The position proper of the adjective in Middle English

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This paper discusses grammatical replication as a possible explanation for the rise of postposed rhematic adjectives in Middle English (ME) times. It will be shown that this phenomenon, which is described by Fischer (2006) as a violation of the Old English pattern, has the potential to have been borrowed from Old French (OF) during the time when language contact between the two languages was most intense. A corpus-based study of OF will confirm that rhematic post-posed adjectives were the marked option and occurred in distinctive and highlighting contexts. This finding will be compared with findings from a corpus-based study of ME. It will reveal that the same pattern suddenly increases between 1250 and 1350, and that the postposition of adjectives correlates with the so-called French plural (marking) in texts which are based on Latin and/or French. Other sources like full texts of direct translations of French texts and mixed texts will be integrated into the study to provide as comprehensive a picture as possible about the contact situation. Although the results cannot be conclusive at present, this investigation shows that grammatical replication cannot be excluded as an explanation of the rise of this (and other) grammatical patterns during ME times.


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