Continua and clines in the development of New Englishes

Devyani Sharma and Caroline R. Wiltshire

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Continua and clines in the development of New Englishes

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics



Research on language change has revealed a number of systematic clines along which changes seem to progress. Monolingual, native dialects of English generally involve established norms of use, and so change often takes the form of gradual, incremental shifts along such clines. By contrast, New Englishes (varieties of English spoken in regions where English is neither indigenous nor predominantly native for its speakers) often have fewer established norms, and so change can take place more radically and rapidly. Influenced by the grammars of their native languages as well as by universal cognitive principles, second language (L2) speakers receiving limited native English input may generate similar reanalyses or regularizations. This article assesses the behavior and claimed universality of structural continua and cycles in English within bilingual, postcolonial settings. The discussion examines universal markedness gradients in phonetics, syntax, and semantics, as well as grammaticalization clines.

Keywords: continua; clines; English; New Englishes; grammaticalization; language change; dialects; cycles; markedness; linguistics

Article.  5167 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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