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.