Dialect differences and grammatical divergence: A cross-linguistic survey
John Mansfield, Henry Leslie-O'Neill, Haoyi Li
November 2022

This article presents a new type of comparative linguistic survey, analysing (socio-)linguistic variation in a database of 1155 grammatical constructions drawn from 42 diverse languages. We focus in particular on variation in the expression of grammatical meanings, and the extent to which grammatical variation differentiates geographic dialects. This is the first study we know of to present a systematic, cross-linguistic survey of dialect differentiation. We identify three main structural types of grammatical variation: FORM, ORDER and OMISSION, and find that in situations of close contact between dialects, where signalling of distinct group identities is more relevant, form variables are more likely to differentiate dialects than the other two types. Order and omission variables usually only differentiate dialects that have minimal contact. Our survey suggests that social signalling may have a substantial role in the divergence of grammars, and provides systematic support for previous proposals regarding convergence and divergence under contact.
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Reference: lingbuzz/006941
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: grammatical variation, dialectology, language change, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v1 [November 2022]
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