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The perfect in spoken British English

Bowie, Jill; Wallis, Sean; Aarts, Sebastian; (2010) The perfect in spoken British English. In: The Verb Phrase in English: Investigating Recent Language Change with Corpora. (pp. 318-352). Green open access

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The English perfect construction involves the perfect auxiliary have followed by a verb in the past participle form. It occurs in several subtypes according to the inflectional form of the auxiliary. The most frequently occurring is the present perfect, as in She has seen them. The other subtypes are the past perfect (She had seen them), the infinitival perfect (She must have seen them) and the -ing-participial perfect (Having seen them, she went home). All subtypes typically function to express anteriority (i.e. pastness relative to a reference point), although further semantic complexities have led to varying treatments of the perfect, for example as an aspect or a secondary tense system. Research on the English perfect has revealed considerable variation in use both diachronically, across longer historical periods, and synchronically, across regions and dialects. Recent trends in perfect usage are therefore of interest. The study presented here investigates this topic with regard to spoken standard British English. Much previous work has focused mainly or exclusively on the present perfect. However, here we investigate all inflectional subtypes of the perfect in terms of frequency changes over time. The findings on the present perfect are compared with those of other researchers. We then focus in more detail on the past perfect and infinitival perfect, to seek explanations for the frequency changes observed.

Type: Book chapter
Title: The perfect in spoken British English
ISBN-13: 9781139060998
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139060998.014
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of English Lang and Literature
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10038595
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