Pronouns, prepositions and probabilities: a multivariate study of Old English word order
Alcorn, Rhona Jayne
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It is widely accepted that Old English personal pronouns often turn up in ‘special’ positions, i.e. positions in which functionally equivalent nominals rarely, if ever, appear. Leading theories of Old English syntax (e.g. van Kemenade 1987, Pintzuk 1991, 1996, Hulk & van Kemenade 1997, Kroch & Taylor 1997) account for the syntax of specially placed pronouns in different ways, but all treat special placement as a freely available option. Focusing on pronominal objects of prepositions in particular, this thesis shows, firstly, that current theories fail to account for the variety of special positions in which these pronouns appear and argues that at least three special positions must be recognised. The central concern of this thesis, however, is whether special placement is the freely available option that leading theories assume. Drawing on evidence from a number of descriptive studies of the syntax of pronominal objects of prepositions (e.g. Wende 1915, Taylor 2008, Alcorn 2009), statistical evidence is presented to show that, in a number of contexts, the probability of special placement is either too high or else too low to be plausibly ascribed to free variation. The thesis explores the linguistic basis of each of the statistically significant parameters identified, finding answers in some cases and intriguing puzzles in others.