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Paul Rickman: New insights into the complement selection patterns of verbs in the New Zealand English dialect

Tampereen yliopisto
SijaintiKalevantie 4, Tampere
Keskustakampus, Päätalo, sali D11 ja etäyhteys
Ajankohta17.5.2024 9.00–13.00
PääsymaksuMaksuton tapahtuma
Ihmishahmo tohtorinhattu päässään, musta siluetti violetin kuultamalla taustalla.
The complement selection tendencies of verbs in the dialect of New Zealand English (NZE) is a field that remains largely underexplored. The opportunities afforded by modern corpus linguistic methods give us greater insight than ever before into recent language change. In his doctoral dissertation, MA Paul Rickman studied selected areas of the system of complementation patterns of verbs in NZE alongside two other main varieties of English. The aim was to help us further understand the complex picture of shifting grammatical preferences under changing global influence.

New Zealand was among the last inhabitable parts of the world to be settled by humans, with the presence of the indigenous Maori dating from the early fourteenth century, and British colonisation taking place as recently as the latter half of the nineteenth century. In the wake of the colonial era, the traditionally strong British cultural and linguistic influence in New Zealand found competition in the spreading global influence of American culture in the second half of the twentieth century.

“In addition, New Zealand’s own identity was asserting itself. It is assumed that a postcolonial society goes through a series of developmental stages on its way to full independence, and this includes a reorientation of national identity. It is further assumed that the results of this developmental process can be seen in different aspects of the language", Paul Rickman says.

Rickman’s doctoral dissertation is an investigation into the system of non-finite complementation of verbs in New Zealand English. He takes into account the pressures of the traditional British heritage, the more recent US cultural influence, and the emergence of the country’s own identity.

With New Zealand now thought to be near the end of the developmental process, shifts in the complementation system of the dialect are likely to be readily observable. Other areas of the dialect, such as the accent and vocabulary, are already well known to be distinctive in many respects, and have been very well researched, but the area of verb complementation has not been given a great deal of research attention so far.

The study provides us with a new perspective on this area of the grammar of NZE. It was carried out using the methodological tools from the field of corpus linguistics – a field which has benefited from technological advances in recent years. Rickman compiled a new 100-million-word electronic database of language (a corpus) taken from online New Zealand newspapers, and this new corpus provides fresh empirical data for the study. The new data is used alongside data from pre-existing corpora of British and American English to investigate recent change in the three dialects.

“The results of my study indicate that NZE shows some clear differences to the two older dialects in several areas of the complementation system, and there is also evidence of relatively rapid change in the complement selection tendencies of some verbs”, Rickman says.

“As well as this, I also observed some striking and unexpected similarities between NZE and both of the two comparison dialects. NZE also shows innovation in some areas, with evidence of novel constructions and creative extensions of pre-existing complementation patterns”, he adds.

Taken together, the results of the dissertation enhance our understanding of some of the ways in which dialects develop under both internal and external pressures.

Public defence on Friday 17 May

The doctoral dissertation of MA Paul Rickman in the field of English Philology, entitled Aspects of Non-finite Verb Complementation in New Zealand English, will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences at 12:00 on Friday 17 May 2024 at the City centre campus, Main Building, room D11 (Kalevantie 4, Tampere). The Opponent will be Professor Erik Smitterberg, from Uppsala University, Sweden. The Custos will be Professor emeritus Juhani Klemola from Tampere University.

The doctoral dissertation is available online

The public defence can be followed via remote connection