On the placement of adnominal adjectives with complements:
Evidence from Old English
Agnieszka Pysz (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)
It has been repeatedly observed in the literature that languages with canonically prenominal adjectives exhibit some variation as to whether or not they allow adjectives with complements to surface before the noun. On the one hand, there is a group of languages
(e.g. Polish, German) in which adjectives with complements are not excluded from the prenominal domain. On the other hand, there are languages which apparently disallow adjectives with complements to be placed before the noun. The latter restriction is commonly illustrated on the basis of Present Day English (PDE), as in ungrammatical examples (1a) and (1b):
(1a) *a proud of his son man
(1b) *a different from this one problem
For such constructions to be well-formed, it is necessary either to place both the adjective and its complement after the noun, as in (2a), or to separate the adjective from the complement,
as in (2b):
(2a) a man proud of his son
(2b) a different problem from this one
The current paper seeks to determine whether the restrictions illustrated in (1-2) can also be observed in the earlier stages of English, specifically in Old English (OE). Given that
the scholarship offers rather imprecise statements regarding this issue (e.g. Fischer 2001, Traugott 1972), their verification is needed. To this end, the paper investigates the empirical data retrieved from the York - Toronto - Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose (Taylor - Warner - Pintzuk - Beths 2003). The underlying aim of the scrutiny is to confront the OE data with the theoretical approaches towards the structural location of adnominal adjectives which have been proposed in the generative literature. Four specific approaches are taken into consideration, namely the adjunct analysis (e.g. Siloni 1997, Svenonius 1992), the head analysis (e.g. Abney 1987), the specifier analysis (e.g. Cinque 1994, 1995) and the reduced relative clause analysis (e.g. Kayne 1994). Although none of these approaches is entirely unproblematic it will be seen how successful they are in handling the relevant facts concerning OE. Of special interest for the current paper is the question how the four analyses relate to the surface placement of adnominal adjectives with complements, i.e. whether such adjectives are placed before or after the noun. It is hoped that the discussion will make a step towards working out the optimal analysis of adnominal adjectives in OE.
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