The changing verb phrase in present-day British English

Ref: AH/E006299/1
Institution: University College London
Department: Department of English (Survey of English Usage)
Principal investigator: Professor Bas Aarts
Research Fellows: Dr Joanne Close (1 Nov 2007 to 31 Aug 2009), Dr Jill Bowie (1 Feb 2010 to 31 March 2011)
Period: 1 November 2007 to 31 March 2011

Project Summary

In the field of syntax 'recent change' is an emerging research area which recognises that short-term changes are an important aspect of grammar systems. Our project aimed to contribute to this area of research through an investigation of (morpho)syntactic changes in the English verb phrase from the 1960s to the 1990s, using the Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day Spoken English (DCPSE). The research questions concerned changes in several areas:

  • The structure of the VP, including complementation patterns.
  • The aspectual, mood, tense and voice systems, especially involving auxiliary verbs.

Further questions involved the following issues:

  • Whether particular components of grammar or particular genres are more prone to change than others.
  • The relation between long- and short-term changes.

Further information and resources are provided below under the following headings:

Project Outputs

Book
Book

Aarts, Bas, Joanne Close, Geoffrey Leech and Sean Wallis (eds.) (2013) The Verb Phrase in English: investigating recent language change with corpora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This book includes several papers deriving directly from the project alongside the work of other contributors, and aims to represent a state-of-art statement about this emerging field of research.

For more information, table of contents and sample articles see here.

Papers

Aarts, Bas, Joanne Close and Sean Wallis (2013) Choices over time: methodological issues in current change. In: Bas Aarts, Joanne Close, Geoffrey Leech and Sean Wallis (eds.) The verb phrase in English: investigating recent language change with corpora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. » Pre-published version of paper (PDF).

Aarts, Bas, Joanne Close, Geoffrey Leech and Sean Wallis (2013) Introduction. In: Bas Aarts, Joanne Close, Geoffrey Leech and Sean Wallis (eds.) The verb phrase in English: investigating recent language change with corpora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. » Pre-published version of paper (PDF).

Aarts, Bas, Joanne Close and Sean Wallis (2010) Recent changes in the use of the progressive construction in English. In: Bert Cappelle and Naoaki Wada (eds.) Distinctions in English grammar, offered to Renaat Declerck. Tokyo: Kaitakusha. 148-167. » Pre-published version of paper (PDF).

Aarts, Bas, Maria José López-Couso and Belén Méndez-Naya (2012) Late modern English syntax. In: Laurel Brinton (ed.), Volume 2 of Historical Linguistics of English. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 869-887. » Draft version of paper (PDF).

Aarts, Bas, Sean Wallis and Jill Bowie (forthcoming 2013) Profiling the English verb phrase over time: modal patterns. In: Irma Taavitsainen, Merja Kytö, Claudia Claridge and Jeremy Smith (eds.), Developments in English: expanding electronic evidence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. » Draft version of paper (PDF).

Bowie, Jill, and Bas Aarts (2012) Change in the English infinitival perfect construction. In: Terttu Nevalainen and Elizabeth Closs Traugott (eds.) The Oxford handbook of the history of English. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. 200-210. » Draft version of paper (PDF).

Bowie, Jill, Sean Wallis and Bas Aarts (2013) The perfect in spoken British English. In: Bas Aarts, Joanne Close, Geoffrey Leech and Sean Wallis (eds.) The verb phrase in English: investigating recent language change with corpora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 318-352. » Pre-published version of paper (PDF).

Bowie, Jill, Sean Wallis and Bas Aarts (forthcoming 2013). Contemporary change in modal usage in spoken British English: mapping the impact of 'genre'. In: Juana I. Marín Arrese, Marta Carretero, Jorge Arús Hita and Johan van der Auwera (eds.), English modality: core, periphery and evidentiality. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter. » Draft version of paper (PDF).

Close, Joanne, and Bas Aarts (2010) Current change in the modal system of English: a case study of must, have to and have got to. In: Ursula Lenker, Judith Huber, and Robert Mailhammer (eds.), The history of English verbal and nominal constructions. Volume 1 of English historical linguistics 2008: Selected papers from the fifteenth International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 15), Munich 24-30 August 2008. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 165-181. » Pre-published version of paper (PDF).

Wallis, Sean (2011) z-squared: the origin and use of χ². London: Survey of English Usage. » Draft version of paper (PDF).

Conference Presentations, Talks and Seminars

Aarts, Bas (2009) Plenary lecture: Investigating current change in English at the conference English Language and Literature Studies: Image, Identity and Reality, Belgrade, Serbia.

Aarts, Bas (2009) Researching the English language, past and present, with parsed corpora. Research seminar, School of Language, Literature and Communication, University of Brighton.

Aarts, Bas (2009) Tracking changes in the use of the English progressive with DCPSE. Research seminar, School of English, University of Liverpool.

Aarts, Bas (2010) Change in modal verb phrase patterns. Paper presented at the conference English syntax: past and present, University of Manchester.

Aarts, Bas (2010) Morphosyntactic change in the English verb system. Paper presented at the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany.

Aarts, Bas (2010) Profiling the English verb phrase over time. Paper presented at the International Association of University Professors in English (IAUPE) conference, University of Malta.

Aarts, Bas (2010) Synchronic change in English. Research seminar at the Université Charles-de-Gaulle/Lille III.

Aarts, Bas (2011) Methods for researching changes in verbal syntax. Lecture presented in the Approaches to Corpus Linguistics series, Erlangen Centre for Research on Lexicography, Valency and Collocation, Erlangen, Germany.

Aarts, Bas (forthcoming, 2011) Plenary lecture: Shifts in English modal verb usage in recent times, at the 44th Annual Conference of the Societas Linguistica Europaea, Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, Spain.

Aarts, Bas, Jill Bowie and Sean Wallis (forthcoming, 2011) Typical and atypical change in modal usage over time. Paper presented at the second conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE), Boston, USA.

Aarts, Bas, Joanne Close and Sean Wallis (2009) Choices over time: some methodological issues in research into current change. Paper presented at the symposium Current Change in the English Verb Phrase, London. » PowerPoint Presentation (PDF).

Aarts, Bas, Joanne Close and Sean Wallis (2009) Using the Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day Spoken English to investigate changes in the English verb phrase. Presentation on current change at a workshop entitled Corpus-based advances in historical linguistics organised by the Philological Society, University of York.

Bowie, Jill (2010) Recent change in spoken British English: the perfect construction. Research seminar, Dept of English Language and Literature, University College London; and Dept of English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies, University of Westminster, London. »  PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)

Bowie, Jill (2011) Recent change in the English verb phrase: findings from a spoken corpus. Research seminar, Dept of English Language and Literature, University of Reading. »  PowerPoint Presentation (PPT)

Close, Joanne, and Bas Aarts (2008) Changes in the use of the modals have to, have got to and must. Paper presented at the 15th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, Munich, Germany. Also at the First Triennial Conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE), Freiburg, Germany. » Handout (PDF).

Close, Joanne, and Bas Aarts (2008) MUST and its rivals in the Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day Spoken English. Paper presented at the First Triennial Conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE), Freiburg. »  Handout (PDF).

Close, Joanne, and Bas Aarts (2009) The subjunctive in spoken British English. Paper presented at the 30th meeting of the International Computer Archive of Modern and Medieval English (ICAME), Lancaster. » PowerPoint Presentation (PDF).

Wallis, Sean (2011) z-squared: the origin and use of χ². Invited paper presented in the Department of English, University of Vienna. » PowerPoint Presentation (PPT).

Events

Bas Aarts co-convened (with Professor Geoffrey Leech, Lancaster) a workshop entitled Watching English Grammar Change at the First Triennial Conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE) in Freiburg, Germany, 8 October 2008.

Bas Aarts, with Devyani Sharma and Jenny Cheshire at Queen Mary, University of London, co-organised the third International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English (ICLCE 3). The conference took place 15-17 July 2009 and was preceded by a one day workshop on Current Change on 14 July celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Survey of English Usage.

Bas Aarts and Jo Close, with Professor Geoffrey Leech, Lancaster, co-convened a one day symposium as part of the third International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English (ICLCE 3) on 14 July 2009. This symposium celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Survey of English Usage and was based around the theme of Current Change in the English Verb Phrase. » Symposium Programme (PDF).

Resources

Bibliography

An updated bibliography is now available. Further references have been added during the course of the project. » Bibliography (PDF).

Experimental design and statistics

A number of statistical resources in the form of spreadsheets (with short papers to describe them) have been compiled by Sean Wallis in the course of this project. Wallis (2011) summarises guidance for the proper use of chi-square tests and an exposition of methods for the following:

  1. Measuring and visualising changes over a discrete variable and employing confidence intervals on the change.
  2. Obtaining reliable measures for estimating the size of an effect permitting comparison between experiments, and
  3. comparing experimental results for statistical separability » Spreadsheet (Excel).

A further single spreadsheet brings together a battery of tests and measures for multiple 2x2 contingency tests and 2x1 goodness of fit calculations. (This forms what we might term a 'canonical suite' of tests: in the course of data analysis and paper writing, individual spreadsheets were compiled to suit.)

Other methodological issues addressed in the course of the project concern the question of the optimum baseline for examining variation over time, justification for employing strict alternation where possible, and plotting trends over time series data.

Note: Following the project Sean launched a blog to further explain these issues for corpus linguists, called corp.ling.stats.

Data collection

Throughout the project we have published data and Fuzzy Tree Fragments (FTFs) for topics under investigation. See the links below for sample sets of Fuzzy Tree Fragments (FTFs) with sample lists of examples from our case studies on the modal auxiliaries, the subjunctive, the progressive, and the perfect.

Summaries of Findings

Summaries of findings on the modal auxiliaries, the progressive, the perfect, and verb phrase density are available from the links below. Fuller details and additional findings can be found in the papers listed above.

This page last modified 10 December, 2013 by Jill Bowie.