Current trends in analyzing syntactic variation
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
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This study deals with the complexity of left-dislocated [LDed] noun phrases in the Modern English period (1500–1914). The purpose is twofold: to estimate the effects of a number of theoretically relevant predictors on complexity, operationalized as word-length, and to explore whether shorter LDed NPs, which are characteristic of contemporary spoken English, symbolize the claimed ‘orality’ of earlier speech-related texts. Multiple linear regression is employed in order to assess the correlation between complexity and factors relating to both the context (e.g. genre) and the inner configuration (e.g. augmentation of the LDed constituent) of the tokens extracted from the Penn-Helsinki suite of corpora. The results confirm that shorter LDed items more closely match the characterization previously offered for contemporary spoken Left Dislocation. The results also provide preliminary insight into the accommodation strategies that might facilitate the resumption of heavier LDed NPs. As regards genre, speech-purposed and mixed texts feature a higher relative rate of shorter LDed elements. Thus, if shorter LDed NPs are more closely connected with the spoken variant, it is in speech-purposed and mixed genres where they might be claimed to constitute a trait of orality that is deliberately employed by writers in order to reproduce conversation. Surprisingly, speech-like genres do not include LDed items as often, and these are just as complex as those attested in writing-related texts.


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