Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of English

Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of English

Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of English

Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of English


Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of Englishis the first book to apply information structure as it relates to language change to a corpus-based analysis of a wide range of features in the evolution of English syntax and grammars of prose in long diachrony. Its unifying topic is the role of information structure, broadly conceived, as it interacts with the other levels of linguistic description, syntax, morphology, prosody, semantics and pragmatics. The volume comprises twelve chapters by leading scholars who take a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. Their work affirms, among other things, that motivations for selecting a particular syntactic option vary from information structure in the strict sense to discourse organization, or a particular style or register, and can also be associated with external forces such as the development of a literary culture.


This volume is a compilation of articles investigating how the interaction between syntax and information structure led to change in the history of English. The topics are explored from a wide range of theoretical and methodological perspectives, including formal syntactic theory, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, and language typology. Most of the studies exploit quantitatively and qualitatively representative digital corpora. The volume draws on cooperation between scholars chiefly active in the field of English historical linguistics, a forum for which was created at the initiative of María José López-Couso and Anneli Meurman-Solin in organizing the Workshop Information Structure and Syntactic Change at the 15th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics held in Munich, Germany, in August 2008. Beside chapters developed from papers presented at the workshop, there are also contributions by scholars invited by the editors to join the project.

Our deepest debt of gratitude is to the authors of the various chapters, who, with their excellent contributions and their unfailing cooperation, have made this volume a reality. We are also greatly indebted to the following colleagues, who acted as external reviewers at various stages in the preparation of this volume: Sylvia Adamson, Kristin Bech, Linda van Bergen, Betty Birner, Tine Breban, Laurel Brinton, Kristin Davidse, Olga Fischer, Dolores González-Álvarez, Jeanette Gundel, Eric Haeberli, Roland Hinterhölzl, Thomas Kohnen, Christian Mair, Belén Méndez-Naya, Robert McColl Millar, Svetlana Petrova, Harm Pinkster, Jan Rijkhoff, Leah Roberts, Elizabeth Closs Traugott, Carola Trips, Tuija Virtanen, Gregory Ward, Anthony Warner, Johanna L. Wood, Wim van der Wurff, and, in particular, Ursula Lenker and an anonymous referee, who reviewed the whole manuscript of the volume and from whose very valuable comments both the editors and the authors have benefited greatly.

Thanks are also due to Terttu Nevalainen, General Editor of Oxford Studies in the History of English, and to the editorial staff of Oxford University Press in New York, Ashwin Bohra, Maureen Cirnitski, Allison Finkel, Brian Hurley, and Vivek Lingeswaran in particular. Finally, we are very grateful to Tuuli Tahko at the Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change, University of Helsinki, and Lieke Verheijen and Ellen Aalders, Radboud University, Nijmegen, for their assistance in the editorial work.

Anneli Meurman-Solin


María José López-Couso

Santiago de Compostela

Bettelou Los


Dec 2011 . . .

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