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  • Developments in English historical morpho-syntax ed. by Claudia Claridge and Birte Bös
  • Kristin Bech
Developments in English historical morpho-syntax. Ed. by Claudia Claridge and Birte Bös. ( Current issues in linguistic theory 346.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2019. Pp. vi, 312. ISBN 9789027203236. $149 (Hb).

This volume was published in the aftermath of the International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, which took place in Essen in 2016. It thus represents a cross section of the research going on in the field of English historical morphosyntax. Since the book covers different topics, the introduction is not a state-of-the-art overview, but very briefly situates the contributions within the larger field of English historical linguistics. The thirteen contributions are grouped under three headings: nominal constructions, verbal constructions, and adverbs and adverbials, and the editors provide short summaries of each article. In the following I also summarize each article, but focus on providing some information about data, methods, and results as well. Obviously, the summaries do not do justice to the complexities of the research, but are meant as an aid to understanding how research is carried out in the field. At the end I provide some general comments.

Elżbieta Adamczyk's contribution concerns changes in the nominal morphology of Old English. Old English nouns belonged to declensional classes that depended on the original stem type, but the system was unstable. Adamczyk proposes three factors that led to the restructuring of the nominal morphology. The first is frequency of occurrence, and a correlation is shown between the level of innovation in the Old English nominative and accusative plural and the proportion of plurals: the declensional classes that are less frequent in the plural show a high level of innovation in their plural paradigms. The second factor is morphophonological salience: the more salient inflectional markers resist analogical pressure. Salience is defined according to certain criteria such as zero marking, suffixation, and consonant and vocalic stem modulation. The third factor is the analogical pressure on neutral forms in the paradigms, analogy being triggered by cross-paradigmatic similarities: the higher the percentage of neutral forms in the paradigm, the higher the percentage of innovation. Adamczyk also considers how the interaction between frequency [End Page 414] and morphophonological salience shapes the system. Her approach is usage-based, so analogy is viewed as a functional mechanism resulting in functional forms being favored over less functional forms.

Nouns and case are also the topic of Kirsten Middeke's chapter, in which she considers the instrumental case in Old English and the issue of whether it is a separate case or subsumed under the dative. After an initial discussion of 'vestigial' case, she provides a distributional analysis of frequencies and collexemes (e.g. Stefanowitsch & Gries 2003), comparing the dative and the instrumental cases. She looks at which nouns occur with the instrumental and dative determiners, and with instrumental-case adjectives. The finding is that the Old English instrumental expresses time in particular, but also manner and place, and importantly that it fulfills functions that are distinct from the dative. Middeke then moves on to a discussion about the productivity of the functional differences observed, in view of the fact that the instrumental on the one hand is never obligatory, and on the other hand is semantically restricted. Here she concludes that the instrumental is partially productive. The overall conclusion is that the opposition between the instrumental and the dative is 'vestigial', since the instrumental-dative opposition was optional. However, the instrumental contributes functions that are distinct from those of the dative, which means that the instrumental case is a separate category in the case system.

Jerzy Nykiel studies the pronouns one and other with initial th- and t- in Middle English, that is, thone, thother, tone, tother. After presenting corpus data showing the distribution, Nykiel discusses the origin of the pronouns and the two possible ways in which they could have arisen, either by reduction of the definite article or by misanalysis due to incorrect syllable division. He finds that reduction was responsible for the formation of thone and thother, while the formation of...


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