Hartsuiker
    2014 “The ‘Sense Boost’ to Dative Priming: Evidence for Sense-Specific Verb-Structure Links.” Journal of Memory and Language76(1): 113–126. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2014.06.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2014.06.006 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bretz, Frank , Torsten Hothorn , and Peter Westfall
    2010Multiple Comparisons Using R. Boca Raton, FL, London, and New York: Chapman and Hall / CRC. doi: 10.1201/9781420010909
    https://doi.org/10.1201/9781420010909 [Google Scholar]
  9. Burnham, Kenneth P. and David R. Anderson
    2002Model Selection and Multimodel Inference: A Practical Information-Theoretic Approach. 2nd ed.London and New York: Springer.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Couper-Kuhlen, Elizabeth
    1986An Introduction to English Prosody. Tübingen: Edward Arnold and Niemeyer.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Deshors, Sandra C. and Stefan Th. Gries
    2016 “Profiling Verb Complementation Constructions across New Englishes: A Two-Step Random Forests Analysis to ing vs. to Complements.” International Journal of Corpus Linguistics21(2): 192–218.10.1075/ijcl.21.2.03des
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.21.2.03des [Google Scholar]
  12. Francom, Jerid
    2009 Experimental syntax: Exploring the Effect of Repeated Exposure to Anomalous Syntactic Structure: Evidence from Rating and Reading tasks. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arizona.
  13. Gerard, Jeffrey , Frank Keller , and Themis Palpanas
    2010 “Corpus Evidence for Age Effects on Priming in Child Language.” InProceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, ed. by Stellan Ohlsson and Richard Catrambone , 1559–1564.’
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Gries, Stefan Th.
    2003Multifactorial Analysis in Corpus Linguistics: A Study of Particle Placement. London and New York: Continuum Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. 2007 “New Perspectives on Old Alternations.” InPapers from the 39th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society: Vol. II. The Panels, ed. by Jonathan E. Cihlar , Amy L. Franklin , and David W. Kaiser , 274–292. Chicago, IL: Chicago Linguistics Society.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. 2011 “Commentary.” In Kathryn Allan and Justyna Robinson (eds.), Current Methods in Historical Semantics, 184–195. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110252903.184
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110252903.184 [Google Scholar]
  17. 2015 “The Most Underused Statistical Method in Corpus Linguistics: Multi-Level (and Mixed-Effects) models.” Corpora10(1): 95–125. doi: 10.3366/cor.2015.0068
    https://doi.org/10.3366/cor.2015.0068 [Google Scholar]
  18. 2016 “Frequencies of (Co-)Occurrence vs. Variationist Corpus Approaches towards Alternations: Variability due to Random Effects and Autocorrelation.” InTriangulating Methodological Approaches in Corpus Linguistic Research, ed. by Paul Baker and Jesse Egbert , 108–123. New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Gries, Stefan Th. . and Allison S. Adelman
    2014 “Subject Realization in Japanese Conversation by Native and Non-Native speakers: Exemplifying a New Paradigm for Learner Corpus Research.” InYearbook of Corpus Linguistics and Pragmatics 2014: New Empirical and Theoretical Paradigms, ed. by Jesús Romero-Trillo , 35–54. Cham: Springer.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Gries, Stefan Th. . and Tobias J. Bernaisch
    2016 “Exploring Epicenters Empirically: Focus on South Asian Englishes.” English World-Wide37(1): 1–25.10.1075/eww.37.1.01gri
    https://doi.org/10.1075/eww.37.1.01gri [Google Scholar]
  21. Gries, Stefan Th. . and Sandra C. Deshors
    2014 “Using Regressions to Explore Deviations between Corpus Data and a Standard/Target: Two Suggestions.” Corpora9(1): 109–136. doi: 10.3366/cor.2014.0053
    https://doi.org/10.3366/cor.2014.0053 [Google Scholar]
  22. Gries, Stefan Th. . and Anatol Stefanowitsch
    2004 “Extending Collostructional Analysis: A Corpus-Based Perspective on ‘Alternations’.” International Journal of Corpus Linguistics9(1): 97–129. doi: 10.1075/ijcl.9.1.06gri
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.9.1.06gri [Google Scholar]
  23. Gries, Stefan Th. . and Stefanie Wulff
    2009 “Psycholinguistic and Corpus Linguistic Evidence for L2 Constructions.” Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics7: 163–186. doi: 10.1075/arcl.7.07gri
    https://doi.org/10.1075/arcl.7.07gri [Google Scholar]
  24. Hale, John
    2001 “A Probabilistic Earley Parser as a Psycholinguistic Model.” Proceedings of the second meeting of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics on Language technologies. doi: 10.3115/1073336.1073357
    https://doi.org/10.3115/1073336.1073357 [Google Scholar]
  25. Harrell, Frank E. Jr.
    2015Regression Modeling Strategies. […]. 2nd ed.London and New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978‑3‑319‑19425‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-19425-7 [Google Scholar]
  26. Jaeger, T. Florian
    2011 “Corpus-Based Research on Language Production: Information Density and Reducible Subject Relatives.” InLanguage from a Cognitive Perspective: Grammar, Usage, and Processing, ed. by Emily M. Bender and Jennifer Arnold , 161–197. Stanford: CSLI.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Jaeger, T. Florian and Neal Snider
    2008 “Implicit Learning and Syntactic Persistence: Surprisal and Cumulativity.” InProceedings of the Cognitive Science Society Conference, ed. by Bradley C. Love , Kenneth McRae, K. , Vladimir M. Sloutsky , 1061–1066. Washington, DC.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Judd, Charles M. , Jacob Westfall , and David A. Kenny
    2017 “Experiments with More than One Random Factor: Designs, Analytic Models, and Statistical Power.” Annual Review of Psychology68(1).10.1146/annurev‑psych‑122414‑033702
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033702 [Google Scholar]
  29. Kuperman, Victor and Joan Bresnan
    2012 “The Effects of Construction Probability on Word Durations during Spontaneous Incremental Sentence Production.” Journal of Memory and Language66(4): 588–611. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2012.04.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2012.04.003 [Google Scholar]
  30. Li, Charles N. , and Sandra A. Thompson
    1981Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Linzen, Tal and T. Florian Jaeger
    2015 “Uncertainty and Expectation in Sentence Processing: Evidence From Subcategorization Distributions.” Cognitive Science40(6): 1382–1411.10.1111/cogs.12274
    https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12274 [Google Scholar]
  32. Matuschek, Hannes , Reinhold Kliegl , Shravan Vasishth , R. Harald Baayen , and Douglas M. Bates
    . subm. “Balancing Type I Error and Power in Linear Mixed Models.”
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Miglio, Viola G. , Stefan Th. Gries , Michael J. Harris , Eva M. Wheeler , and Raquel Santana-Paixão
    2013 “Spanish lo(s)-le(s) Clitic Alternations in Psych Berbs: A Multifactorial Corpus-Based Analysis.” InSelected Proceedings of the 15th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, ed. by Jennifer Cabrelli Amaro , Gillian Lord , and Ana de Prada Pérez , and Jessi E. Aaron , 268–278. Somerville, MA. Cascadilla Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Pickering, Martin J. and Holly P. Branigan
    1998 “The Representation of Verbs: Evidence from Syntactic Priming in Language Production.” Journal of Memory and Language39(4): 633–651. doi: 10.1006/jmla.1998.2592
    https://doi.org/10.1006/jmla.1998.2592 [Google Scholar]
  35. Scheepers, Christoph
    2003 “Syntactic Priming of Relative Clause Attachments: Persistence of Structural Configuration in Sentence Production.” Cognition89(3): 179–205. doi: 10.1016/S0010‑0277(03)00119‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0010-0277(03)00119-7 [Google Scholar]
  36. Schlüter, Julia
    2003 “Phonological Determinants of Grammatical Variation in English: Chomsky’s Worst Possible Case.” InDeterminants of Grammatical Variation in English, ed. by Günter Rohdenburg and Britta Mondorf , 69–118. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110900019.69
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110900019.69 [Google Scholar]
  37. 2015 “Rhythmic Influence on Grammar: Scope and Limitations.” InRhythm in Phonetics, Grammar and Cognition, ed. by Ralf Vogel and Ruben Vijver , 179–206. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Snider, Neal
    2009 “Similarity and Structural Priming.” InProceedings of the 31th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science, ed. by Niels A. Taatgen and Hedderik van Rijn , 815–820.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Stefanowitsch, Anatol and Stefan Th. Gries
    2003 “Collostructions: Investigating the Interaction between Words and Constructions.” International Journal of Corpus Linguistics8(2): 209–243. doi: 10.1075/ijcl.8.2.03ste
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.8.2.03ste [Google Scholar]
  40. Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt
    2005 “Language Users as Creatures of Habit: A Corpus-Linguistic Analysis of Persistence in Spoken English.” Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory1(1): 113–150. doi: 10.1515/cllt.2005.1.1.113
    https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt.2005.1.1.113 [Google Scholar]
  41. 2006Morphosyntactic Persistence in Spoken English. A Corpus Study at the Intersection of Variationist Sociolinguistics, Psycholinguistics, and Discourse Analysis. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110197808
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197808 [Google Scholar]
  42. Theijssen, Daphne , Louis ten Bosch , Lou Boves , Bert Cranen and Hans van Halteren
    2013 “Choosing Alternatives: Using Bayesian Networks and Memory-Based Learning to Study the Dative Alternation”. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory9(2): 227–262. doi: 10.1515/cllt‑2013‑0007
    https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2013-0007 [Google Scholar]
  43. Vogel, Ralf and Ruben Vijver
    (eds.) 2015Rhythm in Phonetics, Grammar and Cognition. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter Mouton.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Vennemann, Theo
    1988Preference Laws for Syllable Structure and the Explanation of Sound Change. With Special Reference to German, Germanic, Italian and Latin. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Wulff, Stefanie and Stefan Th. Gries
    2015 “Prenominal Adjective Order Preferences in Chinese and German L2 English: A Multifactorial Corpus Study.” Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism5(1): 122–150. doi: 10.1075/lab.5.1.05wul
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lab.5.1.05wul [Google Scholar]
  46. Wulff, Stefanie , Stefan Th. Gries , and Nicholas Lester
    . To appear. “Optional that in Complementation by German and Spanish Learners: Where and How German and Spanish Learners Differ from Native Speakers.” InWhat Does Applied Cognitive Linguistics Look Like? Answers from the L2 Classroom and SLA Studies ed. by Andrea Tyler and Carol Moder . Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error