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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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8 Conclusion


As has become apparent in chapters 6 and 7, syntactic dislocation can indeed be considered a characteristic feature of congregational song. But how can we interpret the results?

Since religious language can be regarded as a continuum with conservative genres at one end and progressive genres at the other (see Kohnen et al. 2011: 4.), the question arises where congregational song is situated. It will become clear that, given the diagnostic features already established for religious prose, syntactic dislocation forms an additional criterion that permits the positioning of verse genres in terms of conservativism or progressiveness.

After looking at congregational song as a genre of religious verse, I will discuss the implications of this study for the fields of corpus and text linguistics. Considering that the results are noteworthy, one might ask, for instance, why there have not been more linguistic studies of verse genres up to now.

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