-body vs. -one

Mark Davies Mark_Davies at BYU.EDU
Sat Jan 3 18:10:09 UTC 2009

> Aren't there a lot of speakers and writers who use both forms freely?
> I'm not saying interchangeably, since I'm sure there are subtle
> differences, possibly in register (-one being more more formal?) but
> I'm hard pressed to say what the difference is for me, and I'm sure I
> use both in relatively free distribution.
> It would be interesting to see if there's any quantitative work on
> this, with regional or other parameters of variation.


(for: someone [vv*] vs somebody [vv*])

Based on corpus data, it looks like 'someone' is more formal -- about twice as much in academic (vs. somebody) than in spoken. In addition, its use increases in each genre (informal > formal): spoken, fiction, popular magazine, newspaper, academic.

And although the numbers aren't overly-compelling, there has been an increase in 'someone' (vs somebody) since the 1940s, at least in whatever dialect is used by the writers at TIME.

Mark D.

Mark Davies
Professor of (Corpus) Linguistics
Brigham Young University
(phone) 801-422-9168 / (fax) 801-422-0906
Web: davies-linguistics.byu.edu

** Corpus design and use // Linguistic databases **
** Historical linguistics // Language variation **
** English, Spanish, and Portuguese **

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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