Subjects in early English: syntactic change as gradual constraint reranking

Brady Clark

in Grammatical Change

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199582624
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731068 | DOI:
Subjects in early English: syntactic change as gradual constraint reranking

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  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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This chapter provides a comprehensive analysis of change in the syntax of early English subjects within the framework of Stochastic Optimality Theory (StOT). It shows that positional discrepancies between subject pronouns and full noun phrase (NP) subjects in Old English (OE) and early Middle English (EME) can be accounted for if pronouns are non-projecting (do not project to a maximal phrase) and appear in the IP domain, whereas full NP subjects can appear in Spec,VP or Spec,IP. The structure of the chapter is as follows. After stating some preliminary assumptions about early English syntax, the chapter presents an analysis of subjects that accounts for the positional discrepancies between full NP subjects and subject pronouns. Next, it shows that StOT, given the theory of syntax embodied by the constraint set, provides an illuminating model of change in the syntax of subjects in OE and ME.

Keywords: Stochastic Optimality Theory; syntactic change; Old English; early Middle English

Chapter.  6485 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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