Grammatical variation in English worldwide

the role of colloquialization


  • Peter Collins University of new South Wales





Colloquialization – the increasing acceptance of colloquial features, particularly in more formal genres – has been a powerful discourse pragmatic agent of grammatical change in English since the mid-twentieth century. Studies of recent diachronic change in British and American English (e.g. Leech et al., 2009) suggest that it has played a role in the rising popularity of several grammatical categories, including the quasi-modals (have to, be going to, want to, etc.), and the get-passive. Such developments have rarely been investigated beyond British and American English, a gap which has prompted the present exploration of the impact of colloquialization on a number of grammatical features (quasi-modals, get-passives, first person plural imperatives, there-existentials, and progressives) across a range of World Englishes of both the ‘Inner Circle’ and the ‘Outer Circle’. The study – which is based on a set of parallel contemporary corpora – is synchronic, but the comparison of frequencies across spoken and written genres provides apparent-time insights into diachronic processes of change. Data are drawn from a number of sources, including the International Corpus of English and the ‘Brown family’ of corpora.

Author Biography

Peter Collins, University of new South Wales

Peter Collins is Professor in Linguistics at the University of New South Wales. He is a former editor of the Australian Journal of Linguistics, one of the compilers of the first corpus of Australian English, and a contributor to the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. His main areas of research are descriptive grammar, corpus linguistics and World Englishes, in which he has published widely.


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How to Cite

Collins, P. (2013). Grammatical variation in English worldwide: the role of colloquialization. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 8(3), 289–306.