Stylistic fronting in the history of English

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Stylistic fronting is an operation which moves elements generally occupying the position to the right of the finite verb such as adjectives, past participles, and adverbs to the position immediately preceding it in clauses with a subject gap. The operation is typically observed in Modern Icelandic and in earlier stages of the Scandinavian languages. In this article I will extensively examine Old and Middle English texts and show that word order patterns arguably attributed to stylistic fronting are widely observed both in Old and Middle English and are not confined to texts which are likely to have been heavily influenced by Old Norse speakers. This is contrary to Trips (2002), who attributes the presence of the stylistic fronting patterns in the <i>Ormulum</i> to the Scandinavian invasions. Taking into consideration the wide distribution of relevant examples, I will conclude that the process of stylistic fronting was a genuine property of Old and Middle English.


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