chapter  8
29 Pages

The Regularisation of the Hiatus Resolution System in British English: A Contact-Induced ‘Vernacular Universal’?

Jack Chambers’ research on ‘vernacular universals’ (e.g. 2000, 2003, 2004) has highlighted the fact that sociolinguistic dialectology hasn’t really fully contributed to the debate on typology and language universals, but that it should, and that it has a wealth of evidence at its disposal to do so. Rather than restricting our vision to our own speech communities, he says, we should be more prepared to “expand the domain of enquiry across national borders . . . and especially across language borders” (2000: 11) and to seek out and explore variables which “have universal, cross-linguistic counterparts, identiable with structurally equivalent linguistic constraints in language after language” (2000: 13). As a rst step in this endeavour, Chambers highlights a number of features which appear to be used in many varieties across the Anglophone world (these include alveolar nasals being used in unstressed -ing; consonant cluster simplication and multiple negation) and which cannot possibly be linked through diffusion from one common source. He suggests that these forms are most likely to be found in child language, interlanguage, pidgins and creoles, and in working-class vernaculars, that they tend to be suppressed in standard varieties, and that they “appear to be natural outgrowths . . . of the language faculty, that is the speciesspecic bioprogram that allows (indeed, requires) normal human beings to become homo loquens” (2004: 128).