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      To be or not to be informational: Preverbal complements in Medieval French V2 configurations


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          It is widely assumed that Medieval French V2 constructions relate to an informational value ( Labelle & Hirschbühler 2018 i.a. ). This assumption is however rarely tested by quantitative studies, which tend to rely on heterogeneous textual material. The purpose of this paper is to document the informational value of preverbal complements that associate with (unambiguous) V2 configurations. I use a novel, homogeneous corpus of prose legal texts from the Normandy region over the period 1150–1475. Defining a decision tree, I determine the informational value of V2 complements, specifically whether they represent old information (explicit mentioned, anaphoric, accommodated or inferable) or new information. A categorical discourse-old value is evidenced for preverbal V2 complements for the period between 1150 and 1236. The loss of the categorical informational value precedes the decline of V2 as a productive configuration with the emergence of formulaic uses. The detailed documentation of the informational value of historical configurations, based on an explicit, replicable method applied to a homogeneous corpus, contributes to the understanding of the driving role of informational structure for syntactic change.

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          The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery

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            Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change

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              The origin and evolution of word order.

              Recent work in comparative linguistics suggests that all, or almost all, attested human languages may derive from a single earlier language. If that is so, then this language-like nearly all extant languages-most likely had a basic ordering of the subject (S), verb (V), and object (O) in a declarative sentence of the type "the man (S) killed (V) the bear (O)." When one compares the distribution of the existing structural types with the putative phylogenetic tree of human languages, four conclusions may be drawn. (i) The word order in the ancestral language was SOV. (ii) Except for cases of diffusion, the direction of syntactic change, when it occurs, has been for the most part SOV > SVO and, beyond that, SVO > VSO/VOS with a subsequent reversion to SVO occurring occasionally. Reversion to SOV occurs only through diffusion. (iii) Diffusion, although important, is not the dominant process in the evolution of word order. (iv) The two extremely rare word orders (OVS and OSV) derive directly from SOV.

                Author and article information

                Glossa: a journal of general linguistics
                Ubiquity Press
                26 July 2019
                : 4
                : 1
                : 85
                [1 ]Normandie Université, Université de Caen Normandie, CRISCO, Esplanade de la Paix, FR
                Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                : 05 November 2018
                : 02 May 2019

                General linguistics,Linguistics & Semiotics
                Medieval French,preverbal complements,historical pragmatics,language change,V2,Information Structure


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