The Syntax of Early English

The Syntax of Early English

The Syntax of Early English

The Syntax of Early English

Synopsis

This book is a guide to the development of English syntax between the Old and Modern periods. Beginning with an overview of the main features of early English syntax, it gives a unified account of the significant grammatical changes that occurred during this period. Four leading experts demonstrate how these changes can be explained in terms of grammatical theory and the theory of language acquisition. Drawing on a wealth of empirical data, the book covers a wide range of topics including changes in word order, infinitival constructions and grammaticalization processes.

Excerpt

In the course of the 1980s and 1990s, historical syntax in general, and English historical syntax in particular, developed into a thriving field of research. Much of the credit for this renaissance must go to the advent of sophisticated models of language variation and of linguistic theory. It is perhaps in the domain of syntax that modern theoretical work has most clearly sharpened the traditional questions of historical linguistics, leading to a surge of novel and interesting insights. Happily, this interest in theoretical questions has gone hand in hand with a continued interest in philological matters and, perhaps even more importantly, the creation of ever larger and more sophisticated computerized databases. For these reasons, it seems a particularly felicitous moment for a textbook to appear in which questions concerning the historical syntax of English are consistently addressed from the perspective of a model of syntactic theory.

The model of syntactic theory adopted in this book is the one known as the Principles and Parameters framework. This has important consequences for the way in which we view historical change. in the Principles and Parameters framework, the focus of investigation is the grammar internalized by the native speaker rather than the language output. Consequently, we will attempt throughout the book to make a distinction between language change and grammar change. in the first chapter, we outline the view of grammar change that we try to establish in the book, and set out our arguments and methodology for making the distinction between language change and grammar change. Chapters 2 and 3 are devoted to descriptive overviews of the most important features of the syntax of Old English and Middle English respectively. the remaining chapters are case studies emerging from our own ongoing research into Old and Middle English syntax. in each of these chapters, we present and discuss the relevant facts, giving a structured and critical appraisal of the results accomplished in work done on each case in the literature, substantially including our own research results cast from the perspective of grammar change. Thus, it is attempted in each chapter to strike a balance between theoretical argument and historical detail.

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