Some aspects of dependency in Otto Jespersen’s structural syntax

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This paper aims to challenge the assumption according to which Otto Jespersen’s syntactic model represents an anticipation of the immediate constituent analysis. In our opinion, there are elements that rather align with a more dependency-oriented framework, as it is the case of Jespersen’s notorious theory of three ranks (1913, 1921, 1937). This was developed over more than twenty years and was meant to constitute the necessary presupposition (and thus the theoretical base) for the very distinction between junction and nexus, grounding it on a pure functional base. Albeit not always consistently or exhaustively fleshed out, the theory of three ranks represents one of Jespersen’s most interesting ideas. The model will be described in detail, focusing on the latest and more formalized version given in Analytic Syntax (1937), by discussing the notation adopted and checking if it fits the five basic requirements for a dependency-based model, as per Mazziotta & Kahane (2017). Finally, it will be shown how Jespersen’s model was taken over by Louis Hjelmslev (1928), in order to develop a purely relations-oriented morphosyntactic theory.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChapters of Dependency Grammar : A historical survey from Antiquity to Tesnière
Editors András Imrényi, Nicolas Mazziotta
Number of pages35
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9789027204769
ISBN (Electronic)9789027261700
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesStudies in Language Companion Series

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Dependency, structuralism, theoretical linguistics, Linguistics, Syntax, history of linguistics

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