Chapter

A diachronic shift in the expression of person<sup>1</sup>

Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

in Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659203
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745188 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199659203.003.0009

Series: Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics

A diachronic shift in the expression of person1

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Singular and plural lexical subjects co-occur with verbal -s in Appalachian English, arguably a vestige of the person marking characterizing its ancestor variety, Older Scots. Reminiscent of the Insular Scandinavian languages that display robust person marking on verbs, Older Scots exhibits many of the syntactic properties familiar from languages like Icelandic: transitive expletives, verb raising, verb second, object shift. Appalachian English also displays transitive expletives, but displays verb raising only with modals, auxiliaries and do (not lexical verbs). In transition between a language that expresses person in the verbal domain and one that expresses it only through subject pronouns (the latter also charactering present-day standard English), Appalachian English displays two clausal structures, the more articulated structure of Older Scots that encodes person on an independent functional head, and a less articulated one relevant also for languages like present-day standard English.

Keywords: Appalachian English; Older Scots; agreement; transitive expletive; parameter; person feature; pronoun; pronominal subject; lexical subject

Chapter.  7830 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics

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