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Transatlantic perspectives on variation in negative expressions

Lookup NU author(s): Claire Childs, Professor Karen CorriganORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Cambridge University Press, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


© 2018 Cambridge University Press. Negation with indefinite items in English can be expressed in three ways: any-negation (I didn't have any money), no-negation (I had no money) and negative concord (I didn't have no money). These variants have persisted over time, with some studies suggesting that the newest variant, any-negation, is increasing at the expense of no-negation (Tottie 1991a, 1991b). Others suggest that although this variable was undergoing change in earlier centuries, it is stable in Modern English (Wallage 2017). This article examines the current state of the variability in four communities within two distinctive English-speaking regions: Toronto and Belleville in Ontario, Canada, and Tyneside and York in Northern England. Our comparative quantitative analysis of speech corpora from these communities shows that the rates of no-negation vary between Northern England and Ontario, but the variation is largely stable and primarily conditioned by verb type in a robust effect that holds cross-dialectally: functional verbs retain no-negation, while lexical verbs favour any. The social embedding of the variability varies between the communities, but they share a common variable grammar.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Childs C, Harvey C, Corrigan KP, Tagliamonte SA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: English Language and Linguistics

Year: 2020

Volume: 24

Issue: 1

Pages: 23-47

Print publication date: 01/03/2020

Online publication date: 04/09/2018

Acceptance date: 27/05/2018

Date deposited: 27/09/2018

ISSN (print): 1360-6743

ISSN (electronic): 1469-4379

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S1360674318000199


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