V2 loss in Old French and Old Occitan

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Traditional analyses of Old French as a verb-second (V2) language (e.g. Thurneysen 1892; Adams 1987) have recently been challenged by Kaiser 2002 and related work. At issue is the treatment of situations in which a particular initial non-subject element can participate in either V2 or V3 order. The current paper focuses on sentences in which the initial element is a fronted subordinate clause. Using a diachronic data base of 13th-century prose, we argue first for a revision in the criteria for identifying V3 that reduces the number of such examples considerably. We then show that the rate of V2 vs. V3 with fronted clauses varies with respect to date, genre, and fronted-clause type in ways that suggest a syntactic change in progress rather than the absence of V2 effects. Our conclusion is supported by a parallel study of a closely related (but minimally syntactically different) language, Old Occitan.


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