The role of syntactical redundancy in the evolution of language with special reference to early English

Phipps, Sidney Wilhelm John (1971) The role of syntactical redundancy in the evolution of language with special reference to early English. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

In this work a functional approach has been adopted toward language change. An attempt has been made to give reasons why some changes in a language occur. -- The tool of the analysis is the notion of syntactic redundancy. Syntactic redundancy exists when grammatical notions are expressed by different systems simultaneously, e.g. by case and word-order, etc. It has been postulated that more changes will take place in syntactically redundant environments than in syntactically unredundant environments. -- The material chosen to test the hypothesis is a series of Old and early Middle English texts. English used to have a fairly full system of case inflections to mark grammatical notions, which has given way to the present word-order system. Thus, at some period there must have been a transition stage, where both case and word-order systems were operating to mark grammatical notions, and it is during this period that syntactic redundancy would exist. To prove this, 8 texts were chosen that covered the period 895 A.D. to 1230 A.D. It was during the latter half of this period that the case system began disappearing from English. The two earliest texts showed very little evidence of case-loss. All the texts were subjected to (a) a word-order analysis and (b) an analysis of the forms that had lost distinctive case with respect to their environments, in order to see if case-loss was greater in the unmarked environments or not. -- The results showed that OE word-order was not as flexible as has been thought, and that the disappearance of the case system had little effect on the word-order of the texts without distinctive case. Some evidence was found to support the hypothesis, but not enough information was collected to prove it conclusively.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7141
Item ID: 7141
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 82-86.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Linguistics
Date: 1971
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: English language--Middle English, 1100-1500--Syntax; English language--Old English, ca. 450-1100--Syntax; Grammar, Comparative and general--Syntax;

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