Article

Rethinking the OV/VO alternation in Old English: The effect of complexity, grammatical weight, and information status

Ann Taylor and Susan Pintzuk

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199922765.013.0068

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Rethinking the OV/VO alternation in Old English: The effect of complexity, grammatical weight, and information status

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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Research on syntactic change necessarily involves the study of syntactic variation, as the historical record shows that all change includes a period of variation between the conservative and innovative variants. In the history of English variation between object-verb (OV) and verb-object (VO) order was evident in written texts for several hundred years before OV order eventually disappeared in Early Modern English. This article demonstrates that variation in object position in Old English is subject to the same kind of discourse/performance constraints found in other cases of syntactic variation cross-linguistically. It also argues that while the OV/VO alternation is indeed subject to such constraints, the syntactic change from OV to VO order is independent of them. The data for this study are taken from the York-Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose (YCOE).

Keywords: Old English; syntactic change; syntactic variation; OV/VO alternation; York-Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose; information structure; linguistics

Article.  3946 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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