Strong and weak adjectives in Old Swedish

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In modern Swedish, weakly inflected adjectives are obligatory in definite noun phrases. However, strong adjectival forms in definite contexts are still rather common in early mediaeval manuscripts. But this fact has attracted surprisingly little attention by linguists, and the classic handbook on language history rather conveys the idea that strong adjectives in general were restricted to semantically indefinite noun phrases already in the first written records. This article presents empirical evidence that strong adjectival forms appear in semantically definite noun phrases to a considerable – but decreasing – extent in Old Swedish texts. It is also argued that weak adjectives only appear together with formal definiteness markers, which means that strong adjectival forms are not ruled out from semantically definite noun phrases until obligatory definiteness marking is fully established.


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