The Effect of Information Structure on Object Position in Old English: A Pilot Study

Ann Taylor and Susan Pintzuk

in Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of English

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860210
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949601 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in the History of English

The Effect of Information Structure on Object Position in Old English: A Pilot Study

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It has often been claimed that crosslinguistically the position of DPs in the clause is influenced by information structure: given information comes early, with new information placed late. This chapter reports on a small pilot study, the first step in a planned exploration of the roles of syntax and information structure in the positioning of objects in the history of English. The study confirms that at least in one Old English clause type—subordinate clauses with finite main verbs—there is indeed a significant correlation between object position and information status. It establishes that object weight is also significant and independent from information status. Finally, it is shown that as object position becomes more fixed, the proportion of new objects in postverbal position approaches the overall proportion of new objects for the clause type. This demonstrates that even within the Old English period, a correlation exists between the increasingly fixed object position and the decreasing role of information status.

Keywords: syntax; object position; history of English; subordinate clauses; finite main verbs; clauses; information status

Chapter.  8158 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics

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