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Sophie Richard

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 1882

Start date

May 2013

Submission date

May 2016

Curriculum vitae

Sophie Richard CV
[text/rtf, 14.27 kb]
Updated 27 Aug 2015

Sophie Richard

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Sociolinguistic constraints on the Narrative Present Perfect in contemporary Australian English


The English Present Perfect (example 1) establishes a link between a past situation (the writing) and a current state of affairs (the written emails), but is not “about” that earlier situation (Comrie 1976: 52).

(1) She HAS WRITTEN at least 100 emails today!

For this reason, the English PP is incompatible with definite past temporal adverbials (*‘She has written at least 100 emails yesterday’) and cannot be used to express temporal progression in narratives (see below).

Despite these constraints, Engel and Ritz (2000), Ritz and Engel (2008) and Ritz (2007; 2010) report innovative uses of the PP in Australian English (AusE) radio chat-show programs, police and news media reports. They find occurrences of the AusE PP with definite past temporal adverbials and in narrative accounts (example 2), where the Simple Past or the Historical Present would normally be expected.

(2) Because I was busting I didn’t actually look at the symbol above the door and I’VE WALKED into the ladies’ toilet. And er I’VE GONE IN, SAT DOWN to do my business, and LOOKED to my left and SEEN one of those sanitary bins and THOUGHT, “Mm it’s a bit weird for a boys’ toilet.” (Male, 46, tradesperson)

This phenomenon is suggestive of a change in progress (Ritz 2010; 2012) but a systematic analysis of narratives collected in interaction with female and male speakers across age groups and occupation/professional backgrounds is yet to support this claim. The study aims to empirically establish the social and linguistic constraints on the use of the Narrative PP in AusE. The research design rests on the observation that the innovative AusE PP occurs predominantly in performed narratives and speakers’ narratives will be compiled to form the first-ever narrative corpus of AusE. The data will be analysed using multivariate analysis with Goldvarb X (Sankoff, Tagliamonte & Smith 2005) and Rbrul (Johnson 2009) to tease out which social and linguistic variables play a significant role on the use of the Narrative PP in AusE. The findings will contribute significantly to the growing body of research into morphosyntactic and discourse-pragmatic variation and change in West Australian English (cf. Rodriguez Louro 2013; Rodriguez Louro & Ritz 2014).


Comrie, Bernard (1976). Aspect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Engel, Dulcie & Ritz, Marie-Eve (2000). The use of the Present Perfect in Australian English. Australian Journal of Linguistics 20: 119–140.

Johnson, Daniel Ezra (2009). Getting off the GoldVarb standard. Introducing Rbrul for mixed effects variable rule analysis. Language and Linguistics Compass 3: 359–383.

Ritz, Marie-Eve (2007). Perfect change: Synchrony meets diachrony. In Salmons, J. & Dubenion-Smith, S. (Eds.), Historical linguistics 2005. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 133–147.

Ritz, Marie-Eve (2010). The perfect crime: A study of illicit adverbial combinations with the present perfect in Australian police media releases. Journal of Pragmatics 42: 3400–3417.

Ritz, Marie-Eve (2012). Perfect, Tense and Aspect In Binnick, R. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Tense and Aspect. New York: Oxford University Press. 881–907.

Ritz, Marie-Eve & Engel, Dulcie (2008). Vivid narrative use and the meaning of the present perfect in spoken Australian English. Linguistics 46(1): 129–158.

Rodríguez Louro, Celeste (2013). Quotatives Down Under: Be like in cross-generational Australian English speech. English World-Wide 34(1): 48–76.

Rodríguez Louro, Celeste & Ritz, Marie-Eve (2014). Stories down under: Tense variation at the heart of Australian English narratives. Australian Journal of Linguistics 34(4): 549–565.

Sankoff, David, Tagliamonte, Sali & Smith, Eric (2005). Goldvarb X: A multivariate analysis application for Macintosh and Windows. Department of Linguistics - University of Toronto and Department of Marhematics - University of Ottawa.

Why my research is important

This project addresses a significant gap in the literature since the relationship between language and society in Australia, especially regarding linguistic variables beyond the level of phonology (i.e. the sound system), remains largely unexplored. The research will offer a glimpse into the variable grammar of the Australian speech community: it will document variation along the social factors of age, sex, and occupation/professional background. It will provide empirical evidence to assess the claim that the use of the PP in AusE narratives constitutes a change in progress. More broadly, findings from this research will contribute to our understanding of how socio-cultural forces shape linguistic usage and change.


  • International Postgraduate Research Scholarship
  • Australian Postgraduate Award
  • UWA Top-up Scholarship