Volume 38, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


In British Standard English, number in the verb phrase is exclusively characterized by the use of the - inflection with the third person singular present tense. World Englishes present a high level of variation as the uninflected third person singular and the inflected third person plural may also occur in these contexts. This paper pursues four objectives: a) to analyse the use of present third person inflections and compare their distribution in different varieties of English; b) to assess the occurrence of forms across speech and writing, text categories and the informants’ age and gender; c) to classify the instances by type of subject (nominal vs. pronominal); and d) to evaluate the impact of proximity agreement, notional agreement and the existence of intervening elements in the choice of the inflection. Our evidence comes from the New Zealand, Indian, Singaporean and Hong Kong components of the International Corpus of English.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bailey, Guy , Patricia Maynor , and Natalie Cukor-Avila
    1989 “Variation in Subject-Verb Concord in Early Modern English”. Language Variation and Change1: 285–300. doi: 10.1017/S0954394500000193
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394500000193 [Google Scholar]
  2. Berg, Thomas
    1998Linguistic Structure and Change. An Explanation for Language Processing. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Biber, Douglas
    1988Variation across Speech and Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511621024
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511621024 [Google Scholar]
  4. Biber, Douglas , and Jená Burges
    2000 “Historical Change in the Language Use of Women and Men: Gender Differences in Dramatic Dialogue”. Journal of English Linguistics28: 21–37. doi: 10.1177/00754240022004857
    https://doi.org/10.1177/00754240022004857 [Google Scholar]
  5. Biber, Douglas , Stig Johansson , Geoffrey Leech , Susan Conrad , and Edward Finegan
    1999Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Oxford: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Calle-Martín, Javier , and Jesús Romero-Barranco
    2014 “On the Use of the Split Infinitive in the Asian Varieties of English”. Nordic Journal of English Studies13: 130–147.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Chambers, Jack K.
    2003Sociolinguistic Theory. Linguistic Variation and its Social Significance. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Cole, Marcelle
    2009 “What is the Northern Subject Rule? The Resilience of a Medieval Constraint in Tyneside English”. Selim Journal15: 91–114.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. 2012 “The Old English Origins of the Northern Subject Rule: Evidence from the Lindisfarne Gloss to the Gospels of John and Mark”. In Martti Mäkinen , Inge Særheim , and Merja Stenroos , eds.Language Contact and Development around the North Sea. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 141–168. doi: 10.1075/cilt.321.08col
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.321.08col [Google Scholar]
  10. Corrigan, Karen P.
    2010Irish English. Vol.1: Northern Ireland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. doi: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748634286.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748634286.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  11. Crystal, David
    1997English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Dasgupta, Probal
    1993The Otherness of English: India’s Auntie Tongue Syndrome. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. De Haas, Nynke Karola
    2008 “The Origins of the Northern Subject Rule”. In Marina Dossena , Richard Dury , and Maurizio Gotti , eds.English Historical Linguistics 2006. Vol.III: Geo-historical Variation in English. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 111–130.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. 2011 “Morphosyntactic Variation in Northern English: The Norther Subject Rule, its Origins and Early History”. Ph.D. dissertation, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.
  15. de Klerk, Vivian , and David Gough
    2002 “Black South African English”. In Rajend Mesthrie , ed.Language in South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 346–378. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511486692.019
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486692.019 [Google Scholar]
  16. Deterding, David
    2007Singapore English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. doi: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748625444.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748625444.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  17. Deterding, David , Jenny Wong , and Andy Kirkpatrick
    2008 “The Pronunciation of Hong Kong English”. English World-Wide29: 148–175. doi: 10.1075/eww.29.2.03det
    https://doi.org/10.1075/eww.29.2.03det [Google Scholar]
  18. Eckert, Penelope
    1989 “The Whole Woman: Sex and Gender Differences in Variation”. Language Variation and Change1: 245–267. doi: 10.1017/S095439450000017X
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S095439450000017X [Google Scholar]
  19. Fernández-Cuesta, Julia
    2011 “The Northern Subject Rule in First-Person-Singular Contexts in Early Modern English”. Folia Linguistica Historica32: 89–114.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Gargesh, Ravinder
    2006 “South Asian Englishes”. In Braj B. Kachru , Yamuna Kachru , and Cecil L. Nelson , eds.The Handbook of World Englishes. Oxford: Blackwell, 90–113. doi: 10.1002/9780470757598.ch6
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470757598.ch6 [Google Scholar]
  21. Garside, Roger , and Nicholas Smith
    1997 “A Hybrid Grammatical Tagger: CLAWS4”. In Roger Garside , Geoffrey Leech , and Anthony McEnery , eds.Corpus Annotation: Linguistic Information from Computer Text Corpora. Longman: London, 102–121.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Gisborne, Nikolas
    2011 “Aspects of the Morphosyntactic Typology of Hong Kong English”. In Lisa Lim , and Nikolas Gisborne , eds.The Typology of Asian Englishes. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 27–48. doi: 10.1075/bct.33.03gis
    https://doi.org/10.1075/bct.33.03gis [Google Scholar]
  23. Godfrey, Elizabeth , and Sali Tagliamonte
    1999 “Another Piece for the Verbal –s Story: Evidence from Devon in Southwest England”. Language Variation and Change11: 87–121. doi: 10.1017/S0954394599111050
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394599111050 [Google Scholar]
  24. Hay, Jennifer , Margaret Maclagan , and Elizabeth Gordon
    2008New Zealand English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. doi: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748625291.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748625291.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  25. Ho, Mian Lian , and John T. Platt
    1993Dynamics of Contact Continuum: Singaporean English. Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Hughes, Arthur , and Peter Trudgill
    1979English Accents and Dialects. London: Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Humphreys, Karin R. , and Kathryn Bock
    2005 “Notional Number Agreement in English”. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review12: 689–695. doi: 10.3758/BF03196759
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196759 [Google Scholar]
  28. Hundt, Marianne
    2015 “World Englishes”. In Douglas Biber , and Randi Reppen , eds.The Cambridge Handbook of English Corpus Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 381–400. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139764377.022
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139764377.022 [Google Scholar]
  29. Ihalainen, Ossi
    1994 “The Dialects of England since 1776”. In Robert Burchfield , ed.The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol.5: English in Britain and Overseas: Origin and Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 197–270.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. International Corpus of English
    International Corpus of English. ice-corpora.net/ice (accessedJanuary 15, 2015).
  31. Joby, Chris
    2014 “Third-Person Singular Zero in the Norfolk Dialect. A Re-Assessment”. Folia Linguistica Historica35: 135–171.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Kiesling, Scott F.
    2006 “English in Australia and New Zealand”. In Braj B. Kachru , Yamuna Kachru , and Cecil L. Nelson , eds.The Handbook of World Englishes. Oxford: Blackwell, 74–89. doi: 10.1002/9780470757598.ch5
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470757598.ch5 [Google Scholar]
  33. Klemola, Juhani
    2000 “The Origins of the Northern Subject Rule: A Case of Early Contact?”. In Hildegard L.C. Tristram , ed.Celtic Englishes II. Heidelberg: Winter, 329–346.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Kortmann, Bernd , and Kerstin Lunkenheimer
    eds. 2013The Electronic World Atlas of Varieties of English. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology ewave-atlas.org (accessedNovember 18, 2015).
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Kytö, Merja
    1993 “Third-Person Present Singular Verb Inflection in Early British and American English”. Language Variation and Change5: 113–139. doi: 10.1017/S0954394500001447
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394500001447 [Google Scholar]
  36. Labov, William
    2001Principles of Linguistic Change. Vol.2: Social Factors. London: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Lim, Lisa , and Nikolas Gisborne
    2011The Typology of Asian Englishes. Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/bct.33
    https://doi.org/10.1075/bct.33 [Google Scholar]
  38. Matthews, Stephen , and Virginia Yip
    1994Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. McColl Millar, Robert
    2007Northern and Insular Scots. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. doi: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623167.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623167.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  40. McGregor, Ronald Stuart
    1972Outline of Hindi Grammar with Exercises. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. McIntosh, Angus
    1989 [1983] “Present Indicative Plural Forms in the Later Middle English of the North Midlands”. In Angus McIntosh , Michael L. Samuels , and Margaret Laing , eds.Middle English Dialectology: Essays on Some Principles and Problems. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 116–122. (First published in Douglas Gray , and E.G. Stanley , eds. 1983 Middle English Studies Presented to Norman Davis in Honour of his Seventieth Birthday. London: Oxford University Press, 235–244).
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Mesthrie, Rajend , and Rakesj M. Bhatt
    2008World Englishes. The Study of New Linguistic Varieties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511791321
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791321 [Google Scholar]
  43. Mondorf, Britta
    2002 “Gender Differences in English Syntax”. Journal of English Linguistics30: 158–180. doi: 10.1177/007242030002005
    https://doi.org/10.1177/007242030002005 [Google Scholar]
  44. Montgomery, Michael
    1994 “The Evolution of Verb Concord in Scots”. In Alexander Fenton , and Donald McDonald , eds.Proceedings of the Third International Conference on the Languages of Scotland. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 81–95.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Montgomery, Michael , Janet M. Fuller , and Sharon Demarse
    1993 “The Black Men Has Wives and Sweet Harts [and Third Person Plural –s] Jest like the White Men: Evidence for Verbal –s from Written Documents on Nineteenth-Century African-American Speech”. Language Variation and Change5: 335–357. doi: 10.1017/S0954394500001538
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394500001538 [Google Scholar]
  46. Mukherjee, Joybrato , and Marco Schilk
    2012 “Exploring Variation and Change in New Englishes: Looking into the International Corpus of English (ICE) and beyond”. In Terttu Nevalainen , and Elizabeth Closs Traugott , eds.The Oxford Handbook of the History of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 189–199.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Murphy, Bróna
    2010Corpus and Sociolinguistics. Investigating Age and Gender in Female Talk. Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/scl.38
    https://doi.org/10.1075/scl.38 [Google Scholar]
  48. Murray, James A. H.
    1873The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland: Its Pronunciation, Grammar, and Historical Relations; with an Appendix on the Present Limits of the Gaelic and Lowland Scotch, and the Dialectical Divisions of the Lowland Tongue; and a Linguistical Map of Scotland. London: Asher & Co.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Nevalainen, Tertu
    2000 “Gender Differences in the Evolution of Standard English: Evidence from the Corpus of Early English Correspondence”. Journal of English Linguistics28: 38–59. doi: 10.1177/00754240022004866
    https://doi.org/10.1177/00754240022004866 [Google Scholar]
  50. Peng, Long , and Jane Setter
    2000 “The Emergence of Systematicity in the English Pronunciations of Two Cantonese-Speaking Adults in Hong Kong”. English World-Wide21: 81–108. doi: 10.1075/eww.21.1.05pen
    https://doi.org/10.1075/eww.21.1.05pen [Google Scholar]
  51. Pietsch, Lukas
    2005 “Some do and some doesn’t: Verbal Concord Variation in the North of the British Isles”. In Bernd Kortmann , Tanja Herrmann , Lukas Pietsch , and Susanne Wagner , eds.A Comparative Grammar of British English Dialects. Agreement, Gender, Relative Clauses. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 125–209. doi: 10.1515/9783110197518.125
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197518.125 [Google Scholar]
  52. Platt, John , Heidi Weber , and Ho Mian Lian
    1984The New Englishes. London, Boston, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paulk.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Poplack, Shana , and Sali Tagliamonte
    1989 “There’s no Tense like the Present: Verbal -s Inflection in Early Black English”. Language Variation and Change1: 47–84. doi: 10.1017/S0954394500000119
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394500000119 [Google Scholar]
  54. 2004 “Back to the Present: Verbal –s in the (African American) English Diaspora”. In Raymond Hickey , ed.Legacies of Colonial English. Studies in Transported Dialects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 203–223.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Quirk, Randolph , Sidney Greenbaum , Geoffrey Leech , and Jan Svartvik
    1985A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London and New York: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Rodríguez-Ledesma, Nieves
    2013 “The Northern Subject Rule in First-Person Singular Contexts in Fourteenth-Fifteenth-Century Scots”. Folia Linguistica Historica34: 149–172. doi: 10.1515/flih.2013.006
    https://doi.org/10.1515/flih.2013.006 [Google Scholar]
  57. Rogers, Everett M.
    1985Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Macmillan.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Rohdenburg, Günter
    1996 “Cognitive Complexity and Increased Grammatical Explicitness in English”. Cognitive Linguistics7: 149–182. doi: 10.1515/cogl.1996.7.2.149
    https://doi.org/10.1515/cogl.1996.7.2.149 [Google Scholar]
  59. Romaine, Suzanne
    2008 “Variation in Language and Gender”. In Janet Holmes , and Miriam Meyerkoff , eds.The Handbook of Language and Gender. Oxford: Blackwell, 98–118.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Sailaja, Pingali
    2009Indian English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Sand, Andrea
    2005Angloversals? Shared Morpho-Syntactic Features in Contact Varieties of English. Habilitationsschrift, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Schendl, Herbert
    1996 “The 3rd Plural Present Indicative in Early Modern English: Variation and Linguistic Contact”. In Derek Britton , ed.English Historical Linguistics, 1994: Papers from the 8th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 143–160. doi: 10.1075/cilt.135.11sch
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.135.11sch [Google Scholar]
  63. 2000 “The Third Person Present Plural in Shakespeare’s First Folio: A Case of Interaction of Morphology and Syntax?”. In Christiane Dalton-Puffer , and Nikolaus Ritt , eds.Words: Structure, Meaning, Function. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 263–276. doi: 10.1515/9783110809169.263
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110809169.263 [Google Scholar]
  64. Schneider, Edgar W.
    2007Postcolonial English. Varieties around the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511618901
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511618901 [Google Scholar]
  65. Schreier, Daniel
    1998 “Tracing the History of Dialect Transplantation in Post-colonial English: 3rd Person Singular Zero on Tristan da Cunha”. Folia Linguistica Historica18: 115–131.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. 2003 “Tracing the History of Dialect Transplantation in Post-Colonial English: 3rd Person Singular Zero on Tristan da Cunha”. Folia Linguistica Historica18: 115–131.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. Seoane, Elena , and Cristina Suárez-Gómez
    2013 “The Expression of the Perfect in East and South-East Asian Englishes”. English World-Wide34: 1–25. doi: 10.1075/eww.34.1.01seo
    https://doi.org/10.1075/eww.34.1.01seo [Google Scholar]
  68. Setter, Jane , Cathy S.P. Wong , and Brian H.S. Chan
    2010Hong Kong English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  69. Smith, Jennifer , and Sali Tagliamonte
    1998 “‘We were all thegither . . . I think we was all thegither’: Was Regularization in Buckie English”. World Englishes17: 105–126. doi: 10.1111/1467‑971X.00086
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-971X.00086 [Google Scholar]
  70. Trudgill, Peter
    1972 “Sex, Covert Prestige and Linguistic Change in the Urban British English of Norwich”. Language in Society1: 179–195. doi: 10.1017/S0047404500000488
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500000488 [Google Scholar]
  71. 1974The Social Differentiation of English in Norwich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  72. 1990The Dialects of England. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  73. 1994Dialects. London and New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  74. 1998 “Third-Person Singular Zero: African-American English, East Anglian Dialects and Spanish Persecution of the Low Counties”. Folia Linguistica Historica18: 139–148.
    [Google Scholar]
  75. Wardhaugh, Ronald , and Janet M. Fuller
    2015An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Willey Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  76. Wee, Lionel
    2004 “Singapore English: Morphology and Syntax”. In Bernd Kortmann , Kate Burridge , Rajend Mesthrie , Edgar W. Schneider , and Clive Upton , eds.A Handbook of Varieties of English. Vol 2: Morphology and Syntax. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1058–1072.
    [Google Scholar]
  77. Wright, Laura
    2002 “Third Person Plural Present Tense Markers in London Prisoners’ Depositions, 1562–1623”. American Speech77: 242–263. doi: 10.1215/00031283‑77‑3‑242
    https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-77-3-242 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

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