Object dislocation in English hymns between 1500 and 1900 – A corpus-based study

Kirsten Gather, English Department, University of Cologne


Hymns form a fundamental part of Christian worship, and have been a very stable genre for at least four centuries while other verse genres altered a lot. My study is concerned with a linguistic peculiarity that applies to many English hymns: They show a considerable number of syntactic dislocations. We find objects, complements, and obligatory adverbials that are moved in front of the predicate verb instead of remaining in their ‘proper’ position.

Miles Coverdale, for instance, offers clauses such as “Thus wyll I all thy synnes forgyue” (1535). Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady versify “On ev’ry side, thy hand I find” (1696). About 1780, we find examples by the Methodist Charles Wesley, such as “You for higher ends were born”, and Henry Baker’s Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861) provides “So we the father’s help will claim”.

Syntactic dislocation is a striking characteristic of many hymn texts. As objects are the largest and most prominent group of dislocated obligatory constituents, this study is concerned with object dislocation. The textual basis is a pilot corpus of hymns (64,000 words) stemming from 1500 to 1900. It comprises text samples of the most widespread hymnals of the time, as well as selections taken out of less known works.

The study shows that object dislocation is by no means a uniform process. It varies, for instance, in the type of dislocated phrase and the involvement of auxiliaries. The most prominent factors for dislocating the object are, however, metre and rhyme. There is a close connection between syntactic and prosodic factors.

Up to now, there have been no corpus-linguistic studies about English hymns, as verse is usually considered too artificial to form an object of research. My study may be seen as a first step towards the linguistic coverage of a poetic genre.

1. Introduction

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the history of English congregational song started to attract scholars from various fields of study. Research was done on the chronology and distribution of hymn texts and their musical settings, the importance of hymns for liturgy and doctrine, and the literary value of hymns (Arnold 1995: xi). What is lacking is a diachronic, corpus-based linguistic analysis of the genre. The main reason why such an analysis has not yet been attempted is that in verse genres deviations from grammaticality are usually dismissed as poetic licence. Many genres of poetry cannot be monitored for a longer period of time, as either their poetic form is not clear-cut (e.g. elegies, satire in verse), or they even vanish completely (e.g. sonnets, epigrams, pastoral poetry). Hymns, however, have been a very stable genre for at least four centuries. Although early hymns contained psalm texts put into metre, and only later hymns were newly authored poetry, all of them look uniform due to their restraints concerning metre and rhyme (cf. Watson 1999: 3), but also regarding certain syntactic peculiarities. The dislocation of the object is one of the syntactic phenomena that can be found in many English hymns of the 16th to the 19th century. It will be the focus of this paper. The aim is to find factors that play a role in object dislocation. Can the phenomenon be ascribed to certain syntactic properties, or merely to prosodic features? Do extra-linguistic characteristics, such as the denomination of the author, also play a role? As no corpus-based research on verse genres has been done up to now, this study will show exemplarily how such an analysis can be conducted.

First, the term hymn will be defined (section 2), as it was used in a variety of contexts throughout the centuries. What follows is a brief description of the corpus compiled for this pilot study (section 3). In section 4, the phenomenon of object dislocation is explained and illustrated. Section 5 then gives the numbers and percentages of object dislocation in the corpus, followed by a detailed syntactic analysis, and it discusses the interaction of syntactic criteria with metre and rhyme. The last section summarizes the results.

2. English hymnody

Hymns constitute a fundamental part of Christian worship. For several centuries, their main purpose has been to involve the congregation in the liturgy. The functions of congregational church songs are various: By singing hymns, people can, for instance, praise, give thanks, reflect or repent.

Let us briefly look at the origin of the term hymn and its connection to psalm and anthem. In the Middle Ages, the term hymnus refers to non-biblical chant in the Latin language. The word hymn in English emerges in the 16th century as an equivalent to the term metrical psalm. When Queen Elizabeth I in her Royal Injunctions of 1559 permits church songs before and after common prayer, she refers to them as “hymn[s], or suchlike song[s]” (Temperley 1979: vol. I, 39), but what this actually denotes are psalms put into metre and set to a tune. Propelled by the reformation, they form the first major instance of congregational song in the English language (cf. Hamlin 2004: 24). Congregational church song should make the Word of God easy to remember, and at the same time teach the layfolk religious doctrine in a simple way.

In the course of the 18th century, the genre hymn emancipated itself from biblical source texts. Being a Nonconformist movement at first, the development later on spread to Anglican hymn writers as well. Hymns became diversified in their requests and addressees, and varied from intimate prayers to postulations aimed at the congregation or even at all of humankind.

Although sometimes hymn books were written for private use only, most hymnals are published to be sung by congregations. My approach to the term hymn is a very broad one, as it includes all kinds of congregational singing. English hymnody is therefore simply defined as stanzaic, metrical, rhymed religious poetry in the English language that is set to music, sung to praise the Christian Deity or a Saint, performed by a congregation of people usually as part of the religious service.

This very general definition allows us to count metrical psalms or any other kind of metrical rendering of biblical text as hymns, as long as these texts were (or meant to be) set to music. My approach excludes, however, anthems, since they are usually not sung by the congregation, but by professional choirs (cf. the German motet).

My definition of English hymnody contains the attributes stanzaic, metrical, and rhymed, which require a brief comment. This means that English hymns are usually subject to severe restrictions regarding number and sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables. The so-called common metre, the most frequent and typical metre of hymns, divides four-line stanzas into alternating iambic tetrameters and trimeters, as the following well-known first lines of a hymn by John Newton illustrate:


Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

(J. Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779, Book I, Hymn 41, 1.1-4) [1]

3. The corpus

The hymns of this pilot study corpus stem from between 1500 and 1900. Richard Arnold’s books on hymns (1991, 1995, 2004) were very helpful in deciding which hymnals should be part of the corpus. Furthermore, John Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology (1925) was consulted to recover detailed information about hymnists and their works.

For each century, eight hymn books were selected, reaching from hymnals with royal license (e.g. Sternhold & Hopkins 1562, Tate & Brady 1696) to small collections put together merely for particular parish churches (e.g. Newton & Cowper 1779). The choice of hymn authors was guided by variation in popularity and in denomination (Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc.). As some women also wrote and published hymnals, songs by Anna Laetitia Waring (1854) and Frances Ridley Havergal (1884) are part of the corpus as well.

The size of the pilot corpus is 64,000 words, with samples of 2,000 words taken out of eight hymn books within one century (16,000 words per century). From each hymn book, songs were chosen randomly until the limit of 2,000 words per book was nearly reached. Only the last selected hymn was usually chosen on purpose to meet the intended number of words as closely as possible. [2]

4. Object dislocation

When looking at the texts of hymns, one comes across a phenomenon which can be called syntactic dislocation. This means that objects, subject or object complements, or obligatory adverbials are moved to the left of the main verb instead of remaining in their ‘proper’ position. [3]

This article focusses on dislocated objects since they form the most frequent group of dislocated, obligatory constituents. Typical examples are shown in (2) to (5):


For thou dost them defend and saue

(F. Seager, Certayne Psalmes, 1553, Ps 31, 24.1)


The night I spend my bed to wash

(W. Hunnis, Seuen Sobs, 1583, Ps 6, Part II, 10.3)


both hearts and hands to thee we raise

(G. Wither, Hymns and Songs of the Church, 1623, “For Deliverance from a publike Sicknesse”, 4.2)


Jesu, my heart’s desire obtain!
My earnest suit present and gain:

(C. Wesley, Collection of Hymns, 1780, Hymn 97, 3.1-2)

In example (2), the pronoun them is moved between auxiliary and the two main verbs. The next example shows a noun phrase that is moved in front of a to-infinitive. In (4), a direct object is fronted and an optional prepositional phrase is inserted between object and subject. (5) offers two imperative clauses with O-V instead of V-O order.

As the examples demonstrate, the term object dislocation comprises a certain variety. It seems worthwhile to look into the matter more thoroughly to examine whether the observed variation follows a discernible pattern. [4] After giving a quantitative overview of object dislocation and a breakdown of the figures on the basis of extra-linguistic factors (both in section 5.1), the following subsections will go into detail regarding syntactic peculiarities of object dislocation (section 5.2), and ask to what extent metre and rhyme are connected to the phenomenon (section 5.3).

5. Analysis

5.1 Overview

Table 1 shows that object dislocation is by no means a rare phenomenon in English hymns. In all four centuries, at least every fifth object is dislocated. The maximum is reached in the 17th century, when more than 40% of all transitive verbs are affected [5].

Table 1. Numbers of transitive verbs and object dislocations per century.


16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century


number of transitive verbs






number of object dislocations






percentage of transitive verbs with a dislocated object






From 1700 onwards, the number of occurrences decreases rapidly. The decline, however, does not proceed smoothly. Generally, there are many leaps up and down if one views the number of dislocations per hymnal in chronological order, as the following diagram illustrates. [6]

Figure 1. Transitive verbs with a dislocated object, broken down chronologically into hymn books (in %).

Figure 1. Transitive verbs with a dislocated object, broken down chronologically into hymn books (in %).

But why do some hymn authors use dislocation abundantly while others almost abstain from it? In particular, the 17th century is extreme from this perspective, offering a standard deviation of 15.89 (the other three centuries show standard deviations between 6 and 8). Even omitting the first analysed hymnal of the 17th century, Edwin Sandys’ Sacred hymns (1615), still leaves us with a standard deviation of 10.77. [7]

Considering the denominations of the single hymnists does not help to explain the leaps in the figures. Although it is very likely that hymn authors knew the works of other hymnists of the same denomination, this obviously does not influence the use of object dislocation. Discrepancies can be found between members of the Anglican Church (e.g. William Barton 1644: 44.03% vs. George Herbert 1697: 24.71%), as well as between Nonconformists (e.g. Philipp Doddridge 1759: 33.13% vs. Isaac Watts 1707: 11.03%).

Perhaps, the number of dislocations is based on personal rather than denominational preference. Isaac Watts, for instance, says in the preface to his Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707) about his work:

I have aimed at ease of Numbers and Smoothness of Sound, and endeavour’d to make the Sense plain and obvious; if the Verse appears so gentle and flowing as to incur the Censure of Feebleness, I may honestly affirm, that sometimes it cost me labour to make it so: Some of the Beauties of Poesy are neglected, and some wilfully defaced: I have thrown out the Lines that were too sonorous, and giv’n an Allay to the Verse, lest a more exalted Turn of Thought or Language should darken or disturb the Devotion of the plainest Soul. (pp. viii-ix)

Watts’ aims to “make the Sense plain and obvious” (p. viii) and to avoid “more exalted Turn[s] of […] Language” (p. ix) may be reflected in the very low percentage of object dislocations: Only 11% of all transitive verbs possess a dislocated object.

The same thoughts – about the conflict between comprehensibility and poetic ambition – can be found in the preface of William Barton’s Book of Psalms in Metre (1644):

Doubtles therefore it will please the most, and most judicious, to make it [i.e. the translation] smooth, cleer, and easie, yea, so that every line may contain distinct sense in it self, or else convey it so methodically to the next, that no disordered ruptures (which darken, dissipate, and adulterate the sense) might be found therin, […] (An Apologeticall Preface To the Reader, pp. 3-5)

Barton, however, uses object dislocation extensively: 44% of all objects are dislocated. Moreover, he quite often exceeds the line break with clauses containing dislocation (24% of all object dislocations), willfully contradicting statements he made in the preface to his hymnal. In his case, the plainness of style does obviously not relate to constituent order, but primarily to the choice of words, as he explicates in his prefatory remarks later on.

Thus, neither the denomination of the author nor prefatory statements play a discernible role in object dislocation. Thus, since no extra-linguistic pattern that governs the use of object dislocation could be found, the following two subsections will explore the phenomenon from the perspectives of syntax (section 5.2), and of the prosodic features metre and rhyme (section 5.3).

5.2 Syntactic analysis

First, object dislocation will be analysed from a syntactic point of view. Identifying syntactically different kinds of object dislocation might explain the variance in use. Examined features are phrase type and the existence of auxiliaries. As will be shown below, both features interact with prosodic criteria to a certain extent (see section 5.3).

5.2.1 Type of phrase

The percentages in Table 2 offer several interesting insights. First of all, the most frequent phrase type in all four analysed centuries is the noun phrase with a determiner (D(+A)+N). [8] It covers already more than 50% in the 16th century, and over 70% in the last two centuries. The proportion of noun phrases without determiner ((A) + N) is rather low at the beginning (ca. 11%), but then quickly rises up to more than 20%, a value that remains relatively stable for the last two centuries.

Table 2. Phrase types of dislocated objects (absolute frequencies and %).


16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century









NPs [D(+A)+N]









NPs [(A)+N]




































If we consider noun phrases with and without determiner as a whole, the 16th century offers a relation of two thirds of these noun phrases to one third pronominal noun phrases. The relation shifts quickly towards the first group, so that from the 18th century on, more than 91% of dislocated objects belong to this category.

The most striking result, however, is the high percentage of dislocated pronominal noun phrases in the 16th century. Roughly a third of all dislocated objects are pronouns. The percentage decreases rapidly in the 17th century (ca. 13%), and is under 10% in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pronouns are usually dislocated for metrical reasons. In the 16th century, we often find them in non-rhyming lines (A or C in ABCB), which means that they are dislocated for metrical reasons only. From the 17th century onwards, dislocated pronouns sometimes also occur in rhyming lines. Nevertheless, the percentage of pronominal noun phrases drops quickly.

A reason for this decrease might be that dislocated pronouns sound rather forced to the ear (see, for instance, example (2) above) while dislocated noun phrases with a determiner do not produce a similar violation of the listening experience, as they sound more willful and emphatic (see example (5)). Another reason might be a freer handling of the biblical source texts. Some authors did not try to stick to the originals as closely as possible – although they often said so –, but inserted nouns instead of pronouns, and added exclamations such as “Lord!”, which were not part of the biblical source text, only to match the desired metre.

Interestingly, the percentage of dislocated pronouns does not decline further in the 19th century. The reason for this is that here we find a disproportionately high use of the pronoun thee as an address to God (15 out of 21 pronominal noun phrases are or contain a dislocated thee). Of these 15, 8 stem from Christopher Wordsworth. Thus, his hymnal should be seen as an exception regarding the dislocation of pronouns. Without the Wordsworth sample, pronoun dislocation would amount to merely 5.19% in the 19th century.

5.2.2 Constituent order: The use of auxiliaries

The scope of this article does not permit me to go into detail regarding all constituent orders. Therefore, one of the major points, the use of auxiliaries, is put into focus here as there seems to be a connection between the occurrence of auxiliaries and object dislocation. For the 16th to 19th centuries, S-Aux-O-V is the most common dislocational constituent order that contains an auxiliary. (6) is a typical example in that pronominal objects are found quite often in this particular constituent order (see Rissanen 1999: 267f). Moreover, auxiliaries are sometimes not found in the biblical source text, but are inserted for metrical purposes (example (7)).


Thy flaming wrath shall them devour

(J. Patrick, A Century of Select Psalms, 1679, Ps 21, 5.1)


And my desyre vpon my foes,/Lord God, myne eies do see

(R. Crowley, The Psalter of Dauid, 1549, Ps 54, 6.3)

Table 3 splits up clauses with dislocation into those with and those without auxiliary.

Table 3. Auxiliaries in clauses with object dislocation (absolute frequencies and %).


16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century

clauses …









without auxiliary









with auxiliary


















Apparently, the number of clauses with auxiliaries decreases between 1500 and 1900 from nearly 50% to about 30%. The rather striking leap in clauses without auxiliaries from the 17th to the 18th century (57.0% - 71.9%) is explained by the Methodists’ overuse of dislocations in imperatives, which does not require auxiliaries. On the other hand, auxiliaries often had to be used in metrical psalmody because they were contained in the biblical source texts. So, the decrease in clauses with auxiliary from the 17th to the 18th century also reflects the transition from psalmody to newly authored poetry.

All in all, the figures of auxiliaries look much the same as those of pronouns, only delayed. The rapid drop in the number of pronouns can be observed a century earlier than the decrease in the use of auxiliaries. Therefore, the incidents cannot be linked to the same cause. If pronoun dislocation was related to metrical psalms, the decrease would have happened simultaneously to that in clauses with auxiliary.

5.3 Metre and rhyme

Metre and rhyme are two prosodic features that definitely play a role in object dislocation. Let us first reconsider some of the examples analysed before (see examples (2) and (5) in section 4, here reproduced as (8) and (9)).


For thou dost them defend and saue

(F. Seager, Certayne Psalmes, 1553, Ps 31, 24.1)


Jesu, my heart’s desire obtain!
My earnest suit present and gain:

(C. Wesley, Collection of Hymns, 1780, Hymn 97, 3.1-2)

In example (8), the grammatically correct word order would be For thou dost defend and saue them. Instead, Seager uses S-Aux-O-V. Moving the monosyllabic pronoun in front of the main verb produces an iambic tetrameter, whereas leaving it in its proper position would violate metrical constraints. Rearranging the constituent order, however, does not affect rhyme in this case, as the position of this line in the stanza is A in ABCB.

Example (9) functions the other way round. Regarding metre, it is perfectly alright to move the two dislocated objects into their proper positions, as this does not change the stress pattern:


Jesu, obtain my heart’s desire!
Present and gain my earnest suit:

End-rhyme, however, is lost with V-O order (gain and obtain vs. desire and suit).

One can assume that a high percentage of dislocations is subject either to metre or to rhyme, or to both. The following table gives a quantitative overview of the number of object dislocations due to one or both of these constraints.

Table 4. Object dislocation due to metre and/or rhyme (in %).


16th century

17th century

18th century

19th century

dislocation for reasons of metre and rhyme





dislocation for reasons of rhyme only





dislocation for reasons of metre only





dislocation neither for metre nor rhyme





The highlighted section of Table 4 shows that roughly between 85 and 95% of all object dislocations occur because of metre, rhyme, or both. The number of dislocations that are independent of rhyme and metre have their peak in the 16th century (13.07%). The reason for this is that longer metrical patterns, such as the iambic pentameter, are in use then. They sometimes allow the dislocation of phrases with an even number of syllables at the start of the line, which violates neither metre nor rhyme.

In general, rhyme is more often the cause of dislocation than metre, and metre-only restraints decrease from about 20% in the 16th to under 7% in the 18th and 19th centuries. Here, we notice a clear connection to syntactic criteria: The decline of metre-only restraints can be explained by the decrease in number of dislocated pronouns, because pronouns, which usually only consist of a single syllable, normally cannot be moved into their proper syntactic position without violating metrical constraints (see example (8)).

The 18th and 19th centuries, however, display an increase in dislocated noun phrases with determiner with an even number of syllables. They can be moved without violating metre, and usually their dislocation happens due to rhyme (see example (9)).

Let us now take a closer look at the interaction of syntactic criteria and prosodic features. Apparently, the shift from dislocating pronouns to predominantly dislocating noun phrases with determiner is related to the decline of metre-only dislocations. As calculations [9] prove, the percentage of pronouns correlates with the percentage of metre-only cases (correlation coefficient: 0.971). This close connection can, for instance, be seen when looking at the exceptionally high number of dislocated pronouns that Christopher Wordsworth uses, since metre-only dislocations also rise again slightly in the 19th century. The number of auxiliaries that are involved in object dislocation should also be considered here, as they are also usually monosyllabic, and show a similar pattern over the centuries. The following diagram illustrates the relation.

Figure 2. Dislocated pronominal noun phrases, clauses containing auxiliaries, and dislocations for 'metre only' (in %).

Figure 2. Dislocated pronominal noun phrases, clauses containing auxiliaries, and dislocations for ‘metre only’ (in %).

As seen before, all three factors decrease between the 16th and the 18th century, and then rise again slightly in the 19th century. The dislocation of pronominal noun phrases, which often happened due to metre, was very much in use in the 16th century, but then soon went out of fashion. Often, these pronouns occurred in lines without end-rhyme (A or C in ABCB), so that their dislocation was solely related to metre.

The percentage of clauses with an auxiliary is delayed in its decline at first, whereas the percentage of dislocated pronouns drops much more rapidly. Metre-only dislocation is set in-between the two syntactic criteria. This makes sense because if both pronouns and auxiliaries play a role in metre, the decrease in metre-only dislocation should even out the progression and delay of the two other factors.

Looking at the reverse side of the above features, there should be a close connection of noun phrases with determiner, clauses without auxiliaries, and dislocations due to rhyme (dislocations for both rhyme and metre are included here as well). Again, the synchronicity of the rise in dislocated noun phrases and dislocations for rhyme is evident (correlation coefficient: 0.966). The diagram below gives the percentages of all three factors.

Figure 3. Dislocations of noun phrases with determiner, dislocation in clauses with auxiliary, and dislocation for rhyme (in %).

Figure 3. Dislocations of noun phrases with determiner, dislocation in clauses with auxiliary, and dislocation for rhyme (in %).

All three criteria progress similarly, reaching their peak in the 18th century. Here, dislocation for rhyme does not even out the other two factors, which means that the relation is not as close as between pronouns, auxiliaries, and metre. The fact that noun phrases without determiner are left out in this calculation might be one reason for the deviation.

To sum this up, there is clearly a visible connection between the type of dislocated phrase, the absence or presence of auxiliaries, and dislocation due to metre and/or rhyme.

6. Conclusion

The dislocation of the object is by no means a newly discovered phenomenon. Several types of dislocation, such as fronting (Quirk et al. 1985: 1377f) or subject-operator inversion (Quirk et al. 1985:1381f), are well documented. In English hymns, however, dislocated objects are so extremely prominent that one may call the phenomenon a constitutive feature of the genre. It exists in all four analysed centuries, regardless of the denominations or personal preference of the hymn authors.

While no extra-linguistic reasons for object dislocation could be found, the syntactic analysis and the examination of the prosodic features metre and rhyme provided results.

Regarding phrase types, a shift from dislocating pronominal noun phrases to dislocating noun phrases with(out) determiner can be observed. This development cannot be explained exclusively by a generally decreasing number of pronouns in the objective case. Instead, it must be seen in the context of metre, as pronouns are usually moved from the stressed position at the end of the line to an unstressed position in the middle. In the 16th century, roughly one third of all dislocated pronouns is found in lines where they only affect metre, and not end-rhyme. This kind of dislocation vanished almost completely in the 17th century, and it accounts for the drop in dislocated pronominal noun phrases.

The use of auxiliaries in clauses with a dislocated object is related to the phrase type, too. The combination of auxiliary and dislocated pronoun occurs quite often in the first two centuries. Later on, auxiliaries are used less and less in hymns. This is an effect of the transition from biblical source texts to newly authored poetry, as in metrical psalms and the canticles auxiliaries were often required.

In general, a measurable connection between the phrase type, the absence or presence of auxiliaries, and the prosodic features metre and rhyme was detected. The percentages of pronominal noun phrases and clauses with auxiliaries were found to correlate with dislocations for metre, while noun phrases with determiner, clauses without auxiliary, and dislocations due to rhyme correlate as well. Pronouns and auxiliaries are usually monosyllabic and therefore play a role in metre. In contrast, dislocated noun phrases with determiner very often consist of either two or four syllables (e.g. my heart or the Lord our God), and are only related to rhyme.

As this study shows, object dislocation is a constitutive feature of English hymn texts. Hymnologists say that hymn writing had its creative height in the 18th century (see, for example, Arnold 1995: xi-xii) when it emancipated itself from biblical sources. However, regarding the phenomenon of object dislocation, which was present right from the beginning of metrical psalmody, hymns reached their maturity already in the 17th century when the percentage of dislocated objects was at its maximum.

Apart from object dislocation, there are more syntactic peculiarities that appear to be typical of the genre hymn. Further studies will reveal other syntactic factors which give hymns their distinctive look, for instance other kinds of dislocation. Moreover, a comparison to different verse genres from Late Middle English and Early Modern English times might show whether object dislocation is a genuine feature of hymns, or whether hymnists ‘modelled’ their texts syntactically on other genres of poetry. The comparison to verse genres suggests itself because object dislocation largely depends on metre and rhyme. A subsequent study should also examine if setting poetry to music really plays a role, that is if the rather strict prosodic restraints on hymns trigger object dislocation to a greater extent than it is found in religious poetry that is not set to music.


[1] As many hymns reappear in several editions and compilations, the bibliographical reference of hymns does not include page numbers. Instead, the title or number of the hymn is given, followed by the stanza and the line. The hymns are, however, always taken out of the first edition, if possible. The original spelling has been maintained. Object dislocation is in all examples marked by underlining.

[2] Hymns were selected by using a random number generator. Regarding metrical psalms, doublings were avoided by checking the random number against the psalms chosen so far. I transcribed the chosen hymn texts myself.

[3] Quirk et al. (1985) describe the process of fronting (pp. 1377f), which only covers one aspect of the phenomenon under investigation. Therefore, I chose the more general term dislocation. The classification into obligatory and optional clause constituents is done according to Quirk et al. (1985: 54ff).

[4] There is only a small amount of research on the topic of syntactic dislocation. Diachronic studies usually deal with the rather early transition from OV to VO order in Early Middle English (e.g. Trips 2002), which is not regarded as object dislocation. Usually, deviations from SVO order in Early and Late Modern English prose are too rare to be of interest. So far, the only syntactic analysis of word order in a verse genre is Masahiko Agari’s analysis of inversion in Milton's poetry (2001).

[5] We find object dislocation in other verse genres at that time as well, but not to this extent.

[6] The first hymnal of the 17th century may well be seen as an outlier, but still the drop in percentage is apparent.

[7] As there are only 8 hymnals per century, standard deviations cannot be completely stable. Nevertheless, the heterogeneity in percentage is remarkable.

[8] Determiner in this context refers to the word class (see Quirk et al. 1985: 67), not to the determiner function (Huddleston & Pullum 2002: 354ff).

[9] Percentages of dislocated pronominal noun phrases, clauses with auxiliary involvement, and metre-only dislocations were tested for correlation.


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