Linguistic variation and English dialect syntax

Gary Thoms (

This course concerns the nature of linguistic variation as viewed through the lens of English microvariation. Students are introduced to major topics in comparative syntax, and then against this background we consider empirical findings from microvariation in English dialects and how they may impact upon the comparative analyses of these syntactic phenomena. The two main aim of the class are (i) to develop an understanding of the general principles of micro-comparative syntactic analysis, applicable to data from other dialect groups; (ii) to develop an understanding of how a diverse range of sources of evidence, including atlas data and corpus statistics, may be brought to bear on key questions in syntactic theory. Although the empirical focus of the class is English, we will also touch upon micro-comparative work on other dialect groups and students will be encouraged to think about how the general principles discusses in the class may apply to their own dialect group.


  • Verbal agreement
  • Negative concord
  • VP-ellipsis
  • Auxiliary contraction
  • Negation


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