Knitting and splitting information

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After the fixation of English word order to SVO, adverbials have come to be the only flexible sentence constituent in unmarked sentences. So far, however, there has only been little research into the specific discourse functions of the different positions of adverbials. In an earlier study on the diachrony of English adverbial connectors (Lenker 2010), it emerged that medial instead of initial placement of connectors such as <i>however </i>or <i>therefore</i> is a relatively recent phenomenon, becoming more frequent in the Late Modern English period. In a pilot study on the discourse functions of linking and stance adverbials, the present chapter suggests that two different medial positions should be distinguished: in &#8220;post-initial position&#8221;, these adverbials focus attention on the preceding elements (a frame-setting adverbial or a subject), similar to focus adverbs such as <i>only</i> or <i>particularly</i>. In the other medial positions, they function as discourse partitioners, highlighting the partition of topic and comment/focus material. This variation will here be seen as a response to the loss of verb-second in English, similar to other syntactic innovations such as unusual passives and stressed-focus clefts.



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