Syntax and Information Structure

Ans van Kemenade and Marit Westergaard

in Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of English

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199860210
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949601 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in the History of English

Syntax and Information Structure

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This chapter discusses the relationship between syntax and information structure (IS), focusing on the variation between verb-second (V2) and non-V2 word order in Middle English. It incorporates recent insights from first language acquisition in varieties of Norwegian, where variable V2 word orders are very similar to those found in the history of English, and follows up recent work that shows that IS is an important factor in determining word order choices in Old English. It traces the variation between V2 (subject-verb inversion) and non-V2 (X-subject-Vf word order) for nominal and pronominal subjects in some detail over the various subperiods in Middle English, pinpointing the role of syntax and of IS in shaping the variation attested. Core issues are the mapping between specific syntactic positions and IS sensitivity as well as the mutual impact of IS and syntax. Several small changes in the process from V2 to non-V2 are attested, and these are analyzed within a model of micro-cues, where small steps in the process are considered to be grammar changes in the I-language.

Keywords: syntax; information structure; verb-second; word order; Middle English

Chapter.  14904 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Linguistics

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