University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


In this paper, we explore methodological approaches to use and grammaticality of syntactic variables. We argue that no single method can viably contribute this complete picture in and of itself. Rather, multiple methodologies are required to obtain a holistic understanding of a syntactic variable. We illustrate this through a case study of wh-all questions, wh-questions in which the presence of all indicates that a plural answer is sought, in North American English (AmE). We take a three-pronged approach to the variable: a corpus study, a Twitter study, and a grammaticality judgment survey. This approach allows us to gather and analyze different kinds of data to create a complete picture of the variable in question. We show that wh-all questions are widespread in AmE, yet subject to regional variation, and that their use is restricted to informal registers. Such findings are a result of the combination of methodologies; no single methodology could yield every result we report. The advantages and disadvantages of each method are discussed, with the aim of establishing multi-pronged approaches as best practice in future syntactic variation research.



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