Rickard Ramhöj @ LEL Research Seminar

Posted on October 30, 2017 by

On Tuesday, November 7th, LEL welcomes Rickard Ramhöj to the research seminar series to talk about his ongoing research into the history of clausal subjects. This talk promises to be inspiring for staff and students with an interest in the history of English, historical linguistics, syntax and syntactic change, semantics and discourse function. Here is the abstract:

Weight versus information structure

 it-extraposition in present-day and historical English

Rickard Ramhöj – University of Gothenburg

It has been known for a long time that linguistic weight and complexity as well as relations of givenness and emphasis is important in the choice of alternative word orders (see e.g. Behaghel 1909). The tendency for given material to precede new material and for light material to precede heavy material also forms part of modern English reference grammars (e.g. Quirk et al. 1985: 1357, 1398; Huddleston & Pullum 2002: 1372). One word order alternation where both weight, complexity and givenness have been claimed to exert an influence is the alternation between a preposed clausal subject and a subject it in conjunction with a postverbal subclause. In my talk, I discuss the influence of weight, complexity, givenness and contrast on this alternation, based on corpus data from both present-day and historical English. For present-day British English, I argue that it is possible to posit a decision tree, where the realisation of the subclause as either given or new (decided by the existence of an open proposition at the time of utterance) is the most influential factor in the choice of construction, followed by the realisation of the subclause as contrastive or non-contrastive.  In relation to the historical data, I will discuss some tentative results for how the interaction between weight, complexity, givenness and contrast might have changed over time.


We look forward to seeing you there. Feel free to stick around for wine and snacks at the reception, and joining us for dinner afterwards.

Note that due to a schedule change, we will be welcoming Dominic Watt (York) for another seminar talk the next day. More info TBA!

Talk details:

Date: Tuesday, November, 7

Time: 4.15pm -5.15pm

Room: Samuel Alexander Building, room A201

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