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The idea of this special issue on Spoken language in time and across time emerged at an international symposium on this topic that we organised at Lund University on 20 September 2019. The purpose of the symposium was to celebrate important past and present achievements of spoken language research as well as past and present corpora available for such research. Some speakers reported on academic and technical advances from the past, while others offered information about state-of-the-art research on spoken language and spoken corpus compilation. Our idea with the symposium was also to bring together early career scholars, somewhat more senior scholars as well as senior scholars – the latter actually active when interest in spoken language and spoken corpus compilation was in its infancy. The type of spoken corpora in focus extended from the world's first publicly available, machine-readable spoken corpus, The London–Lund Corpus of Spoken English (Svartvik 1990), nowadays referred to as LLC–1, through to the spoken parts of The British National Corpora (BNC) from 1994 (BNC Consortium 2007) and 2014 (Love et al. 2017), The Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day Spoken English (DCPSE) consisting of LLC–1 and the British component of The International Corpus of English (ICE–GB), Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English (SBCSAE) (Du Bois et al. 2000–5), The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) (Davies 2008–) and finally the most recent one, The London–Lund Corpus 2 (LLC–2) (Põldvere, Johansson & Paradis 2021a). The symposium thus covered approximately half a century of data from publicly available corpora compiled for multipurpose use by the academic community for research on spoken English in different contexts.
This article describes and critically examines the challenging task of compiling The London–Lund Corpus 2 (LLC–2) from start to end, accounting for the methodological decisions made in each stage and highlighting the innovations. LLC–2 is a half-a-million-word corpus of contemporary spoken British English with recordings from 2014 to 2019. Its size and design are the same as those of the world's first machine-readable spoken corpus, The London–Lund Corpus of Spoken English with data from the 1950s to 1980s. In this way, LLC–2 allows not only for synchronic investigations of contemporary speech but also for principled diachronic research of spoken language across time. Each stage of the compilation of LLC–2 posed its own challenges, ranging from the design of the corpus, the recruitment of the speakers, transcription, markup and annotation procedures, to the release of the corpus to the international research community. The decisions and solutions represent state-of-the-art practices of spoken corpus compilation with important innovations that enhance the value of LLC–2 for spoken corpus research, such as the availability of both the transcriptions and the corresponding time-aligned audio files in a standard compliant format.
This article addresses the question of how speakers manage information flow in specificational it-clefts by balancing grammatical and prosodic choices in real time. We examine this in a qualitative and quantitative corpus study of both full and reduced it-clefts extracted from the first London–Lund Corpus (LLC–1), whose prosody we studied combining auditory and instrumental analysis. Our empirical analysis resulted in the following findings about cleft usage in speech. Speakers have considerable freedom to choose what information to make prominent irrespective of the actual discourse-givenness of the constituents. Clefts allow speakers to highlight elements by means of two strategies, syntactic and prosodic, which may reinforce each other or create their own different types of prominence in sequence. It-clefts always have a high first pitch accent, which signals some form of reset of the expectations generated by preceding utterances. The choice of whether or not to produce a cleft relative clause is not purely informationally motivated. Rather, reduced clefts achieve specific unique rhetorical effects. All of this makes clefts a particularly useful device for speakers responding moment by moment to informational needs and shifting communicative goals.
In not-negated English sentences with indefinite expressions following the verb, there is variation between the indefinite article and any as determiners of nouns. The standard view is that singular count nouns take the indefinite article and singular non-count and plural nouns take any. However, it is possible to encounter examples like it isn't any threat, there isn't any lock or I don't have any problem.
The article studies variation between the indefinite article and any as post-verbal determiners of singular nouns in 21,084 not-negated sentences in the spoken component of The Corpus of Contemporary American English, COCA SPOK. The indefinite article is dominant with 90 per cent of the tokens. Variation is extremely rare in sentences with copular be and much more frequent in sentences with existential be and have. Among the reasons for variation between verb types is the use of do-support with have (but not with be). Expressions such as have a job/car/home or there's not a/an with uncontracted not may also prevent the use of any. Variation occurs mostly with abstract nouns such as problem, choice, way, place, reason. This finding is surprising as abstract nouns have rarely been discussed in the literature on varying countability of nouns.
Studies in modality comprise a complex canon of functional, formal, sociological and diachronic analyses of language. The current understanding of how English language speakers use modality is unclear; while some research argues that core modal auxiliaries are in decline, they are reported as increasing elsewhere. A lack of contemporary and representative spoken language data has rendered it difficult to reconcile such differing perspectives. To address this issue, this article presents a diachronic study of modality using the Spoken BNC2014 and the spoken component of the BNC1994. We investigate the frequency of core modal auxiliaries, semi-modals, and lexical modality-indicating devices (MIDs), as well as the modal functions of the core modal auxiliaries, in informal spoken British English, between the 1990s and 2010s. The results of the analysis are manifold. We find that core modal auxiliaries appear to be in decline, while semi-modals and lexical MIDs appear relatively stable. However, on a form-by-form basis, there is significant evidence of both increases and decreases in the use of individual expressions within each modal set. As a result, this study problematises form-based studies of change, and illustrates the value and coherence that functional analyses of modality can afford future work.
This study reports on recent changes in the use of the hedges kind of and sort of in spoken British English over the past twenty years. A quantitative analysis of these features within subsets of the original BNC 1994 (BNC Consortium 2007) and BNC 2014 (Love et al. 2017) suggests a systematic encroaching of kind of into contexts that are traditionally occupied by sort of. This is highlighted in apparent-time patterns in which younger speakers are leading in use as well as real-time patterns that show a significant increase in use between 1994 and 2014.
The hedges sort of and kind of are often treated as semantically equivalent, yet show distributional differences across different varieties of English. This article reports on an ongoing shift in the use of kind of as well as a relatively stable use of sort of. Its main focus is a detailed sociolinguistic analysis of both variants, which, in addition to social factors involved, teases apart some of the linguistic aspects of this shift.
In line with the theme of this special issue, the article draws attention to the usefulness of comparable, or comparably made, corpora that allow for focused studies of linguistic change across speakers, generations, registers and communities.
In this article various constructions of English with the form A + N are considered, with particular reference to stress patterns. It is shown that there are several such patterns, and that stress patterns do not correlate with fixed effects. It is also argued that a simple division between compound and phrase does not seem to provide a motivation for the patterns found. The patterns seem to be determined partly by factors which are known to influence stress patterns in N + N constructions, and partly by lexical class, though variability in which expression belongs to which class is acknowledged. It is concluded that this is an area of English grammar that needs further research.
Discourse particles are among the most commented-upon features of Colloquial Singapore English (CSE). Their use has been shown to vary depending on formality, context, gender and ethnicity, although results differ from one study to another. This study uses the Corpus of Singapore English Messages (CoSEM), a large-scale corpus of texts composed by Singaporeans and sent using electronic messaging services, to investigate gender and ethnic factors as predictors of particle use. The results suggest a strong gender effect as well as several particle-specific ethnic effects. More generally, our study underlines the special nature of the grammatical class of discourse particles in CSE, which is open to new additions as the sociolinguistic and pragmatic need for them develops.
Recent accounts of discourse-pragmatic (DP) variation have demonstrated that these features can acquire social indexical meaning. However, in comparison to other linguistic variables, DP features remain underexplored and third-wave perspectives on the topic are limited. In this article, I analyse the distribution, function and social meaning of the ‘attention signals’ – those features which fulfil the explicit function of eliciting the attention of an individual – in just over 35 hours of self-recordings of 25 adolescents collected during a year-long sociolinguistic ethnography of an East London youth group. This leads me to identify an innovative attention signal – ey. Distributional analyses of this feature show that ey is associated with a particular Community of Practice, the self-defined and exclusively male ‘gully’. By examining the discourse junctures at which ey occurs, I argue that this attention signal is most frequently used by speakers to deploy a ‘dominant’ stance. For gully members, this feature is particularly useful as an interpersonal device, where it is used to manage ingroup/outgroup boundaries. Concluding, I link the use of ey and the gully identity to language, ethnicity and masculinity in East London.