Sentence-initial indefinite subjects in English and Norwegian
Keywords:indefinite NP, subject, information structure, presentative, English, Norwegian
The present study uses the English-Norwegian Parallel Corpus to investigate the frequency and use of indefinite noun phrases as subjects in English and Norwegian. Since subjects in both languages tend to appear clause-initially, indefinite subjects represent a deviation from the information principle. The clearest difference between the languages is the greater frequency of indefinite subject NPs in English. The lexicogrammatical features of the indefinite subjects and their immediate contexts are relatively similar in both languages. The indefinite subjects most commonly occur with intransitive verb phrases, and often in clauses with presentative or generic meaning. Translation correspondences of indefinite subjects show that the subject NP is retained in congruent form in the majority of cases, but more changes are made in translations from English into Norwegian than the other way round. This is taken to support the findings of the contrastive analysis and furthermore indicates that the light subject constraint is applied more strictly in Norwegian than in English.
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