In many languages, starting a sentence or an utterance with something other than the subject is a marked option which has to be licensed by some discourse function, as in the case of questions (1) or so-called topicalization (2).
(1) What did she say? (2) That/*it I don’t like. (I’d rather have some …)
In English, topicalized constituents are normally stressed and invoke a notion of contrast; an unstressed personal pronoun is not felicitous, as shown in (2). In the mainland Scandinavian languages, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, preposing of unstressed pronouns is quite common as a way to connect an utterance to the preceding context, as illustrated by the Swedish example in (3).
(3) A: Var är cykeln? [where is bike-DEF] B: Den ställde jag i garaget. [it put I in garage-DEF.]
In order to find out when this type of preposing is used in dialogue, Filippa Lindahl and I carried out a search in the Nordic Dialect Corpus, a 2.5 million word corpus of spontaneous conversations (Johannesen et al 2009). In my talk I will show that the strategies used are in line with the three types of thematic progression, proposed by i.a. Daneš (1974).
Daneš, F. 1974. Functional sentence perspective and the organization of the text. In F. Daneš (ed.), Papers on functional sentence perspective, 106–128. Prague – The Hague & Paris.
Johannessen, J. B. et al. 2009. The Nordic Dialect Corpus – an Advanced Research Tool. In Proceedings of the 17th Nordic Conference of Computational Linguistics NODALIDA 2009. NEALT Proceedings Series Volume 4.