Edited by Christine Meklenborg Salvesen
[Linguistic Variation 19:1] 2019
► pp. 141–198
What is Germanic and what is not about Old French V2
Old French is considered by many to have been a verb-second (V2) language. Furthermore, 13th century Old French featured a V2 system with strong restrictions on the prefield, meaning only a single constituent was generally accepted to the left of the finite verb. This bears a strong resemblance to the pattern found in the Modern Germanic V2 languages and has occasionally given rise to suggestions that V2 was a Germanic property inherited from the language of the Franks. In this paper, a concrete hypothesis is developed for the diachronic evolution of Old French V2 from Late Latin. It is argued that the hypothesis of Germanic influence is not necessarily incorrect, but too simplistic, as the two synchronic components of the Old French V2 construction -namely V-to-C movement and restrictions on the prefield – most likely have their own and independent diachronies as well. Comparative and historical evidence is presented to show that V-to-C movement is very unlikely to have been a product of Germanic influence and should rather be considered an internal development from Latin. As for the restricted prefield (so-called ‘linear V2’), the scarcity or even absence of evidence does not allow firm conclusions, but some general theoretical insights from the literature on language change and second language acquisition combine to make the idea of Germanic influence quite plausible.