English Sentence Patterns: Writing to Speech?

Jeroen Wiedenhof jeroen at WIEDENHOF.NL
Thu Jun 12 11:13:32 UTC 2014

- Apologies for any cross-posting!

I am looking for an example of (preferably recent) linguistic change in 
English which:

(a) has developed (or is developing) in the direction from written 
English to spoken English; and which

(b) is syntactic in nature, i.e. involves a productive construction or 
sentence pattern.

To clarify: (a) is in contrast with the usual state of affairs, where 
script and written language trail behind developments in the way people 
talk; and (b) is intended as a contrast with a lexical item or an 
isolated idiom.

Some background: I am preparing an English text about this type of 
writing-to-speech development in Mandarin. I can think of parallels in 
my native Dutch, but I would like to make a comparison with English.

Also, any reference to publications which I need to explore are most 

The phenomenon of "headlinese" has been suggested to me, but the chance 
of finding native speakers of English who use this in spoken 
communication seems slim.

The closest example I can think is one way of announcing headlines in 
radio broadcasts:

- Coming up in this bulletin: the hero student who stopped a gunman.
- Still to come: the Brazilian love of hair care.
- Later in this program: can netball shake off its schoolgirl image?

As one possible analysis, these examples have a subject in 
sentence-final position, after a prosodic break at the place of the colon.

However, these are still cases of a news script being read out aloud.

What I am looking for instead is a sentence pattern which started out as 
an innovation in written English (e.g. initially as "translatese"), but 
which has since been adopted productively in spontaneous speech.

Thank you for any suggestions!

Jeroen Wiedenhof

Universiteit Leiden, LIAS / LUCL
jeroen at wiedenhof.nl

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