The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics
[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 21, No. 0, pp.414-434
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print) 2586-7474 (Online)
Print publication date 31 Jan 2021
Received 07 Apr 2021 Revised 13 May 2021 Accepted 26 May 2021

A Corpus-based Study of the What about and How about Constructions

Jungsoo Kim ; HeeYeon Kim
(1st author) Lecturer, Dept. of English Language and Literature, Kyung Hee Univ.
(corresponding author) Undergraduate Student, Dept. of English Language and Literature, Kyung Hee Univ.

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This paper investigates real life uses of the so-called what about and how about constructions on the basis of large, balanced contemporary American English corpus data. Previous literature has paid little attention to irregular wh-question constructions including the two as compared to typical wh-question constructions and has mainly discussed similarities between the two constructions based on individual researchers’ informal judgments with no surrounding context information for their what about and how about construction examples. The results of this corpus-based research first show that the two constructions exhibit similar behavior in that both of them occur frequently in informal, dialogue situations and that they take an NP as the most dominant dependent category. However, the results also show that when we explore their grammatical properties with regard to subtypes for each dependent category and their preferred illocutionary functions, the two are more similar than different when they combine with minor category dependents while they are more different than similar when they take proposition-denoting categories and NPs as their dependents. Taken together, our findings suggest that it is important to look into authentic properties of the what about and how about constructions depending on their dependent categories.


irregular wh-questions, what about, how about, corpus, dependent category types, illocutionary functions


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