English Language and Linguistics

Subject control and coreference in Early Modern English free adjuncts and absolutes

Carmen Río-Rey a1a2
a1 Universidad de La Laguna
a2 Universidad de Santiago de Compostela


The clear-cut distinction between free adjuncts and absolutes based on the presence in absolutes of an overt subject different from the subject of the matrix clause, as opposed to the covert subject – controlled by the subject of the matrix clause – of free adjuncts, does not always hold. While it is generally agreed that unrelated free adjuncts are fairly frequent in Present-day English (PE), absolutes whose subject is identical to that of the matrix clause are regarded as obsolete (Jespersen, 1909–49; Kortmann, 1991; Söderlind, 1958; Visser, 1963–73). However, no statistical evidence has been provided on this topic for earlier stages of the history of English. This article quantitatively assesses whether the various degrees of relatedness observed in Early Modern English (EModE) coincide with those attested for PE, and concludes that the boundaries between free adjuncts and absolutes were considerably fuzzier in EModE, a phenomenon to which punctuation decisively contributed.

(Accepted September 28 2001)
(Revised April 17 2002)