Deriving the Old Irish Clause
The (Surprisingly) Simple Syntax Behind Old Irish Clause Types
Keywords:Old Irish, Indo-European, philology, historical syntax, diachronic syntax, Celtic
AbstractOld Irish, a historical Celtic and Indo-European language, displays many distinct features in the composition of its clauses. These include a typical Verb-Subject-Object word order, shifting stress placement in compound verbs, relativity marked by verbal endings and mutations, and object pronouns rigidly infixed within the clause-initial ‘verbal complex’. The goal of this paper is to propose a common underlying syntactic structure, in the framework of generative grammar, which can generate the attested data across different types of clause, namely: declarative, interrogative, imperative, relative and other subordinate finite clauses. The paper begins by introducing relevant features of Old Irish grammar, before moving on to a fresh ‘syntacto-prosodic’ analysis of declarative main clauses. This it then applies to the other clause types, before concluding with a final synchronic structure common to all the clauses considered. Through a combination of syntactic theory and philological scholarship, the functional category of ‘C’ and its different lexical expressions are identified as the main source of the various distinctive features of the Old Irish clause.
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