An information structure scenario for V2 loss in Medieval French
This paper discusses word order change in Medieval French. Verb-second (V2) configurations are generally understood as having an initial XP and the verb in the left periphery. How has this configuration been lost in French? Under an Information Structure scenario, the XP is in initial position because of its characterized (discourse-old) informational value, which motivates the left-peripheral position of the verb. The decline of the characterized informational value of the XP thus accounts for the gradual loss of V2. The informational behaviour of XPs was examined in unambiguous V2 configurations with an overt post-verbal subject in Medieval French. This detailed quantitative study of a calibrated corpus shows that XPs with a characterized informational value were predominant with productive V2 configurations, that they gradually declined as productive V2 was lost, and that they increasingly failed to attract the verb to the left periphery. These observations can be accounted for if V2 in Medieval French was driven by informational values and if it disappeared along with the informational cues provided by the XPs.
Keywords: word order change, V2, information structure, left periphery, Medieval French
Published online: 01 February 2021
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Arrêt de l’échiquier de Normandie, 1207–1211
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