Verb complementation patternsin Black South African English
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In this thesis, some of the features pertaining to the verb-complementational patterns in the writing of experienced Black South African English (BSAE) speakers were investigated. These features are the ditransitive construction, anti-deletion in terms of the finite that-complementiser, and anti-deletion in terms of the non-finite infinitive to-marker. While the ditransitive construction has been investigated in other New Englishes, the construction has not yet been investigated in BSAE. Makalela (2013) and Mesthrie (2006) investigated anti-deletion in spoken corpora of BSAE. Both Makalela (2013) and Mesthrie (2006) found that the non-deletion of the that-complementiser is a feature of BSAE, while Mesthrie (2006) identified the undeletion of the infinite to-marker as another feature of BSAE. These features were investigated by means of a parallel corpus containing original texts written by experienced BSAE writers and aligned with the same texts that were edited by professional South African language editors. The data from this corpus were compared to the data obtained from a corpus containing the writing of White South African English (WSAE) writers. Both corpora were collected within the Constrained Language project. In those cases where there was no significant difference in the use of the features between the BSAE speakers and the WSAE speakers, the features were analysed in the Tswana Learner English (TLE) corpus as well to determine whether the feature that was expected but absent in the writing of the BSAE speakers may have been a learner feature. The results were analysed quantitatively from a usage-based perspective and interpreted against the background of the evolutionary theories of language change, theories that view language as an internal and external construct, and the models of New Englishes that describe the spread of New Englishes. It was determined that the BSAE speakers use the prepositional dative allostruction more often than the WSAE speakers. In an attempt to gain insight into the phenomenon, a distinctive collexeme analysis was performed on the data of both the BSAE corpus and the WSAE corpus, but no significant differences were found. To determine whether the difference can be ascribed to variety, the ditransitive patterns were annotated for a number of predictors known to influence the choice between the double-object allostruction and the prepositional dative allostruction. The choices were then statistically modelled by means of a conditional inference tree and a random forest. The results revealed that the factors predicting dative alternation in WSAE also predict dative alternation in BSAE and that the more frequent use of the prepositional dative allostruction by the BSAE speakers may be the result of the uneven pressure exerted by the conditioning variables. With regard to the non-deletion of the that-complementiser, it was found that the BSAE speakers omit the that-complementiser more often than the WSAE speakers in the academic and reportage registers. In the instructional and popular registers, though, the BSAE speakers retained the that-complementiser more often than the WSAE speakers. The difference in all the registers but the academic register was statistically significant. To determine whether the difference could be ascribed to variety, the that-complementisers were annotated for a number of predictors known to influence the choices made concerning the omission of the that-complementiser. The choices were statistically modelled by means of a conditional inference tree and a random forest, and the results revealed that many of the same factors that predict that-omission in WSAE, also predict that-omission in BSAE. A number of reasons were posited for the results, amongst which the BSAE speakers’ experience in producing texts in specific registers. It was also determined that there were not many differences in terms of the anti-deletion of the infinitive to-marker between the BSAE speakers and the WSAE speakers. Consequently, data from the TLE were also analysed. The results showed that while there were no significant differences between the BSAE speakers and the WSAE speakers and the learner BSAE speakers and the experienced BSAE speakers, the differences between the learner BSAE speakers and the WSAE speakers were significant. These results suggest that the BSAE speakers are gradually moving towards accepting the WSAE norm. To determine whether variety played a role in the differences, the data pertaining to the help + infinitive marker constructeme were annotated for a number of predictors known to influence the choices speakers make in terms of omitting the infinitive marker. The choices were statistically modelled by means of a conditional inference tree and a random forest, and the results revealed that the same factors that predict infinitive to-omission in the help + infinitive marker constructeme in WSAE predict infinitive to-omission in the help + infinitive marker constructeme in BSAE. On the whole, the results indicate that as the BSAE speakers become more experienced and the features become more entrenched in their internal grammar, they seem to accommodate the WSAE speakers by selecting those linguistic features contributed by the WSAE speakers (and possibly the more experienced speakers of other L2 varieties) to the linguistic feature pool. These findings are attributed to the fact that English does not form part of the BSAE speakers’ identity and only serves the purpose of social mobility. These findings are similar to recent findings from phonetic data, e.g. Mesthrie (2010) and Mesthrie, Chevalier and Dunne (2015). Furthermore, considering the minimal changes made by the editors to the writing of the BSAE speakers with regard to these features, it would seem as if the BSAE users’ endonormative use of the features are accepted by the linguistic gatekeepers of the publishing industry. Given these findings, it seems as if the norms (as they pertain to the linguistic features investigated in this thesis) are aligned across the STL and IDG components of the broader SAE community, and that BSAE learner usage is not in the process of establishing a radically different norm from the WSAE norm. This means that BSAE is still situated in Phase 3 of Schneider’s Dynamic Model of the Evolution of Postcolonial Englishes.
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