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‘Ye whom the charms of grammar please’

Studies in English Language History in Honour of Leiv Egil Breivik


Edited By Kari Haugland, Kevin McCafferty and Kristian A. Rusten

This collection of articles by colleagues and students of Leiv Egil Breivik presents studies within both core and peripheral areas of English historical linguistics. Core topics covered include the development of existential there and related phenomena, word order, the evolution of adverbials, null subjects from Old to Early Modern English, pragmatics and information structure and aspects of discourse. Contributors also address the emergence of new syntactic constructions in the past and present, language contact and aspects of style in Early Modern English letters and medical texts. The ideological discourses of children’s dictionaries and medieval letters of defence are also explored.
The essays are all empirical studies, based on a wide range of corpora (both historical and contemporary) and applying theoretical approaches informed by Systemic-Functional Grammar, grammaticalization theory, dependency grammar, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and corpus linguistic methods. Issues of methodology, statistics and corpus construction and annotation are also addressed in several contributions.
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Gard B. Jenset: In search of the S (curve) in there


← 26 | 27 → GARD B. JENSET

In search of the S (curve) in there1

1 Introduction

The Present-day English distinction between existential and locative there, exemplified in (1) and (2) with data from the spoken part of the Corpus of Contemporary American English or COCA (Davies 2008–), goes back to Old English (Breivik 1990). It is widely accepted that the existential use of there diachronically originated from the locative adverb there, plausibly through the interplay of syntactic, semantic and pragmatic factors (Breivik 1990, 1997, Jenset 2010, 2014).


there was a brand-new, just-made key left at the crime scene in the lock. (Existential)


she was there, stuck in the house in New York. (Locative)

However, an important and as yet unsettled question is how this innovation, once it had occurred, propagated through the speech community. The essential question explored by the present paper is: how did Old English þær (for convenience discussed in its modern form there), once the initial reanalysis as a grammatical subject had taken place, survive and affirm this new status?

← 27 | 28 → 1.1 The evolution of existential ‘there’ in Old English

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