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Academic Paper

Title: Motivations for particle verb word order in Middle and Early Modern English
Author: Marion Elenbaas
Institution: Universiteit Leiden
Linguistic Field: Discourse Analysis; Historical Linguistics; Syntax
Subject Language: English
English, Middle
Abstract: This article examines possible motivations for the choice of particle verb word order in Middle English (1100–1500) and Early Modern English (1500–1700). The word order alternation of Present-Day English particle verbs, which presents language users with a choice between verb–object–particle and verb–particle–object order, first emerged in Early Middle English (twelfth century). For Present-Day English, several studies (e.g. Gries 1999, 2003; Dehé 2002) have shown that the choice is influenced by a number of linguistic factors, such as the heaviness of the object (morphosyntactic factor) and the givenness of the object (discourse factor). This article reveals the influence of a number of morphosyntactic factors and also shows that the choice is increasingly influenced by the givenness of the object. The differences between Present-Day English on the one hand and Middle and Early Modern English on the other hand are discussed in the light of syntactic changes going on in these periods. It is argued that the developments in particle verb syntax are characterised by an increasing division of labour between the two word orders, which may also explain why both orders survive into Present-Day English.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 17, Issue 3.

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