Syntactic change in progress

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A new impersonal construction is developing in Icelandic. The New Construction (NC) appears to have passive morphology but differs from canonical passives in that the verbal object remains in situ and gets assigned accusative case. Scholars differ in their assessment of whether the NC is a passive or an active impersonal construction. Sigurjónsdóttir & Maling (2001) and Maling & Sigurjónsdóttir (2002) argued that the NC is a syntactically active impersonal which has its roots in the reanalysis and gradual extension of the traditional impersonal passive of intransitive verbs. In this paper we expand that argument, focusing on the occurrence of bound anaphors, and respond to recent papers by Eythórsson (2008) and Jónsson (2009), who challenge the active analysis of the NC. We also highlight the significant age-related variation observed in adults, which is exactly what would be expected during a period of syntactic change.


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