Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Syntactic complexity and language contact: A corpus-based study of relative clauses in British English and Indian English

Iván Tamaredo

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2017.30.06

Abstract

The aim of the present paper is to test the claim that contact simplifies language (cf. Kusters, 2008) by comparing the domain of relative clause formation in British English, a L1 variety, and Indian English, a L2 variety. According to Hawkins (1999), the processing cost of relativizing a noun phrase increases down the Accessibility Hierarchy (Subject > Direct Object> Indirect Object > Oblique > Genitive> Object of Comparison) proposed by Keenan and Comrie (1977). Subject relative clauses are thus easier to process than direct object relatives, and so on. The results of a corpus study of the British and Indian components of the International Corpus of English show that the Accessibility Hierarchy has an indirect effect on the production of relative clauses in British English and Indian English: whereas the distribution of relative clauses with respect to the hierarchy is very similar in both varieties, the number of complex relatives, i.e., with coordination or further embedding, decreases in the lower positions in Indian English. These results thus suggest that language contact plays a significant role in relative clause use and accounts for certain differences between L1 and L2 varieties of English in this grammatical domain.


Keywords

Syntactic complexity; Language contact; Relative clauses; British English; Indian English; Variation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2017.30.06

Copyright (c) 2017 Iván Tamaredo

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