Mapping Morphosyntactic Variation in World Englishes

The project is the first of its kind to produce an online, dynamic atlas of grammatical variation in first- and second-language varieties of English. While standard World Englishes (WEs) share a core grammar, this is variable in subtle ways that interact with factors like text type (news vs. academic writing) or mode (speech vs. writing). Linguists have described individual varieties or individual phenomena in some areas, but what is lacking is a global mapping of variable grammar that does full justice to the interaction of the factors influencing variability.

Data for the project come from large, comparable collections of texts, the International Corpus of English (ICE, including spoken and written data) and the Global Web-based English corpus (GloWbE, including web registers). In Zurich, these corpora have been annotated with grammatical information (word class and syntactic function), thus enabling efficient data retrieval. A crucial first step to modelling morphosyntactic variability is that we fully understand the underlying stylistic variation across these corpora. The proposed project is the first to apply a multi-dimensional register analysis to ICE and GloWbE to assess the underlying stylistic variation and corpus comparability. It will then use cutting edge statistical modelling to describe variation in three areas (articles; verb complementation; tense, aspect and modality) for a grass-roots perspective. A dialectometric study will retrieve frequency information on a broad range of features for an aggregate modelling of the similarity/distance of WEs for a bird’s-eye view. Visual analytics will be used throughout the project to test/generate hypotheses. These complementary perspectives are expected to lead to innovative modelling of the relation of WEs.

The mapping tool and the database will be published online along with the maps, thus allowing others to fit alternative models, add their results and produce additional maps, also beyond the funding period.

Visualisation Examples

Since a series of screenshots is not sufficient to demonstrate the envisaged functionality, the reader is referred to the following websites: Complementation Patterns and Dative Alternation.

Here, the dynamic nature of the maps can be explored and further information is included on lexico-grammatical variation.