05 May 2012

Subject-Verb Agreement

One feature of New Varieties of English, such as those of Singapore and Brunei, is sporadic lack of subject-verb agreement. A factor that sometimes influences this is an intervening noun. For example, in Singapore I found these examples from student assignments, where generation and speech respectively result in the verb having a third-person singular ‑s suffix:

The children in this generation uses this language.
I realise that the features of my speech is rather distinct and different.
And in my corpus of interviews in Brunei, I have found the following examples, in which English and competition seem to have influenced the main verb:
most of the words of English comes from well originate from Greek language
but those who actually go for the competition is quite less

Does this occur in the English from elsewhere, such as the UK?

I just noticed the following in this week's WorldWideWords newsletter, written by Michael Quinion, who is something of an expert on English:

In the days when knowledge of Greek and Latin were widespread, ...

Note the the head of the subject is knowledge, so we would expect the verb to be was not were. But the intervening 'Latin and Greek' seems to have caused confusion.

I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is.