Genitive variation in English: everything you ever wanted to know

Posted on August 17, 2014 by



In a blog post for Cambridge Extra, LEL prof John Payne and former LEL lecturer Eva Berlage (now junior professor in Hamburg) have outlined the contents of the latest special issue of English Language and Linguistics: everything you ever wanted to know about the genitive alternation in English!

The special issue, edited by John and Eva themselves, contains four papers. One, by another former Mancunian Benedikt Szmrecsányi along with co-authors Katharina Ehret and Christoph Wolk and blessed with the adorably alliterative title Quirky quadratures, focuses on grammatical weight: how should we measure it, and does it have a linear effect on the genitive alternation? The paper draws on data from the ARCHER corpus, which has itself seen substantial Manchester input.

The issue also contains papers by Anette Rosenbach, on the state of the art in study of the genitive alternation, and Bridget Jankowski and Sali Tagliamonte, who are on the genitive’s trail. It closes with a paper of John’s and Eva’s, which addresses the niche role of the oblique genitive (as exemplified by a paper of John’s and Eva’s. See what I did there?).

Despite being “arguably the best researched of all syntactic alternations in English” (Rosenbach), the contributions to this issue make it clear that there is still much to discover. An exciting prospect, for those who have the courage to face the challenge!

Featured image: categorical versus choice contexts in genitive variation; figure from p223 of the paper by Rosenbach.

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