Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Reflexes of the transitive be perfect in Canada and in the US: a comparative corpus study

Yuri Yerastov


The present paper examines the geographical distribution of three reflexes of a transitive be perfect in North America: done, finished, started (e.g. I’m done my dinner). This paper is a corpus study of Canadian Newsstand Complete and Newspaper Source Plus — commercial databases of regional and national mass media in Canada and the United States, respectively. A total of 1217 tokens have been found in Canadian sources, and none in the US ones. Constructional tokens in Canada have been found to be proportionately distributed across provinces and municipalities. Based on these findings, it is argued that the done my dinner construction is a feature that sets Canadian English (as a theoretical abstraction) apart from American English. It is emphasized, though, that the construction has been attested in some dialectal pockets in the US such as Vermont. The geographical restriction of the construction to Canada and selected dialectal areas in the US is hypothesized to have arisen from a Scottish founder effect; evidence from fictional literature and migration studies is presented as support. It is further argued that the construction is a retention in North American English rather than innovation because its earliest occurrence dates back to the middle of the 19th century.

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