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The positioning of adverbial clauses in the Paston letters*

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Abstract

The present paper discusses the ordering of main and adverbial subordinate clauses in the fifteenth-century Paston letters and tests whether there is continuity between Middle English and Present-day English discourse organizations. The adverbial clauses investigated in the following discussion are those introduced by <i>if</i>, <i>though</i> (<i>although</i>), <i>when</i>, <i>because</i> (<i>be cause</i>), and <i>till </i>(<i>until</i>). It is known that in contemporary English, conditional clauses tend to precede the main clause, whereas causal clauses are likely to follow the main clause. Moreover, temporal clauses like <i>when</i>-clauses and <i>till</i>-clauses present intermediate situations, according to Diessel (2001, 2005). This is largely applicable to Middle English, but there are some additional features worthy of note in the Paston letters. The ordering between main and subordinate clauses seems to be conditioned by: (1) information structure, (2) the length of subordinate clauses, and (3) the juxtaposition of two subordinating conjunctions.

References

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