Article

The impact of focusing and defocusing on word order: Changes at the periphery in Old English and Old High German

Svetlana Petrova

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/9780199922765.013.0069

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 The impact of focusing and defocusing on word order: Changes at the periphery in Old English and Old High German

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

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One of the most remarkable properties of Old English (OE) syntax is variation in word order, and especially the OV/VO alternation, meaning that objects in OE can both precede and follow their selecting verb in the surface. This kind of variation is also attested in Old High German (OHG), suggesting that it represents a common Germanic property. Research interested in the explanation of the OV/VO alternation in Early Germanic has addressed the way in which information structure (IS), and especially the expression of focus, determines the positional realization of objects in the clause. By analyzing the way in which focusing and defocusing interacts with word order in OE and OHG, this article demonstrates the relevance of comparing the two languages in explaining the surface variation in the order of the verb and its object in the surface.

Keywords: word order; Old English; Old High German; object-verb order; syntax; information structure; focusing; defocusing; linguistics

Article.  5215 words. 

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

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