Participle fronting and clause structure in Old and Middle French

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This paper is a study of over 1100 Old and Middle French sentences in which a participle has been fronted to the left of an auxiliary, in what appears at first sight to be a Stylistic Fronting construction. These sentences were extracted from the MCVF parsed corpus of Old and Middle French. The first part of the article examines the size of the fronted element. It is shown that the fronted element may contain a single head, or it may be a full VP or a partial VP. It is argued that (remnant) VP movement accounts for the set of examples. In the second part of the paper, it is shown that the fronted constituent does not target a single position. In some cases, it occupies an IP-scrambling position between the subject in its canonical position and the finite verb; in a smaller number of cases, it is scrambled to the left of the subject. The fronted constituent is also attested within the left periphery, generally in Spec,FinP, but when the participle is contrastive or otherwise focalized, it could be analyzed a occupying Spec,FocP. The French facts are discussed in a cross-linguistic perspective.


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