Testing the theory

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Various information structure (IS) distinctions have been proposed in the literature to account for differences in word order in languages both modern and historic. We use the schemes adopted by several ongoing IS annotation projects and examine their effect on object position (pre-/post-verbal) in Old English. While most of the schemes make the same major distinctions, some apparently small differences (e.g. elaborating vs. bridging inferables) have relatively large effects. Although these distinctions are frequently difficult to make, the effort to operationalise them is useful, since failing to include them in the annotation can produce misleading results. Other distinctions (e.g. different types of ‘old’ information) show virtually no effect, supporting the wide-spread view that they constitute a single category.


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