The purpose of this study is to determine the function of the particle
a in the West-Saxon Gospels. In order to test the often-articulated view that
a is a foregrounding marker, the syntactic categories of the primary topics in clauses containing
a are investigated. If a passage is foregrounded, its primary topic must have high topicality. However, the primary topics of the sentence-initial
a-clauses have low topicality. A search for other features of foregrounding in the data resulted in similar negative results. This leads the author to conclude that
a is an indicator of multifunctional discontinuity, signaling a shift of topic, scene, listener, content, deviation of time-line, or a combination of any of these. The instances which do not fall in these categories are treated as signaling action/thematic discontinuity inherently syntacticized in the form of parataxis. This book will be of special interest to scholars working in the fields of discourse analysis and Old English syntax.