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Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage$
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Brian MacWhinney, Andrej Malchukov, and Edith Moravcsik

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709848.001.0001

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Apparently competing motivations in morphosyntactic variation

Apparently competing motivations in morphosyntactic variation

(p.209) 13 Apparently competing motivations in morphosyntactic variation
Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage

Britta Mondorf

Oxford University Press

With the revived interest in variation there has been growing readiness to incorporate competing motivations into linguistic theory‐building. Previous work (Mondorf 2009a) has shown that English comparatives are a showcase of grammatical variation, in which what looks like competing motivations at first glance turns out to be an emergent division of labour between synthetic and analytic means of expressing comparison. Analyticity is resorted to if explicitness is required because of an increased processing effort. Syntheticity is preferred in easy‐to‐process environments. This chapter discusses whether this claim extends to other synthetic–analytic contrasts: Spanish future alternation (comeré vs. voy a comer), English future alternation (She'll stay vs. She's going to stay), English genitive alternation (the topic's relevance vs. the relevance of the topic), English mood alternation (if he agree‐Ø vs. if he should agree) or German past tense alternation (sie brauchte…vs. sie hat…gebraucht), etc.

Keywords:   synthetic–analytic contrasts, morphosyntactic variation, complexity principle, comparative alternation, genitive alternation, future tense alternation, mood alternation, past tense alternation, cognitive complexity

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