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Cataphora, expletives and impersonal constructions in the history of Icelandic

Hannah Booth (UGent)
(2019) NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS. 42(2). p.139-164
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Abstract
This paper presents a diachronic account for the emergence of the expletive thorn ao in Icelandic impersonal constructions. Using data from the IcePaHC corpus (Wallenberg et al. 2011), I show that a cataphorically referential thorn ao functions as a topic position placeholder in Old Icelandic (1150-1350) in impersonals with a clausal argument. The corpus findings indicate that thorn ao spread from this early cataphoric context to impersonals which lack the clausal argument, with 'say-type predicates' acting as a bridging context. Strikingly, this coincides with another change whereby cataphoric thorn ao becomes increasingly restricted to the topic position in constructions with a clausal subject. I interpret this as evidence that cataphoric thorn ao is losing its subject status in such contexts and becoming a topic position placeholder, in line with its function in impersonals. This sheds light on the mixed status of cataphoric thorn ao in modern Icelandic and challenges the 'Prefinite First Hypothesis' for the diachrony of Germanic expletives (e.g. Faarlund 1990).
Keywords
Cataphora, expletives, historical corpora, Icelandic, impersonals, syntactic change, NULL-SUBJECTS

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Booth, Hannah. “Cataphora, Expletives and Impersonal Constructions in the History of Icelandic.” NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS, vol. 42, no. 2, 2019, pp. 139–64.
APA
Booth, H. (2019). Cataphora, expletives and impersonal constructions in the history of Icelandic. NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS, 42(2), 139–164.
Chicago author-date
Booth, Hannah. 2019. “Cataphora, Expletives and Impersonal Constructions in the History of Icelandic.” NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS 42 (2): 139–64.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Booth, Hannah. 2019. “Cataphora, Expletives and Impersonal Constructions in the History of Icelandic.” NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS 42 (2): 139–164.
Vancouver
1.
Booth H. Cataphora, expletives and impersonal constructions in the history of Icelandic. NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS. 2019;42(2):139–64.
IEEE
[1]
H. Booth, “Cataphora, expletives and impersonal constructions in the history of Icelandic,” NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 139–164, 2019.
@article{8632100,
  abstract     = {This paper presents a diachronic account for the emergence of the expletive thorn ao in Icelandic impersonal constructions. Using data from the IcePaHC corpus (Wallenberg et al. 2011), I show that a cataphorically referential thorn ao functions as a topic position placeholder in Old Icelandic (1150-1350) in impersonals with a clausal argument. The corpus findings indicate that thorn ao spread from this early cataphoric context to impersonals which lack the clausal argument, with 'say-type predicates' acting as a bridging context. Strikingly, this coincides with another change whereby cataphoric thorn ao becomes increasingly restricted to the topic position in constructions with a clausal subject. I interpret this as evidence that cataphoric thorn ao is losing its subject status in such contexts and becoming a topic position placeholder, in line with its function in impersonals. This sheds light on the mixed status of cataphoric thorn ao in modern Icelandic and challenges the 'Prefinite First Hypothesis' for the diachrony of Germanic expletives (e.g. Faarlund 1990).},
  articleno    = {PII S0332586519000143},
  author       = {Booth, Hannah},
  issn         = {0332-5865},
  journal      = {NORDIC JOURNAL OF LINGUISTICS},
  keywords     = {Cataphora,expletives,historical corpora,Icelandic,impersonals,syntactic change,NULL-SUBJECTS},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {PII S0332586519000143:139--PII S0332586519000143:164},
  title        = {Cataphora, expletives and impersonal constructions in the history of Icelandic},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0332586519000143},
  volume       = {42},
  year         = {2019},
}

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