Comparing the Old English and Old Norse syntax of hypotactic structures

Isabella Buniyatova (Kiev National Linguistic University)

In the past decades study of the Old Germanic complex sentence has largely been focused on the word order patterns, the issues under consideration being the history of basic word order patterns, the verb-final rule in subordinate clauses, extension of the SVO-order of the main clause to dependent clauses, brace-construction, etc. Conflicting views on the subordination and word order change in English together with their thorough analysis were presented in Stockwell, Minkova 1991, Traugott 1996 et al. In recent typological studies, like Graeme Davis 2006, it is emphasized that "the similar word order of Old English and Old Icelandic lead us to stress similarities between the two languages" well known for their common lexis and very similar morphology.

This paper deals with the peculiarities of the hypotaxis arrangement in Old English and Old Norse supported by the relevant data from literary monuments. My objective is to prove that the named languages belong to the two typologically different areas due to their complex sentence specifics, i.e. West Germanic and Gothic Scandinavian respectively. WG continuum exhibits an advanced stage of development relative to the Old Norse one. The latter is confirmed by a set of WG hypotaxis surface markers:

1. conjunctions;

2. contrast between the V-2 of the main clause and the V-final of the dependent one, brace construction as WG-specific phenomenon;

3. dependent verb is subjunctive.

The inconsistent appearance the named marker was due to the transition period specifics (from asyndetic hypotaxis and coordination to grammaticalized hypotaxis). The structural markers paradigm included particles, pronouns, adverbs (copy correlatives), complementizers of the Indo-European and Germanic origin. The majority of these units had contaminated semantics, their functions were unlimited.

Old Norse like Gothic exhibits SVO-order of the main and subordinate clause. The use of subjunctive mood in WG dependent clauses is motivated by the content of the main verb or its structure. Negative complement clauses or other kinds of negative clausal structures are typically subjunctive. Old Norse displays a high share of structurally unmarked hypotaxis, where the relation is inferred from the meaning of the juxtaposed clausal structures.

The use of coordination or unmarked hypotaxis, i.e. a juxtaposition of two or more clauses that share a common subject ( apokoinou ), in parallel with semantically transparent complex sentences is determined as a coexistence of archaisms and innovations in the Old Germanic syntax. The asyndetic hypotaxis of the named type is limited by the WG continuum of languages, mostly OE.

Thus, I would conclude by refuting the aforementioned thesis about the seemingly evident similarity between the Old English and Old Norse syntax.