Article published in:Theoretical Approaches to Linguistic Variation
Edited by Ermenegildo Bidese, Federica Cognola and Manuela Caterina Moroni
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 234] 2016
► pp. 259–292
Parameter typology from a diachronic perspective
The case of Conditional Inversion
This paper considers the question of the nature of parameters from a diachronic perspective, focusing in particular on the case of Conditional Inversion (CI) in the history of English. The objective is to show that it is meaningful to think of parameters and their synchronic robustness and consequent diachronic stability in “size” terms. More specifically, we show that it is possible to discern a consistent, but ever more frayed parametric thread linking the availability of verb-movement operations in the history of English: while verb-movement at the earliest stages (Old and early Middle English) can be ascribed to the activation of a Verb Second grammar – conceived of as a grammar requiring verb-movement into the finite C-domain (Force or Fin) in matrix clauses (a mesoparameter) – verb-movement at the early modern stage was much more fragmented, triggered by a smaller class of finite Cs and also, as a result of the loss of V-to-T movement and the rise of a class of auxiliaries, affecting a smaller class of verbs (a microparameter); the situation in modern British and American English, where only had, should and certain uses of were trigger CI, is nanoparametric, a situation which is expected to be unstable, as various post-colonial varieties indeed show it to be. CI in the history of English, then, provides a window on parametric continuity and change.
Keywords: diachrony of English, emergent parameters, parameter hierarchies, V2 constraint
Published online: 01 December 2016
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