Where grammar meets culture: pronominal systems in Australasia and the South Pacific revisited

Kate Burridge, Carolin Biewer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


In this paper, we explore the pronominal systems of some of the most significant Englishes currently spoken in Australasia and the South Pacific (AuSP). Our account includes representatives from the transplanted native varieties of English (L1 Englishes) and the English-based contact varieties of the area, in particular the second-language varieties of English (ESL). In line with Kortmann’s classification of recurring vernacular features around the Anglophone world, a number of the widely attested AuSP features constitute (near) universals (or angloversals) of (nonstandard) pronominal usage in English; for example, special second person plural forms, levelled cases, null subjects. The focus here, however, is on unusual morphosyntactic features and practices; for example, number contrasts (singular, dual (trial), plural) and inclusive-exclusive distinctions (including the addressee or not).
Clearly there are substrate effects in play, but it is only when we take account of the external ecology that we can explain why certain of these language habits are transferred. Many of these Pacific speech communities are small and closely integrated, so people interact frequently with one other and share a large amount of common knowledge; often there are serious tensions between insiders and outsiders (historically and continuing to present-day). This paper revisits the impact of geography and explores how factors to do with the cultural and socio-historical aspects of the linguistic setting have been involved in shaping some of the unusual pronominal patterns we find in this geographical area. We argue here for the influence of social and cultural factors on grammar, and the importance therefore of this sort of information in any account of areality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring the Ecology of World Englishes in the Twenty-First Century
Subtitle of host publicationLanguage, Society and Culture
EditorsPam Peters, Kate Burridge
Place of PublicationEdinburgh UK
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781474462884, 9781474462877
ISBN (Print)9781474462853
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • cross-cultural analysis
  • areality
  • pronominal features
  • culture-grammar relationship
  • Australasia and the Pacific

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