MLitt Scandinavian Studies (Viking & Medieval Studies), University of Aberdeen (2014-15)
BA (Hons) Modern & Medieval Languages, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge (2010-14)
Expletive subjects in Icelandic: A diachronic study.
Prof. Kersti Börjars; Dr. Tine Breban
My doctoral research examines the historical development of expletive subjects in Icelandic. Expletive subjects are semantically ‘empty’ elements which serve to occupy a particular position in the sentence structure. English has two forms which function as expletive subjects, there and it: There is a Viking in the village; It seems that he likes the local beer. Similarly, modern Icelandic has an expletive subject (það) which occurs in a wide range of constructions. However, in the earliest Icelandic texts (c.1150-1350) það was mostly absent from these construction types.
This observation thus raises a number of interesting questions, including:
1. When exactly did the first instances of the expletive subject það occur historically and at what rates did it develop across the various construction types?
2. What was the motivating factor(s) for the language to develop expletive subjects at all?
3. How can insights from historical Icelandic data contribute towards our general theoretical understanding of expletive elements?
The project combines empirical corpus linguistic data and quantitative techniques with theoretical analysis.
– Syntax and morphology
– Language change
– Historical corpus linguistics
– Germanic, with a focus on Icelandic