Noun Phrase Packaging and Discourse Structure in Middle Bulgarian Texts

This paper explores factors which appear to have been relevant in the decisions writers of a particular set of late fourteenth- and early-fifteenth-century texts made in regard to the degree of explicitness of noun phrases representing the agents and patients (performers and undergoers of the actions) in their sentences. An earlier study proposed a set of ordered derivational rules to account for the typically heavy, intricate sentence structure found in texts representative of what is often referred to as the Evtimiev literary school, centered in Turnovo. This earlier study, with its focus on word order, voice and case assignment, went into some detail on the sentence-level (or in most cases more properly clause-level) structural characteristics pivotal in the resolution of these issues in the syntactic derivation of the sentences in the texts.

The syntactic rules accounting for word order, voice and case assignment were all located relatively early in the derivation. The two final rules proposed in the earlier analysis, on the other hand, are the ones which address the actual form of the agent and patient noun phrases themselves. These two rules, involving pronominalization and subsequent pronoun deletion, while essentially correct, were stated rather vaguely in regard to the conditions under which they are actually applied:

Pronominalization: Nominal elements may be pronominalized if reference is clear.

Pronoun Deletion: Pronouns may be deleted to zero if they are not emphasized (focused) and if reference and relationships among referents and verbal elements are clear.

The current paper revisits pronominalization and pronoun deletion in these Middle Bulgarian texts. It discusses further these semantic factors, emphasis and potential for ambiguity, which block one or both processes. Rather than stopping here and stating that pronominalization and pronoun deletion may occur in the absence of such constraints, however, the paper discusses also the extent to which these processes are sensitive to other factors, in particular those involving the structure of the discourse beyond that of a single sentence. Among the potential discourse-level influences explored are temporal shifts within the discourse, the status of the referent as a discourse-level theme, and various relations between the clause-level topic-comment structure of the clause in question and that of preceding clauses. Also addressed is the degree to which the impact of the relevant factors on noun phrase packaging varies between those located in main clauses and those expressed within subordinate clauses.