Standard English

Variation in Standard English

The study of linguistic corpora draws on the empirical strength of large datasets in testing generalizations about syntax. Recently, corpus linguistics has been the unexpected catalyst of a late but welcome rapprochement between theoretical and empirical linguistics (or: of "formal" and "functional" positions in linguistics). In this spirit, I study some of the known sites of grammatical alternation in English, such as the seemingly random choices that speakers/writers make between the of- and s-genitive (possessive), or between different relativizers (e.g. which, that, or zero). Such studies are particularly informative when conducted on carefully parsed and tagged corpora.

Lars Hinrichs, Benedikt Szmrecsanyi, and Axel Bohmann. 2015. “Which-hunting and the Standard English relative clause.” Language 91:4, 806-836. (.pdf, manuscript, at

Hinrichs, Lars, Nicholas Smith, and Birgit Waibel. 2010. Manual of information for the part-of-speech-tagged, post-edited "Brown" corpora. ICAME Journal 34, 189-231. (.pdf)

Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt and Lars Hinrichs. 2008. Probabilistic determinants of genitive variation in spoken and written English: A multivariate comparison across time, space, and genres. In T. Nevalainen, I. Taavitsainen, P. Pahta and M. Korhonen, The Dynamics of Linguistic Variation: Corpus Evidence on English Past and Present. Amstedam: John Benjamins, 291-310. (.pdf, uncorrected proofs)

Hinrichs, Lars and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi. 2007. Recent changes in the function and frequency of Standard English genitive constructions: a multivariate analysis of tagged corpora. English Language and Linguistics 11(3), 437-474. (journal webpage)