Syntactic dialectal variation in Middle English

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ME is widely known as “<i>par excellence</i>, the dialectal phase of English” (Strang 1970: 224). It is therefore not at all surprising that the linguistic differences among dialects in ME have long attracted the attention of scholars. It is generally assumed that northern dialects innovate mainly due to Scandinavian influence as opposed to southern dialects, which maintain the tradition. The aim of my study is to test whether this tendency is also reflected in relativization, both in the system of relativizers used and in the position adopted by the relative clause. My study shows that the system of relativizers inherited from OE, with deictic relativizers, and the tendency towards extraposition typical of ME are associated with southern dialects, while the North shows a simplified system of relativizers as well as a marked tendency for relative clauses to be intraposed. The data for the present study have been drawn from <i>The Helsinki Corpus of English Texts: Diachronic and Dialectal.</i>


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