Vol. 7 No. 3 (2023): Variation in Old English revisited: a corpus-driven approach
Soumik Dey & William Sakas. Corpus linguistics can be divided into two major avenues of research — corpus-based: Searching a corpus based on preexisting hypotheses or intuitions, and corpus-driven: An unbiased search of a corpus independent of any framing hypothesis or intuition. Corpus-driven methods have been touted to be more proficient in identifying previously undocumented patterns. This article revisits the variation observed in Old English (OE) by first discussing some of the existing corpus-based studies and their findings. Next, a corpus-driven methodology of exploration based on generating and searching for all possible permutations of selected syntactic labels (S, V, O, p and Aux.), i.e., all possible word order patterns is presented. Finally, after applying the corpus-driven methodology to the York-Toronto-Helsinki Corpus of Old English (YCOE) and outlining some broad assumptions that are valid cross-linguistically, the word order patterns attested in YCOE are syntactically analyzed — of note is the in-depth analysis of embedded adverbial adjunct clauses with respect to CP-recursion. This study documents and presents analyses of an extensive list of word order patterns in OE and categorically verifies certain theories of OE syntax, and challenges others. To the best of our knowledge, the study presented in this article is the first corpus-driven investigation of the variation observed in OE. More generally, this study lays a foundation for future corpus-driven and corpus-based research on Old English syntax.