The purpose of this study is to identify the way that the /s/ contraction is used by native
English speakers to form grammatically acceptable utterances. The use of the /s/ contraction
involves several grammatical features, such as agreement and tense. Whether or not they are
aware of these individual features, most native English speakers are able to identify when a
sentence is grammatically correct.
This study begins by describing some of the grammatical terminology that characterizes
use of the /s/ contraction. While there are extensive textual resources that describe how the /s/
contraction can be used grammatically, or that describe the grammatical features, little research
has been done to reflect the way that uses of the /s/ contraction are viewed by native speakers.
The second part of this study describes a survey that was given to a group of forty-two native
speakers, with high levels of education and living in the same region. The survey asked them to
rate the grammaticality of certain phrases containing the /s/ contraction. The data was collected
by email during a two-week period, and then the results were empirically analyzed.
The results of this study indicate that this group of participants is in agreement about the
grammaticality of most constructions using the /s/ contraction. The most notable finding of this
study is that there are particular grammatical features that evoke less agreement, such as uses of
the /s/ contraction with some instances of ‘there', as a replacement for the third person verb ‘has’,
and also for some instances of reported speech. These categories may indicate an area of spoken
English with evolving rules of grammaticality, as English is shaped by its speakers.
1 online resource (PDF, 38 pages). Submitted October, 2010 as a Plan B paper in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master's degree in English as a Second Language from the University of Minnesota.
Subra, Katie Jo.
Economizing spoken American English with the /s/ contraction: Native speaker perceptions of grammaticality.
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