Origin of actual order pattern in English

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Peregring_Lok0ooo0, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. Peregring_Lok0ooo0 Member

    It is well-known, or better said, well-accepted, that the ancestral language Proto-Indo-European (PIE) was a OV language with a very limited (or nonexistent) use of subordinate clauses. In Proto-Germanic, subordinates was more common (but not too much) but yet a OV language.
    However, both Old English (OE) and Old High German (OHG) had a VO structure in main clauses, and ancestral OV in subordinate clauses:

    PIE (OV)
    |- PGmc (OV/VO)
    ....|- ¿? (VO/OV)
    ........|- OE (VO/OV)
    ........|...|- English (strict VO)
    ........|- OHG (VO/OV)
    ............|- German (strict V2)

    If I'm right, a possible source of shift OV -> VO (in main clauses) is the original topicalization of the verb in PIE/PGmc. In PIE/PGmc the verb occupied the first (or second) position in the sentence to mark some special type of sentences, for example, to mark imperative sentences. This original topicalization of the verb could have became more frequent even changing completely the sentence word pattern.

    Quaestio 1: What process created the appearance of subordinates and subsequently how and when did it change the structure in main clauses? And why were only main clauses affected?

    Quaestio 2: What process caused English to be strict SVO and German to be strict V2?
    Quaestio 3: Was OE really a V2 language like German, or only a left-peripherical language? (V in first or second position, that means, a not strict version of V2).
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Could you give some more explanation for your distinction between "strict V2" and "left-peripheral" order? After all, German also has V1 clauses of the type you mention (imperatives, polar questions), but you consider it to be "strict V2". (And in the same way, English is not really "strict SVO").

    I don't believe any Germanic language allows the verb to be in 1st or 2nd position as a free stylistic choice, if that is what you mean by "left-peripheral".
  3. Peregring_Lok0ooo0 Member

    I don't know a lot about OHG but OHG was a pro-drop language (you could omit the subject), keeping the verb in first position, and also there was verb-third effects. I think the term left-peripheral is a way to say something like: the tendence to put the verb the most frontal as possible in the sentence, as opposite from verb-final pattern.

    However, a V2-language is a language with the verb in second position without exception (or almost, without exception in the main clause).

    For this reason OHG isn't a V2-language but a left-peripheral one, or simply a VO language without more restrictions (after all, V2 is a additional restriction over the VO pattern).
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2013
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Yes and no… V2 means that you can also have OVS. So I would disagree with your characterization above of OHG as having VO in main clauses. OHG was already "mostly" V2, although less strict about it than modern German, as you pointed out. OE has even more V1 and V3 main clauses, but it is still commonly said to be V2. If you don't think OHG and OE qualify to be V2 languages, I suppose you can call them "left-peripheral" instead (but V2 is also a kind of "left-peripheral", so this label alone is not very useful in my opinion).

    As for your questions 1 and 2, I think they may be too broad and too difficult for us to discuss here without some further guidance from you. You must be aware that there is an extensive literature on these topics. Which authors have you consulted already, and which of their analyses/hypotheses do you find appealing, or dubious, or unclear?
  5. Peregring_Lok0ooo0 Member

    Ok, perhaps I made an error saying VO because I didn't mean VO in the strict way that the verb is always in the first position.

    A way of viewing OHG is saying that OHG is a not-grammaticalized V2: the V2 pattern in OHG is a norm (with exception, as ever) but not a requirement (like in German).

    And I have being reading a book of Katrin Axel (2007): "Studies on Old High German syntax" and other one by Ans van Kemenade (2006), "The Handbook of the History of English". But Axel is very hard book for me (I search something more summarized, direct and understandable :p), and Kemande speak only about English, so, they don't solve my doubts.
  6. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I would like to reiterate CapnPrep's remark that V2 does not imply VO. Even in modern German, V2 can mean many things: SVO, OVS and AVSO (A=adverbial) and probably a few more I can't remember right now.
  7. myšlenka Senior Member

    the answers to your questions are entirely dependent on the theory and framework you adopt. In generative syntax, V2 has two properties:
    1) There is only room for one constituent in front of the verb.
    2) The verb precedes sentential adverbs.

    If you discuss V2 within this framework, clauses without an overt subject generally behave like any other clause in spite of being superficially V1. Furthermore, V2 and OV/VO are independent of each other, demonstrated by the fact that German and Dutch are V2 and OV while the Scandinavian languages are V2 but VO.

    Here is an article which you may find interesting.
  8. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    In German, V2 applies to propositional main clauses (i.e. not to questions and imperatives and not to subordinate clauses). I can't think of any "superficially V1" sentences within the domain of this rule. Can you give an example?
    Are they? This claim comes as a surprise to me. Please explain.
  9. myšlenka Senior Member

    1) Was machst du?
    2) Warum hast du das Buch nicht gelesen?

    Aren't these V2 structures in spite of being questions? As for imperatives, the claims in the generative literature is that sentential negation for instance is base generated in a position above the verb but the V2 requirement moves the verb to a higher position, thus the verb precedes negation. This results in V1 orders in imperatives because the subject is (usually) not pronounced.

    3) Arbeite nicht so viel!
    4) Nicht arbeite so viel!

    Correct me if I'm wrong, my knowledge of German is limited but I assume that 3) is grammatical and 4) is ungrammatical. As for subordinate clauses, you are right that V2 doesn't apply in German and Dutch, but in the Scandinavian languages it's possible.

    The typological OV/VO distinction is based on the position of a nominal object with respect to the main verb in contexts where the V2 requirement doesn't obscure the picture, creating VO orders.

    5) Ich habe das Buch gelesen - OV
    6) Ich weiss dass er das Buch gelesen hat - OV

    You may of course reject this framework and say that different types of sentences have different structures, but classifying German and Dutch as VO languages would put them in the same group as English, French, Scandinavian etc, which do not exhibit the patterns in 5) and 6).

    I see that I made a typo here. It should have been covert, not overt.
  10. Peregring_Lok0ooo0 Member

    But, normally there is a basic pattern, a.k.a: the most frequent pattern, and the most frequent pattern in OHG I think is SVO, and the other possibilities are treat as "exception" to the pattern by means of inversion, verb movement and so on. So, the basic word order in OHG is SVO, but since OHG was a pro-drop language, a more honest description is (S)VO or simply VO.
  11. Peregring_Lok0ooo0 Member

    I have never said that V2 and V2/OV are the same phenomenom, but V2/OV is a specific case of V2, being the other a V2/VO. It is only a question of strictness inside the pattern (being the first one the strict version of V2).
  12. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    ... or let's say: tentatively suggested.....

    I do not really see any basis for this. The most ancient IE texts (Vedas, Avesta, Homeric poems, Hittite documents) have a free word order, and lots of subordinate clauses.

    By the way: in the title to this thread I assume that "actual" is used in its French or German sense, not in its English sense. There is an argument for trying to use real languages correctly before trying to reconstruct proto-languages.
  13. Peregring_Lok0ooo0 Member

    According to Beekes (Comparative Indo-European linguistics, an Introduction, 2007, 2nd edition) there wasn't subordinate clauses. Better said, they weren't grammatically subordinate clauses, but independent clauses referencing to its "main clause" by means of pronouns, adverbs, participles and so on; not by means of subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns.
  14. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I meant main clauses that are not questions or imperatives, because I understood your as claiming that propositional sentences without a subject can be V1. Perhaps I just misunderstood you.
    Of course. I just wanted to understand.:)
  15. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Hmmm... In OHG was a bit easier than in ModHG to drop pronoun subjects, but calling it a pro-drop language requires a very liberal interpretation of the term.

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