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The Intransitive Usage of the English Verb Lay in COCA and BNC

  • Modern English Education
  • Abbr : MEESO
  • 2018, 19(2), pp.56-62
  • DOI : 10.18095/meeso.2018.19.2.06
  • Publisher : The Modern English Education Society
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Language Teaching
  • Published : May 31, 2018

Lee Yunhyun 1

1충남고등학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

One of the most confusing sets of English verbs is lay and lie; the former has been used as an intransitive verb in the place of the latter with or without speakers’ cognizance of their correct usage (National Council of Teachers of English, 1956). Using two corpora, Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus, this study examined 1) whether lay as an intransitive verb is more frequently used in American than British contexts and 2) whether it is found more often in spoken English than written English. The frequencies of the present participle of lay plus prepositions,on and in, were counted in COCA and BNC, and their normalized indexes were compared for analysis. The results showed that lay as an intransitive verb has been used more frequently in American than in British English, which implies that British speakers are more reluctant to accept the marked language form than their American counterparts. Spoken English is found to be more tolerant of non-standard forms than written English. The study suggests this intransitive usage of the English verblay, though still a marked form, should be taught to ESL/EFL learners along with its unmarked form as a transitive verb.

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