Volume 22, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1384-6655
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9811
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



This paper brings together the study of sociolinguistic variation and the area of grammatical analysis by investigating demonstrative cleft constructions in spoken British English such as and . Using the Spoken BNC2014S, I ask whether speaker characteristics, including gender, age, education and occupation, might be correlated with the use of demonstrative clefts and with various aspects of their structure (preference for the distal or proximal demonstrative pronoun, use of negative polarity, and use of stance adverbs). Findings suggest that in British English, demonstrative cleft use is more likely to be present in the speech of male compared to female speakers, working adults in higher-skilled occupations compared to semi-skilled adults, and in adults of middle age compared to younger adults. This work shows that even highly abstract grammatical constructions can be sensitive to speaker preferences and linguistic communicative style.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Andersen, G.
    (2001) Pragmatic Markers and Sociolinguistic Variation: A Relevance-theoretic Approach to the Language of Adolescents. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/pbns.84
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.84 [Google Scholar]
  2. Ball, C.
    (1977) Th-Clefts. Pennsylvania Review of Linguistics, 2, 57–69.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Barbieri, F.
    (2008) Patterns of age‐based linguistic variation in American English. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 12(1), 58–88. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑9841.2008.00353.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2008.00353.x [Google Scholar]
  4. Barlow, M.
    (2013) Individual differences and usage-based grammar. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 18(4), 443–478. doi:  10.1075/ijcl.18.4.01bar
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.18.4.01bar [Google Scholar]
  5. De Beaugrande, R., & Dressler, W. U.
    (1999) Introducción a la Lingüística del Texto. Barcelona: Ariel.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Biber, D., Stig, J., Geoffrey, L., Susan, C., Edward, F., & Quirk, R.
    (1999) Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Boston: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Calude, A.
    (2008) Demonstrative clefts and double cleft constructions in spontaneous spoken English. Studia Linguistica, 62(1), 78–118. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑9582.2007.00140.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9582.2007.00140.x [Google Scholar]
  8. (2009a) Formulaic tendencies of demonstrative clefts in spoken English. InR. Corrigan, E. A. Moravcsik, H. Quali & K. M. Wheatley (Eds.), Formulaic Language (pp.55–76). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/tsl.82.03for
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.82.03for [Google Scholar]
  9. (2009b) Cleft Constructions in Spoken English. Berlin: VDM Verlag.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Cheshire, J.
    (1999) Taming the vernacular: Some repercussions for the study of syntatic variation and spoken grammar. Cuadernos de Filologia Inglesa, 8 (Retrieved fromrevistas.um.es/cfi/issue/view/5351 (last accessedJuly 2017).
    [Google Scholar]
  11. (2005) Syntactic variation and beyond: Gender and social class variation in the use of discourse-new markers. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 9(4), 479–508. doi:  10.1111/j.1360‑6441.2005.00303.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-6441.2005.00303.x [Google Scholar]
  12. Cheshire, J., & Fox, S.
    (2009) Was/were variation: A perspective from London. Language Variation and Change, 21(1), 1–38. doi:  10.1017/S0954394509000015
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394509000015 [Google Scholar]
  13. Cheshire, J., Paul, K., Fox, S., & Torgersen, E.
    (2011) Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of multicultural London English. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 15(2), 151–96. doi:  10.1111/j.1467‑9841.2011.00478.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2011.00478.x [Google Scholar]
  14. Collins, P.
    (2004) Reversed what-clefts in English: Information structure and discourse function. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 27(2), 63–74. doi:  10.1075/aral.27.2.05col
    https://doi.org/10.1075/aral.27.2.05col [Google Scholar]
  15. (2015) Cleft and Pseudo-Cleft Constructions in English (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Diessel, H.
    (1999) Demonstratives: Form, Function and Grammaticalization. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/tsl.42
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.42 [Google Scholar]
  17. Geeraerts, D., & Kristiansen, G.
    (2014) Cognitive linguistics and language variation. InJ. Littlemore & J. Taylor (Eds.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Cognitive Linguistics (pp.202–217). London: Bloomsbury.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Halliday, M. A. K., McIntosh, A., & Strevens, P.
    (1968) The users and uses of language. InJ. Fishman (Ed.), Readings in the Sociology of Language (pp.139–169). The Hague: Mouton. doi:  10.1515/9783110805376.139
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110805376.139 [Google Scholar]
  19. Hardie, A.
    (2012) CQPweb – Combining power, flexibility and usability in a corpus analysis tool. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 17(3), 380–409. doi:  10.1075/ijcl.17.3.04har
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.17.3.04har [Google Scholar]
  20. Hedberg, N.
    (2000) The referential status of clefts. Language, 76(4), 891–920. doi:  10.2307/417203
    https://doi.org/10.2307/417203 [Google Scholar]
  21. Huddleston, R., & Pullum, G. K.
    (2002) The Cambridge Grammar of English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:  10.1017/9781316423530
    https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316423530 [Google Scholar]
  22. Hymes, D.
    (1974) Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. London: Psychology Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Lambrecht, K.
    (2001) A framework for the analysis of cleft constructions. Linguistics, 39(3), 463–516. doi:  10.1515/ling.2001.021
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.2001.021 [Google Scholar]
  24. Lavandera, B. R.
    (1978) Where does the sociolinguistic variable stop?Language in Society, 7(2), 171–82. doi:  10.1017/S0047404500005510
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500005510 [Google Scholar]
  25. Love, R., Dembry, C., Hardie, A., Brezina, V., & McEnery, T.
    (this issue) The Spoken BNC2014: Designing and building a spoken corpus of everyday conversations. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 22(3). doi:  10.1075/ijcl.22.3.02lov
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.22.3.02lov [Google Scholar]
  26. Macaulay, R.
    (1997) Standards and Variation in Urban Speech: Examples from Lowland Scots. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/veaw.g20
    https://doi.org/10.1075/veaw.g20 [Google Scholar]
  27. (2002) Extremely interesting, Very interesting, or only quite interesting? Adverbs and social class. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 6(3), 398–417. doi:  10.1111/1467‑9481.00194
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00194 [Google Scholar]
  28. Mair, C.
    (2013) Writing the corpus-based history of spoken English: The elusive past of a cleft construction. Language and Computers, 77, 11–29.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Mair, C., & Winkle, C.
    (2012) Change from to-infinitive to bare infinitive in specificational cleft sentences. InM. Hundt & U. Gut (Eds.), Mapping Unity and Diversity World-wide: Corpus-based Studies of New Englishes (pp.243–262). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/veaw.g43.10mai
    https://doi.org/10.1075/veaw.g43.10mai [Google Scholar]
  30. Meyerhoff, M.
    (2006) Syntactic variation. InK. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Language Linguistics (pp.402–404). Amsterdam: Elsevier. doi:  10.1016/B0‑08‑044854‑2/01483‑8
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/01483-8 [Google Scholar]
  31. (2013) Syntactic variation and change: The variationist framework and language contact. InI. Léglise & C. Chamoreau (Eds.), The Interplay of Variation and Change in Contact Settings (pp.23–51). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi:  10.1075/silv.12.02mey
    https://doi.org/10.1075/silv.12.02mey [Google Scholar]
  32. Miller, J.
    (1996) Clefts, particles and word order in languages of Europe. Language Sciences, 18(1), 111–125. doi:  10.1016/0388‑0001(96)00010‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0388-0001(96)00010-1 [Google Scholar]
  33. Miller, J., & Weinert, R.
    (1998) Spontaneous Spoken Language: Syntax and Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Patten, A.
    (2012) The historical development of the it-cleft: A comparison of two different approaches. Studies in Language, 36(3), 548–575. doi:  10.1075/sl.36.3.04pat
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sl.36.3.04pat [Google Scholar]
  35. (2013) The English It-Cleft: A Constructional Account and a Diachronic Investigation. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Pavesi, M.
    (2016) Formulaicity in and across film dialogue: Clefts as translational routines. Across Languages and Cultures, 17(1), 99–121. doi:  10.1556/084.2016.17.1.5
    https://doi.org/10.1556/084.2016.17.1.5 [Google Scholar]
  37. R Development Core Team
    R Development Core Team (201) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing [Computer software]. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Romaine, S.
    (1984) On the problem of syntactic variation and pragmatic meaning in sociolinguistic theory. Folia Linguistica, 18(3–4), 409–438.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Sankoff, G., & Wagner, S. E.
    (2006) Age-grading in retrograde movement: The inflected future in Montréal French. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 12(2), 16. Retrieved fromrepository.upenn.edu/pwpl/vol12/iss2/ (last accessedJuly 2017).
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Serrano, M. J., & Oliva, M. A. A.
    (2011) Syntactic variation and communicative style. Language Sciences, 33(1), 138–153. doi:  10.1016/j.langsci.2010.08.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langsci.2010.08.008 [Google Scholar]
  41. Squires, L.
    (2013) It don’t go both ways: Limited bidirectionality in sociolinguistic perception. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 17(2), 200–237. doi:  10.1111/josl.12025
    https://doi.org/10.1111/josl.12025 [Google Scholar]
  42. Tagliamonte, S., Smith, J., & Lawrence, H.
    (2005) No taming the vernacular! Insights from the relatives in Northern Britain. Language Variation and Change, 17(1), 75–112. doi:  10.1017/S0954394505050040
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394505050040 [Google Scholar]
  43. Trotta, J.
    (2000) Wh-Clauses in English: Aspects of Theory and Description. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Weiner, E. J., & Labov, W.
    (1983) Constraints on the agentless passive. Journal of Linguistics, 19(1), 29–58. doi:  10.1017/S0022226700007441
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700007441 [Google Scholar]
  45. Weinert, R., & Miller, J.
    (1996) Cleft constructions in spoken language. Journal of Pragmatics, 25(2), 173–206. doi:  10.1016/0378‑2166(94)00079‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(94)00079-4 [Google Scholar]
  46. Wickham, H.
    (2009) ggplot2: Elegant Graphics for Data Analysis. New York: Springer Science. doi:  10.1007/978‑0‑387‑98141‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-98141-3 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): anaphora; demonstrative clefts; sociolinguistic variation; spoken British English
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