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Philosophische Fakultät - Jahrgang 2014


Titel Syntactic and Pragmatic Functions of þa in Old English Prose and Verse
Autor Ninja Schulz
Publikationsform Dissertation
Abstract Ambiguous headwords such as þa, þær, and þonne still pose a challenge to translators and editors of Old English texts. The question whether clauses introduced by þa are subordinate (‘when’) or principal (‘then’) is not as acute in prose texts since reoccurring word order patterns are a relatively reliable guide to disambiguate them: the word order þa S(...)V with a delayed verb is strongly associated with subordinate clauses, while þa VS with subject-verb inversion is generally restricted to principal clauses. These regularities, however, do not seem to be valid for poetry. Attempts to disambiguate these clauses often rely on the regularities found in prose. Unfortunately, these ‘rules’ neither fully acknowledge the influence of metrical constraints on poetic syntax, nor do they allow for pragmatic factors to take an effect on element order.
The latter aspect has been of increasing interest for linguistic research on Old English in the last decades: since the 1970s a number of text-linguistic functions, such as foregrounding and text-structuring, have been attributed to the word þa. These studies, however, focus on Old English original prose narratives arguing that neither poetry nor translated prose are suitable for studying genuine Old English narrative style. Similar arguments have long excluded these text-types from studies of Old English syntax. In addition, the syntactic and text-linguistic studies often run parallel without including observations of the other approach.
This thesis combines both approaches by analysing the structure of þa-clauses and their pragmatic functions. The textual analysis of poetic texts, focusing on Beowulf and Andreas, demonstrates that the rules proposed for disambiguating þa-clauses by word order contradict observances made in the field of historical pragmatics. It furthermore shows that although different word order patterns in verse are governed by the metrical conditions, the pragmatic functions of the clauses are basically the same as in prose in spite of the difference in word order. There are correspondences between the pragmatic and syntactic functions of þa which are indicated by the morpho-syntactic features of the clauses, which work independent of the order of the clause elements. The inclusion of translated texts into the analysis, i.e. the prose version of the Andreas legend and the Old English Gospels, furthermore shows that the function of þa as text-structuring element, which has no one-to-one correspondence in Latin, is so deeply rooted in the Old English narrative style that it prevails against Latin influence on prose syntax even in very close translations.
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© Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn | Veröffentlicht: 18.06.2014