Reconsidering the Role of Syntactic "Heaviness" in Old English Split Coordination

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Reconsidering the Role of Syntactic "Heaviness" in Old English Split Coordination

The splitting of coordinate structures in Old English has traditionally been attributed to structural size or "heaviness", assuming that long, complex coordinate constructions required increased parsing and processing effort. In addition to this, most texts on Old English syntax take for granted that the split elements always appear in clause-final position. The conclusions in this paper - drawn from the analysis of a large corpus of Old English texts - imply a radical revision of these assumptions. They suggest that the role of syntactic heaviness should be reconsidered, and its importance minimised in favour of other considerations of a pragmatic and discoursive nature. The analysis of the position of the split elements confirms that they appear in non-final position much more often than has been assumed, producing syntactic discontinuity.

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