Article

Rethinking the loss of verb second

Ans van Kemenade

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199922765.013.0067

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Rethinking the loss of verb second

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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More than twenty years of research has been devoted to the nature of Verb Second (V2) in early English and its loss in the transition from Middle English (ME) to early Modern English (EModE). Yet there has been no sufficient explanation for why and how V2 was lost in clauses introduced by a non-subject first constituent other than a wh- phrase or a negative element. This article investigates the information structure (IS) factors contributing to V2 variation over the ME period: type of finite verb (Vf), the information status of the first constituent, and the information status of the subject. It shows that the most important change in connection with the loss of V2 is that subjects are increasingly placed on the left of Vf, rather than a change in Vf placement. The overall backdrop for this development lies in the relation between syntax and IS. This article presents a case study on V2 inversion in main clauses introduced by adverbs, involving three types of finite verb (transitive/unergative, unaccusative, auxiliary), and various types of subject.

Keywords: Verb Second; Middle English; clauses; first constituent; information structure; syntax; finite verbs; subject; inversion; clause-initial adverbs

Article.  5072 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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