Past tense formation with irregular lexical verbs in Canadian English

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Glickman, Tara
Canadian English; past tense
There is a set of lexical verbs in English ending in /-l, -m, -n/ (e.g., to spill, to dream, to burn) that receives a different form of the past tense in British versus American English. While in American English these verbs typically receive the regular past tense form /-d/ (e.g., spilled), in British English the irregular devoiced form /-t/ (e.g., spilt) (occasionally accompanied by ablaut) is more common. The form of the past tense in these verbs in Canadian English is, however, less categorical. The main objective of this study is to examine variation in the usage of the past tense in this set of lexical verbs in contemporary Canadian English. The investigation consists of three components: (a) informal interviews of Canadian and American university students to examine their usage of the past tense for these verbs in casual speech, (b) a formal survey to assess how Canadians perceive the usage of the variable past tense forms and (c) a corpus-based comparison of both past tense forms using Canadian and American corpora. The findings suggest that the majority of Canadian English speakers have mixed usage of /-t/ and /-d/ past tense forms.
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