Article

Clefts as resolution strategies after the loss of a multifunctional first position

Bettelou Los and Erwin Komen

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/9780199922765.013.0072

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Clefts as resolution strategies after the loss of a multifunctional first position

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

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

GO

Show Summary Details

Preview

Until the fifteenth century, English was considered a V2 (verb-second) language. The loss of a multifunctional first position that could host adverbials and objects as well as subjects, along with unmarked topics and focused material, paved the way for new constructions (clefts) and a redefinition of old positions (with the presubject position increasingly reserved for a subset of contrastive topics). This article explores the interaction between syntax and information structure and argues that the loss of V2 resulted in the loss of a first position capable of hosting contrastive constituents. It suggests that the cleft evolves as a resolution strategy and maneuvers contrastive constituents in a position that fits the new, rigid SVO order while retaining their information-structural status. The article also considers another area where clefts partly stepped in after syntactic loss related to V2 compromised the expression of contrast: Contrastive Left Dislocation (CLD).

Keywords: verb-second; syntax; information structure; first position; clefts; Contrastive Left Dislocation; adverbials; focus; resolution strategy; contrast; Middle English; Early Modern English; linguistics

Article.  5149 words. 

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

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.