PhD Alumni

Susanne Jantos Freiburg

Agreement in educated Jamaican English
A corpus investigation of ICE-Jamaica

ErstbetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h. c. Christian Mair
ZweitbetreuerProf. Dr. Bernd Kortmann

The purpose of this study was to thoroughly investigate morphosyntactic variation in the subject-verb agreement system in educated Jamaican English (JamE) and to shed light on the complex net of factors that determine this variation.
After a short overview of the historical development of English in Jamaica and the sociolinguistic conditions that led to the emergence of the standard-creole continuum characterising the present language situation, chapter 2 summarizes recent research into linguistic variation in New Englishes in general and JamE in particular. Chapter 3 is devoted to a theoretical overview of previous research into subject-verb agreement, with a focus on grammatical (e.g. subject type and subject number) and situational factors (e.g. formality and mode of production) that potentially influence agreement.
On the basis of the Jamaican component of the International Corpus of English (ICE), subject-verb agreement with lexical verbs and with the exceptional verb be is analysed quantitatively and qualitatively across three spoken registers differing in their relative levels of formality. The results are then compared to those obtained from a parallel analysis of three written registers of similar formality levels (chapter 4).
The investigation focuses particularly on the nature and extent to which Jamaican Creole (JamC) exerts influence on JamE through language contact, and on how this influence depends on the formality of the situation and the mode of production (i.e. spoken or written). The analysis shows that creole influence varies with formality and that this results in a high degree of complexity in the subject-verb agreement system in Jamaican English, as described in detail in this chapter.
For a part of the phenomenon under investigation - namely agreement in existential there + be constructions - this work also offers inter-variety analyses on the basis of further ICE-corpora (GB, Singapore, India) as well as an American corpus (Santa Barbara Corpus). This comparative study in chapter 5 indicates that the frequency of (non-) agreement in such existential there constructions is closely tied to grammatical factors and that differences in frequencies can be attributed to the type of variety (L1 versus L2) rather than to substrate influence.
Chapter 6 extends the focus in a two-pronged fashion. First, it provides a typological discussion of structures that can be used as alternatives to there + be constructions to express existence, e.g. locative and possessive constructions. Second, the focus of the investigation is shifted to the respective substrates in Jamaica, India and Singapore, in order to identify the most commonly used existential expressions. This is followed by a corpus analysis of the relevant existential constructions in the four ICE-Corpora (the American corpus is excluded due to a lack of comparability), in order to uncover substrate influence on the respective varieties. The corpus analysis shows strong preferences in the individual varieties of English for different constructions which can be unequivocally attributed to contact influence from the corresponding substrate languages. With regard to the contact varieties (JamE, Indian English, Singapore English) the influence of the respective contact language appears in the preference of alternative existential constructions (e.g. with have) rather than in the frequency of (non-) agreement in there + be constructions.


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