Inversion in modern written English: syntactic complexity, information status and the creative writer

in Corpus Linguistics 25 Years on
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Full-verb inversion in English has been the subject of a large number of studies in the recent and the less recent past. The present study tries to give a corpus-based account of this phenomenon within a discourse-functional framework. First, I will describe the influence of syntactic complexity and information status. However, I will argue that inversion should not merely be regarded as a means to ensure processability and flow of information. Instead, inversion should be understood as the result of a conscious choice on the part of the writer, who makes deliberate use of this rather rare syntactic phenomenon to serve certain superordinate functions, namely text structuring and what I call the immediate-observer effect, i.e. helping the reader to immerse into the discourse world. It will be shown that the distributions of weight and information status within inverted constructions can be understood as a result of these two superordinate functions.

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