Kim, Yookang. 2016. A Descriptive and Statistical Analysis of Relative Clauses in Beowulf. English Language and Linguistics 22.3, 57-90. Old English relative clauses are introduced by one of three types of relative forms: the declinable se-type, the indeclinable þe-type and the combination of se and þe. It has been stated in Old English syntactic studies that a relative marker agrees with its antecedent in number and gender, but it takes its case from the relative clause (Mitchell 1985, Traugott 1992, among others). However, it is not uncommon to see exceptional agreement patterns in Old English relative sentences, which have not been precisely described in the previous studies. Furthermore, the frequency of each type of the relative markers and linguistic factors influencing their distribution have not been fully explored, yet. The purpose of this paper is to investigate 153 relative constructions found in Beowulf and offer a descriptive and quantitative analysis of relative markers therein, with focus on their frequency, distribution and morphological agreement in gender, number, and case. The results of this study suggest that the system of relative clauses in the poem had not been fully established, and that the relative markers stood on the developmental continuum from demonstratives to true relatives at the composition date of Beowulf. I argue that the frequent occurrences of exceptional case agreement patterns and the dominant distribution of the compound se-þe markers in the poem should be seen as evidence for the transitional status of the relative markers in early Old English.
Key words: Old English, Beowulf, relative clause, relative markers, morphological agreement