English Language and Linguistics

Parameters of variation between verb–subject and subject–verb order in late Middle English 1

a1 Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK aw2@york.ac.uk

Article author query
warner a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This article sets out to clarify the contribution of syntactic properties and subject weight for variation between verb–subject and subject–verb order in a database of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century prose. It sets out the syntactic structures which are assumed, and investigates the impact on ordering of a set of factors, using established quantitative methodologies. A series of conclusions includes the continuing distinct status of initial then, the systematic importance of clause-final position, the different impacts of subject length in different contexts, and the presence of a definiteness effect for the late placement of a subject after a nonfinite unaccusative.

(Published Online March 12 2007)
(Received February 8 2006)
(Revised September 29 2006)


1 I am delighted to acknowledge a research readership granted by the British Academy which gave me the time to collect the data investigated here, and the comments of audiences at the XI Methods Conference (Joensuu, August 2002); at the Third York–Holland Symposium on the History of English Syntax (York, April 2004); and at seminars given in the Research Unit for Variation and Change in English at the University of Helsinki, and in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York. I am also grateful to Wim van der Wurff and to two anonymous referees for their comments.