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Variation, continuity and contact in Middle Norwegian and Middle Low German

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Abstract

This study focuses on the period of language contact between Middle Norwegian (MNw) and Middle Low German (MLG) in Norway between 1300 and 1525. Using corpora of MLG and MNw diplomatic letters written during this time, we examine the possibility that syntactic continuity in the form of retention of archaic forms may take place when two typologically similar languages are in prolonged contact with each other. Data on the variation between Object–Verb (OV) and Verb–Object (VO) order in both MNw and MLG indicate that the frequency of OV word order in MNw is not affected by the influx of variational patterns from MLG. We explore possible reasons for this lack of change and focus on the role of syntactic variation in both continuity and change. Drawing our conclusions from evidence on OV/VO variation, we argue that the syntactic variation in the MNw data disrupts continuity rather than helping to maintain it.

References

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