English Language and Linguistics

Special issue on English dialect syntax

A construction grammar account of possessive constructions in Lancashire dialect: some advantages and challenges 1

a1 Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Lancaster, Lancaster LA1 4YT, UK w.hollmann@lancaster.ac.uk, a.siewierska@lancaster.ac.uk

Article author query
hollmann w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
siewierska a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This study investigates reduction of 1SG possessives in possessive–noun constructions in Lancashire dialect. On the basis of a corpus of twenty-six interviews we show that reduction patterns according to (in)alienability. This dialectal evidence runs counter to the normal assumption about English, i.e. that there is no such effect. Following work by Haspelmath (2006b) that reinterprets iconicity effects in terms of frequency, we proceed to show that frequency may indeed underlie alienability/iconicity in our data as well. Relative frequency seems more useful in capturing the correlation with reduction than absolute frequency. For a few [1SG POSS-N] combinations the reduction facts are problematic for the frequency-based account we offer. These difficulties might seem to disappear in the light of the construction grammar notion of schemas, but we point out that this notion itself has serious theoretical problems associated with it. Future theory-driven work on dialect grammar may help resolve these issues.

(Published Online July 12 2007)
(Received November 10 2006)
(Revised February 28 2007)


1 We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their comments on this article. All remaining errors are of course our own.