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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.

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English Language & Linguistics
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