Chapter 3. The body, the universe, society and language

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The focus of this chapter is on the grammatical expression of the unknown and its role as a force for linguistic change at different times in Germanic. The paper opens with a brief look at modern Pennsylvania German, the language spoken by ultra-conservative Anabaptist groups in North America. This language has been chosen because it offers such clear evidence of a modern Germanic language whose structural features have been shaped by the cultural preoccupations of its speakers. The second part of the paper shifts focus to the grammatical coding of human experiencers in early Germanic, in particular Anglo-Saxon and early Dutch. Here it is argued that the predilection for dative and accusative marked participants during these early times was an enactment of prevailing thinking – specifically, beliefs about the human condition that emphasized its vulnerability to external forces.


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