• Areal continuities and discontinuities emerge from parallel studies of inflection in diachrony
    Vol. 8 No. 2 (2024)

    Louise Esher. Part of the Special Collection "Towards a comparative historical dialectology".  Longitudinal study of specific inflectional characteristics can reveal stable, long-standing contrasts between the linguistic systems of different areas within a dialect continuum. This paper reports on a series of studies which use historical textual attestations to date analogical innovations in preterite forms for different varieties of Occitan (southern Gallo-Romance), providing a firm empirical foundation for theoretical enquiry about inflectional analogy, its directionality, nature and motivations. Because the studies are strictly parallel, they also facilitate comparisons from a dialectological perspective, conferring the additional benefit of elucidating historical diatopic (dis)continuities.  Based on the substance, sequence and chronology of observed changes, at least four distinct groups of speech varieties can be identified, each showing strong internal consistency as well as stability over several centuries. One suite of unique developments occurs in Gascon varieties. Another, entirely separate, trajectory is found in a small cluster of Lengadocian varieties around Toulouse. Across a large group of varieties from the Lengadocian, Provençau and Aupenc areas, a third set of changes is shown to occur not only in the same sequence but at the same or similar historical periods, indicating that this is a development undergone near-simultaneously across much of the Occitan-speaking area. In northern Occitan varieties (Lemosin, Auvergnat), the same set of changes occurs in the same sequence, but at a later period, indicating either diffusion of changes from southern varieties, or independent parallel development. While some areas correspond to one or more of the traditional dialect divisions, others split existing dialect groups or span multiple dialect groups and subgroups.  These findings illustrate how investigation of genuinely morphological characteristics complements existing study of more familiar lexical and phonological characteristics, and also how long-standing dialect realities can emerge from the study of historical change.
  • The impact of text type, information structure, and discourse relations on the use of verb second in Middle English: A case study of Chaucer's prose works
    Vol. 8 No. 3 (2024)

    There have been many contributions to the understanding of how and why the non-subject-initial verb second (V2) phenomenon (i.e. subject-verb inversion) declined in Middle English, yet there are few perspectives that explore the factors driving the considerable amount of intra-writer variation in V2. In particular, there is limited research on the type of text, and whether authors’ syntax mirrors the weakened link between syntax and information structure that drove V2 usage in late medieval English (e.g. Bech 2001, 2014; Los 2009, 2012; van Kemenade 2012; van Kemenade & Westergaard 2012; Hinterhölzl & van Kemenade 2012). Appealing to the status of information structure in late medieval English, and briefly, the discourse relations present within the text, I argue that Chaucer’s use of V2 reflects a verb movement pattern that no longer made a verbal position available based on the information-structural status of the sentence. I show that this change in non-subject-initial V2 is evidenced in three of Chaucer’s prose works, and that its frequency is closely tied to the information status of the beginning of the sentence and the subject in driving inverted and non-inverted structures. I suggest that it is the nuances of text type and their rhetoric, and their interaction with the (non)-existence of information structural pressures, that accurately explains the occurrence of XVS and XSV structures. This Chaucerian V2 analysis serves as an exemplar study for understanding how texts might represent the collective impact of a range of factors on syntactic change, and the forces behind the instability of V2 in the history of English.
  • Deriving the Old Irish clause
    Vol. 8 No. 1 (2024)

    Danny L. Bate. Old 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.
  • Intra- and inter-author variation in negation in the 17th century Dutch Letters as Loot
    Vol. 7 No. 26 (2023)

    Levi Remijnse & Marjo van Koppen. This article provides a qualitative study of variation in negation in 17th century letters from people of different regions and social classes of the Dutch speaking area. This intermediate language stage between negative concord in Middle Dutch and single negation in Modern Dutch is affected by both bottom-up change (the negative clitic started to erode due to functional redundancy) and top-down change (some elite writers, like P. C. Hooft and Joost van den Vondel, started to omit the negative clitic completely). The letters display different surface varieties: optional deletion of the negative clitic, conservative negative concord and progressive single negation. However, in the underlying syntactic structure, the syntactic features of the negative clitic – polarity features projecting PolP – discriminate four different derivational systems: (i) a high PolP as part of an extended CP; (ii) a low PolP that attracts the finite verb to T; (iii) both high PolP and low PolP; and (iv) no PolP. We will argue that the letters with (incidental) negative concord represent a stage in which one or two PolPs are present. In particular, the letters with optional deletion of the negative clitic show that the clitic extends its function from true negation to emphasis on negation of a presupposition (as found in West Flemish) to general contrast on the polarity of the clause. This less specific function is indicative of semantic bleaching and a motive for eventual loss of the clitic. The letters without negative concord show completion of this process and hence loss of the PolP. However, we also show that at least it is feasible that a subset of letters with single negation still has a PolP underlyingly, which means that although the negative clitic is absent from the surface, its polarity features are present at the underlying syntactic structure. The negative features are present during the syntactic derivation in a PolP, however, we infer, they are not spelled-out at the surface, possibly as an effect of upper-class prescriptions. Sociolinguistically, we find that whereas the clitic is present across writers in Zeeland (a southern province of the Netherlands), the single negation systems with the clitic’s features in deep structure are present in Noord-Holland (‘North-Holland’, a northern province of the Netherlands), displaying a more conservative spread of single negation. Writers showing the most progressive variant containing single negation (and no PolP) only appear in Noord-Holland, where this grammar is top-down initiated.
  • Word order change, architecture, and interfaces: evidence from the development of V to C movement in the history of English
    Vol. 7 No. 25 (2023)

    Ans van Kemenade, Roland Hinterhölzl, and Tara Struik. Part of the Special Collection "A Multifactorial Approach to Word Order Change".  We present a novel account of the development and loss of one type of V2 word order over the Middle and early Modern English periods, based on a fine-grained corpus study which shows that multiple factors are at play, in interaction between syntax, information structure and prosody. We focus on finite verb movement to the highest functional head in the C-domain (Force) of the main clause: subject-finite inversion with pronominal subjects following an initial adverb (þa, þonne) in Old English. Middle English first sees the extension of this V2-context to other initial short deictic adverbs: here, there, nu, yet and thus. The choice of verb is narrowed down to auxiliaries and monosyllabic lexical verbs. V2 following adverbs is subsequently lost over the early Modern period. We show that this loss coincides with the grammaticalization of modals and other auxiliaries, leading to the loss of primary stress on the auxiliary. This triggered metrical changes in the clause-initial prosodic word: as long as the unstressed initial adverb could co-occur with a stressed monosyllabic finite verb, and the post-verbal subject pronoun could be integrated into the prosodic word of the auxiliary, inversion flourished. The loss of primary stress on the auxiliary yielded an unheaded foot, violating prosodic requirements. Our multifactorial treatment of the development and loss of V2 implies that the process we find is best treated in terms of micro-variation.
  • Testing cartographic proposals on locality effects in V2: a quantitative study
    Vol. 7 No. 24 (2023)

    Giuseppe Samo. Part of the Special Collection "A Multifactorial Approach to Word Order Change". In this paper, we explore quantitative and computational methods to compare two theories of locality effects in non-subject fronting in V2 environments. We test the predictions in locality effects in grammatical clauses of (i) a ”bottleneck effect” model and (ii) a ”standard” featural Relativized Minimality effect model. By using theory-driven frequencies, we aim to observe the generalisation ability of the two models. We explored ten morpho- syntactically annotated treebanks for seven Germanic languages and one treebank for Old French. Our results support the predictions of a model stipulating standard featural Relativized Minimality effects in non-subject fronting.
  • A multifactorial approach to word order change: an introduction
    Vol. 7 No. 23 (2023)

    Pierre Larrivée and Cecilia Poletto. Introduction to the Special Collection "A Multifactorial Approach to Word Order Change". The purpose of  this piece is to articulate a multifactorical approach to syntactic change. Arguments are proposed against a monocausal view of word order variation and evolution, especially given the diversity of change pathways across languages. Change is best explained as the result of the dependence of a phenomenon on various micro-cues that help structure and acquire it. When these micro-cues change for independent reasons, so does the phenomenon concerned. Summarizing the main causalities identified in the papers from this Special Collection on the loss of V2 and of OV, we formulate the wish that such an approach be put to the test in future investigations.
  • Clitics and the Left Periphery in the Sanskrit of the Rigveda
    Vol. 7 No. 22 (2023)

    Krishnan J. Ram-Prasad. This article presents a novel syntactic analysis of the Vedic left periphery and the position of clitics within it, taking the Rigveda as a corpus. I analyze Vedic within the cartographic model of the left periphery, arguing for distinct TopP and FocP projections. The model accounts for the position of conjunction clitics, pronoun clitics, adverbial clitics, interrogative pronouns,relative pronouns, local particles and the negator mā.́ Thismodel has implications for our understanding of Vedic syntax and ancient Indo-European languages more widely.
  • A broader perspective on "basic" word order: ditransitives in Middle Low German
    Vol. 7 No. 21 (2023)

    Hannah Booth & Tianyi Zhao. The notion of “basic” word order, and in particular how to identify it, has been much discussed in the typological literature (e.g. Hawkins 1983, Dryer 1995, Croft 2003, Song 2010), but remains a contentious issue within and across syntactic theories. In this paper, we explore this tension via acase study of object order in ditransitive constructions in Middle Low German (c. 1200–1650). We show that the evidence on which previous claims of Accusative>Dative as the “basic” order have been made is in fact a product of crosslinguistically common mapping relations between case, thematic roles, animacy and definiteness, and as such should not be used as evidence for/against purely syntactic principles. We also show that standard typological criteria in fact point towards Dative>Accusative being more “basic”.Overall, our findings showcase the opportunities which a modular approach to grammar such as Lexical Functional Grammar (e.g. Bresnan, Asudeh, Toivonen & Wechsler 2016) can offer on matters of word order.
  • An anchoring approach to the diachrony of negative concord in Spanish
    Vol. 7 No. 20 (2023)

    Aaron Yamada. In Old Spanish, Negative Concord Items (NCIs) (nada ’nothing’, ninguno ’none’, etc.) co-occurred preverbally with the sentential negative marker non ’no’. The exception to this pattern was the NCI nunca ’never’, which showed an almost categorical tendency to avoid co-occurrence with the sentential negative marker when placed preverbally. By the beginning of the 16th century, this pattern had mostly been lost, giving way to the Modern Spanish configuration, in which preverbal NCIs cannot co-occur with the sentential negative marker to express a single negation reading. This paper offers a novel explanation to this change, grounded in usage-based approaches to language diachrony, in arguing that nunca served as a cognitive anchor (Goldberg (2005)), or model of comparison for other NCIs in preverbal position. In other words, phrase structures with preverbally placed NCIs show analogical leveling towards the modern configuration, following the example set forth by the highly frequent exemplar [nunca + V]. The advantage of this approach is a causal, quantitatively defended explanation for the loss of Old Spanish preverbal NC that takes into account the unique behavior of nunca.
  • Proceedings of the 22nd Diachronic Generative Syntax (DiGS) Conference
    Vol. 7 No. 6-19 (2023)

    Selected papers from the 22nd Diachronic Generative Syntax (DiGS) Conference, which was held at the University of Konstanz (online) in May 2021.
  • Towards a historical dialectal approach to Differential Object Marking in Catalan
    Vol. 7 No. 5 (2023)

    Anna Pineda. Part of the Special Collection "Towards a comparative historical dialectology". This paper offers a description of the emergence and development of Differential Object Marking (DOM) in Old Catalan, focusing on the perspective of historical dialectology and thus paying special attention to the dialectal differences that emerge. It does so by means of a large corpus study comprising the period from the first written texts to the 18th century. Although, in present-day Catalan, DOM is widespread with human direct objects in most dialects, its use is generally rejected by prescriptive grammar, as the phenomenon has often been attributed to Spanish influence. However, diachronic findings point to an analysis of DOM in Catalan as a fruit of the internal evolution of the language: instances of the phenomenon with human direct objects are found in earlier Catalan texts. Spanish influence (related to a series of sociopolitical events) only comes into play later, causing an exponential increase of the frequency of DOM in Catalan. Interestingly, consistent geolectal differences can be observed when analysing Old Catalan texts, with Valencian texts offering the highest number of occurrences. In this context, one must take into consideration the influence of Aragonese in Valencia (people from Aragon repopulated the area) as well as Spanish, whose effects in the Catalan-speaking area became particularly prevalent especially from the 16th century onwards. The conclusions of this study aim to provide empirically and theoretically informed research not only to identify historical dialects within Romance languages – in this case Catalan – but also to pave the way for more studies on historical comparative dialectology. As a matter of fact, in this study, the status of DOM in Old Spanish and Old Aragonese has also been taken into account.
  • Agreement and the grammaticalisation of perfect and passive constructions in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
    Vol. 7 No. 4 (2023)

    Bozhil Hristov. Based on material from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, this paper examines the development of perfect and passive periphrases out of copular and possessive clauses, tracing the interaction between agreement marking, reanalysis and grammaticalisation. It has previously been claimed that reanalysis was triggered in contexts with zero-morphology. However, I demonstrate that zero-exponence did not play a decisive role in the reanalysis of these periphrastic schemas and the subsequent loss of agreement across-the-board. Instead, the gradual decline of overt agreement correlates with a higher degree of grammaticalisation as a natural consequence of it. The data point to a gradient cline from least to most grammaticalised patterns: passives with be or become, which remain closest to copular clauses, followed by be-perfects and then have-perfects, the most highly entrenched periphrastic schema.
  • Variation in Old English revisited: a corpus-driven approach
    Vol. 7 No. 3 (2023)

    Soumik Dey & William Sakas. Corpus linguistics can be divided into two major avenues of research — corpus-based: Searching a corpus based on preexisting hypotheses or intuitions, and corpus-driven: An unbiased search of a corpus independent of any framing hypothesis or intuition. Corpus-driven methods have been touted to be more proficient in identifying previously undocumented patterns. This article revisits the variation observed in Old English (OE) by first discussing some of the existing corpus-based studies and their findings. Next, a corpus-driven methodology of exploration based on generating and searching for all possible permutations of selected syntactic labels (S, V, O, p and Aux.), i.e., all possible word order patterns is presented. Finally, after applying the corpus-driven methodology to the York-Toronto-Helsinki Corpus of Old English (YCOE) and outlining some broad assumptions that are valid cross-linguistically, the word order patterns attested in YCOE are syntactically analyzed — of note is the in-depth analysis of embedded adverbial adjunct clauses with respect to CP-recursion. This study documents and presents analyses of an extensive list of word order patterns in OE and categorically verifies certain theories of OE syntax, and challenges others. To the best of our knowledge, the study presented in this article is the first corpus-driven investigation of the variation observed in OE. More generally, this study lays a foundation for future corpus-driven and corpus-based research on Old English syntax.
  • On the historical development of pronouns referring to situations
    Vol. 7 No. 2 (2023)

    Eric Fuß & Roland Hinterhölzl. At least since Milsark (1974) expletives have been a major research topic in generative linguistics. However, since most relevant work has focused on the present-day languages, many aspects of the historical development of expletives are still unsettled. This applies in particular to the emergence of CP related pre-finite expletives in the history of the Germanic V2 languages. Focusing on German, this paperseeks to shed new light on the diachrony of CP expletive es ‘it’ by combining new empirical evidence gathered from a range of corpus studies with a novel theoretical perspective on the syntax and pragmatic functions of so-called ‘expletive’ elements. Paying special attention to the contexts in which pre-finite expletive es first appeared, we provide new data on linguistic and extralinguistic factors (such as text type and dialect area) that shaped its development. We show that es came to be used as a prefield filler earlier than previously thought, with the first clear cases dating to the 12th century. In addition, we will investigate the role of light frame adverbials such as thô/dô ‘then’ as potential precursors of expletive es and address the question of why the latter replaced the former in the history of German. The discussion of the historicaldata is embedded in a new proposal concerning the discourse function of CP-related expletives. In particular, we argue that ‘expletive’ es is not a semantically vacuous element, but rather a demonstrative element with a weak definite reading that is compatible with introducing a new situation (identified with an argument of Tense, cf. Hinterhölzl 2019) but also with continuing an established reference situation, explaining the success of es as a versatile element that anchors the utterance to the context.
  • Free inversion in Old High German and Cimbrian
    Vol. 7 No. 1 (2023)

    Federica Cognola. Part of the Special Collection "Secrets of Success". In this paper I compare Old High German and the Germanic dialect Cimbrian, two languages which share the availability of free inversion in co-occurrence with an expletive-like element tho and da ‘there’, and I show that they share striking similarities which follow from their pro-drop nature. Tho is typically analysed as a narrative/discourse-continuative marker (Axel 2007, Fuß & Hinterhölzl 2019) appearing in CP or in TP – an account which does not make sense though of the fact that its distribution is restricted to certain verb types (typically unaccusatives, verbs of saying) and constructions (such as passives). In this paper I reconsider the possibility that tho and free inversion are to be connected to the availability of pro-drop in Old High German (cf. Haeberli 2001 for this idea for Old English) and I show that if we apply a Topic-matching analysis for the licensing of null subjects (Frascarelli 2007, 2018) to the Old High German data we are able to solve the problems of Haeberli’s account discussed in Axel (2007). These problems all follow from the assumption that tho lexicalises a there-type expletive appearing in Spec,TP which goes against the evidence for tho. In my alternative account I show that in Old High German free inversion involves the presence of an overt or silent expletive tho, a locative argument selected by the lexical verb which can be promoted to an expletive of the TopicP position in the left periphery in sentences in which the DP subject has not moved out of the VP (cf. Tortora 2001 on free inversion in Italian) and whose function is to satisfy the EPP feature associated with the Topic-criterion needed for the licensing of pro in Spec,TP (Frascarelli 2007, 2018). The availability of free inversion was lost in the history of German due to the loss of pro-drop but it is still available in the Cimbrian dialect spoken in the village of Luserna. In Cimbrian free inversion obligatory involves overt da, a CP expletive, enclitic to the finite verb or the complementiser and whose function is purely formal, i.e. licensing pro in TP, as proposed by Bidese & Tomaselli (2018). I will suggest that the two elements are connected and that Cimbrian da is not an innovation but results from a grammaticalisation process of tho according to which the locative expletive develops from a maximal category with discourse properties (tho) into a head (da) with functional/grammatical status (van Gelderen’s 2010 Head Preference Principle).
  • Special issue: Cross-disciplinary approaches to linguistic variation in Early Modern West Germanic
    Vol. 6 No. 13-18 (2022)

    This thematic issue on Early Modern West Germanic homes in on the processes underlying the extensive amount of morphosyntactic variation and change within and between language users in this era. It demonstrates that language structure and language use often interacted with each other, and illustrates that, to fully understand the triggers and extent of this variation and change, we need to combine perspectives and methodological tools from different (sub)disciplines. That is why this issue brings together scholars working on Early Modern West Germanic in different fields and disciplines -- in particular scholars from early modern literary studies, formal (historical) linguistics, computational linguistics and historical sociolinguistics -- to present a wide array of possible methodologies to investigate historical language variation, and to explore how the different approaches can complement each other to help further our understanding of the complex setting of variation.
  • Special Issue: Creating annotated corpora for historical languages
    Vol. 6 No. 4-11 (2022)

    This Special Issue derives from a workshop ‘Creating annotated corpora for historical languages’, held at Selwyn College, Cambridge on 26–27 September 2019. The workshop formed part of a wider project ‘Developing a Welsh Historical Treebank’, funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust, which aimed to develop conventions and procedures that might form the basis for a fully parsed representative corpus of historical Welsh texts. The workshop was designed to share experience of building annotated historical corpora, focusing in particular on the technical issues involved. Contributions to the workshop and the resulting Special Issued focused both on corpus creation (text creation or the difficulties involved in creating parsing conventions, for instance) or on the issues involved in using corpora in linguistic research.
  • Tolerating subject-experiencers? Yang's Tolerance Principle applied to psych verbs under contact in Middle English
    Vol. 6 No. 12 (2022)

    This article investigates the acquisition of psych verbs in diachrony by applying Yang's (2016) Tolerance and Sufficiency Principles. It has been observed that psych verbs change from expressing the EXPERIENCER as object to expressing it as subject cross-linguistically. According to van Gelderen (2018) and others, this development has also taken place in the history of English. What is much less well-known, however, is that a considerable number of Old French psych verbs were copied to Middle English. Using lexicon-based and corpus-based data, we will apply Yang's (2016) Tolerance and Sufficiency Principles to evaluate historical "tipping points" in the development of the psych verb class, i.e. examine whether either amuse-type or admire-type argument structures were productive in Middle English. Since subject-EXPERIENCERS were commonly used with intransitive and reflexive constructions we will further investigate whether a more general rule that any psych verb may take a subject-EXPERIENCER passed the productivity threshold. We will show that this was indeed the case in Middle English and that the copying of Old French verbs accelerated this development.
  • A hierarchical TP structure in Ancient Greek
    Vol. 5 No. 41 (2021)

    Andrea Matticchio, Emanuela Sanfelici
  • On the unified change of directional/aspectual verb particles in French
    Vol. 5 No. 40 (2021)

    Michelle Troberg, Justin Leung
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