The rise of OV word order in Irish verbal-noun clauses

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In this paper, I propose a new diachronic analysis of Old Irish OV word order in verbal noun phrases, which replaces an earlier synchronic approach to this OV word order found in Disterheft (1982). The analysis proposed here relies on bracketing ambiguity and morphological underspecification as motivations for change. I argue that these prerequisites contributed to the increased verbal nature of verbal nouns in Old Irish, starting from the 9th century. This is formalized as the introduction of verbal functional material projected above the verbal noun. Specifically, I claim that this verbal functional material licensed OV word order as a focalization strategy. This claim is based on a corpus of texts spanning the 8th to the 12 centuries.


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