Research in Old English within Systemic Functional Linguistics

Relevant Publications

Michael Cummings

The best known work in this area is by Michael Cummings.


Michael J. Cummings "Scale-and-category analysis of Old English verbal groups". The Canadian Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 20, pp. 23-58, 1975. Michael J. Cummings "Systemic analysis of Old English nominal groups". The Sixth LACUS Forum 1979, pp. 228-242, Hornbeam Press, 1980.

Michael J. Cummings "Systemic phoricity in the Old English nominal group". The Seventh LACUS Forum, pp. 348-358, Hornbeam Press, 1980.

Michael J. Cummings "A systemic-functional model for Old English" The Eighth LACUS Forum 1981, pp. 196-207, Hornbeam Press, 1983.

Michael J. Cummings "Sequence and function in the Old English nominal group". The Eleventh LACUS Forum, pp. 422-431, Hornbeam Press, 1984.

Michael J. Cummings "Analysis of Old English text through logic programming". Methodes quantitatives et informatiques dans l'etude des textes/Computers in literary and linguistic research: en hommage ŕ Charles Muller, pp. 229-239, Slatkine, 1986.

Michael Cumming "A systemic functional analysis to the thematic structure of the Old English clause". On Subject and Theme: a discourse functional perspective, pp. 275-316, Benjamins, 1995.

Michael J. Cummings "Computational Analysis of Old English Lexical Cohesion". The 22nd LACUS Forum 1995, Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States, 1996.

Michael J. Cummings and Lewis Baxter "Computerized analysis of systemic tree diagrams in Old English". The Ninth LACUS Forum 1982, pp. 540-548, Hornbeam Press, 1983.


  • Rosemary Huisman "Theme in Exodus: Grammatical Meaning and Spoken Syntax in Old English Poetry" Lexis and Texts in Early English, Studies presented to Jane Roberts, pp. 129-142, Rodopi, 2001.
  • Martin Davies 1996. Theme before Shakespeare in ‘Meaning and Form: Systemic Functional Interpretations: meaning and Choice in Language: Studies for Michael Halliday. Margaret Berry, Christopher Butler, Robin Fawcett and Guowen Huang (eds). Vol. LVII in the Series “Advances in Discourse Processes”. Ablex, Norwood: New Jersey. ISBN: 1-56750-255-5
  • Marlene Viegas ( has completed her Master's thesis on the history of the English language from a systemic functional standpoint. Her corpus is based on familiar letters from the Early Modern English period and she deals with the possibility of applying SFG mechanisms of analysis to language change. Thesis title: "Systemic Functional Aspects of Linguistic Change in Early Modern English Familiar Letters".


    Cummings: For modern times there is more corpus-based work, vaguely functional, not systemic....

  • Claudia Claridge "Pamphlets and early newspapers: political interaction vs. news reporting". English Media Texts past and present: language and textual structure, pp. 25-44, Benjamins, 2000.

    And, the corpora themselves, eg.:

  • early modern:
  • the Helinski corpus, with old English:

    non-SFL tradition

    Cummings: non-SFL, but still discussing given-new distinction as influencing historical word order change/variation (quite out-dated, but SO very thorough);
  • Kohonen, Viljo. 1978. On the Development of English Word Order in Religious Prose around 1000 and 1200 A.D. 'A quantitative study of word order on context'. Abo: Publications of the Research Institute of the Abo Akademi Foundation.

    The following article is old and has been attacked by many linguists (esp. by Bruce Mitchell in his seminal 'Old English Syntax’), but still worth reading.

  • Fries, Charles C. 1940. On the Development of the Structural Use of Word Order in Modern English. Language 16: 199-208.