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LINGUIST List 17.3551

Fri Dec 01 2006

Diss: Historical Ling/Socioling/Text&Corpus Ling: Morse-Gagne: 'Vik...'

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        1.    Elise Morse-Gagne, Viking Pronouns in England: Charting the course of THEY, THEIR, and THEM

Message 1: Viking Pronouns in England: Charting the course of THEY, THEIR, and THEM
Date: 30-Nov-2006
From: Elise Morse-Gagne <morsegaggmail.com>
Subject: Viking Pronouns in England: Charting the course of THEY, THEIR, and THEM

Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Elise E. Morse-Gagne

Dissertation Title: Viking Pronouns in England: Charting the course of THEY, THEIR, and THEM

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Middle English (enm)
                            Old English (ang)
                            Old Norse (non)

Dissertation Director:
Anthony S. Kroch
James Milroy
Donald A. Ringe

Dissertation Abstract:

THEY, THEIR, and THEM are of Scandinavian origin, having entered English in
the wake of the 9th-century Viking settlements of northern England. In
spite of having surprised and intrigued linguists for a century this
phenomenon is still poorly understood. I investigate both its linguistic
and social aspects through four avenues: recent historical research; the
pronoun paradigms used in early medieval Scandinavia and England, as nearly
as these can be ascertained; the dynamics of the dissemination of the
Scandinavian pronouns through Middle English texts; and current findings on
the characteristics and outcomes of different language contact situations.
The pronouns did not enter English in spite of the nature of the contact
between the English and the Scandinavians, but because of it. Assumptions
that their relations were necessarily adversarial are not borne out by the
historical evidence. The paradigms usually given for the Scandinavian
pronouns and the English demonstratives are anachronistic; a closer
approach to those forms permits us both to clarify the changes the pronouns
underwent in the transfer to English, and to discard the idea that THEIR
and/or THEM stem from the English demonstrative. Claims that the
Scandinavian forms appeared very early in English (surfacing as Old English
thaege and theora) depend on the belief that written conservatism
disguised writers' spoken usage for centuries. This is refuted: Middle
English texts, while they must be analyzed with caution, provide much
demonstrably accurate evidence for the pronouns their writers used. An
alternative analysis of thaege is provided. Theories that the Scandinavian
pronouns were borrowed in spite of potential disruption to the structure of
English, or that structural similarities between the languages permitted
the loan, are examined and shown to be equally ill-founded. The data does
not support the hypothesis that English speakers adopted the Scandinavian
pronouns to repair homonymy in the English paradigm. Models of language
contact and findings on the transfer of closed-class items are presented as
possible routes towards a better understanding of how THEY THEIR THEM came
to be used by monolingual speakers of Middle English.

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