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Academic Paper


Title: The consequences of the loss of verb-second in English: information structure and syntax in interaction
Author: Bettelou Los
Institution: Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Linguistic Field: Syntax
Subject Language: English, Middle
Abstract: English syntax used to have a version of the verb-second rule, by which the finite verb moves to second position in main clauses. This rule was lost in Middle English, and this article argues that its loss had serious consequences for the information structure of the clause. In the new, rigid subject-verb-object syntax, the function of preposed constituents changed, and the function of encoding ‘old’ or ‘given’ information in a pragmatically neutral way was increasingly reserved for subjects. Pressure from information structure to repair this situation subsequently led to the rise of new passive constructions in order to satisfy the need for more subjects; the change in the informational status of preposed constituents triggered the rise of clefts. If information structure can be compromised by syntactic change in this way, this suggests that it represents a separate linguistic level outside the syntax.

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This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 13, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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