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Journal of Pragmatics 7 (1983) 551-579 North-Holland





and Frances



Syntactic and morphological usages in conversational and formal written English show a number of differences, both in what is accepted and what is preferred or most frequent. The central argument is that some of these variations can be explained in terms of the Darwinian concept of natural selection, in which the forms better suited to particular conditions survive or are favoured in those conditions. A subsidiary hypothesis is that English vernacular (conversational) grammar represents an older and more natural tradition, and that certain levels and constraints generally considered to be characteristic of English grammar, e.g. the sentence level, and elements of relative clause formation, are innovations belonging to a literacy-based form of English.

Introduction This paper is intended as a small contribution to the study what has been the impact of writing on the evolution comparison will be made of some grammatical usages systems of language use, one ancient and universal, the mainly be specialists. The ancient system is represented by vernacular (or conversational) idiom, and the new one by (or formal written) style. The particular questions to be addressed are: (1) What features distinguish vernacular and literary discourse? of a large question: of languages [l]? A associated with two other new and used English discourse in discourse in literary sorts of grammatical (2) How are these

[l] The collection of data on English conversation which we carried out between 1972 and 1976 was supported by a grant from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. We are greateful to Michael Forman, Susan Fischer, Ann Peters, David Reibel, Ron Scollon and other colleagues who provided thoughtful1 comments on an ancestral version of this paper read to the University of Hawaii Psycholinguistics Colloquium in or about 1974, and to Colin Bowley, Wallace Chafe, Chris Come, Florian Coulmas, Talmy Given, Robin Hooper and Frank Lichtenberk for comments on its descendant. George Grace, Paul Kay and Wallace Chafe contributed by sharing ideas and unpublished papers. * Mailing address: A. Pawley, Dept of Anthropology, University of Auckland, Private Bag, Auckland, New Zealand. 0378-2166/83/$3.00 0 1983, Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North-Holland)


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differences to be explained? Our principal hypothesis is that in the history of English certain usages have developed or gained preference in a given system because they are advantageous in the circumstances. We are dealing with an ecology of grammar, in which forms of construction are molded to suit the constitutive conditions and purposes of face-to-face talk, on the one hand, and impersonal written communication on the other. Section 1 deals with a selection of usages that are distinctive of Vernacular English (VE) and common to the vernaculars of middle-class speakers in several countries. Section 2 deals with usages characteristic of Literary English (LE). Here a second hypothesis is presented, that in the evolution of LE grammatical features have developed that were absent, or present only in rudimentary form in the preliterate tradition, while others, well-developed in the preliterate tradition, have been discarded. These have not been random changes. What has been going on is change by natural selection: the adaptation of language form to conditions of use. Others have put forward a similar hypothesis (e.g. Kay 1977), while seeking evidence in different quarters. Our argument is based on the assumption that in certain general respects present-day VE grammatical usages are more natural and basic than those of LE, and continue an earlier, preliterate tradition. Where LE and VE differ, it is likely cultivated one, belonging to a that the LE usage is a relatively recent, school-acquired dialect rather than to the mother tongue. The fact that some differences between LE and VE can be systematically connected with conditions of use raises questions about whether it is fruitful to distinguish between (autonomous) grammar and a system of grammatical usages, or between grammaticality and acceptability, etc. For our purposes, a consideration of adaptation and change in forms of usage, it is convenient to treat all usages that are systematic and rule-governed under the heading of grammar . 1. The adaptation hypothesis 1.1. On vernacular versus literary English That formal written English differs substantially from ordinary spoken English has long been recognised. No writer has exploited the contrast more effectively than P.G. Wodehouse in the Jeeves novels. Jeeves speech caricatures major developments in European social history [2]. Whereas Bertie Wooster and his upper-class friends invariably converse in the vernacular of their class, Jeeves speaks a school-acquired dialect which the new middle-class carry as a pass[2] Wyld (1936) describes the social history of modern Standard English. See also Olson (1977), Grace (1981), Syder (in press), Goody and Watt (1?68) for discussion of the effects of literacy on speech forms and attitudes in newly literate societies.

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port to respectability, importing ingredients of this dialect into their conversation as evidence of Being Educated. The following extract (Wodehouse 1948: 103-104) illustrates:
The crux of the matter would appear to be, sir, that Mr Todd is obliged by the conditions under which the money is delivered into his possession to write Miss Rockmetteller long and detailed letters relating to his movements, and the only method by which this can be accomplished, if Mr Todd adheres to his expressed intention of remaining in the country, is for Mr Todd to induce some second party to gather the actual experiences which Miss Rockmetteller wishes reported to her, and to convey these to him in the shape of a careful report, on which it would be possible for him, with the aid of his imagination, to base the suggested correspondence. . . Rocky looked at me in a helpless sort of way. He hasn been brought up on Jeeves as I have, t and he isn on to his curves. t Could he put it a little clearer, Bertie. 7 he said. I thought at first it was going to make sense, but it kind of flickered. What the idea? s My dear old man, perfectly simple. I knew we could stand on Jeeves. All you got to do is to ve get somebody to go round to town for you and take a few notes, and then you work up the notes into letters. That it, isn it, Jeeves? s t Precisely, sir.

What is characteristic of Jeeves is not that he has perfected that style of explicit, formal discourse which departs furthest from ordinary speech; it is that he cokwses exclusively in that style. What makes his conversation eccentric and memorable is that it is a perfect example of the right style - in the wrong place. Except for a couple of concessions to the presence of interlocutors, Jeeves utterance in the preceding extract, a single sentence with some 13 subordinate clauses, belongs in a class with the discourse of legal statutes and sociology texts. In speaking of Literary English, we refer to the formal written style which aims at explicitness of statement. It is chiefly a written style but is, on occasion, spoken. It may be contrasted with Vernacular English (without implying that there is a single vernacular used by all native speakers of English). Vernacular English is chiefly a spoken style but is, on occasion, written. It is convenient to define a person vernacular s speech as that which occurs in his/her conversation. 1.2. Some syntactic usages characteristic of Vernacular English

The questions arise: How substantial are the differences in grammar between Literary English and the Vernacular English of Middle-Class native speakers? Are the divergences strictly of a statistical nature, having to do with the frequency of use of particular elements, or do the two styles also differ in their inventory or typology of units and rules? If the latter, at what level do they diverge? - word? clause? sentence? discourse? These questions cannot be answered in full: most English vernaculars have not received the kind of systematic study that grammarians have carried out on


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LE. However, our sample of VE (mainly from Australia and New Zealand, but also from Britain and North America) shows a number of construction types that are absent or rare in LE. Furthermore, most of these are found in Middle-Class vernaculars in all the English-speaking regions in the sample, and are commonly employed by people who have good command of Literary English. A selection of syntactic construction types characteristic of conversational English follows [3]. A fuller discussion is given in 1.4. (1) Vernacular relative clauses. In conversational speech one finds relative constructions which do not occur in LE, e.g. (4 Im not gonna use words I dont know what they mean. (b) Ive got an envelope full of scripts in my drawer Ive been meaning to ask you what they are. He had some songs there which he wanted to find out what they were about. (4 Theres the man that I can never remember what he wants. (4 . . . and a lot of those adverbials that youre never quite sure what they doing in the sentence. re (f) Theyve developed a series of textbooks which we havent used any of them so far. k> Was that the girl that some wines made her feel sick? What is common to this class of constructions is that the relative clause retains a basic structure. Whereas in LE relative clauses the pronominal trace coreferential with the head noun is chopped and the preposition (if any) governing the pronoun is moved to the front of the clause, as e.g. They ve developed a series of textbooks of which we haven used any t so far, in (a-g) the preposition (c, f) is not moved Land the pronoun is not chopped. Vernacular relative clauses depart in one other important respect from LE grammar: a deeply embedded NP may be relativised. There is no constraint such that a nominal which is part of a clause which is itself a nominal cannot be relativised. Thus in (a-e) the head noun is coreferential with a pronoun in a clause which itself is embedded in the relative clause. (2) Dependent clause functioning as a relative. The reference here is to constructions introduced by a conjunction such as iJ; when, etc. which


[3] Data are from transcripts of conversations unless otherwise noted. Notational conventions are adapted from Crystal (1975). Italics mark the intonation peak or most prominent syllable in a tone group, and indicate a drawled or lengthened vowel, - indicates a silence of less than 0.5 sec., - one of 0.5 to 0.9, --one of 1.0 to 2.0, and ---a pause of longer than two seconds. [accel] refers to acceleration in articulation rate, [slows] to slowdown. / indicates and abrupt break in intonation without perceptible pause or slowdown. Examples 34 and 35 retain Crystal notation. s

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modify a nominal, in the general manner of relative clauses. For example: (a) I like a man who when he tells you he do something straight away ll he does it. (b) There are other verbs that, as long as they don take arguments, they t just sit there. (c) It just one of those things that when you swinging the bat good, s re you can hit anybody. (3) Delayed relative clause. In VE a relative clause, instead of immediately following the head noun, may be delayed until after the matrix clause is completed, as: (a) . . . because I played in his garden all the time which was five acres. (b) We drove through the town the other day that you were telling us about. Or, in the case of a nonrestrictive relative clause, it may be inserted after the verb following the head noun, as: (c) The thing is, which was mentioned to me during the week, unless he puts them in - we don know - you could play him any number of t times. A sequence of adjoined or conjoined declarative clauses marking a (4) condition-consequence or head-modifier relation. You hit a ball in that tough zone, something happens (Williams 1970: gg) You the kind of guy, you meet a girl, you fall in love with her, you re marry here. (The Fonz, TV script.) I was going with a girl she was a bloody opera singer For Chrissakes Williams, he said, A guy has an argument with you and right away you pull an encyclopaedia on him. (Williams 1970: 194-195). with complete basic clause as complement. (5) Pseudo-clefting (a) What it really was, I saw that bat going into the stands and geez, I flinched. (Williams 1970: 119). (b) What he told me was I should go home. (c) What they have done is, they have ignored the usual channels for negotiation. clause as nominal governed by a preposition: (6) Conditional (a) They take the form of, if a language has a certain class of phonemes, such as nasal vowels, this implies that it also has another class of phoneme.. . (Written quiz answer) (b) The rule requires you to file a report on, if you couldn do the job, t why you couldn t. (7) Left dislocation. (a) But y know, the early settlers in Tasmania, they treated the aborigines so bloody that - I show you what they did.. . ll


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(b) And John dog, you didn see it anywhere did you? s t (8) Right dislocation. (a) He was farming up the Tamar, Tim and his two sons. (b) They went home, Bill and Wally. (9) Repetition of basic clause structure, with no conjunction and no deletion of repeated subject and/or verb. (a) They ve got to get them installed, they ve got to get them operating. (b) They were hounding Louis, he would never be able to pay, he was stuck for life, but if he were some big-shot politician they let him d pay two cents on the dollar. (Williams 1970: 175) (10) Reduced modifying clauses right-dislocated. (a) Tabor was from Alabama, a big strong guy, about six feet two, with a trim waist. A lot stronger than I was. (Williams 1970: 113). (b) He was a skinny guy, narrow shoulder, kind of white-faced and unathletic looking, but he could hit. (11) Like. Placed at the start or end of a clause, NZVE (New Zealand VE, see also page 559) like marks an exemplification (cf. LE for example), or the more or less definite equation of an individual, situation, etc. with a general class. (a) He a frustrated mechanic. Like he had about five or six old bombs s s he fixed up. s (b) He a frustrated mechanic, like. s (c) Like if you don want it, just send it back. t Anyone who has been steeped in prescriptive grammar and who accepts the competence-performance distinction - which is to say, virtually all linguists to some degree - will be tempted to classify many of the examples in (l)-(11) as ungrammatical. Conceding that they are common usages, one might hold that these constructions break well-established rules of grammar and should be treated as characteristic errors Such a classification . may turn out to be a useful one, after all the evidence is in. On the other hand, it may turn out to fit poorly into an explanatory theory of grammar. There seems to be little point in prejudging the issue, or in imposing a competence-performance categorisation on the data, at the outset. The problem is not to label variations in common grammatical usages between conversational and formal written discourse, it is to explain them. :An explanation of variations must start with the question: How regular or systematic are they? Under what conditions is one variant or another likely to occur? Although we are not able to provide statistical confirmation here, the indications are that the VE variants exemplied in (l)-(11) all occur frequently and pass unnoticed (except by pedants) in the context in which they normally occur; they are, however, rare, and unacceptable in formal written discourse. Why?

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1.3. Two systems of language use The distinctive features of Vernacular and Literary grammar may be understood largely in terms of the conditions under which each is learned and used. This at any rate is the hypothesis advanced here, and which a number of others have adumbrated [4]. First, it may be noted that VE is a mother tongue, a first language, learned unselfconsciously by the child as she or he observes and participates in everyday social life, in the manner of children the world over. The acquisition of LE, on the other hand, has many of the characteristics of learning a second language. It is the product of schooling and book-learning; a fair proportion of native speakers of English never gain a good active facility in LE. The two varieties are molded to meet different conditions of language use, conversational language use and autonomous language use, with which VE and LE, respectively, are characteristically associated. Remember, however, that these two systems represent the opposite ends of a continuum of intergrading types of language use. The two systems have in common this general feature of design, that each entails the formulating of messages which originate with an encoder (or encoders) and are made available to a decoder (or decoders) who may be called the addressee or audience. Apart from this, they operate very differently. A partial list of their respective conditions of use, and of some consequences for the design of messages, follows: B: Autonomous discourse A : Conversational discourse 1. Is part of a face-to-face meeting 1. There is no meeting. between participants. 2. What is said at the meeting is the 2. The discourse is a text, created by a composer (or composers) who is (are) joint creation of all participants. separate from the audience. There3. Each message is shaped to fit a 3. The audience is anonymous. particular addressee, who is a known fore the text is shaped to be understood by anyone, or by a general class quantity. of people.
[4] A similar hypothesis is proposed by Kay (1977). As Kay (1977: 21) points out, Basil Bernstein ideas about elaborated and restricted codes (e.g. 1973) can also be understood in terms s of a contrast between conversational and autonomous language use. See also Goody and Watt (1968) Greenfield (1972) Grace (1981), Ochs (1979), Olson (1977) Kroll (1977) Scollon and Scollon (1981), Tannen (1982) and Syder (in press). Grace elaborates as follows: This kind of cultivation, I believe, necessarily involves objectification of discrete languages - i.e., conceiving of them as objects, presumably giving them names, defining their boundaries, and attributing to them characteristics which can be identified, examined, discussed and evaluated... Once such an object is envisaged it is but a simple step further to contemplate deliberately changing some of its characteristics in order to improve it. At that point I presume it is proper to speak of cultivation.


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4. Messages are time-bonded by the constraints of the meeting, together with biological limitations on processing. 5. Communication is multi-channel. Paralinguistic and kinetic signals, as well as words are employed. 6. Observable features of the physical setting may be used to indicate meaning or to interpret signals.

4. Composition and reading of the text is free of the time constraints present in face-to-face meetings. 5. Communication is single-channel, using words alone to signal meaning.

6. The decoder is remote from the addressee; therefore the meaning should be explicit, fully contained in the text. 7. Conversational signals are manip- 7. Messages are impersonal and inforulative as well as informational. Each mational. They convey nothing of the author s unique personality nor do utterance has personal significance significance for for the addressee, being designed to they carry personal contribute to an interaction. the decoder. 8. The discourse does not have a 8. The text is a static thing. Once to be monumental character. It is com- made, it remains, a monument posed of dynamic elements, which examined in isolation as an achievecontribute to an interaction and then ment in itself. disappear. ,There are of course forms of discourse which are intermediate between types A and B, and no neat equation with spoken versus written language use can be made. In formal speech-making, for instance, some features of autonomous style are present. Personal letters - to which conditions B2 and B7 do not apply - are not designed to be autonomous. Some novelists and short-story writers cultivate a conversational style (with the aid of much artifice). Comic strips allow a still closer approach to conversational usage in print. The construction of discourse in which meaning is signalled in a fully explicit way by the words alone (the text) is, in fact, an ideal, not fully achievable. Whether or not the ideal can be achieved is less important, as Olson (1977) has pointed out, than the belief that it can. Olson, among others, argues that the attempts to develop a mode of language use in which meaning is self-contained in the text has for several centuries been a major concern of scholars, pedagogues and bureaucrats, and has been successful enough to have had profound effects on the habits of thought and language use of those who are schooled in the tradition of autonomous language use. Olson follows Havelock (1963, 1976) and Goody and Watt (1968) in regarding Greek alphabetic literacy as a catalyst in changing Western ideas about what is proper and possible in language use. The Greek alphabet made writing and reading easier, and in the 5th and 4th centuries BC the new emphasis on written prose permitted a j differentiation between myth and

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history, as well as the abstraction of logical procedures which Greek intellectuals came to regard as a method for determining objective truth. 2000 years later the invention of printing prompted an intellectual revolution of similar magnitude to that of the Greek period (Olson 1977: 267). Until the time of. Martin Luther, according to Olson, it was generally assumed that all written statements required interpretation by scribes or wise men (compare the role of lawyers and courts today as interpreters of what written laws mean and how they apply to particular cases). From 1500 on, written works were disseminated to a large and diverse public; increasingly, the task of the writer of statements coming under public scruting was to try to produce autonomous text. From the 17th century onwards in European scientific and literary circles, conscious efforts were made to standardise and improve the written language, just as had been done for the Latin of the late Middle Ages, so that it could serve better the advancement of science and rational thought. The outcome was a specialised form of language use suited to formulating statements, deriving their implications, testing the truth of these implications, and using the results to revise or generalize (Olson 1977: 269). It was no mother tongue but rather a language specialized to serve the requirements of autonomous, written, formalized text (1977: 27). Grace (1981: 35) refers to such forms of language, shaped consciously by deliberate human intervention as cultivated; all modern European literary languages are the product of such cultivation [5]. 1.4. Some adaptive features of vernacular grammar The differences between VE and LE should not be exaggerated. It is probable that a majority of the grammatical elements and rules of middle-class English vernaculars are held in common with those of LE. In particular, there is a high degree of agreement in basic clause structure, i.e. in what it is convenient to posit as the unmarked word order in simple clauses, with no embedding or movement transformations. Differences are greater in respect of derived or marked clause structure and interclausal syntax, as (l)-(11) illustrate. This section will attempt to establish, for a selection of comparable usages, that the VE variant is better suited to conversational conditions than its LE counterpart. Discussion of adaptation in LE follows in section 2. We will begin with some morphological usages. Although less evidently than in syntax, LE and middle-class VE (represented in our data chiefly by New Zealand (NZVE) speech) do show differences in the forms and to some extent, [5] It should be emphasised
that those who wished to cultivate a style of English suited to scientific discourse had in mind a plain style, a close, naked natural way of speaking.. . bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness as they can; and preferring the language of Artisans, Country mean, and Merchants, before that of Wits or Scholars (Bishop Sprat& History of the Royal Society 1667).


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the functions of morphemes and words doing grammatical work. Three examples are discussed. (While the forms cited are taken from NZVE, structurally analogous usages are to be found in all other English vernaculars for which data are to hand.) 1. 3rd person singular, human, specific indefinite marker. In contrast to the he, she, it, him, her, etc., masculine,- feminine, and nonhuman person-markers NZVE has a 3rd person singular marker they, them, their, theirs which is neutral in gender. It is used in conjunction with a preceding coreferential singular NP, such as a child, a trespasser, anyone, each person, which has generic reference and is not categorised for gender, as e.g. (12) (a) If you see anyone on the pitch tell em to get off. (b) I asked someone and they told me you already gone. d (c) Each person should keep their ticket. This marker may also be used to refer back to any one of a set of disjunctive NP denoting persons of different sex. (d) If you see either John or Mary tell them to call me. There is an obvious social reason for the usage illustrated by (a)-(c). People come in two sexes and it is convenient to have a neutral person-marker for singular generic reference. LE solves this problem by using he, him, his for this purpose. The defect in this solution is not only its potential for ambiguity but the strong masculine associations which the he-forms carry. In an impersonal discourse style the unnaturalness of neutral he is evidently tolerable, or was so until recently. It is worth noting that many writers are now careful to put he or she, he/she or (s)he in public statements. But in conversation it is inconvenient to use a circumlocution such as he or she on each occasion exemplified by (12)(a)-(d). More important than length is the consideration of stress placement. In contrast to a single person-marker, a disjunctive pairing such as he or she, him or her or his or her cannot be said without stressing the person-markers. To stress a pronoun when it is not natural to do so, and to make constant use of a disjunctive expression to refer to a familiar generic category ,of person, is destructive to the purpose of conversationalists. It makes text-creation a self-conscious process, drawing attention to details of form and content that are away from the real work in hand (condition A-8). On two counts, then, they is more suited to conversational conditions than its LE competitors he and he or she as a neutral 3rd person singular marker. 2. A marker of unspecified associates, nouns and other definite NPs denoting and them, occurs in NZVE after proper a person, as in

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s s (a) He staying at Bruce and them place. The farmers and them were all against the project. @) Cc) I met Mary and them down to road.

This third person company marker allows reference to the associates of a person when it is not necessary, or not possible to identify the associates or the nature of the relationship (as between workmates, travelling companions, etc.) [6]. And them differs from such expressions as and the others, and his friends, and her companions, in that them can receive only weak stress and in that no modifier (such as some of, or rich) can be inserted without changing the sense; and them is a lexicalised sequence. For some speakers, and company serves a similar purpose. In Literary English, however, there is no equivalent with precisely the same semantic and syntactic properties. There is a parallel marker for unspecified associates of an inanimate definite NP, and that, as I put it with the cutlery and that; You cook it with spices and that. LE et cetera, and other things of that nature are near equivalents. The presence of a third person company marker, in a general, lexicalised form in VE but not LE may be partly accounted for in terms of frequency of use and minimisation of effort. Conversational talk is person-oriented. It is often necessary to name groups of people who do not have an institutionalised name, or to indicate that unspecified others are in the company of a person, and it is handy to have a general lexical item to do this. In the impersonal world of written lists and scientific classifications, et cetera is equally useful. 3. Non-singular 2nd person markers. It is not strictly true to say that LE makes no contrast between singular and plural 2nd person markers. Under certain discourse conditions it is unacceptable to address a group of people by ambiguous you. In initial reference it is appropriate to clarify the reference of you e.g. by locutions such as both of you, all of you, etc. But in written discourse an ambiguous situation arises less often than in face-to-face exchanges, where 2nd person markers are used a great deal. From the conversationalist s point of view the loss of the thou/you contrast must rank as among the least adaptive innovations in linguistic history. It is probable that most vernaculars quickly compensated for the loss by lexicalising one or more new non-singular 2nd person markers. In NZVE the 2nd person plural forms include yous/yiz/, yous-fellas/yuwzfili-z/ and you-fellas/yuwf&z/ (all of which apply to both sexes), as well as forms shared with LE: (14) (a) If yous listened carefully you heard. d d ve (b) Where are you fellas going? (addressed to three women) (c) Would you two do me a favour? [fj] Note that and them is widely used by British and American as well as Antipodean VE speakers. Similar markers exist in other dialects and in English Creoles, e.g. Hawaiian Creole, where the colioquial markers are guys (Johnny - guys place) and dem (Wheah Stan -dem?).


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In conversation the rule for addressing two or more people appears to be something like this. The addresses should be informed as to whether the speaker is addressing all of them of a particular subset. If this is not apparent from the previous discourse, or otherwise obvious, the speaker should clarify references, either gesturally or verbally. Having done so, e.g. by naming or by using a person-marker such as you two or you all, the speaker is free to revert to you until further potential ambiguity arises; (14a) illustrates. Three types of syntactic usage characteristic of VE will now be considered, each adapted in rather different ways to conversational conditions. 1.4.1. Left dislocation: a versatile construction There is a type of construction common in VE in which a noun phrase appears in initial, topic position in a clause, and is also represented later in the clause by a coreferential non-reflexive pronoun, as in the examples under (7) above, and in B reply in the following exchange: s (15) A: Where are the tennis racquets? B: The silver one, I don know where that is. t The name left dislocation for such constructions is due to Ross (1967) who regarded them as transformationally derived. While they superficially resemble the contrastive construction type, As for NP,, PRO, VP, found in both LE and VE, these two types seem to differ significantly in meaning and conditions of use. The most detailed inquiry into the functions of left dislocated constructions (LDs) is Duranti and Ochs (1979) treatment of Italian. In Italian, they observe:
Left dislocations have a rather exotic status...They are not to be found in traditional grammars.. . Indeed they tend not to be used in formal Italian discourse, spoken or written: They emerge in the interactions of familiars and intimates.. [where they] carry out informational and interactional work that is integral to social life (1979: 379).

These remarks apply as well to English. LDs exhibit a versatility which exceeds any partially equivalent construction type in LE. For instance, LDs resemble passives in that each allows a non-agent NP to appear in subject or topic position. In literary style, passives are a favoured means of promoting an NP to first position in the clause. Vernacular speakers prefer LDs; in 100 pages of transcribed Italian conversation. Duranti and Ochs found only one instance of a passive. Conversely, LDs hardly occur in a sample of written Italian which they examined, while passives were common. One reason for this situation may be that LDs allow two NPs to stand in a position of prominence in the clause. As well as having the left-dislocated NP as topic, LDs allow a

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subject of different (LDs in italics):


to be mentioned,

as in (15) and the following

(16) (a) In quellu banca tra l altro il padre ce l portato. ha by the way the father got him (a job) there. In that bank (b) II percorso lo fa cinque volte la settimana. The route it does it five times a week. lo usi solo te. (c) Quest0 only you use it. (c) This one Thus, the speaker can draw attention to a referent without displacing as subject referents that are higher on the topic hierarchy. Duranti and Ochs found that only 26 percent of LDs had human referents but 100 percent of their co-occurring subjects were human; of the latter, 74 percent were first or second person pronouns. While passives also permit an inanimate non-agent to appear in a prominent position in the clause, they achieve this by eliminating or demoting the agent. Conversationalists bias against the passive, especially with first or second person agents is perhaps a bias against a relatively impersonal way of talking about people under conditions in which personal identity is highly valued (see conditions Al-3, A7). The opposite may hold true in autonomous style (see 2.2). In contrast to passives, LDs allow any NP constituent of a clause to be promoted. In Italian, only underlying direct objects may become the subject of a passive clause; in English it is only underlying direct and indirect objects. In talk exchange LDs have another virtue. It is advantageous to begin one s utterance with a phrase naming a referent that has appeared in immediately prior talk. This is particularly the case in turn-initial position in lively conversation. In doing so, a speaker provides himself with a warrant for seeking the floor, making the relevance of his contribution immediately evident. At the beginning of a turn, LDs are highly favoured, occurring twice as often as simple active declarative constructions. Other statistics for Italian indicate that LDs are used not only to gain access to the floor but also to block or limit the turns of conversational partners in competitive situations. Priestley (1974) found English speakers effectively using LDs for the same ends in competitive classroom talk. Left dislocations have certain other advantages not mentioned in Duranti and Ochs discussion. Both are connected with the fact that any NP may be left-dislocated. It follows from this that the speaker can mention a topic then follow with a basic clause structure, thus minimizing the transformational work that has to be done. Although the topic NP is usually pronominalized, constructions in which the NP is simply repeated are fairly common, e.g. (17) (a) Joe, I really like Joe a lot. (b) The old man, they really gave the old man a hard time.


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Finally, LDs provide a convenient means of buying encoding time. If speakers, or claimants to the floor have not fully planned their utterance, but know the topic, they may begin by naming the topic, giving an intonation peak to the most important word in the NP, and then, having maintained or staked their claim to the floor, they may pause briefly to work out the continuation. It is by no means the case that pause always occurs between the first and second NP in English LDs, but pause frequently occurs. In the following example we see a speaker using the break between NPs (italics) to insert a parenthetical clause: (18) I don know what happen then because ah-the-the aborigine ah and I t 11 honestly believe this-he just doesn want to be civilized - he just doesn t t wanna come in here and have to join the rat race. 1.4.2. Vernacular relative clauses Several examples of vernacular relative clauses were given under (1) above, where we used the term to refer to a type which does not occur in LE. It was noted that some vernacular relative clauses departed from formal written usage in two main respects. First, in vernacular relative clause formation (henceforth VRCF) an pronoun is stranded in the position which the relativised NP would occupy in underlying structure. This NP is not removed as it must be in literary relative clause formation (LRCF). Second, it is possible to relativise an NP out of a deeply embedded clause, as e.g. (19) (a) He had some songs there which he wanted about. to find out what they were

Such constructions are counted as unacceptable in LE, and neither pronoun chopping nor preposition movement produces an acceptable alternative form: (19) (b) * He had some songs there which he wanted to find out what were about. (c) * He had some songs there about which he wanted to find out what they were. Why this difference between VE and LE grammar? (It will be recalled that in using grammar we refer to rules specifying common usages, and are not concerned with the question of a distinction between grammaticality and acceptability .) An explanation can be given in terms of human perceptual capacities and the different roles they play in spoken and written language use. There seems to be a fundamental limit in humans verbal processing which may be termed the one-clause-at-a-time constraint (Pawley and Syder 1975, 1976). It is evidently possible in a single integrated sequence of encoding

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actions, a single span of attention focus (call it an encoding operation), to plan word for word the content of a novel clause of up to about 10 words. But to encode the full lexical content of a longer and syntactically more complex novel sequence requires two or more separate encoding operations. An encoding operation while a speaker is formulating unfamiliar sequences is normally marked by a pause and often by other hesitation phenomena (slowdown, fillers, etc.). Conversationalists perceive speech with intraclause pauses as hesitant and a conversationalist who consistently hesitates in mid-clause is disadvantaged in more than one respect. There are, then, reasons for speakers to prefer those syntactic constructions which will allow them to maintain maximum fluency within the limits of their encoding capacity [7]. In a general way, the one-clause-at-a-time constraint, in combination with the premium placed on fluency, underlies the characteristics clause-chaining style of spontaneous connected discourse. Almost everyone who has reported on the syntax of spontaneous speech has noted the preponderance of conjoined and adjoined clauses, in contrast to the greater frequency of subordinate clauses in formal writing and rehearsed speech (e.g. Kroll 1977; Ochs 1979; Givon 1979a,b; Pawley and Syder 1975, 1976). We are dealing with a continuum, of course. Some kinds of subject matter (e.g. narrative action) lend themselves especially well to a clause-chaining style, while others (e.g. description of static relationships) call for more complex syntax (Labov 1972). Still, it is characteristic of conversational style that speakers will describe the static relationships and scenes with much less use of subordination than writers (Chafe 1979, 1980; Tannen 1982) as the following extract illustrates. The speaker is a woman of about 70, whose background and speech forms can only be described as upper-middle-class. (For notation conventions, see footnote 3.)

(20) My-father


lawlaw ---

P.21 IO.21 but he wasn very interested in practising t [slows] [accel]

and -- his - uncle was the [0.5] [0.3] and we rather lived under --

WI P-41
shadow of- Uncle

Chief Justice the - shad/the

P.51 [0.3, [0.2]


James/ [slows]

[7] See Goldman-Eisler (1968), Pawley and Syder (1976), and Chafe (1980) for some discussion of patterns of perceptions of pausing and fluency, and Pawley and Syder (1983) regarding strategies by which speakers overcome the limitations imposed by the one-clause-at-a-time constraint. Memorized sequences are not subject to this constraint.


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he was consulted [accel] an -and/he



wedid [slows] [0.2]

was look/-

10.61 w-31 he was very good tomy father/ [accel] [slows] he didn actually t [ accel] but he treated him [accel] as though he/was the son-[. . .] IO.31 P.91 an Uncle James provided them with -a new -- large -- hideous [0.3] [OS] [ accel] LO.51 [slows] Ed-wardian mansiontheories about -P.51 adopt him/ [slows]

Pm LO.41 and Uncle James had some extraordinary [ accel]

i/if you had low ceilings [slows]

it was very unhealthy [accel] so it had abnormally which meant you see fO.41 and -I lived - in anursery/ [0.3] [slows] LO.51 I was one of those miserable children/ [slows] [ accel] who was brought upin a nursery/ [etc. etc.] [slows] [ accel] [accel] [slows] high ceilings LO.31 a very large - s/stairway LO.31

But it is not really satisfactory to describe the contrast between say, Jeeves s discourse style and that of (20) in terms of subordination vs. coordination. As far as encoding difficulty is concerned, what counts is how much integration of

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structure there is between clauses, and how much transformational work has to be done to basic clause structures. Some kinds of subordinate clauses can be processed in sequential fashion (chaining) just as easily as conjuncts, because in their internal construction they are relatively complete and independent. In other cases it is not possible to formulate the structure of a clause without knowing a lot about the structure of its partner clause(s): the partners are in this respect highly integrated or bonded (Given 1980). Although often introduced by a subordinating conjunction, vernacular relative clauses show little integration with the matrix clause. In their internal structure VRCs have the character of full, independent clauses. (For instance, each of the VE usages listed in (1) and (21a) can be turned into an acceptable LE sequence simply by replacing the relative pronoun with a period.) Thus, in forming a vernacular relative clause speakers do not need to know in advance whether the relativised NP is deeply embedded or not, or whether it is a subject or object, or perhaps introduced by a preposition. They can simply plug in a basic clause and pronominalise the coreferential NP. Indeed, they may even choose not to pronominalise if, on coming to the second NP, this is given a form unexpectedly complex or different from the head NP, as e.g.: (21) I think you have to develop kind of a pattern. a pattern which she hasn t - developed any

Vernacular relatives clauses can thus be understood as an adaptation to the time-bonding and processing limitations which constrain conversationalists. The disadvantages of literary relative clause formation for spontaneous speakers will be discussed further in 2.2. 1.4.3. Rules for ellipsis Gunter (1963) distinguishes two kinds of ellipsis that are exploited by conversationalists: ellipsis with linguistic context and telegraphic ellipsis. Both are peculiar to speech exchange insofar as they are governed by rules that operate across the discourses of two speakers. However, the first type can be accommodated comfortably within a grammatical model that works with the notion of transformational rule, deriving reduced surface structures from complete underlying structures, provided that the derivational rules operate, not on single sentences but on discourse constructed out of adjacent turns in an exchange. The missing elements in the following replies, for example, are fully recoverable from the questions which precede them, given rules which, e.g. change second to first person, substitute a declarative for an interrogative structure and replace the question word with the elliptical answer: (22) A: When are you going? B: Tomorrow.


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(23) A: What are you holding B: A match.

in your hand?

The second type of ellipsis presents Telegraphic ellipsis covers a wide range the absence of an immediate linguistic reconstructing the missing elements, as

more of a problem for grammarians. of phenomena which have in common context to provide a formal basis for in the following:

(24) A: (Sees B come inside dripping wet) Towel? Please. s (25) AI (Glances at B dress) Pretty. Thank you. (26) A: Do you like skiing? B: I only tried it once. ve A: Cause you could come with me next week. In (24), A can perhaps be understood as saying something like Do you want a towel? in (25), as saying something like , That is a pretty dress and in , (26) (second turn) as saying The reason I ask is because you could come skiing with me next week But there is no good reason to think that the speaker in . any of these situations had in mind a full underlying sentence, or that a single underlying sentence is, on logical grounds, uniquely reconstructible for the elliptical forms. The indexicality of conversational utterance is a characteristic that has been emphasised by by ethnomethodologists and by philosophers of ordinary language, though such scholars have generally focused on the matter of determining the meaning to be associated with an explicit utterance rather than with matters of grammar. The critical question, for the grammarian, is whether the inferential processes used in telegraphic ellipsis (and other difficult cases, such as described by Grice (1975) and Gordon and Lakoff (1971)) can be formalised in terms of grammatical rules. In some cases an argument can be made that they can (e.g. Gordon and Lakoff 1971). In a case like (26), what seems to be recoverable is not a uniquely determined text but a class of paraphrases. A use of s cause is a conventional one in turn-initial position as the follow-up to a previous question; it is set up by his first question. But we cannot pin A down to saying anything more than of a class of conventional usages, such Why I ask is because/The reason I say that is because/I ask you, because . Whatever the precise form of such quasi-grammatical rules, conversationalists make considerable use of them. They allow participants to achieve an economy of words by exploiting shared cultural knowledge, knowledge of physical setting, etc. In making autonomous statements, however, the economies achieved in using telegraphic ellipsis are generally outweighed by the loss of precision and accessibility of text meaning to the general reader.

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2. The primacy of vernacular syntax 2. I. Kay proposals s In recent years several writers have argued that those pressures which made the construction of autonomous text an ideal in the written discourse of Western scientists, bureaucrats, etc., led in due course to changes in the structure of the languages (see 1.3). However, most do not say much about what these changes have been or how one might demonstrate that they have taken place. The strongest confirmation of an evolutionary hypothesis is provided by the discovery of earlier and later representatives of the same lineage. Ideally, then, in seeking to determine the effects of the literate tradition of language use on linguistic structure, one should chart the development of individual languages, beginning with their preliterate stages and continuing through their various later stages. Catch-22 is, of course that - apart from short-term studies of societies just now becoming literate - detailed and reliable records of earlier linguistic stages are to be found only in written documents. And while the Comparative Method can often allow fairly reliable reconstruction of earlier phonemic and morphological systems, it does not yield such reliable reconstructions of syntactic and discourse rules in prehistoric languages. One who has put forward some specific proposals about the structural effects of a shift from preliterate to autonomous language use is Kay (1977). Kay method was to compare a number of languages spoken in preliterate, s tribal societies with English and other world languages, noting how these handle certain universal semantic categories and . . . relations that are present implicitly in all languages and cultures (1977: 28). He found some evidence supporting the conclusion that whereas in preliterate languages such categories and relations may have no overt expression in lexicon or syntax, in the languages of complex, literate societies it becomes obligatory, or at least possible to express them structurally. (Kay regards lexicon as well as syntax as part of grammatical structure.) Examples are to be found in the absence from certain preliterate languages of higher numerals and a complex set of colour terms, or of a syntactic device for allowing the embedding of a modifying clause, and in the presence of these elements in all world languages (among others). While Kay sample of languages and linguistic features is too selective to s make the evidence convincing, such a method when applied to a larger sample might well be fruitful. But a comparative-typological method has one serious defect. The languages compared do not belong to a single lineage. That is to say, in any given comparison we are not dealing with an earlier and a later stage of the same language. Proofs are necessarily going to consist exclusively of statistical correlations. Furthermore, the languages compared are likely to be


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very heterogeneous in structure, making it hard to draw inference about fine-grained adaptive changes. It would seem that only a time machine can solve the lineage problem. There is, however, another method available to us, very close to hand. For an essentially preliterate mode of language use remains intact in all communities [8]. It is the system used in informal meetings, in conversation. There are certain fundamental social and biological conditions governing conversational language use which are universal, and others which have probably altered very little over the centuries in the history of any one language community. Thus, a comparison of English vernacular and literary discourse might throw some light on the question of structural change. If a structural feature of VE were shown to be well adapted to conversational conditions, while the most comparable usage in LE is poorly adapted to conversational conditions but well suited to autonomous language use, we might reasonably conclude that (i) the VE usage is of long standing, and (ii) the LE usage is an innovation of the literate tradition. In the following paragraphs we will examine several structural features of LE which appear to be well suited to the construction of autonomous text but not conversational language use. These features are of three sorts: (a) syntactic rules or constraints, (b) preferences for certain construction forms, (c) structural units deriving from written punctuation devices, principally the orthographic sentence. 2.2. Some adaptive features of literary grammar its the An on

Formal written English is the product of many influences. Some of innovations cannot be regarded as making the language better suited to requirements of autonomous prose but rather as reflecting literary fashions. example is the modeling of certain elements of relative clause formation

[8] Both Kay and Olson draw attention to the contrast between autonomous and conversational discourse in their discussion of the evolution of styles, but they do not pursue the matter in detail. Kay main concern is to demonstrate s that world languages have developed structural features which provide the means for more precise and explicit...communication at whatever level of abstraction is desired by the addressor (1977: 24) in comparison with their earlier, preliterate stages. The implication appears to be that the structural additions which characterise autonomous prose are available to all native English speakers today. However, as Bernstein (1973) and Labov (1973) emphasise, what we are calling autonomous style is virtually a foreign language to a good proportion of contemporary British and American native speakers of English. In modern societies it may be impossible to find anyone,whose vernacular is completely unalloyed by contact with the literate tradition. During the school years, children are progressively indoctrinated into [text-based] language (Olson 1977: 270), and in effect are encouraged to speak a written language (Greenfield 1972: 169). Nevertheless, we believe that many English speakers have vernaculars which have been remarkably little affected by contact with with LE, and that in the nature of things some features of conversational language will always remain distinct.

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Latin (Jespersen 1940: 120) specifically the case-marking of relative pronouns. Nevertheless, the rules for forming what we will term literary relative clauses are in certain respects adapted to autonomous language use and unsuited to conversation. As was noted in 1.4, LRCF is at once more complex and simpler than VRCF, in terms of what is known about short-term memory and processing capacity. It is more complex in that the encoder and decoders must make certain changes to basic or unmarked clause structure, moving the preposition to the front of the clause and chopping the pronominal trace. Compare the following: (27) (a) They ve developed them so far. (b) They ve developed so far. a series of textbooks a series of textbooks which we haven used any of t of which we haven t used any

where the first was observed in conversation and the second is its literary equivalent. Such movement and chopping rules are tolerable in conversation as well as in literary language use, as can be seen in their use by some conversationalists. However, it appears that they are tolerable in either domain only if they are coupled with a constraint which prohibits an NP from being relativised out of an NP which is itself an NP of a higher clause (see 1.4). And such a constraint, which applies in LRCF, is disadvantageous in spontaneous speech: it requires the speaker to know in advance the internal clause structure of any relative construction. A writer, who can take time to plan and revise, does not operate under such a constraint. As a total package, then, LRCF is more suited to literary language use, where writer and reader are better able to plan and scan constructions, than to conversation. The conclusion is that the total package was not part of English in preliterate times, or at any rate was not a way of forming relative clauses. 2.2.1. Passives and nominalisations Bipartite passives are commoner in English formal written discourse than in conversation. It is not hard to see why this should be so. In scientific and bureaucratic writing, for instance, the personal element is usually minimised (conditions Bl-3, B6-7); in particular, writers are expected to minimise references to themselves as the authors of opinions, discoveries, etc. The bipartite passive is ideally suited to this purpose, e.g. (28) (a) Reference has already been made to vegetative (b) Bipartite passives were discovered to be rare. propagation.


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More generally, the passive allows writers to refer to general practices and common knowledge without the inconvenience of having to specify an agent: (28) (c) A variety of structures in flowering plants are known as leaves.

Writers exploit the bipartite passive for more devious purposes, e.g. to give what is in fact a personal opinion the appearance of being common knowledge, or to obscure personal responsibility for an unwelcome judgement or action. (28) (d) It has been decided Again, the passive manner : permits that Jones should writers be expelled. in an indirect

to refer to the addressee

(28) (e) It must be borne in mind that a variety plant are known as leaves.

of structures

in a flowering

None of these motives is exclusive to formal written discourse. We are dealing there with a difference in frequency of occurrence which is accountable in terms of differences in norms and purposes. Bipartite passives are available to speakers of VE, but a good deal of the time they prefer to use constructions in which, e.g. the 1st or 2nd person marker is the subject of an active verb, as: (29) (a) I already mentioned vegetative propagation. ve (b) You must bear in mind that many different things are called leaves. The scholarly writer preference for using nominalisations s has often been noted (and abhorred). Once again we seem to be dealing with a preference which stems in part from literary fashion, but in part also from the writer s concern with generalities and abstractions. By nominalising a verb, and making the noun the subject of a passive construction, for instance, a writer is able to reify and focus attention on a process, as e.g. (30) (a) A generalisation has been captured (b) Adaptation has taken place. here.

2.2.2. On sentences as artefacts of writing A prominent linguistic unit which is in some sense an artefact of writing is the orthographic sentence. As well as playing an important role in the organisation of written discourse, the orthographic sentence, defined by the placement of periods, holds a privileged position in descriptive and theoretical linguistics, as corresponding to a putative structural level distinct from the clause (simple or complex) and the paragraph.

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But it is questionable whether VE speakers operate with such a structural level, or with units, that correspond to written sentences. An examination of spontaneous spoken discourse suggests that it is necessary to distinguish between the basic syntactic unit, the clause, on the one hand, and multi-clause constructions, on the other. Among multi-clause constructions, however, it is not easy, and it may not be necessary to distinguish two levels, parallel to the sentence and paragraph levels of written discourse. That the most widely followed theories of grammar do not require such a distinction is a fact that has not often been noted. The theoretical construct S in generative grammar refers neither to orthographic sentences nor to paragraphs. S represents a construction (or one or more clauses) [9]. The phrase structure rules do not specify where periods as opposed to commas, or final as opposed to nonfinal intonation contours, are to be placed in a construction. Thus, both (31)(a) and (b) are, equally, manifestations of S: (31) (a) Joe went. Harry went. Then they all went. (b) Joe went, Harry went, then they all went Similarly with the following NZVE pair: (32) (a) I bought a 1973 Jrnini - which the salesman told me it only had d one Jowner (b) I bought a 1973 Tmini which the salesman told me it only had one d &owner t nonfinal intonation and a silence - where 1 represent final intonation, of about one second. The point is that punctuation is an art, a matter of taste, purpose and judgement rather than an automatic consequence of syntax. It is an art which has been fostered by, and has flourished in the special environment of formal writing.Writing an examination answer in haste, a first year Linguistics student presented a vivid if unconscious illustration of independence of syntax and punctuation. (33) Ordinary speech is rapid colloquial and usually very informal. It may be full of hesitations, repetitions and incomplete sentences. As opposed to written discourse.
[9] Construction (like ) is not a well-defined notion. Elements can stand in construction more s
or less tightly. Recent work has amply demonstrated that there is a lot of syntax beyond the orthographic sentence. Hymes (1971: 59-60) cites a number of investigations of diverse languages which support this conclusion, e.g. Gunter (1966), Wheeler (1967) and Kiparsky (1968) while the 1970s produced a large body of work on discourse grammar, e.g. Halliday and Hasan (1976), Hinds (1978, 1979), Givbn (1979b, c, 1980), without revealing grounds for a sharp distinction between sentence and larger constructions.


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The issue, then, is not whether vernacular languages have S - construcs tions consisting of one or more clauses. Clearly they do. The issue is whether vernacular speakers organise their utterances into syntactically and intonationally defined units that can be equated with the sentence of formal written discourse, and if so, whether such units are as important in spoken expository discourse as they are in formal writing. Chafe (1979, 1980) suggests that such an equation can be made. He asks Why do languages have sentences? and proposes an answer in terms of human cognitive evolution, which has created a kind of mismatch between the amount of information which can be focused at any one time and the amount in which we are interested (1980: 48). After studying the narrative and descriptive speech of speakers of several languages under experimental conditions, Chafe found evidence that his subjects remembered and processed ideas at three different levels. The basic unit of memory he called foci or ideas. These represent the amount of information to which a person can devote his central attention at any one time (1979: 180). Such attention foci are typically expressed linguistically in clauses, units characterised by a case frame syntax and in speech by a phrase final intonation contour (1979: 180). Often the information contained in the basic memory unit is too limited to meet the needs of speaker and addressee. Foci tend to cluster in what are referred to as thoughts or centers of interest. On a given occasion a sequence of foci will come readily to mind. The sentence has its basis in the association of such a cluster of foci, but unlike the clause does not have a straightforward relationship to the memory unit. Whereas foci apparently belong to our built-in processing capacities, and correspond to raw perceptions or memories, based on learned schemas, intellect and centers of interest are, apparently, judgement (1980: 48). It is necessary for a speaker to scan a center of interest and organize its foci in a coherent linguistic expression. Thus far, Chafe findings are consistent with our own observations s about the one-clause-at-a-time constraint on processing and the interaction of this constraint with the conditions of conversation to produce distinctive vernacular syntactic strategies (1.4). Chafe goes on to suggest that the linguistic unit most often matching a center of interest is a spoken sentence defined as a , well-formed construction whose beginning is often marked by an increase in articulation volume and vigour, and whose closure is signalled by falling pitch, often associated with slowdown and fading volume [lo]. At a higher level, still more loosely organised in the memory than the center of interest, stands the episode. People seem not to store episodes as such. . . but

[lo] Such suprasegmental boundary markers, however, have no exclusive association with constructions describing centers of interest, or with syntactic units consisting of clause standing in construction. The question is, then, whether such markers consistently distinguish anything other than a grammatical construction of some sort. ;

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rather to store coherent scenes, temporal sequences, character configurations, and worlds, all of which interact with each other to produce greater or lesser boundaries (Chafe 1979: 180). Again, a speaker must exercise judgement and skill in selecting from these scenes, sequences, etc. and giving them linguistic expression. An episode may be narrated in one sentence on one occasion and in three on another. Discrete episodes tend to be separated by pauses of four seconds or longer, sentences belonging to the same episode by shorter pauses of a second or so. There is an obvious parallel between the episode and the written paragraph. However, the match betwen memory unit and linguistic unit is by no means consistent. The trouble is, as Chafe acknowledges, that when a speaker scans a center of interest and describes a sequence of foci, the result is usually not a linguistic sentence. . . but a repeatedly extended sentence, cognitively unified, but intonationally and linguistically a very mixed bag (1980: 38). The narrative extract cited in (20) above is example. It is, arguably, a single extended sentence of 20 clauses, linked syntactically and/or paratactically; on the other hand, it can also be analysed into a number of intonational sentences which, however, do not correspond one to one with the sentences one might isolate on purely syntactic grounds. In terms of their content (their idea structure), the extended constructions of spontaneous speech correspond to the typical paragraph rather than to the sentence of formal written English. It is apparent that conversationalists often link constructions by conjunctions like and, so and but, not in order to signal a semantic connection of addition, succession, consequence or contrast between them, but in order to signal continuity of exposition; the speaker is simply informing the address that he has not yet come to the end of what he has to say about the subject in hand. Crystal (1980) identifies three practical difficulties which make it hard to determine whether a sequence of clauses in spontaneous speech is sentence or more: (a) indeterminate connectivity, (b) indeterminate ellipsis, (c) intercalation of structures. The first refers to the fact that clause conjunctions such as and can often be interpreted either as starting a new sentence or as joining constituents of the same sentence: no clear difference of meaning arises from omission of the conjunction. The second factor occurs when one meets an isolated clause or phrase, where it is wholly unclear whether the utterance is colloquially reduced, independent of the linguistic context, or is an utterance in a relationship of ellipsis to some nearby clause (1980 : 157). For example (1980 : 157): (34) P51 and JHE was SAYING1 in lBIRMINGHAM( VI that erm - you can [go to a NIGHTCLUB1 and lwatch t Tony ,BENNETI . for a Jbout t thirty t BdBl u71 U81 something like THIS1 [I91a (night with t Tony t BENNETI -



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[20] have a nice T MEAL] . in . Ivery . t plushy [21] very (WARM] INICE] IPLEASANT] Crystal asks:


Is [21] related to [20] by ellipsis (which are), or to [19] (which is), or is it a new sentence with colloquial omission of SV (it is), or is it an example of postponement (cf. Quirk et al. 1972: 963) (and this is)?. From the point of view of sentence identification and classification, is [21] a separate, coordinate, or subordinate clause? Similarly, is 1201 an ellipsis of you can (from [16], that you can [16], or even and you can? [l&19] are more obviously appositional, to [17]. [15] and [17] have optional and, already discussed under 1 above; that in [16] is also optional, with the clause following subordinate to [15]. However, the question here is how much subsequent structure is to be analysed as also subordinate to [15]. Are [20-211, with all their problems also subordinate to [15]? It does not seem possible to choose between these various analyses on empirical grounds (1980: 157).

Factor (c), intercalation, arises when a main clause and its subordinate clause are discontinuous, being interlaced with material from another construction. Do such interlaced pairs of constructions comprise one complex sentence or two sentences? An example (Crystal 1980: 158): (35) [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] I Ivery sus m picious of the PRESS] /GENERALLY I and I can [TELL you] be/cause . ]not only I Imean that 6NE s case] that you ve IGIVEN] but IALSO] Jin in their RET PbRTING] of erm af [fairs t foreign AF t FAIRS] [27] belcause . T LIVING in Cyprus] number of HISTbRICAL ETVENTS] you [28] I ve /seen . t quite a IKNGW] for

Crystal notes that the reason for [22] is given in [24-261 and the reason [23] is given in [27-281. The structure is therefore: Main Clause Clause B A + Main Clause B + Subordinate Clause

A + Subordinate

These problems are not isolated cases. In a sample of 420 clauses, Crystal found that 47 per cent of clause boundaries exhibit indeterminacies of one sort or another. He concludes that:
It is arguable that all of the above problems arise solely because of the attempt to impose a descriptive model on the data which uses sentence as a primitive term. This variety of English [spontaneous speech], however, does not seem to be readily analysable in terms of sentence.. A model of Clause + connective + Clause.. makes far fewer assumptions about the organisation of the data and avoids.. arbitrariness.. (1980: 159) 1

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We would go a little further than this and agree with Chafe that spontaneous, connected speech characteristically consists of a succession of multiclause constructions (Chafe s extended sentences ), sometimes including complex clauses. But we stand with Crystal in finding no ready connection between such multi-clause constructions and the sentence characteristic of most styles of formal written English. Rather, we would say that connected speech is composed of S which are neutral as between the sentences and paragraphs of s, written discourse. In writing, the conditions that favour the use of long, paragraph-like constructions are removed. Writers do not have to compete for the floor, or to maintain a more or less even and continuous flow of speech, as conversationalist-narrators have to. Nor are writers obliged to keep signaling to their audience that they have more to say. Writers can take their time in working out and reworking their thoughts. A series of propositions can be grouped together into one visual unit, the paragraph, or listed as a series of eye-catching units. If a proposition looks too prominent, or not prominent enough in a sentence or paragraph, the position and rank of the clause expressing it can be changed. In this formating of discourse, it is convenient to have visual links and breaks of various kinds, hence the frequent and subtle use of periods, commas, colons, semicolons, hyphens, parentheses, spaces, etc. by those well versed in written language use. But it is not easy for native speakers to learn the use of these devices, which have only a limited connection with those by which spoken expositions are formated.

3. Conclusion The first of the two hypotheses presented here is the more straightforward. A number of variations in English grammatical usages were correlated with conversational as opposed to formal written context and shown to be adaptive to particular conditions imposed by the mode of language use. The second hypotheses is concerned with change rather than with variation alone, and has two components. In cases where adaptive variation can be demonstrated, it was suggested that (1) the VE usages, in their general form, continue an old, preliterate usage, (2) the LE usages are innovative. This follows from the assumption that the conditions of conversational language use are ancient and largely universal, while those which are associated with LE are a product of a specialised and relatively recent mode of communication. The innovations of LE include the loss of certain vernacular usages, the addition of certain new rules and units, and an increase or diminution of frequency of use of certain elements shared with VE. In each of the cases examined, natural selection, the survival or favouring of the better adapted variant, has been the mechanism of change.


A. Pawley, F. Hodgetts Syder / Natural selection in syntax

Finally, we are led to ask a question which cannot be taken up here. Why has no comprehensive grammar been written of middle-class Vernacular English, the dominant spoken language in each of the major English speaking countries? To what extent are current ideas about the structure of English, and about languages in general, biased by linguists long preoccupation with methods and models suited to the analysis of literary languages? For some forceful views on these matters, see GI-- - 979a, 1979b, 1980). References
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