Do the wealthy stay healthy?

Rich agreement and verb movement in early English


  • George Walkden



verb movement, rich agreement, Old English, Middle English, Modern English


This paper is a review of the evidence and arguments that have been put forward for a major causal role for the loss of rich agreement in driving changes in verb movement in the history of English. It focuses particularly on Kroch & Taylor (1997), who propose a scenario in which the rise and fall of strict V2 in English is inextricably linked with rich verbal agreement. I provide some reasons to doubt this story: in particular, theories of rich agreement do not make the predictions needed for Kroch & Taylor’s account. Moreover, I show that the distribution of verb movement in historical Englishes is arguably not what would be predicted under any account of rich agreement. Finally, I sketch an alternative account for the loss of verb movement based on developments in the Modern English mood and aspect system.