The origins of the Northern Subject Rule

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This paper explores the possible origins of the Northern Subject Rule (NSR). In this morphosyntactic pattern, found in Northern Middle English, present-tense verbal inflection varies according to the type of subject (pronoun or noun) and (non-)adjacency of the subject to the verb. I argue that rather than languageinternal developments in the vein of Pietsch (2005), processes of language contact between early English and the Cumbrian variety of Brythonic Celtic are a likely source for the NSR. I develop a scenario for this change, based on the parallel Brythonic pattern of anti-agreement and early English differential subject positions. The Old English <i>Lindisfarne Glosses </i>and several Northern Middle English texts provide initial evidence in favour of this hypothesis.


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