ISSN: 2306-5737E-ISSN: 2658-4069
Acta Linguistica Petropolitana
Transactions of the Institute for Linguistic Studies
ISSN: 2306-5737E-ISSN: 2658-4069
Acta Linguistica Petropolitana
Transactions of the Institute for Linguistic Studies 

Pre-article use of the protoarticle se in Old English

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Pimenova N. B. Predartiklevyye upotrebleniya protoartiklya se v drevneangliyskom yazyke. Acta Linguistica Petropolitana. 2023. 19(1): 230–255.

The article explores the use of the Old English proto-article pronoun se in dialogues with reference to some object in the proximal zone located near both the speaker and the addressee. Since the weak demonstrative se with the «weakly deictic meaning» had not yet completely undergone desemantization and grammaticalization by then (and could not be used to denote unique reference only), the proximal deixis pronoun þes would normally occur in this position. However, there were two types of contexts in which the proto-article pronoun se could be found. First, se occurred in cases of cataphoric reference to relative clauses, which reveals asymmetry of the anaphoric and cataphoric relations in terms of the distribution of the proto-article. Second, the proto-article pronoun would replace the proximal demonstrative þes when a switchover to the point of view of a third person mentioned in the narrative took place. Since the West German proto-article pronoun is often attributed to indicate the sphere of the third person (presumably, an element of a person-oriented system of deixis in Proto-Germanic and in Old Germanic languages), the hypothesis of an indirect reflection of the original meaning of se in such contexts seems to be quite likely. The anaphoric function of the proto-article pronoun se, i.e., that of reference in a narrative context, could be identified with an indication of the external space of communication. By their nature, both uses are due to the properties of the pronoun in discourse and can be attributed to the pre-article use. The pre-article distribution of se is revealed on the evidence of Old English poetic texts (the main source for this analysis is the oldest surviving epic poem Beowulf) where the anaphoric use of the proto-article in narratives is only sporadic. The findings may help to expand our understanding of pronouns distribution and of the functional background behind the grammaticalization of the West Germanic article.

article, proto-article, proximal deixis, speech event, grammaticalization, Germanic languages, Old English
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article, proto-article, proximal deixis, speech event, grammaticalization, Germanic languages, Old English
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