Volume 43, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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This paper provides a quantitative variationist analysis of the distribution of - versus -passives in spoken Tyneside English. Taking data from the (1960s to 2010), the paper uses mixed-effects modelling to examine a wide range of possible constraints on the distribution of versus , some of which have been discussed at length in the literature on the -passive (e.g. subject animacy, adversative semantics) and some of which have received less attention (e.g. grammatical person, tense, aspectuality). It demonstrates that the use of the -passive is determined by a complex combination of semantic and syntactic factors (subject animacy, telicity, non-neutral semantics, tense and grammatical person). Moreover, it argues that, despite the dramatic rise in frequency of -passives over time (with younger speakers using them even more frequently than -passives), most of the constraints remain in place and the variant is pragmatically marked. This stands in sharp contrast to the findings of recent investigations into the grammaticalization of -passives in standard British and American English, which found that increased frequency in those varieties was also accompanied by semantic bleaching and generalization.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): corpus; frequency; grammaticalization; passive; pragmatics; Tyneside; variation
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