The punctual never in Australian English: the mysterious case of the missing vernacular universal

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The punctual never is a classic vernacular universal, widespread among varieties of English across the globe. However, corpus data from the UWA Corpus of English in Australia (2012–2015) reveals its surprising rarity in Australian English. Where could this vernacular universal be hiding? Drawing on the categorisation established in Lucas and Willis (2012), this chapter argues that the punctual never is mostly restricted to the ‘window of opportunity’ usage in Australian English, where its punctuality is better camouflaged than in classic nonstandard use. In addition to drawing on corpus data, this chapter investigates acceptability survey data from 170 linguistics students, which indicates the social stigmatization of the nonstandard punctual never among Australian English speakers, as well as the importance of formulaic chunks like never get around to, in which the punctuality of never remains unanalysed and therefore more acceptable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDynamics of Language Changes
Subtitle of host publicationLooking Within and Across Languages
EditorsKeith Allan
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789811564307
ISBN (Print)9789811564291
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Vernacular universal
  • punctual never
  • negation

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