chapter  4
23 Pages

Number Agreement in Existential Constructions: A Sociolinguistic Study of Eighteenth-Century English

ByTERTTU NEVALAINEN

In general terms, this chapter contributes to the discussion on the loss of inectional agreement in the English language. This typological change is unprecedented among the Germanic languages: in the course of its documented history, English has changed from a synthetic language to a largely analytic one. Little remains of the grammatical system of agreement today apart from number marking-the distinction between singular and plural, which is shown, for instance, in determiner-head and subject-verb agreement. However, as Matthews (1987: 156) remarks, “[subject-verb] agreement in English is a notoriously variable matter”. It is this inherent variability in subject-verb agreement and attempts to regulate it that constitute the dual focus of this chapter.1