Chapter published in:Historical Linguistics 2017: Selected papers from the 23rd International Conference on Historical Linguistics, San Antonio, Texas, 31 July – 4 August 2017
Edited by Bridget Drinka
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 350] 2020
► pp. 364–384
Expletives in Icelandic
A corpus study
Various claims have been made concerning expletives in historical Icelandic (Eythórsson & Sigurðardóttir, 2016; Hróarsdóttir, 1998; Rögnvaldsson, 2002). However, previous studies are limited to certain centuries and/or text types. This paper assesses the status of expletives throughout all stages of attested Icelandic (1150–2008) using the Icelandic Parsed Historical Corpus (IcePaHC). The IcePaHC data indicates that the expletive is already attested in impersonal constructions in Old Icelandic, contra previous accounts. I also claim that þar ‘there’ was historically available as an expletive in presentational constructions and argue against a recent claim that the emergence of expletive það is a contact phenomenon. Strikingly, postfinite expletives are attested historically, which challenges the standard cross-Germanic account for the diachrony of expletives.
Keywords: syntactic change, historical corpora, Germanic, Icelandic, expletives, cataphora
Published online: 09 July 2020
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