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Title: The perfect in Old English and Old Saxon : the synchronic and diachronic correspondence of form and meaning
Author: Macleod, Morgan Dylan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2715 8473
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2012
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Most of the Germanic languages developed new tense forms allowing the grammatical expression of fine semantic distinctions, including periphrastic perfects and pluperfects; previously, the preterite alone had been used to express semantic content of this sort. In the absence of robust quantitative data regarding the subsequent development of these forms and distribution in the early Germanic languages, a relatively uncomplicated model has generally been assumed, in which there is little synchronic variation in their use and a steady, though not necessarily continuous, diachronic progress toward the state observed in the modern languages. The goal of this work is to provide accurate quantitative data regarding the apportionment of these semantic domains among the available grammatical forms in Old English and Old Saxon, in order to provide meaningful measurements of the synchronic and diachronic use of the periphrastic forms. Very different patterns were found in the use of these forms in the two languages. In Old Saxon the periphrastic forms are used freely, with a frequency similar to or greater than that of the preterites. In Old English there are no significant diachronic trends, but considerable variation exists synchronically among texts, with some making free use of the periphrastic forms and others preferring the preterite almost exclusively. A number of factors potentially responsible for this variation have been investigated, but none can account for the entire range of observed variation on its own. In the absence of any other account for the observed variation, the hypothesis is proposed that the periphrastic forms and the preterite differed in their perceived stylistic value, in a manner whose exact nature may be no longer recoverable; such a hypothesis would be in keeping with previous findings regarding languages such as Middle English and Middle High German. Old English and Old Saxon would therefore differ in the extent to which they make use of the potential for variation created by the absence of a paradigmatic opposition among the relevant grammatical categories.
Supervisor: Watts, Sheila Sponsor: St. John's College Benefactors' Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Perfect ; Pluperfect ; Old English ; Old Saxon ; Morphosyntax ; Semantics ; Pragmatics ; Stylistics