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Grammar between Norm and Variation

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Alexandra N. Lenz and Albrecht Plewnia

The articles collected in this volume offer the most various access to the discussed questions on norm and variation. In their entirety, they reflect the current discussion of the topic. Focusing on the object languages German and English ensures a high level of topical consistency. On the other hand, the four large topic areas (emergence and change of norms and grammatical constructions; relationship of codes of norms and ‘real’ language usage; competition of standard and non-standard language norms; and subsistent norms of minority languages and «institutionalised second-language varieties») cover a large range of relevant issues, thereby certainly giving an impetus to new and further investigations.

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Ulrich Busse & Anne Schröder: Problem areas of English grammar between usage, norm, and variation 87

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Ulrich Busse (Halle-Wittenberg) & Anne Schröder (Bielefeld) Problem areas of English grammar between usage, norm, and variation 1. Introduction The amazing commercial success of books such as Bastian Sick’s Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod and its sequels (2004-2009) in Germany indicates that the general public and thus the ‘normal’ language users are worried about or at least interested in what is to be considered ‘correct’ usage. Similar phenomena can also be observed for the English-speaking world. The ‘bestseller’ Eats, Shoots and Leaves. The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (2003) may serve as a recent example. However, these books were written by journalists, and linguists are usually very critical about such works. But even prior to the works above, David Crystal had the idea of soliciting the public opinion on problems of grammatical usage. In his book The English Language (2003: 27-29), he reports on the top ten complaints about grammar, which lis- teners sent in to the BBC radio series English Now in 1986. Among these com- plaints were such pronounced statements as the following: – Hopefully should not be used at the beginning of a sentence. – Different[ly] should be followed by from and not by to or than. These two issues are interesting insofar as the first one concerns a rather recent development in the English language whereas the second has been described as a classic example of divided or even disputed usage in modern standard English. Undisputedly, what lay people think about grammar...

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