Cognitive indigenization effects in the English dative alternation

Melanie Röthlisberger, Jason Grafmiller, Benedikt Szmrecsanyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
382 Downloads (Pure)


We advance theory formation in Cognitive Sociolinguistics by exploring the extent to which language users’ probabilistic grammar varies regionally. For this purpose, we investigate the effects of constraints that influence the choice between the two syntactic variants in the well-known dative alternation (I give Mary a book vs. I give a book to Mary) across nine post-colonial varieties of English. Using mixed-effects logistic regression and adopting a large-scale comparative perspective, we illustrate that on the one hand, stability in probabilistic grammars prevails across speakers of diverse regional and cultural backgrounds. On the other hand, traces of indigenization are found in those contexts where shifting usage frequencies in language-internal variation seem to have led to regional differences between users’ probabilistic grammar(s). Within a psycholinguistically grounded model of probabilistic grammar, we interpret these results from various explanatory perspectives, including language contact phenomena, second language acquisition, and semantic variation and change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Early online date21 Oct 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2017


  • indigenization
  • cognitive sociolinguistics
  • dative alternation
  • varieties of English
  • syntactic variation


Dive into the research topics of 'Cognitive indigenization effects in the English dative alternation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this