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Syntactic Variation and Change in Progress: Loss of the Verbal Coda in Topic-Restricting as Far as Constructions

John R. Rickford and Thomas A. Wasow
Language
Vol. 71, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 102-131
DOI: 10.2307/415964
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/415964
Page Count: 30
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Syntactic Variation and Change in Progress: Loss of the Verbal Coda in Topic-Restricting as Far as Constructions
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Abstract

The construction as far as NP is a common topic restrictor in modern English, but its verbal coda (goes/is concerned) is often omitted. We examine potential constraints on this variation and find significant effects for syntactic, phonological, discourse mode, and social variables. The internal effects are also relevant to 'Heavy NP Shift' and other weight-related phenomena. Diachronic data on the as far as construction, and the evidence of synchronic age distributions and usage commentators, suggest that the verbless variant has become markedly more frequent in recent decades, allowing us a rare opportunity to study syntactic change in progress. In addition to documenting the nature of variation and change in this construction, our study has larger implications for the study of syntax and sociolinguistic variation, and demonstrates the value of integrating methods from different linguistic subfields (in this case, sociolinguistics and variation theory, historical linguistics, corpus linguistics, and syntax).

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