On the decrease in subject-verb inversion in French declaratives

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This paper discusses the evolution of subject-verb inversion in declarative root clauses in French. The frequent occurrence of such constructions in Medieval French is generally accounted for in terms of a V2 analysis, and their marginality in Modern French is attributed to the loss of V2. Given clear evidence against the assumed V2 status of Medieval French, subject-verb inversion is alternatively explained in terms of a differentiation of subject-verb inversions (‘true’ subject-verb inversion vs. ‘NP-inversion’) as well as in terms of the existence of a ‘Focus Criterion’. It is claimed that while in (non-colloquial) Modern French, NP-inversion still exists, the highly limited instances of true subject-verb inversion constitute learnt vestiges. The loss of true subject-verb inversion is attributed to a parametric resetting of the Spell-Out condition associated with the ‘Focus Criterion’.


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