Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Grammatical person and the variable syntax of Old English personal pronouns1


The variable positioning of bare personal pronouns in Old English prose remains something of a mystery. In the role of prepositional object, for example, these elements are often found in positions where other prepositional object types are rarely attested. This article reports the results of an empirical study of a correlation between the variable placement of these pronouns and their specification for grammatical person. By demonstrating that this correlation defies a number of independent explanations, it is argued that person is an important aspect of the syntax of these constituents. The identification of two further correlations, one involving narrative mode and the other involving the relative positioning of preposition and verb, further demonstrates the value of quantitative methods in historical linguistics.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

conicodC: William H. Hulme 1904. The Old English gospel of Nicodemus. Modern Philology 1, 579610.

Anna Cardinaletti . 1990. Subject/object asymmetries in German null-topic constructions and the status of SpecCP. In Joan Mascaró & Marina Nespor (eds.), Grammar in progress, 7584. Dordrecht: Foris.

Anna Cardinaletti & Michal Starke . 1996. Deficient pronouns: A view from Germanic. In Höskuldur Thráinsson , Samuel D. Epstein & Steve Peter (eds.), Studies in comparative Germanic syntax (Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 38, vol. II), 2165. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Eynat Gutman . 2004. Third person null subjects in Hebrew, Finnish and Rumanian: An accessibility-theoretic account. Journal of Linguistics 40 (3), 463–90.

Liliane Haegeman . 1993. The morphology and distribution of object clitics in West Flemish. Studia Linguistica 47 (1), 5794.

Ans van Kemenade . 1987. Syntactic case and morphological case in the history of English. Dordrecht: Foris.

Willem F. Koopman 1997. Another look at clitics in Old English. Transactions of the Philological Society 95 (1), 7393.

Bruce Mitchell . 1985. Old English syntax, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Ann Taylor . 2008. Contact effects of translation: Distinguishing two types of influence in Old English. Language Variation and Change 20 (2), 341–65.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

English Language & Linguistics
  • ISSN: 1360-6743
  • EISSN: 1469-4379
  • URL: /core/journals/english-language-and-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 28 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 92 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.