‘Ther been thinges thre, the whiche thynges troublen al this erthe’

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This paper describes and analyses the origin, development, structure, and use of<i>which</i>as a demonstrative element. This largely qualitative study shows that demonstrative<i>which</i>had its heyday in the late Middle English and early Modern English periods. The subsequent reduction of both type and token frequency is seen in the context of both structural and sociolinguistic factors, e.g., the doubly-filled COMP filter and standardisation. From a functional point of view, its use is related to information structuring and the organisation of discourse through pragmatic markers. As a discourse marker, it refers back to a previously mentioned element and, at the same time, marks the end of one topic and provides a clear starting point for the next.


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