This paper describes a corpus-based analysis of subject-auxiliary inversion in academic prose texts. The focus of the analysis is Chen’s (2013) X Auxiliary Subject construction (XASC), where X codes the fronting of a constituent which triggers the inversion of the auxiliary and the subject, as in Little did she understand what was being dealt with or What does that mean?
It is argued that the distribution of subject-auxiliary inversion in academic prose is related to the degree of an addressor’s involvement in the texts. It will be shown that the more involvement in an academic prose text, the more inversions are to be expected. Furthermore, the data will show that subject-auxiliary inversion is far more frequently attested in learned exposition academic prose texts than in scientific exposition academic prose texts, and that the construction itself can be seen to serve as a discourse marker through which an addressor’s involvement is coded in academic writing.
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