Yiddish V/1 declarative clauses in discourse

Kenneth L. Miner

Abstract

Yiddish narratives contain a considerable number of declarative sentences which begin with the inflected verb: Hot im zayn vayb bald tsurikgeshikt dem briv ‘(So) his wife right away returned the letter.’ Such declarative sentences, which are never initial in a text, are often said to have resultative meaning (note the translation of the example just given); however grammarians concede that one encounters them often without such a meaning. The purpose of this study is to try to establish the discourse function of these V/1 clauses, utilizing the framework of Prince (1988). It turns out that the occurrence of the finite verb in initial position is a marker of cohesion, and that V/1 clauses actually contrast, in their ties to previous material, with non-V/1 clauses. My study as a by-product supports the conclusions of Prince (1988) regarding other clauses in Yiddish in which the verb does not immediately follow the subject. I also include remarks on V/1 constructions in German (§4.0).

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