Vol. 15:1 (2014) ► pp.93–122
Continuity and quantity
Testing iconicity hypotheses on the continuities of time and participants in Old English narrative prose
Givón’s (1995) quantity principle about the diagrammatic iconicity of coding forms has mostly been investigated for topic continuity and nominal elements. The present paper considers its applicability both to participant continuity and the continuity of time, focussing on their interaction in the organisation of narrative discourse. As an additional test of the hypothesis, the paper studies historical data, examining the structuring roles of signals of participant and temporal continuities in Old English narrative prose. The findings indicate that the choice of signals of the continuities of time and participants follows the iconic quantity principle of longer and informationally-heavier forms encoding greater degrees of discontinuity. The paper also underlines the importance of text type and genre-specific factors in investigations of discourse-structural signals. Specifically for the Old English narrative data, the study provides further support for the discourse marker role of þa ‘then’ as distinct from other temporal expressions.