Syntactic Change in Welsh: A Study of the Loss of the Verb-Second

Syntactic Change in Welsh: A Study of the Loss of the Verb-Second

Syntactic Change in Welsh: A Study of the Loss of the Verb-Second

Syntactic Change in Welsh: A Study of the Loss of the Verb-Second

Synopsis

Welsh is often cited as an exemplary case of verb-initial language. While this is generally true of the language today, earlier written texts show widespread use of subject-initial, object-initial, and other word orders. David Willis challenges the conventional view that these orders were restricted to an artificial literary register, claiming instead that they were alive in spoken Welsh up until the Early Modern period. He looks at Middle Welsh word order within a Principles and Parameters framework, showing extensive parallelisms between Middle Welsh and verb-second systems in Germanic and Romance languages. He also provides rich documentation of syntactic change in Welsh, showing for the first time how the transition from the verb-second rule of Middle Welsh to the verb-initial system of Contemporary Welsh took place. He examines a case study of a verb-second system outside of the Germanic languages, investigates how such systems have come to be lost over time, and raises questions about the fundamental mechanisms of language change.
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