-1

Does corpora show any genre preferences for ending sentences with a nominal possessive? Does it occur more in spoken and informal written texts than in academic texts?

I really appreciate your input.

  • 6
    I'm not sure exactly what the teachers are complaining about. The sentence sounds completely fine to me; if anything, it sounds exceedingly academic. Few people would speak like that in everyday speech. – jick Apr 19 '18 at 16:06
  • 1
    I tend to disagree with statements like those here attributed to the instructors. I take the position that students of a foreign-to-them language should be taught the "language as she is spoke" as well as the "by-the-book correct" version. If the vernacular frequently ends sentences with a nominal possessive, the students should be familiar with said construction, and advised that it should/should not be used in this/that/the other context. – Jeff Zeitlin Apr 19 '18 at 16:32
  • 2
    @Eman As an examiner of academic English exams in several EFL contexts, I can state for the record that there is no such stipulation whatsoever. The suggestion that there is is pure dogrel. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 20 '18 at 9:49
  • 1
    @Araucaria I concur. Never heard of such a "rule." – Alex B. Apr 20 '18 at 14:59
  • 1
    Is this question only about English or cross-linguistic? – b a Apr 22 '18 at 21:22
6

Here are the number of times that each possessive pronoun appeared at the end of each sentence in the British National Corpus per million words:

        spoken  fiction magazine    newspaper   non-acad    academic    misc
hers    3.41    37.97   1.79        1.62        0.67        0.98        1.39
his     6.62    39.47   3.03        3.63        1.64        2.09        4.22
mine    39.14   38.97   6.33        4.20        4.85        1.17        6.82
yours   17.86   21.43   3.72        1.53        1.21        0.39        3.22
its     0.10    0.06    0.00        0.10        0.12        0.13        0.05
theirs  2.81    4.78    3.03        2.39        2.12        2.09        3.31
ours    10.74   5.15    3.44        2.58        2.36        1.30        2.93
's      15.16   90.32   36.63       28.66       18.49       14.02       26.78

As you can see, academic texts consistently do this less often than do other texts. On the surface, this seems to indicate that the question to your question is 'yes'. But is it really so?

This table does not take into account one important factor: The prevalence of these possessive pronouns in the first place (irrespective of context). It turns out that possessive pronouns are less common in academic writing in the first place (I exclude his and its since they may not be pronouns):

        spoken  fiction magazine    newspaper   non-acad    academic    misc
hers    18.87   115.47  7.30        5.73        3.39        3.07        5.47
yours   100.77  84.48   26.99       8.31        15.10       3.85        53.76
mine    196.71  115.53  41.17       28.57       41.41       10.11       39.98
theirs  14.65   13.39   10.74       7.74        7.94        6.65        10.80
ours    65.94   17.79   11.84       9.55        9.09        6.65        13.44

By inspection, the ratios seem fairly consistent across the two tables, so there seems to be little basis for saying that the possessive pronoun is less likely to appear at the end of a sentence in academic writing. (If you're not convinced, I could do some statistical analysis later...)

| improve this answer | |
  • Any information on genitively inflected NP's apart from pronouns - or is that too fiddly? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Apr 20 '18 at 15:01
  • @Araucaria I put up 's in the first table (as an afterthought), but those numbers don't tell us much without the corresponding row in the second table, which I cannot produce because there's no way (which I can tell) of discounting adnominal instances of noun + 's; their POS-tagging (at least in the BYU interface) only has the poss-ALL option. – WavesWashSands Apr 20 '18 at 16:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.