Discourse organization and the rise of final <i>then</i> in the history of English

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The present article deals with the origin of utterance-final <i>then</i> and the functional changes of <i>then</i> related to this development. Based on a corpus study of historical texts it will be shown that final <i>then</i> acquired a variety of functions at the illocutionary level from the Middle English period on, which co-exist with the text-connecting one. It will be argued that the emergence of final <i>then</i> is the result. of a progressive differentiation of structuring discourse in the spoken medium from that in the written one in the history of English. The use of final <i>then</i> correlates with parataxis, where two independent propositions, each with its own illocutionary force, are linked retrospectively. Its origin lies in conditional constructions where the conditional protasis is implied in a preceding proposition. The shift of <i>then</i> to the final position was accompanied by a process of subjectification and intersubjectification.


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