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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"


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Academic Paper


Title: Prosodic evidence for incipient VO order in Old English
Author: Ann Taylor
Institution: University of York
Linguistic Field: Syntax; Phonology; Typology
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In this article I investigate the prosodic structure of verb–object sequences in three Old English metrical texts: Beowulf, Ælfric's Lives of Saints, and The Metres of Boethius. I show that while OV sequences are rarely separated by a line break in any of the texts, the prosodic structure of VO sequences is different in each text, with a high rate of separation of the verb and object in Beowulf, followed by the Metres with less separation, and finally the Lives of Saints with less again. I relate these facts to the ongoing change in headedness in the VP that has been claimed to begin in the Old English period. I take a separated verb–object sequence to indicate a postposed object, and thus the fall in the frequency of separation across the texts indicates a fall in the proportion of VO sequences that are derived by postposition, with a concomitant increase in base-generated VO order.

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This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 9, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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