Some morphosyntactic features and variety status of Zimbabwean English: A corpus-based study
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This study aimed to explore the morphosyntactic features characteristic of Zimbabwean English (ZimE) i.e. English as used by Black second language users, and on that basis, determine its variety status. The study mainly adopted the corpus linguistics methodology in which a special corpus of oral and written discourse was collected from various Zimbabwean contexts of use. The corpus was then analysed through Wordsmith Tools to determine the extent to which various morphosyntactic features were characteristic of this new English. The morphosyntactic features were in turn explained in terms of possible factors behind their occurrence and compared with features of other peer new English varieties on one hand and Standard English conventions on the other. The study showed that Zimbabwean English in the main shared, to various degrees, a number of features with peer new English varieties in Southern, Eastern and Western Africa. Among the features which were attested in the ZimE corpus were the extension of the progressive aspect to stative verbs, the deletion of be before verbs in the progressive form, the deletion of be before the auxiliary gonna, use of the resumptive pronoun, use of too, too much, very much for very qualifier, addition of a to-infinitive where Standard English has a bare infinitive, inverted word order in indirect questions, use of like as a focussing device. Other features which did not occur in the corpus at all or were extremely rare were also identified. It emerged that, though there are certain features of ZimE which are uniquely Zimbabwean, to a great extent, there were very few areas of morphosyntactic structure in which it departed from Standard English conventions. The attested characteristics of new Englishes or pidgin varieties reported in the World Englishes literature were found to be largely rare or non-existent in the variety altogether. The occurrence of the features attested in the ZimE corpus were explained through factors related to the educational acquisition context of the variety, pragmatic aspects of information-processing as well as cross-linguistic and intralingual factors related to the languages in contact themselves. The variety status question was settled through appeal to the Dynamic Model of the development of new Englishes (Schneider, 2003; 2007) as a well as a consideration of the characteristic linguistic features of ZimE attested in the corpus. It emerged that though there is evidence of nativisation at the linguistic level, the absence of codification and acceptance (institutionalisation) of the Zimbabwean variety of English, despite an officially pronounced national indigenisation stance in the socio-economic and cultural life of the country, are holding back ZimE from progressing beyond the nativisation stage, with chances that the status of the variety is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
- Humanities