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‘Ye whom the charms of grammar please’

Studies in English Language History in Honour of Leiv Egil Breivik

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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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Øystein Heggelund: Information structure as an independent word ordering factor in Old and Middle English

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← 298 | 299 → ØYSTEIN HEGGELUND

Information structure as an independent word ordering factor in Old and Middle English

1 Introduction

The relationship between word order and principles of information structure has received increasing attention in English historical linguistics over the past two decades, and information structure is also a well-established concept in linguistics in general. However, there is relatively little research on the relationship between information structure and morphosyntactic weight, a relationship the present paper specifically seeks to address.

In this paper, I will first look at the concept of information structure and how it has been understood in the literature. Next, the relationship between information structure and morphosyntactic weight is discussed, before I outline my understanding of what information value (IV) is, i.e. the pragmatic analysis on the clause element level. Finally, I will present a recent quantitative study exploring the relationship between an element’s information value, its weight, and its position in the clause in Old and Middle English (OE and ME). The object of study is the word order patterns SXV (verb-final) and SVX (verb-medial) in subordinate clauses.1 There are two main research questions to be answered:

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