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Agreement with Collective Nouns in English

Levin, Magnus LU (2001) In Lund Studies in English 103.
Abstract (Swedish)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Kollektiva substantiv definieras som substantiv som trots att de är singulara till formen betecknar en grupp av individer och som kan uppträda tillsammans med singulara och plurala verb och pronomina ('it'/'they'). Avhandlingen beskriver variation i kongruens vid kollektiva substantiv i amerikansk, brittisk och australiensisk engelska. Denna variation ses i exemplen nedan.



(1) Every season, designers announce the death of black and the birth of, say, tangerine and every season the buying public listens politely then tells them where they can stick their tangerine.



(2) The Australian team are sticking together like s--- to a blanket.



I (1)... (More)
Popular Abstract in Swedish

Kollektiva substantiv definieras som substantiv som trots att de är singulara till formen betecknar en grupp av individer och som kan uppträda tillsammans med singulara och plurala verb och pronomina ('it'/'they'). Avhandlingen beskriver variation i kongruens vid kollektiva substantiv i amerikansk, brittisk och australiensisk engelska. Denna variation ses i exemplen nedan.



(1) Every season, designers announce the death of black and the birth of, say, tangerine and every season the buying public listens politely then tells them where they can stick their tangerine.



(2) The Australian team are sticking together like s--- to a blanket.



I (1) följs det singulara subjektet 'the buying public' av singulara verb, 'listens' och 'tells', medan i (2) det singulara subjektet 'the Australian team' följs av ett pluralt verb, 'are sticking'. Resultaten visar att kongruens bestäms av ett samspel av dialektala, stilistiska, syntaktiska och semantiska faktorer. Variationen som beskrivs innefattar skillnader mellan regionala varianter, skillnader mellan skriftspråk och tal och skillnader mellan olika genrer. Syntaktiska faktorer, som i allmänhet rör avståndet mellan substantivet och det kongruensmarkerade ordet, visade sig ha ett stort inflytande på valet av singular eller plural kongruens. Ju längre ifrån en kongruensmarkör är från sitt kontrollerande substantiv, desto mindre beroende blir markören av det substantivets form. Sannolikheten att ett kollektivt substantiv följs av ett pluralt verb ökar alltså om det finns många ord mellan substantivet och verbet. Studiet av semantiska faktorer i brittisk engelska visade att verbkongruensen till stor del bestäms av ett givet substantivs preferens för antingen singular eller plural kongruens, samtidigt som verbfrasens inflytande i många fall visade sig vara begränsat. Visserligen fanns det några få verb som bara kan användas i singular form med kollektiva substantiv ('the Labour Party was formed', 'Britain's population has increased'), men det stora flertalet verb tycks inte ha något avgörande inflytande. Alltså används till exempel 'government' i allmänhet med singulra verb oberoende av om verbet är av typerna 'think', 'say' eller 'work'. 'Family' används omväxlande med antingen singular eller plural kongruens med sådana verb, och 'couple' används huvudsakligen med plurala verb. (Less)
Abstract
This thesis concerns agreement with collective nouns in American, British and Australian English. It is based on material from newspaper corpora and spoken corpora. The findings suggest that dialectal, stylistic, diachronic, syntactic and semantic factors interact in the selection of singular and plural agreement. It was shown that there are differences between regional varieties, between speech and writing and between written and spoken genres. Syntactic influence on agreement was seen in the increased likelihood of plural agreement with increased distance between the noun (the controller) and its agreement-carrying words (the targets). This was observed both in the number of intervening words between a controller and its targets and in... (More)
This thesis concerns agreement with collective nouns in American, British and Australian English. It is based on material from newspaper corpora and spoken corpora. The findings suggest that dialectal, stylistic, diachronic, syntactic and semantic factors interact in the selection of singular and plural agreement. It was shown that there are differences between regional varieties, between speech and writing and between written and spoken genres. Syntactic influence on agreement was seen in the increased likelihood of plural agreement with increased distance between the noun (the controller) and its agreement-carrying words (the targets). This was observed both in the number of intervening words between a controller and its targets and in the difference between verbs, which are fairly close to their controllers, and pronouns. This trend was found in both speech and writing. These findings suggest that targets acquire more independence of the form of their controllers the further away they are. Semantic factors were also found to be important in British English. The noun itself plays a crucial role in the choice of agreement. A noun such as 'government' very rarely takes singular verb agreement, whereas 'family' takes either singular or plural agreement, and 'couple' generally prefers the plural. A few verbs were found to require singular agreement with collective nouns (e.g. 'consist', 'be set up', 'increase'), but other verb categories (e.g. 'think', 'say', 'work') were not found to influence agreement decisively. These and other features described indicate that a wide range of functional factors influence variation in agreement patterns. (Less)
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author
opponent
  • Prof. Tottie, Gunnel, Zürich
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
markedness, Longman Spoken American Corpus, grammatical change, corpus, conventionalization, concord, conceptualization, collective nouns, British National Corpus, British English, BNC, Australian English, American English, agreement, Agreement Hierarchy, pronouns, English language and literature, Engelska (språk och litteratur), Grammar, semantics, semiotics, syntax, Grammatik, semantik, semiotik
in
Lund Studies in English
volume
103
pages
180 pages
defense location
Room 239 at the English Dept.
defense date
2001-12-08 10:15
ISSN
0076-1451
ISBN
91-974023-2-X
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
547841bb-1271-4fea-a015-25a6d3bd8afd (old id 20156)
date added to LUP
2007-05-28 09:19:14
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:00
@misc{547841bb-1271-4fea-a015-25a6d3bd8afd,
  abstract     = {This thesis concerns agreement with collective nouns in American, British and Australian English. It is based on material from newspaper corpora and spoken corpora. The findings suggest that dialectal, stylistic, diachronic, syntactic and semantic factors interact in the selection of singular and plural agreement. It was shown that there are differences between regional varieties, between speech and writing and between written and spoken genres. Syntactic influence on agreement was seen in the increased likelihood of plural agreement with increased distance between the noun (the controller) and its agreement-carrying words (the targets). This was observed both in the number of intervening words between a controller and its targets and in the difference between verbs, which are fairly close to their controllers, and pronouns. This trend was found in both speech and writing. These findings suggest that targets acquire more independence of the form of their controllers the further away they are. Semantic factors were also found to be important in British English. The noun itself plays a crucial role in the choice of agreement. A noun such as 'government' very rarely takes singular verb agreement, whereas 'family' takes either singular or plural agreement, and 'couple' generally prefers the plural. A few verbs were found to require singular agreement with collective nouns (e.g. 'consist', 'be set up', 'increase'), but other verb categories (e.g. 'think', 'say', 'work') were not found to influence agreement decisively. These and other features described indicate that a wide range of functional factors influence variation in agreement patterns.},
  author       = {Levin, Magnus},
  isbn         = {91-974023-2-X},
  issn         = {0076-1451},
  keyword      = {markedness,Longman Spoken American Corpus,grammatical change,corpus,conventionalization,concord,conceptualization,collective nouns,British National Corpus,British English,BNC,Australian English,American English,agreement,Agreement Hierarchy,pronouns,English language and literature,Engelska (språk och litteratur),Grammar,semantics,semiotics,syntax,Grammatik,semantik,semiotik},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {180},
  series       = {Lund Studies in English},
  title        = {Agreement with Collective Nouns in English},
  volume       = {103},
  year         = {2001},
}