Discourse Status and Syntax in the History of English

Javier Pérez-Guerra

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

Discourse Status and Syntax in the History of English

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This chapter deals with the study of the discourse status of noun phrases occupying a topicalized, left-dislocated, or (in there-sentences) postverbal position, and discusses the connection between the quantitative spread of these patterns and the increase in the range of the discourse functions fulfilled by such noun phrases. Using a corpus of Early Modern and Late Modern English, the variables taken into account are: overall frequencies for topicalization, left-dislocation, and there-sentences; the type of information conveyed by the noun phrases in question; and the anaphoric distance between the noun phrases and their antecedents. The connection between the informative characterization and propagation of the three constructions and the genre(s) in which they are attested are also discussed. In light of the corpus data, which contains samples of both formal writing and speech-based discourse, the chapter assesses whether the unmarked informative functions of the noun phrases occurring in the database examples of topicalization, left-dislocation, and there-sentences are fulfilled more naturally in formal or informal language.

Keywords: discourse status; noun phrases; there-sentences; Early Modern English; Late Modern English

Chapter.  8272 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Linguistics

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