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Was/were variation across the generations: View from the city of York

  • Sali Tagliamonte (a1)


In this article, I describe a new research project on York English (YrkE), a variety in northeast England. In addition to providing the first systematic linguistic documentation of YrkE, I conduct a quantitative analysis of a linguistic feature which not only is well documented in the literature, but also recurs pervasively in varieties of English worldwide—was/were variation in the past tense paradigm. Two separate tendencies are observed, neither of which can be explained by any unidimensional notion of analogical leveling of the paradigm: (1) nonstandard was in existential constructions, and (2) nonstandard were in negative tags. Both trends can be tracked in apparent time in which the contrasting behavior of men and women reveals that women are leading both types of linguistic change. In other contexts, nonstandard was is a synchronic remnant which can be traced to earlier stages in the history of English.



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Was/were variation across the generations: View from the city of York

  • Sali Tagliamonte (a1)


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