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Correlatives in earlier English: Change and continuity in the expression of interclausal dependencies

  • Meta Links (a1), Ans van Kemenade (a1) and Stefan Grondelaers (a1)

Abstract

A construction very widely used in Old English and Old Germanic more broadly are correlatives introduced by an adverbial or conditional subclause, as in When you've done your homework, (then) you can come back (Old English: ‘…, then can you come back’). Correlatives originate from a paratactic clause structure, making use of resumptive adverbs such as then belonging to the Old Germanic series of demonstrative adverbs, whose syntactic niche was the clause-initial position, particularly in Verb Second main clauses. Paratactic structure in correlatives is diagnosed by the presence of a resumptive adverb. We show that the correlative use of resumptive adverbs is sensitive to both clause-internal and clause-external variables: mood, subclause-internal particles, negation, subject type, subclause weight, text type, translation. Correlatives decline from late Old English onward. Although it may seem tempting to attribute this to the loss of Verb Second in English, it resulted primarily from the loss of the original Germanic resumptive adverbs.

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