Analytic Structures and Emergent Grammar
This chapter explores the grammar of English, whether used as a native language, a nativized language, or a lingua franca. It explains the English grammar today by way of two separate arguments about language change, one socio-historical, the other theoretical and 'usage-based'. The argument is that high-contact language varieties like lingua francas, pidgins and creoles, and any other varieties involving adolescent and adult second-language learning, tend over time to replace synthetic structures with analytic ones, to show a reduction in redundancy, and to increase in regularity. The dominant paradigm in linguistics from approximately the late 1950s to the late 1980s was generative grammar, a 'formalist' approach associated with Chomsky. Chomsky described a language as 'a set of structural descriptions of sentences', which effectively equates language with grammar alone. Susan Hunston and Gill Francis propose a lexical grammar of native English, based on patterns observed in the Bank of English, the large corpus on which the COBUILD dictionaries are based.