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Syntactic Dislocation in English Congregational Song between 1500 and 1900

A Corpus-based Study


Kirsten Gather

A famous English hymn does not start with He who would be valiant, but He who would valiant be with valiant in dislocated position in the clause. The aim of this study is to analyse syntactic dislocation in English congregational song between 1500 and 1900 and to examine its motivations and developments. Poetic factors, like metre and rhyme, can be assumed as primary causes. Moreover, two contrasting dislocation patterns emerge, which show the interplay of poetic requirements and syntactic criteria. The first pattern occurs mainly in metrical psalms, while the second pattern is typical of hymns. With these patterns as a basis of comparison, syntactic dislocation is a decisive factor that makes congregational song conservative both compared to secular poetry and to religious prose.
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6 Analysis


Apart from a general discussion of the degree of syntactic dislocation found in congregational song, the following examination will focus on poetic and rhetorical factors on the one hand, and syntactic criteria on the other.

Before starting with the quantitative analyses, it is necessary to explain the statistical methods and terms applied here. Furthermore, I will comment on exceptions to the counting process in order to clarify under which circumstances constituents are left out of the analysis.

Following the terminological and methodological preliminaries, section 6.2 gives an overview of the main results of the study. Proportions will show that syntactic dislocation is indeed a characteristic feature of congregational song. In an author-based breakdown of the data, I will discuss general tendencies and outliers first per century, and then look at the complete chronology.

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