Volume 35, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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The present paper focuses on the modelling of cross-varietal differences and similarities in South Asian English(es) and British English at the level of verb complementation. Specifically, we analyse the dative alternation with GIVE, i.e. the alternation between the double-object construction (John gave Mary a book) and the prepositional dative (John gave a book to Mary) as well as their passivised constructions with regard to the factors that potentially exert an influence on this alternation in seven varieties of English. The South Asian varieties under scrutiny are Bangladeshi English, Indian English, Maldivian English, Nepali English, Pakistani English and Sri Lankan English, while British English serves as the reference variety. The patterns of GIVE are annotated according to the following parameters including potential predictors of the dative alternation: syntactic pattern and semantic class of GIVE; syntactic complexity, animacy, discourse accessibility and pronominality of constituents (cf. Gries 2003b; Bresnan and Hay 2008). The choices of complementation patterns are then statistically modelled using conditional inference trees and a random-forest analysis.The results indicate that many of the predictors found to be relevant in British English are at play in the South Asian varieties, too. The syntactic pattern of GIVE is, in descending order, uniformly influenced by the predictors pronominality of recipient, length of recipient, semantic class of GIVE and length of patient. Interestingly, the predictor country is marginal in accounting for the dative alternation of GIVE across the varieties at hand. Based on this observation, we derive variety-independent protostructions, i.e. abstract combinations of (cross-varietally stable) features with high predictive power for a particular syntactic pattern, which we argue to be part of the lexicogrammatical “common core” (Quirk et al. 1985: 16) of English.The implications of the present paper are twofold. While the order of the predictors regarding their influence on the dative alternation is clearly compatible with earlier studies (cf. e.g. Green 1974; Ransom 1979; Hawkins 1994; Gries 2003b), the stability of the order across varieties of English calls for a) a more fine-grained gradation of linguistic forms and structures at the lexis-grammar interface as indicators of structural nativisation and b) a revision of earlier verb-complementational findings specific to individual or groups of varieties of South Asian English.


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