Stylistic Fronting in corpora

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Stylistic Fronting (SF) is a process that fronts various types of non-subjects to the preverbal position in subjectless clauses (“that gone have”, etc.). With the exception of Icelandic and to some extent Faroese, SF has disappeared from Scandinavian varieties. It is commonly assumed that even in Icelandic it is formal and old fashioned, indicating that it might be on its way out of this language as well. However, this has not been substantiated or supported by frequency surveys in large written language corpora. This paper studies the distribution and frequency of Stylistic Fronting in two such corpora, and the World Wide Web, across two distinct SF domains: Subject relatives and subjectless impersonal (mostly adverbial) clauses. The survey yields support to the common assumption that SF is on the retreat. In relative clauses verb-initial order (V1) seems to be on the increase at the expense of SF, whereas it is expletive það ‘there, it’ insertion that is on the increase in impersonal clauses. Nevertheless, the survey also highlights that both these changes proceed slowly. SF still has a strong foothold in everyday written Icelandic, in particular in certain impersonal clause types. Also V1 is quite natural in some impersonal clauses, suggesting that filling the left edge of CP is not a strict syntactic requirement but rather an externalization or performance target, a commonly desirable PF goal, as it were. An extra methodological result of the study is that it shows that Google Search may well be (carefully) used as a research tool in linguistics – no small an advantage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSyntactic Variation in Insular Scandinavian
EditorsHöskuldur Thráinsson, Caroline Heycock, Hjalmar P. Petersen , Zakaris Svabo Hansen
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
ISBN (Electronic)9789027265593
ISBN (Print)9789027208569
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameStudies in Germanic Linguistics
ISSN (Print)2452-2120

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Specific Languages

Free keywords

  • word order frequencies
  • verb-initial adverbial clauses
  • relative clauses
  • Stylistic Fronting
  • impersonal clauses
  • Google Search
  • Extended Projection Principle
  • expletive insertion


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