Spoken syntax in a comparative perspective: The dative and genitive alternation in varieties of English

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Benedikt Szmrecsanyi
  • Joan Bresnan
  • Anette Rosenbach
  • Sali Tagliamonte
  • Simon Todd

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Toronto, Canada
  • KU Leuven Univ
  • Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University
  • Department of Linguistics, Stanford University


This paper introduces a new resource designed to facilitate the quantitative investigation of syntactic variation in spoken language from a comparative perspective. The datasets comprise homogeneously annotated collections of “interchangeable” (i.e. competing) genitive and dative variants in four varieties of English: American English, British English, Canadian English, and New Zealand English. To showcase the empirical potential of the data source, we present a suggestive analysis that investigates the extent to which the probabilistic grammar of genitive and dative variant choice differs across varieties. The statistical analysis reveals that while there are a number of subtle probabilistic contrasts between the regional varieties under study, there is overall a striking degree of cross-varietal homogeneity. We conclude by outlining directions for future research.


Original languageEnglish
Issue number1: 86
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2017


  • syntax , probabilistic grammar , variationist linguistics , dative alternation , genitive alternation , varieties of English