Verb-second and verb-first in the history of Icelandic


  • Hannah Booth University of Konstanz/Ghent University
  • Christin Beck University of Konstanz



Icelandic, verb-second, verb-first, word order, information structure, syntactic change


The occurrence of V1 declaratives in Icelandic has attracted much attention in the generative literature (e.g. Sigurðsson 1990, Franco 2008), and such structures are known to be more frequent in earlier stages compared to the modern language. In this paper, we provide an account for the diachrony of V1 and V2 in Icelandic where the decreasing frequency of V1 is argued to be related to an ongoing change concerning the preferred structural position for subject topics. Our claims are supported by corpus evidence from IcePaHC (Wallenberg, Ingason, Sigurðsson & Ro?gnvaldsson 2011) and the formal analysis is conducted within Lexical Functional Grammar, which allows us to neatly capture the changing associations between clause structure and information structure. As we show, this overall change can also be linked to wider diachronic developments in Icelandic involving Stylistic Fronting and expletives.