Parametric Stability and Word Order Change: The Case of Middle French


  • Sam Wolfe



Middle French; Verb Second; Left Periphery; Null Subjects; Cartography; Parameters


This article presents a novel empirical analysis of the word-order properties of Middle French, which were analysed extensively in the 1990s but have not been discussed recently in light of the latest theoretical developments. Based on the novel data, it is argued that Middle French is a form of V2 system, where the locus of V2 effects is a low left-peripheral head Fin. Whilst the evidence for V2 in the three texts examined is robust, the texts attest several changes in progress which, it is argued, eventually lead to the reanalysis of French as an SVO system. The article concludes with a discussion of why, in terms of formal parameter theory, the core V2 property remained so stable in the history of French across nearly a millennium, when it was also subject to extensive diachronic microvariation across centuries.