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Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change


Adam Ledgeway and Ian Roberts, University of Cambridge

Cynthia Allen, Australian National University; Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero, University of Man-
chester; Theresa Biberauer, University of Cambridge; Charlotte Galves, University of Campinas;
Geoff Horrocks, University of Cambridge; Paul Kiparsky, Stanford University; Anthony Kroch,
University of Pennsylvania; David Lightfoot, Georgetown University; Giuseppe Longobardi,
University of Trieste; David Willis, University of Cambridge


From Latin to Romance
Morphosyntactic Typology and Change
Adam Ledgeway
Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change
Edited by Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, Ruth Lopes, Filomena Sandalo, and
Juanito Avelar
Case in Semitic
Roles, Relations, and Reconstruction
Rebecca Hasselbach
The Boundaries of Pure Morphology
Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives
Edited by Silvio Cruschina, Martin Maiden, and John Charles Smith

in preparation
The History of Negation in the Languages of Europe and the Mediterranean
Vol. I: Case Studies; Vol. II: Patterns and Processes
Edited by Anne Breitbarth, Chris Lucas, and David Willis
Gender from Latin to Romance
Michele Loporcaro
Vowel Quantity from Latin to Romance
Michele Loporcaro
Word Order in Old Italian
Cecilia Poletto
Syntactic Change and Stability
Joel Wallenberg
Parameter Theory and
Linguistic Change

Edited by

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List of figures and tables vii
Notes on contributors ix
Abbreviations xiii

1 Parameter theory and dynamics of change 1

Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes
2 Parameters in Old Romance word order: A comparative minimalist
analysis 21
Guido Mensching
3 Microparameters in the verbal complex: Middle High German and
some modern varieties 43
Christopher D. Sapp
4 Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change
in Yiddish 60
Joel C. Wallenberg
5 Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in the history of Portuguese 77
Adriana Cardoso
6 Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese:
A diachronic perspective 97
Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais
7 Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish: Similar changes
in Romania Nova 117
Mary Aizawa Kato
8 Macroparametric change and the synthetic–analytic dimension:
The case of Ancient Egyptian 133
Chris H. Reintges
9 A diachronic shift in the expression of person 158
Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini
10 The formal syntax of alignment change 177
John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida
11 The diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 196
Elliott Lash
vi Contents

12 Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 214

Ana Maria Martins
13 Negative changes: three factors and the diachrony of
Afrikaans negation 238
Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra
14 Romanian ‘can’: Change in parametric settings 265
Virginia Hill
15 Prepositional genitives in Romance and the issue of parallel
development: From Latin to Old French 281
Chiara Gianollo
16 Convergence in parametric phylogenies: Homoplasy or
principled explanation? 304
Giuseppe Longobardi
17 Macroparameters and minimalism: A programme for
comparative research 320
Ian Roberts

References 336
Name index 371
Subject index 377
List of figures and tables
Figure 3.1 Rate of 2-1 and 1-2 orders over time 52
Figure 4.1 Tense-final and tense-medial chart 1 70
Figure 4.2 Tense-final and tense-medial chart 2 74
Figure 4.3 Tense-final and tense-medial chart 3 75
Figure 7.1 Loss of VS and increase of pre-verbal pronominal subjects 121
Figure 7.2 Percentage of non-inversion by subject type 123
Figure 15.1 The disappearance of the inflected genitive 292
Figure 16.1 Phylogenetic tree from Longobardi and Guardiano (2009) 307

Table 3.1 Syntagm 46

Table 3.2 Prefix type 47
Table 3.3 Class of preceding word 47
Table 3.4 Stress of preceding word 48
Table 3.5 Focus type 48
Table 3.6 Focused constituent 49
Table 3.7 Extraposition 50
Table 3.8 Genre 51
Table 3.9 Verbal-complex orders in modern varieties 53
Table 3.10 Parameters for the position of verbs in continental
West Germanic 58
Table 4.1 Tense-final and tense-medial sample corpora 69
Table 7.1 Full DP subjects in VS and SV structures 123
Table 8.1 Main parametric differences between the agglutinative
and analytic system 156
Table 9.1 Rate of –s marking for 3rd-person plural subject
types (N¼527) 163
Table 9.2 Rate of –s marking with non-adjacent personal pronoun
subjects (N¼170) 164
Table 10.1 The active system in nominalized clauses 189
Table 15.1 Distribution of genitives in Late Latin 287
Table 15.2 Distribution of adjectives in Late Latin 288
Table 15.3 Co-occurrence of genitives in Classical Latin 288
viii List of figures and tables

Table 15.4 Old and Middle French texts from the MCVF corpus
used in the study 290
Table 15.5 Prepositional versus inflected genitives in the Vie de
Saint Alexis 291
Table 15.6 Case declension in Old French 292
Table 15.7 Distribution of inflected genitives in Old French 293
Table 15.8 Co-occurence of adjectives and genitives 298
Table 16.1 Parameter values (adapted from Longobardi and
Guardiano 2009) 316
Table 16.2 Distance matrix (from Longobardi and Guardiano 2009) 318
Notes on contributors
Juanito Avelar studied in Rio de Janeiro and Campinas and is currently Associate
Professor at the University of Campinas. He has published on syntactic variation
and on the history of Brazilian Portuguese. His publications include Ter, ser e estar:
dinâmicas morfossintáticas no português brasileiro (RG Editora, 2009) and, co-edited
with Fernão de Oliveira, Um gramático na história (Pontes, 2009).
Judy B. Bernstein is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the William Paterson
University of New Jersey. Her interest in cross-linguistic phenomena at the morph-
ology-syntax interface led to extensive research on the syntax of the noun phrase. In
recent years she has also become involved in research on Appalachian English, a
stigmatized variety of American English. This work sparked interest in the ancestor
variety of Appalachian English, Older Scots, as well as the ancestor varieties of
standard English.
Theresa Biberauer is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Theoretical
and Applied Linguistics at the University of Cambridge, and Senior Lecturer Extra-
ordinary in the General Linguistics Department at Stellenbosch University (South
Africa). Her research focuses on comparative syntax, notably word-order variation,
subject-related phenomena, negation, and doubling phenomena. She is the editor of
The Limits of Syntactic Variation (Benjamins, 2008) and, with Anders Holmberg, Ian
Roberts, and Michelle Sheehan, a co-author of Parametric Variation (CUP, 2010).
Adriana Cardoso is a researcher at the Linguistics Center of the University of
Lisbon (CLUL) and lectures at Higher Education College of Lisbon (ESELx). Her
PhD dissertation is in Historical Linguistics (Variation and Change in the Syntax of
Relative Clauses: New Evidence from Portuguese). Her main research interests are
comparative syntax, historical linguistics, and native language teaching.
Sonia Cyrino studied at the University of Campinas where she is currently
Associate Professor. She has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Maryland
at College Park and at the University of Cambridge (UK). She is interested in
syntactic theory and diachronic change in Brazilian Portuguese. Her publications
include chapters in the iGoing Romancer series (John Benjamins) and articles in
international journals such as Journal of Portuguese Linguistics and Iberia-Inter-
national Journal on Theoretical Linguistics
Charlotte Galves studied in Paris (Paris IV- Sorbonne and Paris VIII-Vincennes)
and is currently Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Campinas.
She has published on the comparative syntax of European and Brazilian Portuguese
x Notes on contributors

from both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. She coordinates the elaboration
of the Tycho Brahe Parsed Corpus of Historical Portuguese. Her publications
include Ensaios sobre as gramáticas do português and, as co-editor, África-Brasil:
Caminhos da Lingua Portuguesa (Editora da Unicamp, 2001 and 2009).
Chiara Gianollo is a researcher and lecturer (Akademische Rätin auf Zeit) in
Linguistics at the University of Cologne, and an associated fellow of the Zukunftskolleg,
University of Konstanz. She received her doctoral degree in Linguistics from the Uni-
versity of Pisa in 2005. Her research interests are centred on modeling linguistic variation
and the dynamics of language change. She is currently developing a research project on
the comparative syntax of adnominal arguments in ancient Indo-European languages.
Virginia Hill is Professor of Linguistics at the University of New Brunswick –
Saint John. She specializes in the diachronic syntax of Early Modern Romanian and
on the pragmatics-syntax interface.
Mary Aizawa Kato is a Full Professor at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP),
Brazil, where she still works as a voluntary collaborator after having retired. Her
main areas of research and teaching are: comparative syntax, historical linguistics,
and language acquisition. She is presently coordinating, with Francisco Ordoñez
(SUNY, Stonybrook), the project Romania Nova, sponsored by CNPq (grant 301219/
2008-7), which is concerned with comparative studies of the Romance languages
spoken in the Americas.
Elliott Lash has recently completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge and
he is currently a researcher at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, where he is
building a POS tagged and parsed corpus of Irish texts. He is interested in the history
of Irish syntax, especially copula clauses, verbal nouns, secondary predication, and
word order. More broadly, he is interested in syntactic reconstruction (especially of
Indo-European languages), the use of features/feature structures in Minimalism, and
linearization algorithms.
Giuseppe Longobardi is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Trieste, and
on the Neurosciences program staff at SISSA, Trieste. He was a visiting professor at
Vienna, USC, Harvard, UCLA, and was Directeur de Recherche Etranger at the
CNRS in Paris (2003). He has written on theoretical and historical syntax in
international journals (Linguistic Inquiry, Lingua, Zeitschrift f. Sprachwissenschaft,
Natural Language Semantics, Linguistic Variation Yearbook), and authored, edited,
or contributed to volumes published by major scientific publishers.
Ruth Lopes joined the University of Campinas in 2006 where she is an Associate
Professor. She has been a visiting researcher at the University of Maryland at College
Park and at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her interests are language
acquisition and the syntax-semantics interface. She is the co-authorm, with Carlost
Mioto and Maria Cristina Figueiredo Silva of Novo Manual de Sintaxe (Insular, 2004).
Notes on contributors xi

Ana Maria Martins is Associate Professor at the Universidade de Lisboa. She has
published on different topics of Portuguese and Romance syntax, in a comparative
perspective: word order, clitics, negative polarity items, emphatic affirmation, impersonal
se, (inflected) infinitives, (hyper-)raising, negation. Several of her papers are published in
the Linguistic series of Oxford University Press and John Benjamins. She coordinates the
project Syntax-oriented Corpus of Portuguese Dialects (CORDIAL-SIN).
Guido Mensching is Professor of Romance Linguistics at the Freie Universität
Berlin. He has published extensively on Romance lexicology of the Middle Ages,
including La sinonima delos nonbres delas medeçinas (Madrid: Arco Libros 1994), on
Sardinian, and on the syntax of the Romance languages. For the latter, he works
within the generative framework (see his Infinitive Constructions with Specified
Subjects: A Syntactic Analysis of the Romance Languages, OUP, 2000).
Chris H. Reintges is a senior researcher (Chargé de recherche, 1ère classe) at the
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at University Paris 7. He received
his PhD in linguistics at the University of Leiden, Netherlands, in 1997, with a
dissertation on Passive Voice in Older Egyptian: Morphosyntactic Study. Subsequently
he worked extensively on focus-sensitive constructions in Coptic Egyptian, including
wh-in-situ questions, relative clauses, cleft sentences, and coordinative structures. He
published an extensive reference grammar on Coptic Egyptian (Sahidic Dialect): A
Learner’s Grammar (Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag). His research interests include
parameter theory, historical linguistics and language change, and comparative syntax
(with particular emphasis on Afroasiatic languages and Brazilian Portuguese).
Ilza Ribeiro is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Bahia. She has written
widely on aspects of diachronic syntax, language change, and variation. She has also
widely published on particular phenomena of Old Portuguese. She is currently
working on a Brazilian Portuguese historical project and on written and spoken
African Portuguese in Brazil.
Ian Roberts is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Cambridge and Profes-
sorial Fellow at Downing College. He has previously held Chairs at the University of
Wales, Bangor University, and Stuttgart University. He is the author of five mono-
graphs and two textbooks, and has written many articles on diachronic syntax, as
well as the syntax of the Germanic, Romance, and Celtic languages.
Filomena Sandalo has a PhD from the University of Pittsburg and is currently
Associate Professor at the University of Campinas. She was a Post-Doctoral Asso-
ciate 1996 to 1998 and a visiting scholar in 2001 and 2010–2011 at MIT. She has
published on phonology and morphology of Portuguese and the native languages of
South America. Her publications include A Grammer of Kadiwéu (MIT Occasional
Papers in Linguistics 11, 1997).
xii Notes on contributors

Christopher D. Sapp is Assistant Professor of German and Linguistics at the

University of Mississippi. Dr. Sapp holds a PhD in Germanic Linguistics from
Indiana University (2006). His research specialization is the diachronic morphology
and syntax of Germanic languages. Dr. Sapp most frequently teaches German
language and linguistics, syntax, and historical linguistics.
Maria Aparecida Torres Morais is Associate Professor at the University of São
Paulo. She received her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Campinas. She has
published on Portuguese historical syntax and on comparative studies between Euro-
pean and Brazilian Portuguese. She is currently involved in a historical project on the
Portuguese of São Paulo while still carrying her research on the syntax of Old Portuguese.
Joel Wallenberg finished his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 and
completed a postdoc as a NSF International Research Fellow at the University of
Iceland, where he worked to build a diachronic parsed corpus of Old and Modern
Icelandic. He is currently Lecturer in the History of English at Newcastle University,
Newcastle upon Tyne.
John Whitman is professor in the Department of Contrastive Linguistics at the
National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics in Tokyo, Japan. He was
previously chair of the Department of Linguistics at Cornell University. His research
focuses on the languages of East Asia, syntactic theory, syntactic change, and
language reconstruction.
Yuko Yanagida is professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures
at the University of Tsukuba. Her research focuses on the synchronic analysis of
earlier Japanese syntax, the diachronic syntax of Japanese, focus-related phenomena
in Modern Japanese, and the theory of alignment change.
Raffaella Zanuttini is Professor of Linguistics at Yale University. Her research
focuses on comparative syntax. She has worked extensively on syntactic variation in the
expression of sentential negation, and on the notion of clause type. She has recently
created the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project aiming to highlight syntactic variation
in North American varieties of English. She is the author of Negation and Clausal
Structure: A Comparative Study of Romance Languages (Oxford University Press).
Hedde Zeijlstra is assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam since 2006.
His research centres around the syntax and semantics of negation and other
functional categories. Zeijlstra obtained his PhD in 2004 at the University of
Amsterdam. After that he was appointed post-doctoral researcher at the University
of Tübingen from 2004–2006, and also held a position as visiting assistant professor
position at MIT in 2009. In 2007, his research was awarded a VENI-grant by the
Dutch national research foundation.
3S 3rd singular
3SF 3rd singular feminine
A-movement Argument movement
A Adjective
ABL Ablative
ACC/Acc Accusative
ACI Accusativus cum infinitivo
ADN Adnominal
AGR/Agr Agreement
AgrOP Agreement object Phrase
AGT Agent
AMC Aislinge Meic Conglinne
AN Adjective-Noun order
Asp Aspect
AST-T Assertion time
Aux Auxiliary
BAR Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill
BCC Borer-Chomsky Conjecture
BP Brazilian Portuguese
C Complementizer
CDP Crônica de D. Pedro
CE Christian era
CEP Contemporary European Portuguese
CFC Core functional category
CIPM Corpus Informatizado do Português Medieval
CL/Cl/cl Clitic
CLL Classical Latin
CLLD Clitic left dislocation
ClP Clitic Phrase
CMP Comparative
CND Conditional
xiv Abbreviations

Co Coordenative head
COMP Complementizer
CONC Conclusive
cond. Conditional
CoP Coordination Phrase
COP Copula
CP Complementizer Phrase
CPVC Carta de Pero Vaz de Caminha
CS Caribbean Spanish
D Determiner
DAT/Dat Dative
DEC Declarative
DIL Contributions to a Dictionary of the Irish Language
DN Double Negation
DO Direct object
DP Determiner Phrase
DSG Diálogos de São Gregório
EA External argument
EMJ Early Middle Japanese
EMR Early Modern Romanian
ENHG Early New High German
EP European Portuguese
EPP Extended Projection Principle
ERG Ergative
EV-T Event time
EXCLAM Exclamatory
FEM/f. Feminine
FinP Finiteness Phrase
FLOS Flos Sanctorum
FOC/Foc Focus
FocP Focus Phrase
FOFC Final over Final Constraint
ForceP Force Phrase
FR Foro Real
FT Future
Abbreviations xv

FUT Future tense

G Genitive
GB Government-Binding theory
GEN Genitive
GER Gerund
GN Genitive-Noun order
GRAAL A Demanda do Santo Graal
GroundP Ground Phrase
HAF Head attraction feature
HON Honorific
HT Hanging topic
IA Internal argument
IMP Imperative
IMPERF Imperfect tense
ind Indicative
INF/Inf Infinitive
INFL Inflection
inv Invariable
IP Inflectional Phrase
KP Kase Phrase
Lambeth Comm Old Irish Lambeth Commentary on the Sermon
on the Mount
LD Left dislocation
LF Logical Form
LL Late Latin
LMJ Late Middle Japanese
LOC Locative
LU Lebor na hUidre
MF Middle French
MHG Middle High German
Ml Old Irish Milan Glosses on the Psalms
MN Metalinguistic negation
mrk Marker
MR Modern Romanian
xvi Abbreviations

MS Modern Spanish
MSG Modern Standard German
N Noun
NA Noun-Adjective order
NAS Nasalization
NC Negative Concord
NEG/Neg Negation
NEU Neuter
NG Noun-Genitive order
NI Negative indefinite
NM Negative marker
NOM Nominative
NOMINL Nominalized
NP Noun Phrase
NPI Negative polarity items
NullS Null subject
NS Narrow syntax
O/Obj Object
OBL Oblique
ODR Orgain Denna Ríg
OE Old English
OF Old French
OGal/P Old Galician-Portuguese
OI Old Italian
OJ Old Japanese
OldP Old Portuguese
OOc Old Occitan
OP Operator
OpP Operator or Focus Phrase
OS Old Spanish
OSV Object-Subject-Verb
P Preposition, adposition
P&P Principles and parameters
part./Part. Participle
PASS Passive
Abbreviations xvii

past Past tense

PCM Parametric Comparison method
PERF Perfective
PF Phonological Form
PIC Phase impenetrability condition
pIE Proto-Indo-European
PL/pl Plural
PLD Primary linguistic data
PMQP Pretérito mais-que-perfeito (past perfect/pluperfect)
PP Prepositional Phrase
PPI Positive polarity items
PR Present
preposition-article Preposition and article contraction
preposition-demonstrative Preposition and demonstrative contraction
PRES/pres Present tense
PRF Perfective particle
PROG Progressive
PrtP Participle Phrase
PSS Passive
PST Past
PTCPL Participle
PV Preverb
Q Question
RC Relative clause
REL Relative (particle/pronoun)
RRC Restrictive relative clause
(S)OV (Subject) Object Verb
(S)VO (Subject) Verb Object
S Subject
S Singular
SACT Active subject
SBJ Subjunctive mood
SC Small clause
SDS Short distance scrambling
SG/sg Singular
xviii Abbreviations

sINACT Inactive subject

Spec/spec Specifier
SUBJ/subj Subjunctive mood
SubjP Subject of predication
SUSP Suspective
T Tense
TAM Tense/Aspect/Mood
TEC Transitive expletive construction
to-V Uninflected infinitive
TopP Topic Phrase
TP Tense Phrase
TYC Tycho Brahe Parsed Corpus of Historical Portuguese
uCase Uninterpretable Case
UG Universal Grammar
UT-T Utterance time
V Verb
v*P Transitive verb Phrase
V2 Verb second
VC Verbal complex
vP v Phrase
VP Verb Phrase
VPR Verb projection raising
VR Verb raising
WALS World Atlas of Language Structures
Wb. Old Irish Würzburg Glosses on the Pauline Epistles
Wh Interrogative Phrase
will-V Future
would-V Conditional
SP Sigma Phrase

Parameter theory and

dynamics of change1

1.1 Introduction
The chapters presented in this volume raise most of the relevant current issues in the
field of historical syntax. That is achieved through a thorough examination of a wide
range of (un)related languages: Romance and Germanic ones—including their
recent and ‘restructured’ daughters like Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish
for Romance, and Afrikaans for Germanic—Latin, Irish, Indo-Iranian languages,
Japanese, Coptic, and Old Egyptian. The historical periods covered by some of the
chapters go back as far as 3000 bc, and some take a fresh methodological grasp by
looking into modern dialects and colloquial speech.
Before presenting each chapter, we will briefly address two main issues which are
the backbones of the volume: the theory of parameters and the dynamics of language
change. The advances proposed here, as well as the implications such issues bear, go
beyond historical syntax, shedding light onto linguistic theory proper.

1.2 Parameter theory

Recently, parameter theory has come back to its original agenda to a great extent,
thanks to the search for explanatory adequacy in the field of historical syntax. If a
notion such as ‘imperfect learning’ (see Kroch 2001), for instance, is assumed to
explain grammatical change, it becomes crucial for historical syntax to understand
how parameters are set in language acquisition, and, as a matter of fact, how they
were differently set in the previous generations. Obviously, this task cannot be

This chapter was partially supported by CNPq grants 305699/2010–5, 303006/2009–9, and 306682/
2 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

achieved without an explicit and exhaustive theory of parameters, one which is able
to shape the parameters in a way which is compatible with the current theories of
grammar, as well as to establish the conditions under which they can be set on the
basis of the data available to children. The enormous increase in comparative data
coming both from very different and very similar languages challenged the widely
accepted view of the existence of a limited number of parameters, from which it
would be possible to consistently derive the same set of phenomena among lan-
guages (see Newmeyer 2004 and Roberts and Holmberg 2010). Besides, with the
emergence of the Minimalist Program (henceforth MP), which proposes a different
architecture to the Faculty of Language and its computational system, parameters
had to be thought over. One of the issues to be raised, for instance, has to do with the
exact nature of the relationship between movement and visible morphology, which
used to play a prominent role in the explanation of syntactic changes in the eighties.
Given the lack of consensus among models and theorists, and given the diversity
of approaches regarding parameters, historical syntax may come to play a major role
in generative grammar—a lab in which analyses and hypotheses are committed to
explain the observed evolution of languages.
Two tendencies are to be found in the following pages with regard to the
inventory of functional categories, both familiar nowadays. One of them comprises
what Guido Mensching (this volume) calls ‘core functional categories,’ which in the
spirit of the MP he restricts to v, T, and C. The other one, initially proposed by Rizzi
(1997), allows for a much more extended list of categories, taking CP not as a single
category but as layers of projections of articulated categories, including Focus and
Topic which, in turn, can also constitute independent layers (see Benincà and
Poletto 2004). This view is pretty much represented in the chapters that examine
left-periphery phenomena. Although these categories are discourse interface ones
whose theoretic status can be questioned, they still seem to allow for a more fine-
grained analysis of the variation and change affecting the pre-verbal field in many
languages, specifically in the V2 ones that display a particular behaviour not
captured by the classical analyses. Even though Mensching convincingly argues for
a more restrictive approach to functional categories, the differences between those
languages that are typically V2—such as Modern German—and those in which V2
depends on the discourse properties of the clause—such as Old Romance languages,
among others—seem to be better accommodated under an extended CP hypothesis
(see Ribeiro and Torres Morais, this volume).
Likewise, one of the challenges for parameter theory is to provide analyses for
facts that have long been recognized and studied in the linguistic tradition. This is
not always an easy task, either because the model of grammar parameter theory is
articulated with and does not offer the necessary tools (see for instance the nature of
the relationship between abstract and morphological case), or because traditional
analyses do not translate straightforwardly into formal models. One case in point is
the split between ergative and accusative languages, examined in detail by the
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 3

typological literature. Another well-known traditional issue is the notion of voice.

These questions are raised by Whitman and Yanagida (this volume) who associate
the ergative/accusative distinction, on one hand, and the passive/active dichotomy,
on the other, with the properties of v.
Another much debated question has to do with word order. Several word order
changes associated to specific parameters are discussed in this volume, apart from the
already mentioned V2 phenomena. One of them is the change in relation to the
position of V in Germanic languages (see Sapp, this volume, and Wallenberg, this
volume). Wallenberg’s chapter is a nice illustration of the way grammatical change
can shed light on the nature of the parameter involved. Adopting Yang’s (2000)
model, the author shows that the predictions about the directionality of change
made by this model favour a Kaynean head movement theory over a purely linear
order approach. Sapp’s chapter examines the possible co-existence of contradictory
settings of a parameter with respect to V-Aux/Aux-V order in the history of German
and its modern dialects. His account is deeply anchored in the notions of micro- and
macroparameters—an innovative and productive trend in the discussion of param-
eters in the last years, albeit the different definitions to be found amongst researchers.
We turn to that now.

1.3 Micro- versus macroparameters

The notion of microparameters has been a very recurrent one in the recent literature
on comparative and historical syntax in the generative framework. The initial
discussion about the distinction between macro- and microparameters is to be
found in Baker (1996). According to him, up to that point in time parameter theory
had failed to deal with variation clusters, and, therefore, to account for what Sapir
(1921) had called the ‘structural genius’ of languages: ‘This type or plan or structural
genius of the language is something much more fundamental, much more pervasive,
than any single feature of it we can mention, nor can we gain an adequate idea of its
nature by a mere recital of the sundry facts that make up the grammar of the
language.’ (Sapir, 1921: 120, apud Baker 1996: 3). Baker (1996: 8–9) makes a very
strong claim, according to which ‘polysynthetic languages differ from other lan-
guages in exactly one macro-parameter’. He also claims that, as in other groups of
typologically or genetically related languages, ‘polysynthetic languages differ from
one another only in micro-parameters, that is in features that can be attributed to
idiosyncratic morpho-lexical properties of the kind envisioned by Borer (1984) and
Chomsky (1992)’. Consequently, according to him, macro- and microparameters
have distinct natures, and only the latter concern the features of functional categor-
ies, as proposed in the classic Borer–Chomsky approach. Macroparameters, by
contrast, are the parametrization of the way Universal Grammar (UG) principles
are satisfied across languages. We will come back to this point later on.
4 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

Kayne (2005b) takes a different approach to this question. First, he emphasizes the
fact that the notion of micro- and macrocomparative syntax is not absolute, but
relative: ‘Work on a more closely related set of languages or dialects is more micro-
comparative than work on a less closely related set.’ (Kayne 2005b: 280). According
to him, a ‘closely related set’ has to do with historical/genetic relatedness: ‘Thus,
work on a set of Italian dialects would be more micro-comparative than work on a
set of Indo-European languages including Italian, Greek, and English’ (Kayne 2005b:
280). From this point of view, ‘different settings of micro-parameters would char-
acterize differences between very closely related languages and dialects such as
American English and British English’ (Kayne 2005b: 280).
This idea, though appealing, encounters problems: European and Brazilian Por-
tuguese, for instance, although very closely related from a historical point of view,
have been shown to present differences that can be found when comparing very
distant languages (for instance other Romance languages and Chinese). The idea
that closely related languages are closer from a syntactic point of view than less
closely related languages is therefore subject to empirical verification. Two different
cases ought to be considered. One of them has to do with geographically close
dialects, as in Northern Italy (see D’Alessandro et al. 2010), which correspond to a
situation of dialectal continua that were lost in most of the European countries, for
historical reasons. The other one has to do with what Holm (2004) dubs restructur-
ing processes of languages in contact giving rise to new varieties. The extreme effect
of such a restructuring process is found in Creole languages. The case of American
English, mentioned by Kayne as a case of microparametric variation with respect to
British English, is interesting to be compared with Brazilian Portuguese, with respect
to European Portuguese. The degree of restructuring of the former seems to be much
lower than the degree of restructuring of the latter. This is due to important
differences in the sociolinguistic context in which the standard languages developed
in the two countries, and the fact that the more restructured versions of English (e.g.
Black English) had little or no influence on the standard language, contrary to what
happened in Brazil.
It should be pointed out, though, that Kayne’s (2005b) approach is essentially a
methodological one: in extreme cases it should be possible to pinpoint only one
parametric difference to account for languages that differ from one another in very
few aspects.
Summing up, Kayne’s proposal, spelt out in (a) and (b) below, is apparently very
close to the one Roberts has recently formalized (see this volume):
(a) ‘Every parameter is a micro-parameter.’
(b) ‘Apparently macro-parametric differences might all turn out to dissolve into
arrays of micro-parametric ones (i.e. into differences produced by the additive
effects of some number of micro-parameters)’ (Kayne 2005b: 284).
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 5

As already mentioned, this conception has been challenged by Baker (see Baker
1996, 2008a,b), who argues for the existence of macroparameters in the sense that
different values assigned to them produce very different languages. However, such
parameters are not the effect of the addition of microparameters. Furthermore, such
macroparameters are not associated with properties of functional categories as in the
mainstream theory of parameters, but with general principles of grammar.
Baker (2008b) proposes three parameters as instances of macroparameters: the head
directionality parameter, the agreement parameter, and the polysynthesis parameter.
For the sake of exemplifying the point, according to his (2008a) proposal, the
agreement parameters are defined as such:
(a) A functional head F agrees with NP only if NP asymmetrically c-commands F.
(Yes: Niger-Congo (NC) languages; No: Indo-European (IE) languages)
(b) A head F agrees with NP only if F values the case feature of NP or vice versa.
(No: Niger-Congo languages; Yes: Indo-European languages)
Those two parameters account for the fact that agreement between F and NP
depends on case in European languages, independently of the position of the NP
with respect to F (for instance, subjects agree with the verb in T both in pre-verbal
and in post-verbal position, as long as T assigns nominative to them), while
agreement between F and NP depends on whether the NP precedes F in Niger-
Congo languages. Therefore, in those languages only preceding subjects agree with
the verb, and any preceding NP is able to agree with the verb as well. It is interesting
to mention that Brazilian Portuguese tends to pattern with NC languages rather than
with IE languages since agreement on the verb is strongly disfavoured with post-
verbal subjects, and non-subject pre-verbal phrases can agree with the verb (see
Avelar, Cyrino, and Galves 2009). This can be taken as evidence that the so-called
dialectal differences may involve macroparametric differences. But, as already men-
tioned, the very notion of dialect must be carefully considered, and cannot be taken
as a homogeneous notion. Brazilian Portuguese is a ‘restructured’ version of Portu-
guese, and as such underwent important grammatical changes. Moreover, the fact
that it seems to conform to the NC values of the agreement parameters rather than
to the IE ones can be taken as evidence of the effect caused by its contact with
African languages.
The main empirical argument Baker (2008b) gives in favour of his analysis is
statistical, which he summarizes in the following way: ‘The micro-parametric view
should (all things being equal) expect that there will be many mixed languages, in
which roughly half the functional heads show the IE behaviour and the other half
show the NC behavior. In contrast, the view that there are macroparameters at work
expects to find many languages of the Kinande type, many languages of the IE type,
and only a few cases that are intermediate or hard to classify’ (Baker 2008b: 370). His
survey of sixty-six languages supports the macroparametric approach, since while all
6 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

the IE languages and the NC languages consistently fix the value of parameters (a)
and (b) as claimed above, there are very few languages that obey neither (a) nor (b),
and it is still an open question whether some languages obey (a) and (b).
In several recent papers (see this volume and Roberts and Holmberg 2010, a.o.),
Roberts has proposed a formal way of conciliating the idea that macroparameters
correspond to clusters—or networks—of microparameters, and the fact, emphasized
by Baker, that the non-mixed (consistent) languages are more frequent than the
mixed ones. In his model, the existence of macroparameters is derived from the
specification of the same property on a group of categories. According to his analysis,
the fact that the languages presenting this property trans-categorically, for instance
harmonic head-final or head-initial languages, are more frequent than the mixed
languages is not due to UG, but to ‘a conservative learning strategy’. The more
specific choices imply a longer walk in the parametric space, which is disfavoured
by a very general principle of economy that is not a specific property of UG but is part
of what Chomsky (2008) calls the ‘third factor’. We come back to this later.
An important novelty of this approach is that parameters themselves are only
partially determined by UG, which contributes to their definition with the inventory
of formal features, functional categories, and the specification of the basic processes
of computation (Merge, Agree, etc). But the choices among options in the parameter
schemata arise from a general human ‘ability to compute relations among sets’
(Roberts and Holmberg 2010: 51). The representation below, taken from Roberts
(this volume), is an example of his proposal for parametric networks:

Do all probes trigger head-movement?

Y: polysynthesis (a) Do some probes trigger head-movement?

N: analytic (b) Y: does {C, T …} (c)?

A somewhat different approach is proposed by Uriagereka (2007). In his view,

there are three sources of variation in languages. At the highest level, there are the
‘core parameters fixating structure through elementary information’ (Uriagereka
2007: 105) This would be the case of the polysynthesis parameter. A second level
consists of ‘sub-case parameters [that] involve the customary untrained learning, via
unconscious analytical processes that allow the child to compare second-order
chunks of grammars’ (Uriagereka 2007: 105). These are likely to be similar, or rather
close, to microparameters in the theories previously mentioned. The distinction
established by Uriagereka is closer in nature to Baker’s than to Kayne’s and Roberts’.
However, the novelty of his analysis consists in integrating another source of
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 7

variation into the parametric approach, one that is due not to unconscious acqui-
sition, but to peripheral processes ‘involving such things as peer or adult pressure,
and similar, as of now, unclear mechanisms’ (Uriagereka 2007: 105). This kind of
variation (which he calls ‘micro-variation’), found both in acquisition data and in the
speech of non-educated people, is governed by analogy and is subject to conscious
manipulation of the speakers.
Uriagereka illustrates his point with verb movement in interrogative sentences in
English and Spanish when the wh-phrase is an adjunct. According to his analysis,
such a movement is not required by the core grammar but takes place due to an
analogy with verb movement to C when the wh-phrase is an argument. Relying
on Uriagereka’s proposal, Sapp (this volume) accounts for the variation in the order
V-Aux and Aux-V in the history of German and in modern dialects. He stresses the
sensitiveness of this kind of parameter to sociolinguistic pressure.
This approach is based on the distinction core/periphery proposed by Chomsky
(Uriagereka’s quotation: 102): ‘[W]hat are called “languages” or “dialects” or even
“idiolects” will [not conform — JU] to the systems determined by fixing the
parameters of UG [ . . . ]. [E]ach actual “language” will incorporate a periphery of
borrowings, historical residues, inventions, and so on [ . . . ]’ (Chomsky 1981: 7–8). To
a certain extent, it recalls what Kroch (1994, 2001) calls grammar competition, since
it brings into consideration phenomena that are not produced by a single (core)
grammar. As claimed by Uriagereka himself, these are ‘unclear mechanisms’, which
require closer and deeper examination. Among the questions raised by these kinds of
phenomena is how they correlate with language change. Uriagereka claims that, in
the absence of external causes, syntactic change begins in the periphery, when adult
speakers come to use new syntactic patterns which were not in the input of their own
acquisition, but may provide a new input for the next generations. As such, this can
be the source of a new parametric setting at the other levels of parametrization. It
might be the case that three different situations arise when peripheral phenomena
are activated. One would be a stable variation, as in the case of Aux-V, V-Aux
alternations in Middle High German (MHG) and modern German dialects dis-
cussed by Sapp, with a great sensitiveness to sociolinguistic factors. But, as predicted
by Uriagereka, there can also be changes provoked by this kind of variation, when
one of the forms becomes prestigious to the point that speakers consciously dismiss
the other forms. According to Sapp, this is what caused MHG to change into
Modern Standard German (MSG). It is interesting to note, however, that some of
the changes driven by sociolinguistic pressure can fail, after a period of growth.
Postma (2010) was the first work, to our knowledge, to propose a formal model for
failed changes. An interesting case is found in the history of Brazilian Portuguese
with respect to clitic-placement. Pagotto (1992) and Carneiro and Galves (2010) have
shown that enclisis in V2 contexts increases in letters written in Brazil by both
educated and semi-educated people in parallel to what happened in Portugal one
8 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

hundred years before. However, in Portugal the change went to completion, and in
Brazil it was interrupted and the reverse tendency (from enclisis to proclisis) is
found from the first half of the twentieth century on. Enclisis drops to very low
figures at the end of the century. It is clear that the periphery has a role in failed
changes. Brazilian Portuguese clitics clearly show that such changes involve phe-
nomena that express properties contradictory with other aspects of the language. In
the case of Portuguese, it was possible to show that these properties were borrowings
from European Portuguese, the prestigious dialect. To showcase the role of the
periphery in well-succeeded changes, however, requires more empirical work, in
particular in determining whether the peripheric phenomena are previous (as in
Uriagereka’s proposal) or subsequent (as in Kroch’s (2001) proposal) to the core
grammatical changes.
In the next section, we extend the discussion to other approaches to language
change, focusing on the question of the dynamics of change. We briefly present the
general framework of the Biolinguistic perspective on linguistic theory (Chomsky
2005, 2008) in which this question has been raised in the past few years.

1.4 The dynamics of change

As discussed above, an important common feature of the new approaches to
parameter theory is that they offer a better understanding of the relationship
between what can vary among languages and the dynamics of change. They allow
us to account for general long-noticed properties of linguistic change that not only
were not explained in the previous models, but were contradictory with the predic-
tions these models made on language change. This is the case of the unidirectionality
of change, expressed, for instance, in the phenomenon of ‘grammaticalization’
(Meillet 1912). In the classical Principles and Parameters model, the generativist
approach to acquisition and change predicted that changes can occur in any
direction. This is not what has been reported in the history of languages. In that
model, it is not even clear why languages cluster around large typological classes. As
a matter of fact, Lightfoot (1999, 2006) has emphatically pointed out that it is
impossible to predict in what ways languages are going to change, considering
only the UG restrictions. But once there is a hierarchical model of parameters
articulated with general UG-independent principles that guide learners to the
simplest and more economical choices compatible with the PLD (Primary Linguistic
Data), it becomes straightforward why changes go in the direction of the less marked
value inside the parameter hierarchy. This is how Roberts and Roussou (2003)
account for the grammaticalization phenomenon: when the trigger for some para-
metric value becomes ambiguous, for external reasons, ‘the learner will opt for the
default option as part of the built-in preference of the learning device for simpler
representations’ (Roberts and Roussou 2003: 17). Such an assumption entails a
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 9

certain simplification of structures, which is constitutive of grammaticalization,

according to the authors.
Grammaticalization has become a recurrent theme in diachronic generative
syntax, and this volume reflects this tendency, following the path suggested by
Roberts and Roussou (see Martins, Lash, and Hill, all this volume). However, not
all changes are due to grammaticalization. Lash (this volume) argues that even
category changes (a hallmark of grammaticalization) are not always a grammatica-
lization process in the formal sense assumed by Roberts and Roussou (2003).
According to him, ‘non-parametric morphologization’ exists. The case at point
involves the reanalysis of the Old Irish copular verb form daas as P(reposition),
already reanalysed as C in a previous grammaticalization process, inside the complex
preposition oldaas. Apparently, this change cannot be analysed as a grammaticaliza-
tion process since (a) P is not a functional category, and (b) the reanalysis of daas as
a preposition does not constitute a parametric change since the overall structure
does not change with daas in P instead of in C. Lash notes that ‘it is a grammati-
calization from the perspective of Givón (1971: 413), since it is an example of the
development of today’s morphology [from] yesterday’s syntax’. The origin of the
Irish comparative particle thus reveals a tension between grammaticalization as
formally conceived and grammaticalization as discussed in the functionalist litera-
ture. This discussion has interesting consequences for syntactic theory, if it is taken
in a provocative way. It could be argued that the reanalysis of daas into P is indeed a
grammaticalization process from the formalist point of view, on the basis of Grim-
shaw’s (1991) theory of extended projections. It is not the role of this introduction to
exploit such an idea, but it could be taken as a further illustration of how historical
considerations support syntactic analyses.
Coming back to the current discussion on the dynamics of change, it is worth
emphasizing that the leading idea is that the source of the observed directions of
change is not Universal Grammar itself but other components of the mind, referred to
by Chomsky (2005, 2008) as the ‘third factor’ (see Biberauer and Zeijlstra, this volume).
According to Chomsky (2005, 2008), the two first factors are genetic endowment (for
language, Universal Grammar), and experience (for language, Primary Linguistic
Data). The ‘third factor’ is defined by him as involving ‘language-independent
principles of data processing, structural architecture, and computational efficiency,
thereby providing some answers to the fundamental questions of biology of language,
its nature and use, and perhaps even its evolution’ (Chomsky 2005: 9). The study of the
effect of the ‘third factor’ on language acquisition and change is part of the Strong
Minimalist Program, ‘which holds that language is an optimal solution to interface
conditions that FL [Faculty of Language] must satisfy; that is, language is an optimal
way to link sound and meaning’ (Chomsky 2008: 3).
Yet, Chomsky is not precise on the nature of the ‘third factor’, beyond what one
reads in the above quotes. It might be the case that the crucial contribution of
10 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

historical syntax to linguistic theory for the next years will be to help understand in a
deeper sense this critical aspect of language evolution and change. The parameter
theory previously discussed is part of this enterprise. As seen above, the hierarchical
structure of parameters in Roberts’ approach is based on markedness considerations.
The more marked options, which are the less economical ones in terms of the length
of the description of the properties, are the more embedded ones. At the top of
the trees one finds the macrodifferences around which the languages cluster. At the
bottom of the tree one finds the microdifferences, producing more and more
markedness. Third factor considerations will predict that languages will diachron-
ically move up the hierarchy.
A new comparative historical trend is emerging from the MP, within which it is
possible to tackle primordial issues of the field on linguistic change with a fresh
perspective. One such issue is the notion of drift (Sapir 1921) at the origin of ‘parallel
changes’ among genetically related languages, reinterpreted as the ‘chain-effect of an
inherited change’ (see Gianollo, this volume). Another major and foundational issue
of modern historical linguistics has to do with reconstruction and the establishment
of levels of parenthood among related languages through genetic trees. According to
Gianollo et al. (2008), ‘parametric linguistics [. . . .] may best bridge the gap between
the two most fruitful paradigms in the history of the language sciences, the histor-
ical–comparative paradigm, founded in the XIX century, and the biolinguistic one,
developed within the wider cognitive science framework in the second half of the
XX.’ The challenge is to reproduce with syntactic data the genetic classification
obtained on the basis of lexical evidence. Gianollo et al. (2008), Guardiano and
Longobardi (2005), Longobardi and Guardiano (2009), and Longobardi (this volume)
show that this is a feasible task, extending to a much greater level of details, and to a
minimalist view of parameters, the approach initially worked out by Baker (2001).

1.5 About methodology and data

Besides the theoretical aspects that strongly integrate the chapters of this book into
the current trends of the parametric minimalist research programme, it is worth
emphasizing some features of the papers that are representative of recent develop-
ments in the treatment and use of data in generative grammar. By nature, historical
syntax makes use of quantitative approaches in order to circumvent the lack of
grammaticality judgements from native speakers. Within the Chomskyan approach
to language, this was taken as a serious handicap in the field for a long time. In her
1987 dissertation, Adams already claimed that such a handicap could be overcome by
a sufficiently rich theory. The spectacular growth of the field in subsequent years
showed that she was right. But at the same time, historical syntax became a
laboratory in which methods borrowed from other approaches to language became
harmonically integrated into the inquiry on the grammars of (past) languages.
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 11

Statistics, probability, and corpus linguistics are now a current practice in generative
historical syntax. Moreover, recent diachronic studies have also integrated linguistic
information that was traditionally ignored in the synchronic generative approaches,
such as dialectal and colloquial data (see Sapp, and Bernstein and Zanuttini, this
volume) as well as sociolinguistic factors.
To conclude, this book is the witness of a twofold movement in the field of
generative grammar: on one hand, a quest for the narrowest possible syntax, on the
other, a broadening of empirical bases, including phenomena up to now considered
as marginal to syntax—more generally to grammar—(such as emphasis, colloquial
expressions, data from dialect studies), as well as the extensive use of quantitative
methods based on large corpora.

1.6 An overview of the volume

1.6.1 Parameters and language change
Guido Mensching discusses parameters in Old Romance word order, especially
fronted topics, and develops a theory that explains the fact that the medieval stages
of several Romance languages allowed both for XP-V-Subject structures and for
Aux-XP-Participle. Both properties, according to the author, can be modelled in a
minimalist framework, where the fronted element in the XP-V-Subject structure
occupies Spec,TP by means of checking T0’s EPP feature. The constituent moves first
to an outer specifier of vP, to the left of the subject, from where either the subject or
the non-subject constituent can move upwards, since they are both specifiers of v0.
The Aux-XP-Participle structure is argued to provide evidence for this landing site in
the outer specifier of vP. In Modern Romance, the EPP feature in v0 that caused this
movement in Old Romance is no longer available. A clitic has to be merged, which
introduces an EPP feature into the derivation in order to provide an intermediate
landing site for the constituent to move to, and hence we have the Clitic Left
Dislocation (CLLD) structures. The parameter at stake, then, is the existence of
v0’s optional EPP feature which triggers the movement of XPs to its specifier.
Chris Sapp takes verbal complexes in Middle High German and some modern
varieties to be amenable to microparametric variation. The chapter touches upon the
question of whether parameters have only one flavour or more than one depending
on the type of phenomena that will trigger them. Empirically, the author analyzes
the order of the verbs inside a ‘verbal complex’ in subordinate clauses in German. In
complexes of two verbs, there are two possible orders: the non-finite verb before the
finite one (the so-called 2-1 order) or the inverse order (1-2). In Modern Standard
German (MSG) the 1-2 order is ungrammatical. However, according to the author, it
was attested in earlier stages of German, especially in Middle High German (circa
12 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

1050–1350) and is also found in some contemporary dialects. He shows that the 1-2
order is fairly stable from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries (ranging from 32.2
to 35.5%), rapidly declining in the fifteenth century to 15.7%, falling to 8.5% in the
sixteenth, probably becoming obsolete in the modern language. His data supports
the hypothesis according to which the decline of the 1-2 order was prescriptive, since
the most formal genres examined have the lowest rates of the 1-2 order. Previous
analyses of the facts propose that there was a parametric change in the history of
German, where the occurrence of the 1-2 order was related to a tendency towards
the VO word order—in the Middle Ages—to a consistent verb-final word order
(thus, 2-1) in the modern standard variety. However, Sapp disputes the matter
showing that the order of elements within the verbal complex cannot be taken as
evidence for VO, claiming, therefore, that no change in the global order parameter
has occurred. According to him, the 2-1 versus 1-2 distinction can be independent of
SOV or SVO word orders. He follows Kroch and Taylor (2000) claiming that the key
diagnostic has to do with a VO language having heavy and light elements to the right
of V. He shows, however, that in his data extraposed elements tend to be heavy or
focused, thus concluding that the basic German clause has not changed, having
always been OV. Nevertheless, he also shows that the order of elements within the
verbal complex is sensitive to factors such as prosody, focus, and register, which
leads him to hypothesize that the verb-complex order results from changes to a
microparameter at the periphery of the grammatical system, adopting Uriagereka’s
(2006) proposal, according to which syntactic change begins in the periphery, where
extra-linguistic factors may cause adults to learn and use syntactic patterns that were
not in the input when they acquired the language as children.
Joel Wallenberg investigates the relationship between acquisition and change in
the change from a German-like Tense-final grammar to a Tense-medial grammar in
the history of Yiddish, and addresses the issue of the nature of the parameter
involved in this change. He assumes Yang’s (2000) model of acquisition, in which,
in a situation of grammar competition, the most successful grammar is the one that
produces the highest frequency of unambiguous outputs. However, a first analysis of
the data shows that the frequency of ambiguous data is higher in Tense-medial
grammar than in Tense-final grammar, predicting wrongly that the latter should
have won out over the former. A solution to this paradox is suggested by data from
acquisition of Modern German, a uniform Tense-final language. Children have been
reported to produce what appears to be Tense-medial sentences, due to the use of the
verb projection raising (VPR) construction. The author relies on the antisymmetric
approach to word order to claim that the Aux-Verb order characteristic of VPR
represents the underlying left-headed order of verbal heads in the structure. From
this point of view, VPR constructions are no more an unambiguous expression of
Tense-final languages. Once they are removed from the set of non-ambiguous
Tense-final sentences, the Tense-medial grammar is correctly predicted to win
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 13

over the Tense-final one. The author concludes emphasizing the importance of the
interaction between acquisition studies, quantitative historical work, and a careful
understanding of the nature of the structures involved.
In the following chapter, Adriana Cardoso studies the phenomenon of extraposi-
tion of restrictive relative clauses (RRCs) in the history of Portuguese. She argues
that this construction is not generated by the same syntactic process in Contempor-
ary European Portuguese (CEP) and in earlier stages of Portuguese, until the
sixteenth century. She shows that in CEP there are restrictions on the possible
antecedents of extraposed RRCs: they can be weak NPs in the sense of Milsark
(1974), post-verbal subjects, wh, focus, or affective fronted phrases. But they cannot
be PPs, strong NPs, pre-verbal subjects, or topic fronted phrases. Assuming Kayne’s
(1994) raising analysis of relative clauses, the author argues that this cluster of
properties can be accounted for if extraposition of RRCs in CEP is derived from
VP-internal stranding. In earlier stages of Portuguese, however, no such restrictions
are found. The author claims that it is because the process underlying extraposition
is different. She proposes that it is coordination plus ellipsis. She then argues that
this kind of construction was lost when IP-scrambling was lost. With the loss of IP-
scrambling, there was a decrease of the frequency of the contexts of extraposition in
general, which was at the origin of the reanalysis of extraposition from RRCs. She
concludes that extraposition from RRCs cannot be derived from a uniform analysis,
since it displays different properties in different languages.
Ribeiro and Torres Morais discuss doubling-que embedded constructions in Old
Portuguese (OldP), and compare them to similar constructions in Contemporary
Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and European Portuguese (EP). Based on Rizzi’s (1997)
layered CP, with the refinements proposed by Benincà and Poletto (2004) and
Benincà (2004), they argue that the V2 requirement in OldP is satisfied by the
projection of Spec,Fin, with the verb in Fin, or Spec,Foc with the verb raised from
Fin to Foc. Furthermore, V>2 orders occur when some discoursively prominent
constituents are merged in the higher categories Top and Frame. They also argue
that in OldP Fin must have a phonological realization (in Roberts’ (2001) terms, it is
Fin*). This can be achieved in three ways: movement from Fin to Force (realized as
‘que’), when the left-periphery is not activated; movement of the verb to Fin; or
merge of ‘que’ in Fin, when FocP is not activated and some frame/topic constituent
is merged in Spec,Fin. As frame/topic constituents are not V-related, this is a last
resort strategy, which is at the origin of doubling-que constructions. In order to
explain the possible order in which the second ‘que’ precedes a Focus phrase, they
assume that ‘que’ can also merge in Top. Brazilian and European Portuguese also
display doubling-que constructions, but they have different properties, both from
OldP and from one another. The authors argue that in BP, the topicalized constitu-
ents preceding ‘que’ merge in Spec,Frame/Topic, and not in Spec,Fin, as shown by
the fact that some parenthetical phrase can occur between the topic and ‘que’. Both
14 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

BP and EP can have more than one ‘que’ below Force. They differ however with
respect to the interpretation of the second sandwiched phrase, which is normally
interpreted as a focus in the former and as a topic in the latter. The authors conclude
that the phenomenon of doubling-que has always existed in the history of Portu-
guese, but that it underwent diachronic changes. This explains why it competes with
different processes along time: with V-to-Fin in Old Portuguese, and with zero
morphology in the modern languages.
Through the comparison of two independent changes in BP and Caribbean
Spanish (CS), that is, the loss of referential null subjects and the loss of VSX order
in wh-interrogative clauses, Mary Kato also addresses a microparametric issue. Her
guiding question, based on Kayne (2000), involves finding out what the minimal
units of syntactic variation are. Within such a framework, Kato proposes that the
changes in both domains in BP as well as in CS were triggered by a single change: an
affixal type pronominal agreement which turned into a free weak pronoun paradigm
in both languages, albeit the change having taken place for different reasons in each
one of them. Following Toribio (1996) and Duarte (1995), respectively, the author
shows that what caused the impoverishment in CS was the deterioration of the
inflectional endings on verbs, while in BP it was caused by the replacement of second
person pronouns—both singular and plural—by nominal addressing forms which
are grammatically treated as third person. For Kato, the pronominal agreement is
understood as the grammaticalization or incorporation of personal pronouns in the
verbal inflection. Therefore, she claims that they are in complementary distribution
with weak pronouns and subject clitics, which naturally explains that the loss of one
form implies the introduction of the other. The consequence of having weak
pronouns in the language, according to Kato’s proposal, is the projection of the
Spec,IP position and, thus, the possibility of such pronouns appearing pre-verbally
in declarative or in wh-questions. The first case has to do with the loss of referential
null subjects and the second one with differences in the order of constituents in wh-
questions. In that respect, the chapter makes a methodological contribution by
showing that since word order is often determined by information criteria, it is a
mistake to compare VS and SV sentences without considering the type of pronoun
(weak or strong) and the information status of the DP subject position. The author
shows that this is precisely the key to understand that the change in word order
involved different realizations of the subject, the lexicalized DPs being the most
resistant ones to the new word order, a fact also found in Caribbean Spanish by
Ordoñez and Olarrea (2006). Such a conclusion carries on to explain how both
languages shift from the use of the low vP periphery to signal information structure
to an exclusive use of the IP periphery.
Chris Reintges introduces the concepts of macro- and microparameters and
presents a case study in which a macroparameter (agglutinativity/syntheticity) can
have its setting changed (to analyticity), by observing the loss of verb movement
from Ancient Egyptian to Coptic Egyptian. Ancient Egyptian (2600 to 2000 bc) was
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 15

a rigid VSO language with rich tense agglutinative (synthetic) inflection, and no
subject verb agreement. Coptic Egyptian (third to eleventh century ad) is analytic
and SVO, presenting initial tense/aspect particles, besides an intricate system of
vowel alternation in the verb stem to indicate the argument structure. In this
language, verb-tense relation, as argued by the author, is done via Agree, and not
movement, contrary to what seemed to be at play in Ancient Egyptian. By relying on
Biberauer and Roberts’ (2010) hypothesis for verb-movement as reprojection in rich
tense languages, the author proposes a structure for Ancient Egyptian that includes
the position of tense in a Fin head, above Mood and Aspect. The VSO order and
other aspects of the syntax of the language are thus accounted for. With the loss of
verb movement to the highest head, the particles carrying tense/aspect remain in
that position, but the verb is lower, below the DP subject. The analyticity parameter,
then, changes in this language, yielding the observed order in Coptic Egyptian.
In ‘A diachronic shift in the expression of person’, Judy Bernstein and Raffaella
Zanuttini study the encoding of phi-features in two varieties of English that are
historically related, Older Scots and Appalachian English, and compare it to that of
standard English. They argue that in Older Scots (fourteenth to seventeenth centur-
ies), as well as in contemporary Appalachian English, its descendent, person is
marked in the inflectional system, even if this does not correspond to a full set of
morphological distinctions. In Older Scots, the affix -s appears on the verb in co-
occurrence with full NP subjects and with pronouns that are not adjacent to the
verb. The hypothesis put forth by the authors is that verbal -s is a generalized person
marker that is in complementary distribution with pronouns cliticized to T. The fact
that Older Scots displays the clustering of properties found in Icelandic, a language
that marks person, supports the idea that Older Scots also encodes person in its
inflectional system. In particular, the authors argue that person marking on the verb
reflects a syntactic structure in which person occupies a functional head distinct
from T. This straightforwardly derives the fact that two positions are available for
subjects, thus capturing the existence of transitive expletive constructions in Older
Scots. In standard English verbal -s shifted to encode number (singular), not person.
According to the authors, Older Scots and contemporary standard English instan-
tiate two opposite values of the person parameter. In the latter, contrary to the
former, there is no independent functional head hosting the person feature; hence
the features of T can be checked via sisterhood and verb raising is not required.
Interestingly, Appalachian English instantiates an intermediate situation with
respect to the setting of the parameter: it instantiates both its positive value (person
is encoded in an independent functional head) and its negative value (person is not
encoded in an independent functional head). The first setting yields a grammatical
result only in the presence of a finite auxiliary or modal, which can raise and check
the person feature; the second yields a grammatical derivation not only with a finite
auxiliary or modal, but also with a finite lexical verb, since it does not require raising.
16 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

The authors conclude that Appalachian English is a dialect in transition between a

grammatical system that encodes person on an independent functional head and one
that does not, a transition that might lead to not expressing person in the inflectional
system at all, as is the case in contemporary standard English.
The chapter by John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida puts forward facts showing
that related parametric changes in non-accusative languages have to do with the
mechanisms for case licensing on objects. The authors’ main argument is that non-
accusative alignment is the result of the change in a small number of specific
parameter settings. They propose that a specific subtype of v assigns inherent case
to the external argument in Spec,v, and that makes v unable to check the case feature
of the object. The object, then, has to check its case feature by other means: either by
an Agree relation with T (which is exemplified by the Indo-Iranian languages in the
paper), or by the movement of the object to the specifier of a functional category
outside vP to check its case (exemplified by the Old Japanese, an ‘active’ language).
In so doing, the authors also make claims as to how these configurations arise: a)
they argue against the well-known proposal that ergatives arise from passives by
showing that the real source can be the possessive þ participle constructions, which
will give rise to the tense-sensitive ergative alignment; b) they add several arguments
to show that passive is not a plausible source for ergative alignment; c) they
demonstrate that active alignment can be reanalyzed as accusative (in the case of
the change from Old Japanese to Japanese). Indo-Iranian and Japanese provide
support for the authors’ claim that parametric change may arise in the two instances
of parametric settings for non-accusative alignment: whether or not lexical ergative
is assigned to all external arguments in Spec,vP in transitive clauses (i.e. ergative
languages), or lexical ‘active’ case is assigned to agentive subjects in all clause types,
including intransitive unergative (i.e. ‘active languages’).
In the following chapter, Elliott Lash approaches Modern Irish comparative par-
ticle ná ‘than’ and shows that it is a phonologically reduced and syntactically reana-
lyzed form of the Old Irish sequence ol daäs ‘beyond how is’. The chapter asserts that
the history of this particle is particularly instructive as a case study in grammaticaliza-
tion. Lash argues that there are two steps in the change of ná: 1) in terms of Roberts
and Roussou’s (2003) proposal that grammaticalization is upwards reanalysis due to
parameter resetting, Lash proposes a shift from V (in T) to C on account of a shift in
the parameter setting of C. More specifically, this would be a shift from C[tense]*Agree
to C[tense]*Merge. This shift produced a V to C category change, a case of gramma-
ticalization; 2) in the second step, as a C element, the particle was unstressed and could
cliticize to the preposition before it at PF. This led to the possibility of analyzing the
original verb as prepositional agreement, whence a C to P shift. This second step
cannot be seen as a formal process of grammaticalization as it does not appear to
conform to Roberts and Roussou’s theory of grammaticalization as a phenomenon
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 17

associated with upward reanalysis due to parameter change. This is, however, a
process of grammaticalization from the perspective of Givón (1971: 413), since it is
an example of the development of ‘today’s morphology [from] yesterday’s syntax’.
Lash’s work, therefore, shows that Irish ná reveals a tension between grammaticaliza-
tion as formally conceived and grammaticalization as discussed in the functionalist
In ‘Deictic locatives, emphasis and metalinguistic negation’, Ana Maria Martins
discusses the concept of metalinguistic negation. She acknowledges that the standard
predicative negation marker may express metalinguistic negation as well, but shows
that unambiguous metalinguistic markers are part of natural language and are
particularly revealing with respect to the syntactic dimension of metalinguistic
negation. In general, languages unambiguously express metalinguistic negation
through certain sentence-peripheral idiomatic expressions that lexically vary cross-
linguistically (and within the same language) but nonetheless display a similar
syntax. Some languages, however, also display sentence-internal unambiguous meta-
linguistic negation markers, which correspond to a typologically rarer option. With
this background in mind, the author discusses the deictic locatives lá (there)/cá
(here) as sentence-internal metalinguistic negation markers in European Portuguese,
and proposes an account for their development as such, while preserving their
regular role as locatives. It is proposed that lá/cá entered the functional system as
T-related emphatic markers, which later developed into C-related elements. Martins
also discusses how this particular feature of European Portuguese correlates with
other grammatical properties of the language. She proposes that Spec,TP is not the
subject position in European Portuguese, but it is an Utterance-time (UT-T) pos-
ition. Hence, deictic locatives can be merged in Spec,TP in two ways: scrambled
argumental locatives move from VP to Spec,TP, signalling UT-T but preserving their
locative meaning; non-argumental locatives can be directly merged in Spec,TP, in
order to give visibility to the speaker at UT-T, with the interpretative result of
emphasis. Additional movement to the C field derives metalinguistic negation
declaratives, in which the emphatic meaning is preserved while further meaning is
added. The emphatic value of the deictic locatives cá/lá (bleached from their locative
meaning) is attested in European Portuguese from the sixteenth century, in declara-
tive and imperative clauses, and in rhetorical questions, which offer the natural
pragmatic and syntactic link with metalinguistic negation.

1.6.2 Dynamics of change and parameter theory

The chapter by Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra deals with variation in the
Afrikaans negation system which arose during the course of the twentieth century.
The authors describe the negation system of two varieties of the language, Afrikaans
A (standard Afrikaans) and Afrikaans B (a variety of modern colloquial Afrikaans).
18 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

They show how different Afrikaans is from standard Dutch: the latter is a double
negation language, in which each negator contributes its own semantic negation,
with the result that two negators will be interpreted as conveying a form of positive
meaning, whereas standard Afrikaans is a peculiar type of Negative Concord lan-
guage, which (a) systematically requires a clause-final negation element (nie) to
co-occur with the medial negation marker and also with negative indefinites, and (b)
does not exhibit Negative Concord with multiple negative indefinites. In Afrikaans
B, a form of colloquial variety of Afrikaans spoken by younger people, on the other
hand, Negative Concord is systematic, as one would expect in a strict Negative
Concord language. The authors offer a feature-based generative analysis of both
systems and consider how the variations on the standard pattern might have arisen,
placing learnability considerations and Chomsky’s ‘three factors’ model centre stage.
They argue that the Afrikaans A negation system cannot be acquired on the basis of
the input the acquirer is exposed to, and that, as a consequence, we might expect
Afrikaans A to be an unstable system. The authors show that such unstable systems
are prone to give rise to variation and, under the right circumstances, to change.
In ‘Romanian “can”: change in parametric settings’, Virginia Hill argues that the
syntax of putea (‘can’) reflects on broader changes in the language, especially on the
switch from infinitive to subjunctive complementation—which is an important pan-
Balkanic parametric change. On the basis of data from Early Modern Romanian, she
shows that the change in the behaviour of the modal cannot receive a satisfactory
explanation on the basis of lexical and modal semantics alone, and that the modal
values are systematically read off the syntactic configuration. Diachronically, this
configuration has developed over several stages of grammaticalization: full-fledged
verb > control verb > raising verb > modal auxiliary > pragmatic marker.
Following Roberts and Roussou’s (2003) proposal on grammaticalization, the author
shows that the changes in the syntax and the interpretation of putea arise from its
reanalysis, by merging it at higher and higher levels in the structure hierarchy. These
levels are diagnosed by considering the location of adverbs and of functional
projections that encode agreement, tense, aspect, and sentence type. This analysis
provides a unified account for the variations in the syntax of putea, while also
revealing an important condition for the parametric switch in non-finite comple-
mentation: the switch applies only to CP infinitive complements, not to AspP/vPs
(which are still displaying the infinitive after the modal auxiliary putea). This case
study provides support for a view that shifts the explanation on modal variation and
use to a parametric scenario in which setting or re-setting of values is only driven by
syntactic terms.
Chiara Gianollo discusses the parallel development of Romance languages, con-
centrating on the sequence of morpho-syntactic changes affecting the realization of
arguments of nominal heads (genitives) from Latin to Romance. The data in this
study comes from a corpus search over Late Latin (third to fourth century ad) and
Parameter theory and dynamics of change 19

Old French texts (eleventh to thirteenth century ad), with the addition of some
Middle French data (until 1600). The author observes the expression of adnominal
arguments and shows that it undergoes a deep restructuring from Latin to the
modern Romance languages: genitives, which are inflectionally encoded in Latin
and occur in a variety of configurations with respect to the head noun, come to be
realized, in the Western Romance varieties, uniquely by means of post-nominal
prepositional phrases headed by the originally ablative preposition de. Despite such
restructuring being commonly considered to be a consequence of the general process
of deflexion observed in the transition from Latin to Romance, the author claims
that neither the substantial similarity of outcomes in the Western Romance lan-
guages, nor the existence of intermediate stages with coexisting inflectional and
prepositional realizations, can be exhaustively addressed by uniquely attributing this
change to morphological impoverishment. She proposes a syntactic analysis of Old
French inflectional genitives (realized with the cas-régime absolu), which is able to
capture the diachronic link to the Latin genitive constructions and to elucidate the
succession of steps leading to the generalization of the prepositional realization in
the modern descendant. In this way, she interprets the parallel development of
prepositional genitives in Romance as a chain-effect of an original inherited change,
which supports the idea that a parametric model of syntactic variation combined
with some theoretical assumptions about the dynamics of change can lead us to
choose in a principled way among competing hypotheses of syntactic change.
In ‘Convergence in parametric phylogenies: homoplasy or principled explan-
ation?’ Longobardi addresses the issue of whether historical relatedness between
languages can be measured on the basis of syntactic information. He argues that this
is a feasible task if we take parameters as primitives, since each possible grammar can
be represented as a string of binary symbols expressing parameter values, and thus
distances between languages can be compared through the parametric comparison
method (PCM) proposed in Longobardi and Guardiano (2009). In this method, each
pair of languages is assigned an ordered pair <x,y> of identities and differences
from which a distance can be computed. This is applied to twenty-three languages,
on the basis of sixty-three parameters for the DP internal structure. The chapter
emphasizes the importance of parametric implications in the comparison of lan-
guages since, for each given language, positive or negative values of some parameters
have a strong effect on the relevance/irrelevance of other parameters. Longobardi
then addresses ‘the puzzle of parametric convergence’ instantiated by Romance
languages, i.e. the fact that Modern Romance languages are much closer to each
other than they are to their common ancestor: Latin. According to the author, a
great part of the answer to this puzzle lies in the strong implicational structure of UG
parameters, as expressed by the fact that out of twenty-one clear common innov-
ations found in French and Italian, nine are shifts from Latin null values, and
therefore the effect of what the author calls ‘pre-existing conditions’ of the syntax
20 Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, and Ruth Lopes

of the proto-language. This result, due to the PCM, and ultimately to a fine-grained
parameter theory, opens the way to new trends in long-distance historical issues.
Finally, the chapter by Ian Roberts works out a formal way of conciliating the idea
that macroparameters correspond to clusters—or networks—of microparameters,
and the fact, emphasized by Baker, that the non-mixed (consistent) languages are
more frequent than the mixed ones. In Roberts’ proposal, the existence of macro-
parameters is derived from the specification of the same property on a group of
categories. According to his analysis, the fact that languages presenting this property
trans-categorically, for instance, harmonic head-final or head-initial languages, are
more frequent than mixed languages is not due to UG, but to ‘a conservative
learning strategy’. The more specific choices imply a longer walk in the parametric
space, which is disfavoured by a very general principle of economy that is not a
specific property of UG but is part of the ‘third factor’. From this point of view,
parameters themselves are only partially determined by UG, which contributes to
their definition with the inventory of formal features, functional categories, and the
specification of the basic processes of computation (merge, agree, etc.). But the
choices among options in the parameter schemata arise from a general human
‘ability to compute relations among sets’ (Roberts and Holmberg 2010: 51). The
author illustrates his proposal in detail with different parameter hierarchies: word
order, null arguments, word structure, and alignment.

Parameters in Old Romance

word order1
A comparative minimalist analysis


2.1 Introduction
The aim of this chapter is to discuss and analyse the following two structures, which
can be found in the medieval stages of many Romance languages:

(1) a. E esto fiz yo porque tomases ejiemplo. OS

and this did-1sg. I because took-subj.2sg. example
‘And I did this for you to have an example’ (Conde Lucanor, enx. 2)
b. Questo tenne lo re a grande maraviglia. OI
this held-3sg. the king to great miracle
‘The king considered this a great miracle’ (Novellino 7)
c. Con tanta paceença soffria ela esta enfermidade. OGal/P
with so-much patience suffered-3sg. she this disease
‘She bore this disease so patiently’ (Diàlogos de São Gregório; quoted in
Ribeiro 1995b: 114; cf. Benincà 2004: 262)

This chapter is a slightly revised version of the paper I presented at the DiGS 11 conference in
Campinas. I would like to thank my colleagues in the audience for their helpful comments. I am also
grateful to Frank Savelsberg for his advice on the Old Ibero-Romance data. Some parts of section 2.4 are
the result of an ongoing research project (‘Components of Romance Syntax’), which I am carrying out
in cooperation with Eva-Maria Remberger (University of Konstanz). I would like to thank the Deutsche
Forschungsgemeinschaft for funding this project, and our research team, in particular Ion Giurgea and
Anja Weingart. For some details and results of the project that bear on the ideas on information
structure presented in section 2.4, cf. Mensching and Remberger (2011), Giurgea and Remberger (2009,
in press).
22 Guido Mensching

(2) a. porque ella non avia las cartas resçebidas OS

because she not had-3sg. the
‘because she had not received the letters’ (L. De Buen Amor, I 191a,
cf. Batllori, Sánchez, and Suñer 1995:204)
b. avrebbono a Alessandro e forse alla donna OI
have-cond.-3pl. to A. and maybe to-the woman
fatta villania
done-f. affront-f.
‘they would have affronted A. and perhaps the lady, too’ (Boccaccio, Dec. 2,3)
c. en preſe~za deſ taſ teſ temoiaſ que ſ om en eſ ta carta OGal/P
in presence of-these witnesses-f. that are-3pl. in this document
ſ criptaſ t pera aqueſ to ſ pecialmente chamadaſ and for this specially
‘in the presence of these witnesses, which are mentioned in this letter and
were specially summoned for this purpose’ (AM 1265, 45,20)

The examples in (1), which I shall refer to as the XP-V-S structure, show the
fronting of a constituent to the left periphery, where the subject appears in a
postverbal position. Although this structure resembles modern focus fronting
constructions, e.g. in Spanish, it can be shown that the fronted constituents in
Old Romance are mostly topics.2 The relevant examples would therefore show a
clitic in Modern Romance, and I shall examine the hypothesis that the lack of clitics
(i.e. clitic left dislocation, CLLD) might indicate an important parameter that
separates the medieval from the modern stages of the Romance languages. In (2),
the Aux-XP-Part. structure, we see a constituent that appears between an auxiliary
and a participle. This structure has sometimes been interpreted as ‘short-distance
scrambling’ (SDS) in the literature (for SDS cf. among others, Haider and Rosengren
1998), i.e. movement of a constituent to a lower part of the clause, not as high as TP
or CP.
The leading hypothesis of this article is that the XP-V-S structure in (1) and the
Aux-XP-Part. structure in (2) are related to each other and can possibly be regarded
as the result of the same parameter. The main idea (in the sense of a ‘lexical
parameter’) is that v0 had an [EPP]-feature as an option, generalized for attracting

This can be quite easily seen in (1a.) and (1b.), taking into account that esto / questo refer backwards to
a specific content that is narrated before the sentence at issue. In fact, demonstratives are very frequently
found in this structure. An exact information structural analysis lies beyond the scope of this chapter. Such
an analysis (for Ibero-Romance) is the subject of an ongoing research project by Frank Savelsberg (Freie
Universität Berlin). Some first results were presented in Mensching and Savelsberg (2009), where it
appears that, in Old Spanish and Old Catalan, the fronted constituents are most frequently topics, and
not foci.
Parameters in Old Romance word order 23

all kinds of phrases to its (outer) specifier. As a consequence, XPs were accessible to
positions higher than vP (cf. Mensching 2003). The examples in (3), with participle
fronting, will serve as additional evidence that can be found at least in some medieval
Romance varieties:

(3) a. Fecho as tú otro tal a los otros. OS

done-part. have-2sg. you other such to the others
‘You have done the same to the others’ (Cal. 301; cf. Batllori 1992: 106)
b. ſ ſ eguu~do dito he OGal/P
according-to said-part. have-1sg.
‘according to what I have said’ (AM 1351, 57, 9)

I shall argue (against Fontana 1993) that Old Romance participle fronting must be
analysed as (remnant) VP-movement. Since the remnant movement analysis of an
example such as (3a) presupposes that some constituents have been removed from
VP previous to its movement, the extra specifier position of vP that I assume can be
regarded as an appropriate landing site.
The general framework that I am adopting here is the Minimalist Program, in
particular the versions sketched in Chomsky (2000 et seq.). I shall assume that C, T,
v, and D are the core functional categories (CFCs), and that the basic syntactic
operations are merge and agree, the latter being based on a probing mechanism. I
shall furthermore assume the existence of [EPP]-features, maybe universally present
on T, and, as an option, on other categories. Head movement will be provisionally
formalized by a head attraction feature ([HAF]) (cf. Pomino 2008).
This chapter is organized as follows: In section 2.2, I briefly sketch the state of the
art with respect to the structures exemplified in (1) and (2). While doing so, I shall
also summarize some articles by Poletto (2005 et seq.), in which the structures in (1)
and (2), at least for Old Italian, are related to each other in a cartographic analysis by
postulating a parameter. In section 2.3, I present my own analysis, the core of which
was already briefly sketched in Mensching (2003). In addition to some more data of
the types presented in (1) and (2), I shall argue that participle fronting (cf. (3)) as well
as the contrast between the Old Romance structures and the modern CLLD struc-
tures can provide further evidence for my analysis. In this section I shall also review
some more literature, in particular Batllori’s (1992) and Fontana’s (1993) views on
participle fronting. The main part of section 2.4 will be dedicated to show how the
analysis presented in section 2.3 can be expressed by ‘lexical parameters’ in the sense
of lexical entries for functional categories, following Chomsky’s (1995 et seq.) hy-
pothesis that parameters should mostly follow from the lexicon. I shall slightly
extend the common minimalist view on [EPP] checking by tentatively assuming
information structural probes. Note that, as far as the left periphery is concerned,
24 Guido Mensching

this chapter is essentially on fronted topics. Still in section 2.4, after a short
summary, I briefly address the issue of fronted focus constituents. I shall finally
present some notes on grammaticalization.
It is clear that the medieval stages of the Romance languages were not uniform. It
nevertheless seems that almost all of them admitted the structures shown in (1) and
(2). I shall therefore use the term Old Romance (languages) as a kind of abstraction,
being aware of the fact that future studies will bring forth some differences. Since the
literature on the relevant structures is mostly language specific (see section 2.2 for
references) but nevertheless shows very similar data, I agree to the view expressed by
Benincà (2004) that one should now try to look at the phenomena at issue from a
pan-Romance view. I take this chapter to be a first, albeit very general and simpli-
fying approach into this direction, at least concerning structures like those illustrated
in (1) to (3).

2.2 Some remarks on the state of the art

In this section, I briefly review the main lines of analysis of the XP-V-S structures
illustrated in (1) and the Aux-XP-Part. structures exemplified in (2). This overview
does not aim at completeness. There is, in fact, much more literature on these
structures (see e.g. Kaiser (2002) for a more extensive review).
The fact that Old Romance often presents XP-V-S structures as those in (1) was
already observed in generative syntax in the nineteen eighties, e.g. by Benincà (1984)
and Adams (1987b), among others, who interpreted this word order as a verb second
structure similar to German. They thus analyse sentences like those in (1) as
structures in which either the subject or a non-subject constituent is in Spec,CP
and the verb in C0. When a non-subject constituent is moved to Spec,CP, the subject
remains in its base position, which in the nineteen eighties was still considered to be

(4) [CP esto [C0 fiz [IP yo … fiz esto]]] (cf. ex. (1a.))

However, it was quickly noted that, in contrast to a V2 language like German,

the relevant Old Romance structures also occurred in subordinate clauses, such
as (5):

(5) quant a aus est li rois venus OF

when to them is the king come-part.
‘when the King came to them’ (Chrétien de Troyes 573, cf. Dupuis 1989)
Parameters in Old Romance word order 25

Therefore, it was suggested, e.g. by Dupuis (1989), Fontana (1993), Lemieux and
Dupuis (1995), among others, that such structures should be given an interpretation
along the lines of (6), similar to Diesing’s (1990) analysis for Yiddish:3

(6) CP


Spec,IP I'

[a aus]i est
Spec,VP V'

li rois ti

Notably, this analysis, in which Spec,IP can function as an A’-position, was made
possible thanks to the VP internal subject hypothesis (Koopman and Sportiche 1985,
Fukui and Speas 1986, Kuroda 1988): The XP-V-S order could now be explained by
assuming that the subject remains in situ and another constituent moves to Spec,IP.
Interestingly, by the end of the nineteen nineties, with Rizzi’s (1997) split-CP
hypothesis, many scholars returned to the old idea that the fronted constituent in
sentences such as (1) and (5) is located in the CP domain (see, e.g., Benincà 2004,
Ledgeway 2005, Poole 2006, Labelle 2007, Poletto 2008, among many others).
Evidently, this approach is able to naturally account for cases of Old Romance V3
or even V4 structures, which in the preceding models illustrated in (4) and (6) had to
be explained by CP or IP recursion or adjunction to CP or IP, respectively.4 An
example that is often adduced comes from one of the first Italo-Romance docu-
ments, cf. (7a.) and the analysis in (7b.):

Also cf. Kaiser (2002), with arguments from a language acquisition and change perspective, as well
as Roberts (1993). As Kaiser (2002) remarks, the only Romance varieties that have a real German style
V2 structure are the Swiss Rhaeto-Romance (Rumantsch) dialects, which I shall not consider in this
For IP recursion, see Roberts (1993) (AgrP recursion in his framework).
26 Guido Mensching

(7) a. Sao ko kelle terre per kelle fini que ki contene, trenta
know-1sg. that those lands for those boundaries that here contains thirty
anni le possette parte Santi Benedicti
years them-cl possessed-3sg. party [Latin] Santi Benedicti
‘I know that those lands for those boundaries that enclose them, were owned
thirty years by the party of Saint Benedict’ (Placitum from Capua, 960 ce;
cf. Benincà 2004: 277, Poletto 2008: 134)
b. Sao [ForceC0 ko [TopP kelle terre per kelle fini que ki contene
[FocP TRENTA ANNI [C0 le possette [IP[SPEC parte Sancti
Benedicti] . . . . . . . . . ]]]]] (cf. Benincà 2004: 278)
It has to be noted though that this structure, apart from a focused constituent,
shows a clitic left dislocated topic, thus being similar to the modern Romance
structures.5 Although this account shows that Old Romance, at this early stage,
already allowed for the modern structure, the analysis contains no syntactic explan-
ation of why the clitic is often absent in Old Romance topicalization structures,
whereas it is obligatory in the modern stages of almost all of these languages.6
Furthermore, in this model, the difference between Old and Modern Italian lies in
the fact that the verb is also moved to the left periphery. More precisely it is assumed
that, in Old Italian, verb movement leads to Foc0 if the focus field is activated.
This explains the V2 effect in Old Italian. Note, however, that the frequent cases of
XP-V-S, where XP is a topic, still remain unexplained.
As for the lower part of the clause, the word order Aux-XP-Part. was analysed by
Batllori (1992), based on the idea that Old Spanish haber, ser, and estar were still
lexical verbs selecting a small clause (SC),7 so that the sentence in (8a.) would have
the structure in (8b.):
(8) a. et fue en esto el mur engañado OS
and was-3sg. in this the mouse misled-part.
‘and the mouse was misled by this’ (Cal. 349; cf. Batllori 1992: 101)

With respect to the focus fronted constituent, Modern Romance varieties diverge from each other at
least in two respects: first, the information structural status of the focused constituent, which may bear
information focus in a very reduced set of languages such as Sardinian (cf. Mensching and Remberger
2010) and Sicilian (Cruschina 2006), but is restricted to contrastive focus in most varieties, as far as I can
see (the case of Modern Italian treated in Rizzi 1997, but also of Modern Spanish, see Zubizarreta 1999);
second, some varieties, such as Spanish and Sardinian, show an adjacency condition holding between the
focused constituent and the verb that forces the subject to appear in a postverbal position (Gabriel 2007,
Mensching and Remberger 2010), whereas other varieties do not have this constraint, e.g. Modern
Standard Italian (e.g. Rizzi 1997).
See Benincà (2004) for a semantic and pragmatic explanation and some interesting generalizations
concerning the presence of the clitic in Old Romance.
The small clause analysis of auxiliaries is based on Kayne (1985) and Brucart (1991), who assume this,
however, for modern stages of French and Spanish.
Parameters in Old Romance word order 27

b. Simplified structure adapted from Batllori (1992: 102):

V AspP
en esto
Spec Asp'
el mur
Asp0 SC
ti tj tk

Both the participle and the subject move to an Aspect Phrase situated between V
and SC; another constituent (in this case the PP en esto) is adjoined to AspP to the
left of its specifier. It is furthermore assumed that the auxiliaries (with the exception
of passive ser) were later grammaticalized and are now base generated in Aspect
heads that subcategorize VPs. Although this analysis contains a series of weak
points,8 the basic intuition that, in Old Romance, an extra position was available
in the lower part of the sentence, is essentially a good solution, which was adopted in
various more recent studies. The theoretical enhancements of the nineteen nineties
provided several possible answers as to the location and the nature of this extra
position. Thus, in Mensching (2003), I suggested that this position could be an outer
specifier9 of vP, which was accessible to XPs in Old Romance varieties due to an
[EPP]-feature on v. Since this idea will be elaborated on in section 2.3, I immediately
turn to an interesting alternative proposal, which was made within the cartographic
framework. Inspired by Rizzi’s (1997) idea of a series of functional categories in
the left periphery of clauses, Belletti (2004) postulated a second, low left periphery
above vP:

(9) [… TopP [FocP [TopP … [ TP … [TopP [FocP [TopP … vP]]]]]]]

high left periphery low left periphery

It is not clear to me from a semantic point of view why participles should incorporate into AspP. Also
note that, if passive ser maintained the basic structure assumed, the Aux-XP-Part order would still be
possible, contrary to fact.
For multiple specifiers, see Chomsky (1995).
28 Guido Mensching

Poletto (2005 et seq.) exploits this idea for data such as those in (2) and (8), i.e. she
assumes that the landing site of Old Italian SDS is within the low left periphery. She
furthermore assumes that not only T and v have a left periphery but that this
might be a property of phase heads in general, an idea that can be visualized as

(10) Generalized model of a phase with left periphery, according to Poletto (2008)

left periphery
of the phase



Spec X'

phase phase
head domain

Based on a corpus analysis of Old Italian, Poletto (2008) was able to show that
both the XP-V-S structure and the Aux-XP-Part. structure ceased to exist in the
sixteenth century. Her main proposal is that the existence of these two structures in
medieval Italian follows from the same phase-based parameter: a head such as Foc0
is either strong or weak in a language X (strong meaning that it attracts an XP to its
head, similar to Chomsky’s (1995) system of feature checking). The strength of this
head is the same, regardless of the phase in which it is merged. This predicts that a
language that has structures as in (1) also has structures as in (2).
Although an exact corpus analysis will still have to be made, it seems possible that
this prediction is borne out for most Old Romance languages. The problem is that all
this is shown for focused XPs only, so that topical XPs as in (1a.,b.), which often
trigger V-S inversion, as we have seen, remain unexplained. In addition, the Old

This is a simplified representation based on Benincà’s and Poletto’s (2004) elaboration of Rizzi’s
(1997) split CP: [Hanging Topic [Scene Setting [Left Dislocation [List Interpretation [[Contrastive CP1
adverbs/objects [Contrastive CP2 circum adverb [Informational CP . . . ]]]]]]]].
Parameters in Old Romance word order 29

Italian left peripheral focus position is supposed to represent information focus,

differently from most modern varieties in which essentially only a contrastive focus
reading is possible. Of course, the question arises of why a ‘strong’ contrastive focus
head in Modern Romance does not predict structures of the type Aux-XP-Part.,
where XP would also have a contrastive reading.11

2.3 Analysis
2.3.1 Relating XP-V-S and Aux-XP-Part. word orders
The aim of this section is to try to apply a non-cartographic approach that works with
CFCs. The basis is the analysis of XP-V-S structures as in (6), where XP movement
leads to Spec,IP, i.e. Spec,TP from a more modern view, thus forcing the subject to
remain in its base position. In a minimalist interpretation, the example in (1a.),
repeated here as (11a.), will then have the structure shown in (11b.):

(11) a. E esto fiz yo porque tomases ejiemplo. OS

and this did-1sg. I because took-subj.2sg. example
‘And I did this for you to have an example’
b. TP

D T'
T0 vP
fiz D v'
v VP
esto fiz

Furthermore, it is not clear to me whether all constituents that appear in the low position in Poletto’s
data are really focused constituents. Cf. (i), in which il maleficio, according to the context in the relevant
passage, rather appears to me as known/given information:
(i) ch’ egli avea il maleficio commesso OI
that he had the crime committed
‘that he had committed the crime’ (Fiore di rett. 31,12–13; cf. Poletto 2008: 137).
30 Guido Mensching

As standardly assumed, T0 has an [EPP]-feature and a kind of strong feature

that attracts the verb (head attraction feature ([HAF]),12 cf. Pomino 2008). In
contrast to Modern Romance, we must assume that a non-subject XP could check
the [EPP]-feature in Old Romance T0, as illustrated in (11). But note that this idea
seems rather problematic at first sight: first, why should the [EPP]-feature in T0 be
able to attract a direct object in Old Romance but not today? It would probably not be
desirable in the Minimalist Program to specify something like a ‘subject related’
[EPP]-feature for the modern stages and a ‘general’ [EPP]-feature in the old stages of
Romance. Second, in the tree structure in (11b.), the subject is nearer to T0 than the
object, which would predict that the subject and not the object would be chosen for
[EPP]-driven movement. The solution I would like to suggest is to say that the
possibility of a non-subject constituent checking the [EPP]-feature of T is theoretic-
ally possible only if the moved constituent has an intermediate landing site in the
lower part of the tree structure. Let us look at (12):

(12) TP

Spec T'

[EPP] vP
D v'
D v'
v VP
Possible targets of [HAF]
the [EPP]-feature in T0 fiz fiz esto
due to equidistance

Here, the complement of V is first attracted to an outer specifier of vP, a

step made possible by an [EPP]-feature on v0. In this position, both the complement
and the subject will be equidistant from T0 (for equidistance see, among others, Ura
1996 and Chomsky 2000), so that either of the two constituents will be eligible for

Similar to Chomsky (1995), but against Chomsky (2000 et seq.), who takes verb movement to be a PF
phenomenon. With respect to Old Romance, in Mensching (2003), I assumed that the [HAF] was optional
in Old Romance, so that verb-final clauses could be produced. In our example, this would yield a sentence
such Esto yo fiz. I shall not explore this option here.
Parameters in Old Romance word order 31

movement to Spec,TP. Within phase theory, this intermediate movement would

ensure that esto evades the phase impenetrability condition (PIC); in fact, movement
to Spec,vP is seen as a standard device in the probe-goal framework. There are some
complications to which we will return in section 2.4.
While the structure in (12) follows from purely theoretical considerations,
I assume that the intermediate landing site in Spec,vP can be shown to exist, and
that it is precisely the position of the XP in the Aux-XP-Part. structures; cf. example
(13a.), repeated from (2a.), and the analysis in (13b.):13
(13) a. porque ella non avia las cartas resçebidas OS
because she not had-3sg. the
‘because she had not received the letters’
b. vP

DP v'

las cartas DP v'

ella v
las cartas resçebidas

The outer specifier of vP was not only accessible to direct objects, but to other constituents as well,
e.g. indirect objects as in (2b.). (2c.) is an example of a constituent that has moved from a VP internal
adjunct position, and, in my theory, is able to check the [EPP]-feature. From its position in vP, this kind of
constituent, too, could be attracted to Spec,TP, as (1c.) shows. An anonymous reviewer suggests that this
view might imply a danger of intervention effects, e.g. between an adjunct and an object (i.e. could not the
occurrence of an adjunct block movement of an object to Spec,vP or vice versa?). Concerning the data, this
kind of intervention effects does not seem to exist, as can be shown by examples with two extracted
constituents between Aux and Part., e.g.:
(i) Commo Auje el Regno A su yerno mandado OS
how had-3sg. the kingdom to his son-in-law conferred-part.
‘how he had conferred the Kingdom to his son in law’ (Libro de Apolonio, quoted in Mensching
and Savelsberg 2009)
In the present framework, the explanation lies in the fact that the [EPP]-features at issue are not linked to
f-probes (which would be expected to yield intervention effects). See section 2.4 for a hypothesis on the
nature of these probes. Evidently, for explaining examples such as (i), v0 must be allowed to have more
than one [EPP]-feature, a possibility that follows from the multiple specifier hypothesis but cannot be
explored in this chapter.
32 Guido Mensching

Here, the subject (ella) is attracted to Spec,TP in a subsequent step, but because
of the equidistance principle, it could also have been the object, thus leading to
a variant las cartas había ella resçebidas. In fact, structures of this type can be found
in the data. See the following examples, in which it is the subject that remains
between Aux and the participle when a non-subject XP is fronted (subject in
Spec, vP):

(14) a. quando el aver ovo el burgés recibido OS

when the possessions had-3sg. the burgher received-part.
‘when the burgher had received the money’ (Milagros, v. 654a;
cf. Batllori, Sánchez, and Suñer 1995: 203)
b. Aqui fue Josep vendido en Egipto. OS
here was-3sg. Joseph sold-part. in Egypt
‘In this passage Joseph was sold in Egypt’ (Faz. 52; cf. Batllori 1992: 100)
c. Un pou aprés eure de prime fu Mador venuz OF
a bit after hour of first was-3sg. M. arrived-part.
‘And shortly after the first hour M. had arrived (La Mort Artu p. 103; cf.
Benincà 2004: 262)
d. perciò che primieramente avea ella fatta OI
therefore that firstly had-3sg. she done-part.
a llui ingiuria
to him injustice
‘because she had first done injustice to him’ (Brunetto Latini, Rettorica:
116, 15; cf. Poletto 2008: 133)

In example (8a.), repeated below as (15), the subject appears beneath the scram-
bled non-subject constituent:

(15) et fue en esto el mur engañado OS

and was in this the mouse misled-part.
‘and the mouse was misled by this’ (Cal. 349; cf. Batllori 1992: 101)

If we adopt the view that unaccusative and passive predicates have a vP, to the
(inner) specifier of which the theme of the verb is attracted (Radford 2004, Kallulli
2007, among others), this example can be analysed as follows, in accordance with my
Parameters in Old Romance word order 33

(16) Revision of Batllori’s (1992) analysis in (8b.) (section 2.2):


D T'
T0 vP
PP v'
en esto
Spec v'
el mur
v0 VP

engañado el mur en esto

Note that this analysis presupposes, against Batllori (1992), that passive ser (as well
as haber and possibly estar) already were auxiliaries (generated in T0) in Old
Romance. We will return to this issue at the end of section 2.4.

2.3.2 Further evidence in support of the analysis

There are two further points that can support the analysis that I have just sketched.
The first one is related to participle fronting already introduced in (3) and further
exemplified in (17):
(17) a. Ya entendido he agora esto. OS
already understood-part. have-1sg. now this
‘I have already understood this now’ (Cal. 305; cf. Batllori 1992: 106)
b. Ya llegado ha tu fazienda a tal lugar. OS
already come-part. has your deed to such place
‘Your deed has already reached such a point’ (Cal. 188; cf. Batllori 1992: 106)
c. Ca ciertamente, si éstas son vacas, perdido he OS
since really if these are-3pl. cows, lost-part. have-1sg.
yo el entendimiento.
I the reason
‘Really, if these are cows, I must have lost my mind’ (Lucan. 176; cf. Fontana
1993: 80)
34 Guido Mensching

It is not the participle itself and its special position that are of interest here,14 but
an implication that follows from the analysis that I shall suggest for these construc-
tions. I therefore first present the analysis and then return to its relevance for our
Since the participle is not always fronted alone (cf. (17a.,b.), where it is accom-
panied by an adverb), Batllori (1992) argues that participle movement should, in fact,
be interpreted as XP movement and not as head movement. However, as remarked
by Batllori (1992: 106, fn. 4) ‘it is difficult to sustain this because esto “this” in [17a.]
and a tal lugar “to such a point” in [17b.] are objects of their respective participles.’
Of course, in order to maintain an analysis as XP movement, we have to envisage a
remnant movement approach similar to the standard approach for German, accord-
ing to which the structure of the (grammatical) word-by-word translation of the Old
Spanish sentence in (17c.) would be as in (18):15
(18) [CP[VP tj Verloren]i habe [IP ich [DP den Verstand]j ti]]
It is commonly assumed for German that, in a case like (18), the direct object or
another constituent is moved to some position below the Spec,IP position, and
afterwards the VP remnant is moved to the CP. It might be objected to applying
such an analysis to Old Romance that this possibility has already been examined and
rejected by Fontana (1993: 75–84). Fontana arrived at the conclusion that his corpus
contained only ‘examples [ . . . ] where all the constituents associated with the VP are
fronted with the non-finite form’ (Fontana 1993: 84) and that ‘none of them provides
evidence that VP material can be stranded after the tensed verb’ (Fontana 1993: 81).
But note that the examples he provides are all cases of infinitive fronting16 and not of
participle fronting. However, for participle fronting, examples such as (17a.,b.) can be
found.17 I therefore maintain the idea that participle fronting is remnant movement,
at least in Old Ibero-Romance, admitting that infinitive fronting may be subject to
another analysis, which is, however, beyond the scope of this chapter.18
Mainly because participle fronting seems to be a special case of focus fronting, and the present
article, as I stated in the beginning, is mainly concerned with fronted constituents that are topics. For the
focus properties of this construction, cf. Cruschina and Sitaridou (2009), as well as section 2.4.
Cf. the identical analysis of sentence (i) in Müller (1998: 6):
(i) Gelesen hat das Buch keiner. German
read-part. has the book nobody
‘Nobody read the book’
Such as (i):
(i) que ninguno [fazer plaser a Dios] non puede OS
that nobody make-inf. pleasure to God not can-3sg.
‘since nobody can please God’ (Corbacho 47, quoted in Fontana 1993: 81
according to Lema and Rivero 1991)
Fontana admits that (i) might be due to VP fronting, but, since he did not find examples of the type que
ninguno [fazer plaser] non puede [a Dios], he thinks that, in Old Spanish, either the whole VP could move
or the non-finite verb could move alone. For him, ex. (17c.) would be of the latter type.
I follow Batllori (1992) in assuming that, in these examples, ya has moved along with the participle.
With respect to the Aux-XP-V order, the same kind of examples can be found both with infinitives
and with participles; cf. Poletto (2008: 137–38). These infinitive constructions usually involve modal verbs
Parameters in Old Romance word order 35

Now, to return to the argument of this chapter, it has been proposed (e.g. by
Thiersch 1985 and den Besten and Webelhuth 1987) with respect to German struc-
tures as those in (18) that German allows (remnant VP) participle fronting precisely
because it has a scrambling position available somewhere in the lower part of the
clause. The other way around, they argue that a language such as English (and we
may add the Modern Romance languages) cannot have participle fronting of the
German type precisely because the scrambling position is unavailable. In the words
of Gereon Müller (1998: 6),
under this approach, VP topicalization [ . . . ] is necessarily preceded by a scrambling operation
that moves [material] out of the VP. Clearly, one can predict that if a language does not
exhibit scrambling, it will not exhibit remnant VP topicalization of this type either. English, in
contrast to German, does not exhibit scrambling, and therefore the absence of constructions
like those in [18] is explained straightforwardly.

On the same basis, we can now say that the possibility of Old Romance to allow
participle fronting (which I take to be of the German type) follows from the
possibility of these linguistic varieties to move material to an outer specifier of
vP, an option that I have shown to have existed in section 2.3.1.
Let us therefore assume that the sentence in (17a.) has the structure in (19):
(19) TP



Ya entendido esto
T0 vP
[HAF] Adv vP
he agora
D v'
Spec v'
v0 VP

and not auxiliaries in a strict sense (be/have). A decision on whether they allow for the same explanation
as the one I suggest for Aux-XP-Part. in section 2.3.1 depends on the analysis of modal verbs.
36 Guido Mensching

Note that, in principle, the idea that the scrambled object sits in an outer specifier
of vP is compatible with the occurrence of the adverb agora to its left, if we assume
that agora is adjoined to the maximal projection of v0.19 Nevertheless, there are at
least two problems with this analysis:20 first, we have to explain the paradoxical fact
that the VP itself performs a long movement without passing through the scrambling
position or we have to admit that there is more than one external specifier in vP;21
second, the word order subject–direct object in example (17c.) is not predicted by my
analysis. I shall postpone the discussion to section 2.4, where we will see how both
problems can be resolved.
A second piece of evidence is related to modern clitic left dislocation structures.
Note that, from the point of view of information structure, esto in (1a.), here partially
repeated as (20a.), has to be regarded as a topic.22 In Modern Spanish, this structure
would be ungrammatical with a topic reading of esto, and, instead, a CLLD structure
would have to be used, as exemplified in (20b.):
(20) a. Esto fiz yo. OS
this did-1sg. I
‘This is what I did’
b. Esto lo hice yo b.’ Esto yo lo hice. MS
this it-cl. did-1sg. I this I it-cl. did-1sg.
‘This is what I did’ ‘This is what I did’
The question is why CLLD should be obligatory in Modern Spanish but not in
Old Spanish.23 As hypothesized in section 2.3.1, Old Romance v0 possessed an
optional [EPP]-feature that allowed for a constituent to pass to the edge of vP.
I have also argued that this movement is a necessary step for the subsequent
movement to Spec,TP. From a diachronic perspective, my argumentation implies
that, at some stage, v0 lost the option of an [EPP]-feature, so that both the Aux-XP-
Part. and the XP-V-S structures would be barred. Now, if we look at modern CLLD,
one explanation that we find in the literature (e.g. in Sportiche 1992) is that

If this analysis is correct, the adverb ya must be supposed to be adjoined to VP.
A further problem is that this analysis implies that participle movement is remnant VP (not vP)
movement. We therefore have to admit the possibility that the participle does not move to v0. Luis López
(personal communication), observes that it might well be that participles do not actualy move to v0,
considering data with participles occurring in isolation.
See note 13 for this option.
In the context of this example, esto refers to the story just told.
CLLD was already an option in the Middle Ages. The question of whether there was an interpretative
difference between topicalization with and without clitic resumption must be left for future research.
According to Benincà (2004), the clitic served to make the fronted constituent pragmatically identifiable as
a topic in case of the ambiguity that could arise because of the fact that the focus and the topic structure
had the same surface word order.
Parameters in Old Romance word order 37

in CLLD the object DP is in the Spec of a functional maximal projection, a Clitic Phrase, of
which the clitic is the overt head. The Spec of Clitic Phrase is the target position of a
movement, the source position is the canonical, VP-internal, object position (Agouraki
1992: 50).

Consider the following structure (adapted from Agouraki’s 1992: 51 Modern Greek

(21) CP

C0 CliticP

DPj Clitic'

esto Clitic0 IP

V0 tj

The interesting point here is the idea that the clitic head provides an extra
specifier position. Of course, the structure in (21) is not in conformity with modern
insights on CLLD. In particular, as shown by Rizzi (1997), other constituents can
intervene between the topicalized phrase and the clitic. Let us therefore assume that
the basic insight of (21) is correct, but that the clitic is merged lower than TP. It
would then provide a landing place from which the extracted XP can move on to the
left periphery. In this view, the clitic would fulfil essentially the same task that the
[EPP]-feature on v0 had in the earlier stages of the languages at issue.

2.4 Summary and outlook

In the preceding sections I have tried to develop a theory that explains the fact that
the medieval stages of several Romance languages allowed both for XP-V-S struc-
tures and for Aux-XP-Part. structures. I have tried to show that both properties can
be modelled in a minimalist (CFC) approach, as an alternative to Poletto’s (2005ff)
cartographic theory. In contrast to Poletto’s analysis, we have been concerned with
left peripheral topics. In a CFC approach, these can be argued to have occupied
38 Guido Mensching

Spec,TP by means of checking T0’s [EPP]-feature. In order for this position to be

accessible for movement from within vP, the relevant constituent had first to move
to an outer specifier of vP, to the left of the subject. Since both specifiers of v0 are
equidistant, either the subject or the non-subject constituent were able to move
upwards. I have tried to show that the Aux-XP-Part. structure provides further
evidence for the existence of this position within the vP. From a diachronic per-
spective, Old Romance topicalization without a clitic and modern CLLD can be
explained as follows:
. Old Romance: equidistance and/or escaping the phase edge was made possible
by a generally available [EPP]-feature in v0.
. Modern Romance: Since the [EPP]-feature in v0 is no longer (generally) available,
a clitic has to be merged, which introduces an [EPP]-feature into the derivation
in order to provide an intermediate landing site.
As far as parametrization is concerned, the existence of an optional [EPP]-feature
on v0 is compatible with the minimalist view that the locus of parameters is the
lexicon (Chomsky 1995 et seq.), in the sense that parameters are determined by the
diverging feature specifications of functional categories and their interaction during
the derivation. Very roughly speaking, in such a framework, the ‘parametrization’ of
Old versus Modern Romance with respect to the phenomena at issue here can be
sketched as in (22):

(22) Functional categories T0 and v0 in Old and Modern Romance (rough

approximation, cf. Mensching and Remberger 2011):
a. Old Romance b. Modern Romance
Ø: T0 þ fin. Ø: T0 þ fin.
f-probe f-probe
([HAF]) [HAF]
Øv Øv
f-probe f-probe
([EPP]) [HAF]

An issue that has not been addressed in this chapter is the question of how the
information structural status of a constituent is established. One of the main points
of the chapter has been the assumption that subjects and topicalized non-subject
constituents share one and the same position (Spec,TP), thus causing V2 word
order. This idea cannot easily be accommodated in a cartographic approach, in
which topics need to land in dedicated Topic Phrases. I have therefore preferred a
Parameters in Old Romance word order 39

CFC account,24 but how can information structure be explained in such a frame-
work? Without going much into this issue here, I briefly explore one possibility that
is compatible with the lexical parametrization idea presented in the introduction. It
is usually assumed that the [EPP]-feature in T is somehow linked to the finiteness-
case system, i.e. it attracts an element that has been probed and assigned case by the
phi-features on T.25 I assume that this is the case in the Modern Romance languages.
It has been suggested in the literature (e.g. Brody 1995, Miyagawa 2005, Mensching
and Remberger 2011, Giurgea and Remberger 2009, in press) that [EPP]-checking
can—in principle—also be related to information structure. This can be modelled by
linking the [EPP]-feature to an information structural feature or, rather, an informa-
tion structural probe. If Spec,TP in Old Romance was essentially a position for
topics, we could now restate the lexical parameter approach for T in (22) as in (23):
(23) Parametrized linking of the [EPP]-feature:
a. ∅: T0 b. ∅: T0
φ-probe φ-probe
| [EPP]
In Old Romance, the [EPP]-feature in T was linked to a Topic feature (or a
corresponding probe), not to the f-probe (as in Modern Romance). Note that the
‘parametric settings’ of v0 remain as in (22) in the sense that we still need an
optional [EPP]-feature on v0. While it is clear that this feature cannot be argued to
be linked to the f-probe, the issue of whether it is free in the sense that it could
attract any kind of XP or if it is linked to special information structural probes must
be left open here, because this question is subject to a detailed analysis of the
information structural status of the elements that can be found in the Aux-XP-Part.
I have not looked at focus fronting in the present article, but XPs in the XP-V-S
structure certainly also allowed a focus reading, as shown, among others, by Benincà
(2004) and Poletto (2005 et seq.). Examples such as (24), where the fronted con-
stituent appears to bear some kind of focus, can easily be found in the medieval
stages of most Romance languages.
While acknowledging the advantages of the cartographic framework, I think there are some other
reasons that make an account within the probe-goal framework, as sketched in what follows, worthwhile
considering. One of these is the fact that there is no possibility to assign an information structural role to a
constituent without movement. Thus, in Romance SVO order, O is usually focalized. This can be expressed
in the probe-goal approach by assuming an information structural probe without an [EPP]-feature.
Alternatively, the [EPP]-feature can be checked by expletives, which therefore seem also related to
the case-finiteness system.
40 Guido Mensching

(24) Mal cosselh donet Pilat. OOc

bad advice gave-3sg. Pilate
‘Pilate gave bad advice’ (Venjansa, 106; cf. Benincà 2004: 262)
Although these cases might be explained in the same way as the topic construc-
tion that I have examined in this chapter, I would not insist on this idea. As an
alternative, it might be assumed that Old Romance focus fronting was movement
to the CP domain, whereas topic fronting without a clitic led to the TP. In fact,
this would solve the problems that I mentioned in section 2.3.2 with respect to the
examples in (17), and in particular, to (17c.), repeated here as (25):
(25) Ca ciertamente, si éstas son vacas, perdido he OS
since really if these are-3pl. cows, lost-part. have-1sg.
yo el entendimiento.
I the reason
‘Really, if these are cows, I must have lost my mind’.
Since participle fronting must be interpreted as a kind of focus movement
(cf. Cruschina and Sitaridou 2009 as well as Mensching and Remberger 2010), (25)
could be explained as in (26):
(26) [CP [VP perdido el entendimiento] [C0 he [TP yo … [el entendimiento] ... ]]]]

V-to-C scrambling

VP remnant movement (focalization)

The fact that both the VP remnant and the verb move to the CP explains that the
subject (in Spec,TP) precedes the scrambled direct object (in Spec,vP).26 And, in
addition, it seems probable that focus movement (i.e. operator movement), in

As an anonymous reviewer points out, my analysis would predict that the subject could remain in
Spec,vP and, instead, the scrambled constituent moves to Spec,TP in order to become a topic. An example
could be:
(i) Detto ha di sopra l’ Autore [ . . . ] OI
said-part. has above the author
‘The author has said above’ (Ottimo, Purg., 8,120, retrieved in the OVI database)
A quite interesting structure can be found in a Spanish text from the beginning of the sixteenth century:
(ii) E dicho que ovo esto el enano OS
and said-part. that had this the dwarf
‘And after the dwarf had said this’ (López de Santa Catalina, Espejo, ed. Pantoja: 74)
Apart from the fact that CP recursion is needed to account for this example (see Fontana 1993: 163ff for CP
recursion in Old Spanish), the word order beneath the complementizer is straightforward according to my
analysis. It has to be admitted, though, that other examples can be found that show a topicalized
constituent in the CP domain, above the fronted participle.
Parameters in Old Romance word order 41

contrast to topic movement, is able to perform long non-cyclic movement. Thus, in

(26), the VP need not pass through the escape hatch in vP.27
I would like to conclude with a final note on grammaticalization. The reader
will have noted the similarity of the tree structures in (8b.) and (16), repeated here as
(27) and (28), i.e. Batllori’s (1992) and my own interpretation of the word order Aux-
(27) Analysis within the framework of Batllori (1992)

V AspP
en esto
Spec Asp'
el mur
Asp0 SC

el mur engañado en esto

(28) My analysis from section 2.3.1


D T'
T0 vP
PP v'
en esto
Spec v'
el mur
v0 VP

engañado el mur en esto

Similar to wh-movement, another case of operator movement. Alternatively, operator movement
can somehow generate a free (i.e. not lexically selected) extra [EPP]-feature on v0 – see Chomsky (2001b et
42 Guido Mensching

I take (28) to be the correct representation, because it does not seem plausible to
me that, in the documented stages of the Old Romance, the verbs corresponding to
be and have were not yet grammaticalized. It seems plausible though that Vulgar
Latin or Proto-Romance had structures similar to that in (27). If my analysis is
correct, the Old Romance structures are the result of reanalyzing AspP as vP, and,
accordingly, of V as T. It is to be expected that, in this reanalysis, the speakers took
the former adjunct of AspP as evidence for an [EPP]-feature on v0, which can then
have been generalized as a property of all instances of v0, i.e. not only those instances
subcategorized by T with an auxiliary. This important step would then automatically
have allowed the element extracted by virtue of this [EPP]-feature to move onwards
to left clause periphery.

seq.) for an extensive discussion of these issues. In any case this idea predicts that types of focus movement
still exist in Modern Romance, contrary to (non-clitic) topic movement (maybe with the exception of
Modern Portuguese).

Microparameters in the verbal

Middle High German and some modern varieties


3.1 Introduction
A salient characteristic of Modern Standard German (MSG) is its fixed word orders
within the verbal complex (VC). In a subordinate clause with more than one verb,
the verbs occur clause-finally and no constituents can intervene between them (thus
the term ‘verbal complex’). In complexes of two verbs, MSG requires the order non-
finite verb before finite verb, hereafter called the ‘2-1 order’.1 The reverse order, 1-2, is
not grammatical:
(1) a. . . . dass Klaus den Roman geschrieben hat. MSG: 2-1
that K. the novel written2 has1
‘ . . . that Klaus wrote the novel.’
b. * . . . dass Klaus den Roman hat geschrieben. 1-2
that K. the novel has1 written2
However, earlier stages of German and some contemporary dialects have more
variable word order in the VC, as does standard Dutch. We can see this in Middle
High German (MHG), where a two-verb complex can appear in three different
orders. In the following MHG examples, all present perfects in relative clauses from
a single text, we find the MSG-like 2-1 order (2a.), the 1-2 order, also known as ‘verb
raising’ or VR (2b.), and a third order in which the verbs are in the 1-2 order but split
by some constituent (2c.). The latter order has been called ‘verb projection raising’
(VPR), but I refer to it here as 1-x-2, where ‘x’ represents the non-verbal constituent.

I label the finite verb ‘1’ and the non-finite verb (in this case, the lexical verb) ‘2’. The word-order
possibilities for complexes of three or more verbs are much richer and will not be discussed here; however,
they are treated at length in Sapp (2011).
44 Chris Sapp

(2) a. wi er daz volk verflvchet. daz got geſegent het. MHG: 2-1
how he the people cursed rel God blessed2 had1
‘how he cursed the people whom God had blessed’ (B. Könige 04va)
b. alle die den got gewalt uñ geriht hat verlihen. 1-2 (VR)
all those rel God power and rule has1 granted2
‘all those to whom God has granted power and rule’ (B. Könige 05ra)
c. daz dv vnſ vergaebest swaz wir vbelſ heten an dir getan. 1-x-2 (VPR)
that you us forgive rel we evil had1 to you done2
‘that you forgive us whatever evil we had done to you’ (B. Könige 03va)
The occurrence of the 1-2 and 1-x-2 orders in MHG has led previous scholars (e.g.
Lehmann 1971) to propose that parametric change has occurred in the
recorded history of German, from a tendency toward SVO in the Middle Ages
to more consistent verb-final structure in the modern language. This
hypothesis seems to be supported by the fact that VCs are not always clause
final in MHG: there are numerous examples in which one or more constituents
occur to the right of the verbs, and this is possible independently of the order within
the VC:
(3) a. Do ioſeph gelebt het hvnd’t iar vn zehn iar clause-medial 2-1
when J. lived2 had1 100 years and 10 years
‘When Joseph had lived 110 years . . . ’(B. Könige 03vb)
b. alſ ſi wol verdinet hat an dem armen manne. clause-medial 1-2
as she well deserved2 has1 because the poor man
‘as she well deserved because of what she did to the poor man’ (B. K. 07vb)
This chapter presents the results of a corpus study of MHG and data from some
modern varieties of German. Based on these data, I argue that orders represented in
(2b.,c.) and (3) are not evidence for VO, and that no change has occurred to the OV
parameter throughout this history. Rather, word order in the VC varies across
varieties and constructions and is sensitive to non-syntactic factors such as prosody,
focus, and register. Therefore, I argue that although the OV parameter is unchanged,
the changes in verb-complex order result from changes to a microparameter, at the
periphery of the grammatical system.
The chapter is organized as follows. Section 3.2 will present the data on the verbal
complex in MHG. Section 3.3 treats the diachronic developments to MSG and some
modern dialects, determining that there is no evidence for typological change in the
history of German. In Section 3.4, I discuss the distinction between core and
microparameters and account for synchronic variation and the diachronic develop-
ments in the VC in terms of microparametric change.
Microparameters in the verbal complex 45

3.2 The verbal complex in MHG

3.2.1 Corpus and method
Middle High German is the stage of the language written approximately from 1050 to
1350. For my study of MHG, I compiled a database of 1,106 subordinate clauses that
contain a finite verb and one non-finite verb. These clauses are taken from thirteen
prose texts from the Bochumer Mittelhochdeutsch Korpus (Wegera et al.). Although
the Bochum corpus has many more prose texts than this, this selection of texts
attempts to represent one text from each century and dialect in the corpus. For more
information on the texts used in the database, see Sapp (2011).
Each clause in the database was coded for the following variables: verb order,
syntagm type, constituent preceding the verbal complex, constituent following the
verbal complex, focus type (new versus contrastive), focused constituent, prefix type,
and verb second. Each text in the database was tagged for century, dialect, and
The analyses were conducted using the statistics package GoldVarb X (Sankoff
et al. 2005), which allows the researcher to determine the extent of the effect of
several independent variables (linguistic and sociolinguistic factors) on a dependent
variable (in this study, verb order). The key statistical output of GoldVarb utilized in
this study is the ‘factor weight’, which indicates the strength of the effect of a given
factor on the dependent variable. The factor weight is expressed as a probability
between 0 and 1; the further it is from 0.5, which indicates no effect, the greater that
factor’s effect on the dependent variable. In the MHG database, 317 of the 1,109
clauses (i.e. 28.7%) are in the 1-2 order.3 Thus if the 1-2 order occurs more frequently
than 28.7% with a given variable, the factor weight should be greater than 0.5,
indicating a favouring effect on 1-2.

3.2.2 Effect of syntagm

As shown in (2), a given syntagm can appear in either the 2-1 or the 1-2 order;
however, some syntagms favour a particular order. As in many West Germanic
varieties, including Modern Standard Dutch, syntagms with an infinitive favour the
1-2 order: as seen in Table 3.1, the modal-infinitive syntagm favours it at 35.5% and
other syntagms favour it even more strongly at 74.1%. On the other hand, the perfect
tenses have 1-2 at roughly 29%, close to the expected rate, while both kinds of passive
disfavour 1-2 at 17.1% and 9.9% respectively.

Other variables were also coded but play no role in this chapter; see Sapp (2011) for a discussion of
these additional factors.
Note that throughout section 3.2, ‘1-2’ includes all clauses where the finite verb precedes the non-finite
verb, i.e. it subsumes clauses with an intervening constituent or 1-x-2 (2c.) with the simpler cases of 1-2
46 Chris Sapp

TABLE 3.1. Syntagm

Syntagm 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

future 0 (0%) 6 (100%) n/a

other V þ inf. (causative, ACI) 7 (25.9%) 20 (74.1%) 0.887
modal þ inf. 272 (64.5%) 150 (35.5%) 0.602
perfect with haben 181 (70.7%) 75 (29.3%) 0.532
perfect with sein 52 (71.2%) 21 (28.8%) 0.526
werden passive 145 (82.9%) 30 (17.1%) 0.362
progressive 5 (83.3%) 1 (16.7%) 0.355
sein passive 127 (90.1%) 14 (9.9%) 0.233
Total 789 (71.3%) 317 (28.7%)
p < 0.001

The hierarchy of favourable syntagms for the 1-2 order (modal > perfect >
passive) also holds in other studies of MHG (Prell 2001), as well as studies of Early
New High German (ENHG) by Ebert (1981) and Sapp (2011).

3.2.3 Prefix type

MHG verbs may have a stressed prefix, also known as a verbal particle (4a.), or an
unstressed prefix (4b.):
(4) a. daz ím Ionathaſ waz ab gegange~. stressed prefix
that him Jonathan was1 away-gone2
‘that J. had departed him’ (B. Könige 12rb)
b. daz got geſegent het unstressed prefix
rel God blessed2 had1 (cf. (2a.) above)
As in Prell (2001), Ebert (1981), and Sapp (2011), in my MHG database the type of
verbal prefix has an effect on word order. As seen in Table 3.2, verbs with a stressed
prefix or no prefix favour the 1-2 order at 40.4% and 38.1%, respectively, while verbs
with unstressed prefixes favour the 2-1 order.
This effect of prefix type on verb order is in part because of an interaction with
syntagm, as most participles have the unstressed prefix ge-, and participles were
shown in the previous section to favour 2-1. However, Sapp (2011) demonstrates that
while there is a great deal of overlap between these two factors, within each major
syntagm type (those with infinitives and those with participles), verbs with stressed
prefixes favour 1-2 more strongly than those with unstressed prefixes.

3.2.4 Effect of word preceding the verbal complex

As in Ebert’s (1981) study of ENHG, in MHG there is an effect of the type of word
that precedes the VC. As shown in Table 3.3, preceding non-pronominal NPs,
Microparameters in the verbal complex 47

TABLE 3.2. Prefix type

Prefix type 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

stressed 31 (59.6%) 21 (40.4%) 0.620

no prefix 203 (61.9%) 125 (38.1%) 0.547
unstressed 555 (76.4%) 171 (23.6%) 0.470
Total 789 (71.3%) 317 (28.7%)
p < 0.001

TABLE 3.3. Class of preceding word

Preceding word 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

adjective 15 (53.6%) 13 (46.4%) 0.688

noun 185 (63.6%) 106 (36.4%) 0.593
quantified NP 27 (64.3%) 15 (35.7%) 0.586
clause (infinitival or finite) 2 (66.6%) 1 (33.3%) 0.560
prepositional phrase 170 (74.2%) 59 (25.8%) 0.469
adverb 162 (76.8%) 49 (23.2%) 0.435
stranded preposition 7 (77.8%) 2 (22.2%) 0.421
pronoun 202 (78.0%) 57 (22.0%) 0.418
nothing precedes 18 (64.3%) 10 (35.7%) 0.586
Total 788 (71.6%) 312 (28.4%)
p < 0.001

illustrated in (5a.), favour the 1-2 order at 36.4%, and quantified NPs favour that
order at a similar rate.4 On the other hand, when a pronoun immediately precedes
the verbs as in (5b.), the 2-1 order is favoured.
(5) a. den got gewalt uñ geriht hat verlihen. non-pron. NP
rel God power and rule has1 granted2 (cf. (2b.) above)
b. daz ich dir ſagen ſol pronoun
that I you say2 shall1
‘that I shall say to you’ (B. Könige 08va)
Ebert (1981) maintains that this is because of the heavier stress of nouns versus
pronouns, such that a stressed NP will be followed by the unstressed finite verb (thus
1-2), while an unstressed pronoun will be followed by the heavier non-finite verb
(thus 2-1). To test this hypothesis, I recoded the data by the weight of the preceding
word. Table 3.4 shows that other stressed constituents such as adjectives and PPs

The total for this table is lower because the analysis excludes six cases where the preceding ‘word’ was
a verbal prefix.
48 Chris Sapp

TABLE 3.4. Stress of preceding word

Preceding word 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

stressed (nouns, adj., PP) 420 (66.0%) 216 (34.0%) 0.570

unstressed (pron., neg., adv.) 351 (79.4%) 91 (20.6%) 0.401
Total 771 (71.5%) 307 (28.7%)
p < 0.001

TABLE 3.5. Focus type

Focus type 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

contrastive focus 49 (69.0%) 22 (31.0%) 0.539

new information focus 490 (66.3%) 249 (33.7%) 0.569
old information 250 (84.5%) 46 (15.5%) 0.324
Total 789 (71.3%) 317 (28.7%)
p < 0.001

pattern with non-pronominal NPs in favouring the 1-2 order, which occurs 34% of
the time following these constituents.5 Conversely, typically unstressed words such
as adverbs, the negator, and pronouns favour the 2-1 order.
Both ways of analyzing the effect of the preceding constituent are extremely
significant; however, the analysis of its effect in terms of word stress resulted in a
better model fit than the analysis by part of speech.6 This confirms Ebert’s (1981)
hypothesis that the primary influence of the word preceding the VC is its phono-
logical weight.

3.2.5 Focus
Focus was tagged in the database in two ways. First, each clause in the database was
examined within its section in order to determine whether there is contrast with
something preceding in the discourse, whether some elements of the clause present
new information to the discourse, or whether the clause represents only old infor-
mation. The results of this are presented in Table 3.5, which shows that clauses with
contrastive or new-information focus favour the 1-2 order at 31% and 33.7%. Clauses
with only discourse-old information, however, favour the 2-1 order.
Second, clauses in the database were tagged for the constituent that is focused
(combining contrastive focus with new information): possibilities are focus on the
The totals for this table are lower because the analysis excludes cases where no word precedes the
verbal complex.
The model fit for a combination of factor groups is output by GoldVarb as the log likelihood, which
was better for the analysis in Table 3.4 (  480.682) than for the one in Table 3.3 (  484.571).
Microparameters in the verbal complex 49

TABLE 3.6. Focused constituent

Focused constituent 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

object focus 34 (49.3%) 35 (50.7%) 0.684

clausal focus 71 (61.7%) 44 (38.3%) 0.566
VP focus 158 (65.6%) 83 (34.4%) 0.525
focus on a different constituent 74 (67.3%) 36 (32.7%) 0.506
verb focus 185 (73.4%) 67 (26.6%) 0.433
subject focus 17 (73.9%) 6 (26.1%) 0.426
nothing focused (old information) 250 (84.5%) 46 (15.5%) 0.470
Total 789 (71.3%) 317 (28.7%)
p < 0.001

entire clause (6a.), the subject, the object (6b.), the verb, the VP (6c.), or some other
(6) a. [Foc daz di ſvgínden kínt durch vnſirs h’ren willen
that the nursing children for our Lord’s sake
worden irſlagín] clause focus
were1 killed2
‘that the infants were killed because of our Lord’ (Mitteld. Pr. a1ra)
b. die [Foc ſinin willin ] heton getan. focus on object
rel his will had1 done2
‘who had done his will’ (Zürich Pr. 109rb)
c. daz ír [Foc ſín’ gutdete muzit genízen ]. focus on VP
that you his good.deeds might1 enjoy2
‘that you might enjoy his good deeds’ (Mitteld. Pr. a1ra)
As seen in Table 3.6, the most favourable focus condition for the 1-2 order is object
focus, with more than 50% of such clauses appearing in the 1-2 order. Focus on the whole
clause also favours 1-2, although this is less strong at 38.3%, and focus on the VP or on a
different constituent appear to slightly favour the 1-2 order as well. The other kinds of
focus have a disfavouring effect on the 1-2 order, as does old information.
It is not entirely clear that the influence of focus on word order seen here is
because of information structure per se or due to its effect on prosody. Note that in
the three focus conditions that most strongly favour the 1-2 order in MHG, senten-
tial stress will fall on the object in Modern German:
(7) a. What did Klaus read?
Ich glaube, dass Klaus [Foc das BUCH ] gelesen hat. MSG: object focus
I believe that Klaus the book read2 has1
‘I think that Klaus read the book’
50 Chris Sapp

b. What did Klaus do?

Ich glaube, dass Klaus [Foc das BUCH gelesen ] hat. VP focus
c. What happened?
Ich glaube, dass [Foc Klaus das BUCH gelesen hat ]. clausal focus
Assuming that sentential stress was similar in MHG, this could account for the
favouring effect of these three focus conditions on the 1-2 order. In these three
contexts, the object is stressed, and recall from the previous section that a stressed
word preceding the VC favours 1-2. Thus the 1-2 order may fall out from the more
general prosodic preference for alternating stressed and unstressed words.

3.2.6 Extraposition
As mentioned in section 3.1 above, the VC in MHG subordinate clauses is not always
clause-final. Rather, one or more constituents can follow the verbal complex, i.e. be
extraposed. This is possible with both the 1-2 and 2-1 orders, as illustrated above in
(3); however, previous studies (Prell 2001, Ebert 1981, and Sapp 2011) found a
correlation between extraposition and the 1-2 order. My MHG data show this
correlation too: as seen in Table 3.7, clauses with extraposition of an argument
favour the 1-2 order, which occurs 44.4% of the time in those clauses. Conversely,
clauses with no extraposition (i.e. when the VC is clause final) slightly disfavour the
1-2 order.
In her study of ENHG extraposition, Bies (1996) finds that extraposed NPs tend to be
either heavy or focused. Heaviness certainly plays a role in MHG extraposition as well:
in another study, I find that the heavier a constituent is, the more likely it is to extrapose
(Sapp in prep.). In addition to heaviness, focus has a clear effect on extraposition in
MHG: in the database, there are thirty-nine instances of extraposed NPs that are
focused, as in (8), but only two examples of extraposed NPs that are not focused.
(8) (daz iſt div bihte.) di wir tun ſuln [Foc unſern priſtern.] focused NP
that is the confession rel we do2 should1 our priests
‘(That is the confession) that we should make to our priests’ (Mitteld. b4vb)

TABLE 3.7. Extraposition

Extraposed constituent 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

extraposed argument NP/PP 35 (55.6%) 28 (44.4%) 0.671

extraposed adjunct PP 108 (69.7%) 47 (30.3%) 0.527
nothing extraposed 602 (73.4%) 218 (26.6%) 0.481
Total 745 (71.8%) 293 (28.2%)
p ¼ 0.011
Microparameters in the verbal complex 51

As in the previous section, it is unclear whether the association of this word order
with focus is syntactic in nature, or results from some prosodic preference. A third
possibility, that sentences like (8) are evidence for underlying VO in MHG, will be
considered in section 3.3.

3.2.7 Variation in MHG

Word order within the VC is not only subject to the linguistic factors discussed
above, but also to a great deal of variation from text to text. Some of this may be
because of dialectal differences; however, because some dialects are represented by
only one text in my database, it is difficult to determine whether this variation is a
result of dialect or some other factor. Ebert (1981) finds differences in word order
across social group in early-modern Nuremberg, but in my MHG database most of
the texts with known authors were written by priests, making it impossible to
identify occupation as a factor for word order variation.
The one sociolinguistic factor that can be identified as significant is the genre of
the text, as three text types are fairly well represented in the database: there are
three chancery documents, five sermons, and four other religious texts. A fourth
genre, chronicle, is only represented in the database by one text and will not be
discussed further. Table 3.8 shows a clear distinction between chancery documents,
which have the 1-2 order quite infrequently at 9.8%, and sermons, with a relatively
high rate of 1-2 at 37.4%. Religious texts other than sermons occupy an intermediate
position, with a frequency of the 1-2 order close to the total rate. This represents a
hierarchy of formality, from official documents of city chanceries, to religious texts
of a primarily didactic nature intended for reading, to sermons intended for oral
Clearly, genre plays an important role in the choice of word orders in the VC in
MHG, as it does in Ebert’s ENHG study. This hints at the possibility that other
sociolinguistic factors may be in play that cannot be detected because of the
limitations of the corpus.

TABLE 3.8. Genre

Genre 2-1 1-2 Factor weight

chancery documents 240 (90.2%) 26 (9.8%) 0.406

religious texts (except sermons) 231 (70.6%) 96 (29.4%) 0.433
sermons 271 (62.6%) 162 (37.4%) 0.557
chronicle 47 (58.8%) 33 (41.2%) 0.754
Total 789 (71.3%) 317 (28.7%)
p < 0.001
52 Chris Sapp

3.3 From MHG to Modern German

3.3.1 Decline of the 1-2 order
As mentioned in section 3.1 above, the 1-2 order, which was so frequently attested in
MHG, has become ungrammatical by MSG. However, this decline is not manifested
in the MHG database but only becomes apparent in the ENHG period. Figure 3.1
shows the distribution of the two word-order possibilities in the VC from the
eleventh until the sixteenth centuries. The data for the first three time periods are
from the MHG database discussed in this chapter, and the data for the last three
periods is from a similar study of ENHG (Sapp 2011). From the eleventh until the
fourteenth century, the 1-2 order is fairly stable, ranging from 32.2% to 35.5%, except
for a dip in the twelfth century (to 16.2%) that is probably the result of the choice of
texts for that period. In the fifteenth century, the 1-2 order declines rapidly to 15.7%
and falls to just 8.5% by the sixteenth century, setting the stage for it to become
obsolete in the modern language. Based on his studies of texts from early-modern
Nuremberg, Ebert (1981, 1998) argues that the decline of the 1-2 order was a
prescriptive ‘change from above’ that began in the formal written language and
was eventually codified as the norm. Ebert’s hypothesis is supported by my data
from MHG, as the most formal genre has the lowest rate of 1-2, and by data from my
ENHG database (see Sapp 2011).

1070– 1150– 1250– 1350– 1450– 1550–
1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600
2–1 order 1–2 order

FIGURE 3.1 Rate of 2-1 and 1-2 orders over time.

Microparameters in the verbal complex 53

TABLE 3.9. Verbal-complex orders in modern varieties

Variety modal-infinitive auxiliary-participle

Standard German 2-1 2-1

S and W Austria 1-2 / (2-1) 1-2 / 2-1
N Austria 2-1 2-1
E Austria 2-1 1-2 / 2-1
Bavarian 2-1 / (1-2) 2-1 / (1-2)
Swabian 2-1 2-1 / (1-2)
Alsatian 2-1 / (1-2) 2-1
Swiss 1-2 / (2-1) 2-1 / (1-2)

Although standard German does not allow the 1-2 order, many contemporary
dialects of German are reported to do so. The data in Table 3.9, collected from several
older studies of individual dialects, are discussed in detail in Sapp (2011) and imply
widespread occurrence of the 1-2 order in the south of the German-speaking region.
However, recent questionnaires by Wurmbrand (2004b) and Sapp (2011) have
found very little acceptance of the 1-2 order among dialect speakers in those parts of
Germany and Austria. Thus it may be the case that many contemporary dialects,
while maintaining traditional lexemes, phonology, and morphology, have given up
some word-order variation in favour of the prescribed order of standard German.
The one exception to this tendency is Swiss German, which, according to Wurm-
brand (2004b), Lötscher (1978), and others, continues to allow the 1-2 order along-
side the standard-like 2-1, especially with modal verbs.
In order to test to what extent Swiss German continues to allow 1-2, I conducted a
survey of twenty-three speakers of Zurich German (for details see Sapp 2011). As
reported by Lötscher (1978), the 1-2 order is not accepted in the perfect tenses.
However, somewhat contra Lötscher, who finds the 1-2 order to be preferred in the
modal-infinitive construction, I find that speakers prefer 2-1 in this context, although
the alternate order is acceptable as well. Finally, focus or prosody appears to play a
role in the choice of word orders, with the 1-2 order more acceptable under object or
VP focus than other focus conditions.7 Thus word order in the Zurich German VC
shares with MHG the properties of being sensitive to syntagm and focus. However,
unlike MHG, extraposition is very limited in Swiss German and so is no longer
correlated to the order in the VC. In short, Zurich German represents an intermedi-
ate position between MHG and the modern, non-Swiss varieties (including the
standard language), preserving some relics of the medieval system that have been
lost elsewhere.
Note that these are two of the focus environments that favour 1-2 in MHG (section 3.2.5 above), and
in both cases sentential stress falls on the object. Thus, as in MHG, it is difficult to determine whether the
effect on word order in Zurich German is due to focus per se or a preference for certain prosodic patterns.
54 Chris Sapp

3.3.2 Is the loss of 1-2 a result of typological change?

Lehmann (1971) argues that the increasing trend toward the 2-1 order in the history
of German is part of a typological change from SVO to SOV. This would fall out
from Greenberg’s (1966) Universal 16, which states that ‘[i]n languages with dom-
inant order SOV, an inflected auxiliary always follows the main verb’. Based on the
high frequency of extraposition in earlier stages of German, Lehmann (1971) claims
that medieval German was SVO, while modern German displays the SOV order
more consistently. As a result, Lehmann argues, German has tended to take on
more of the features of an SOV-type language such as postpositions and the 2-1
In my MHG data (section 3.2.6 above) there is a correlation between extraposition
and the 1-2 order, i.e. clauses without extraposition (thus OV) tend to also be 2-1.
Ebert’s study of the VC in ENHG also appears to lend support to Lehmann’s idea, in
that the increases in the OV and 2-1 orders show ‘great similarities in social
stratification and time curves’ (1981: 234). Ebert finds that both OV and 2-1 increased
in the sixteenth century, and the sharpest rise in the OV order preceded the sharpest
rise in the 2-1 order. However, Ebert stops short of claiming that the increase in the
verb-final order caused the increase of the 2-1 order, and he indicates that he is
critical of Lehmann’s approach.
Indeed, there is reason to be critical of a hypothesis that sees a direct diachronic
cause and effect between the basic architecture of the clause and word order in the
VC. First of all, consider that Swiss German and modern Dutch, like standard
German, do not allow object extraposition, i.e. they are clearly SOV, yet both
Swiss German and Dutch preserve the word-order variability in the VC that is lost
in standard German. Second, as Kroch and Taylor (2000) argue for the history of
English, the 2-1 versus 1-2 distinction can be independent of SOV versus SVO and
must be diagnosed separately. Finally, Lehmann’s hypothesis does not consider the
possibility that the apparently SVO orders in earlier German are derived from an
underlying OV structure. Therefore, the next section will examine whether there is
any good evidence for SVO in medieval German.

3.3.3 Medieval German as SOV

Although MHG has sentences with surface SVO structures, which have been labelled
extraposition in this chapter, we must investigate whether these are genuine evidence
for underlying VO order. One must consider the possibility that sentences with
ostensibly VO word order are derived from an underlying OV structure by some
syntactic operation, like heavy NP shift in English, which moves NPs rightward.
According to Kroch and Taylor (2000), the key diagnostic in this case is that a
VO language should have both heavy and light elements to the right of the verb.
Since light elements (pronouns and verbal particles) cannot move rightward, their
Microparameters in the verbal complex 55

presence to the right of the verb would unambiguously indicate underlying VO.8 In
my MHG database, although extraposition (surface VO order) is relatively common
at 19.7%, there are no instances of extraposed verbal particles or pronouns.9
If we add adverbs to Kroch and Taylor’s list of light elements that can serve as
diagnostics for SVO, we add only two potential counter examples. There are two
extraposed adverbs in MHG, both of which are probably light, consisting of just two
syllables, as illustrated in (9).10
(9) alſi hie biſcríbin is vorí. extraposed light adv.
as here described2 is1 before
‘as is described here above’ (Mühlhäuser R. 08v)
With only two possible exceptions to the tendency for only heavy elements to
occur post-verbally, it is very unlikely that MHG is underlyingly VO, by Kroch and
Taylor’s (2000) criteria. Rather, it is more likely that extraposition results from an
OV base (10a.) by moving material rightward (10b.), which was first proposed for
ENHG by Bies (1996).11 Support for this comes from examining the type of NP that
tends to extrapose: recall from section 3.2.6 above that extraposed NPs in both MHG
and ENHG tend to be heavy or focused.
(10) a. *daz ſi den brunnin deſ lebintigen wazzerſ uerlazzin habint underlying
that they the well of living water left2 have1
‘that they have forsaken the well of living water’ (Speculum E. 36v)
b. daz ſi ti uerlazzin habint [den brunnin deſ lebintigen wazzerſ]i
If this analysis is correct, then the basic structure of the German clause has not
changed from MHG to the present: it has remained underlying OV. The only change
in this regard is the fact that extraposition has become increasingly restricted: while
any (heavy) constituent could be extraposed in MHG, extraposition in MSG is
essentially limited to clauses and adverbials (Lambert 1976). Therefore, if the basic
OV parameter has not changed from MHG to the present, one cannot argue that the
loss of variable word order in the VC in German is a result of a larger typological

The third kind of light element in Kroch and Taylor (2000) is stranded prepositions, but preposition
stranding is very rare in MHG.
Note that the lack of extraposed pronouns and particles is not due to a paucity of these items in the
database: pronouns frequently appear in the vicinity of the verbal complex (see Table 3.3), and there are
fifty-two clauses with a verbal particle. Also note that in my study of ENHG (Sapp 2011), there are no
verbal particles to the right of the verb and just one possible case of an extraposed light pronoun, although
there are two cases in which an extraposed pronoun is the head of an immediately following relative
Of the three extraposed adverbs in my ENHG data, all are heavy, containing the derivational
suffix -lich.
Alternatively, under an antisymmetry analysis, one would claim that heavy/focused NPs remain in
situ while lighter ones move to the left. For the sake of simplicity, in this chapter I assume the traditional
head-final analysis of the German clause.
56 Chris Sapp

change. Instead, in the next section, I will propose that a separate parameter
determines word order within the VC, and that this parameter is at the periphery
of the language’s grammar.

3.4 Parameter theory and syntactic change in German

3.4.1 Uriagereka’s hierarchy of parameters
In a paper on the development of word order in Basque, Uriagereka (2006) proposes
that there is more than one kind of parameter. Uriagereka postulates that there are
core and subset parameters, which are complex, set during the acquisition process,
not subject to conscious manipulation by adults, and thus not (directly) subject to
language change. In contrast to these parameters is the ‘periphery’, whose features
are determined by ‘trivial parameters’ that are formally simpler (e.g. inversion),
learned rather than acquired, subject to adult manipulation, and characteristic of
formal registers.12 Uriagereka hypothesizes that syntactic change begins in the
periphery, where extra-linguistic factors may cause adults to learn and use syntactic
patterns that were not in the input when they acquired the language as children. If
this manipulation of syntax is successful, it may provide input for the next gener-
ation of children, resulting in linguistic change at the periphery. Uriagereka notes
that a change in the periphery may have no effect on other parameters, but under
certain circumstances a peripheral change can lead to the resetting of a subset
parameter. Likewise, a subset change may eventually bring about change to a core
parameter of the language.
Uriagereka’s periphery is very similar to the notion of ‘microparameter’, defined
by Ayoun (2003) as a ‘superficial, binary variation in the realization of a syntactic
structure’. Besides their simplicity and superficiality, microparameters are the locus
of microvariation across dialects, and I would add sociolinguistic variation in syntax.
Microparameters may be not only language- and even dialect-specific, but also
construction-specific. Finally, I propose that as formally simple, superficial differ-
ences, the word orders determined by microparameters are more subject to interface
conditions such as prosody and information structure.
The OV/VO parameter is clearly a core parameter in Uriagereka’s hierarchy. In
the next section, let us consider the evidence that the VC is a peripheral construc-
tion, resulting from a microparameter.

3.4.2 Verb-complex order as a microparameter

The first argument that word order in the verbal complex is determined by a
microparameter is the simplicity of the difference between the two settings. Unlike

In the published paper, Uriagereka (2006) does not specify whether there are parameters at the
periphery. The idea that the periphery involves trivial parameters was explored in an earlier lecture
(Uriagereka 2004).
Microparameters in the verbal complex 57

the OV/VO parameter, which depends on hierarchical structure, the difference

between 2-1 and 1-2 is a simple inversion. This has led some scholars to propose
that re-ordering in the VC is perhaps a post-syntactic operation such as PF move-
ment (Wurmbrand 2004a).
Second, there is evidence that word order in the VC is subject to conscious
manipulation by adults, and at least at one point in history the increase in 2-1
occurred as a learned rather than acquired feature of the language. Ebert’s (1998)
study of the letters of several individuals in early-modern Nuremberg finds that
writers used variable word order in their earliest writing, but increasingly used 2-1 as
they received more education and made more contacts outside Nuremberg.
Third, in MHG and ENHG, the 2-1 order was typical for more formal writing,
such as chancery documents, and associated with the highest-status and most
educated writers. As Ebert (1981) argues, the 2-1 order becomes fixed for written
German as ‘change from above’, and this has spread from the written language into
colloquial speech. This is a prime example of external factors leading to a parameter
resetting, which Uriagereka argues is only possible at the periphery.
Fourth, the microparametric nature of VC word orders is evident in cross- and
intra-linguistic variation. The continental West Germanic dialects show a bewilder-
ing number of possibilities in verb orders (especially when three or more verbs are
involved), varying from dialect to dialect and construction to construction, as
discussed by Wurmbrand (2004b).
Fifth, order in the VC interacts with the interface, suggesting that it is at the
periphery of syntax. In MHG, VC word order is clearly influenced by the prosody of
the preceding word (see section 3.2.4) and there is evidence that certain focus
conditions favour particular word orders, both in MHG (section 3.2.5) and in
contemporary Swiss German (section 3.3.1), although it is not clear whether this
effect is because of focus per se or to the prosodic manifestation of focus.13
As a final note, let us consider what the nature of such a parameter would be.
The traditional generative account for the 1-2 order is the verb raising analysis,
treated extensively by Haegeman (1992). Haegeman argues that the 1-2 order
is derived from an underlying 2-1 structure by moving the non-finite verb to the
right and head-adjoining it to the finite verb. Under such an analysis, the parameter
in question would either allow or disallow verb raising and could be termed
+ VR.14

Sapp (2011) discusses in detail the relationship between prosody, focus, and word order in these
Under an antisymmetry approach, this becomes much more complicated: 1-2 represents the in situ
word order, while 2-1 involves movement of the non-finite verb to the left. Thus variability in the VC
would result from optional leftward movement of the non-finite verb, and the uniform 2-1 order of MSG
would indicate that such movement is obligatory. See Hinterhölzl (2006) for an antisymmetry analysis of
verbal complexes.
58 Chris Sapp

TABLE 3.10. Parameters for the position of verbs in continental

West Germanic

Parameter MHG Swiss / Dutch MSG

Head-final VP (OV) þ þ þ
Object extraposition allowed þ  
VR allowed (perfect) þ  
VR allowed (modals) þ þ 

3.4.3 Toward an explanation of the changes from MHG to Modern German

Having established that German has remained OV from the Middle Ages to the
present, and that the changes in the word orders of the VC are a result of the setting
of a microparameter, I will attempt to account for the changes in German syntax
discussed in this chapter. First of all, the headedness of VP, a core parameter, has
remained OV. Despite the fact that extraposition was fairly frequent in MHG
(almost 20%), more than half of the extraposed constituents are adjunct PPs;
extraposed objects were less frequent and tended to be heavy or focused. Thus object
extraposition was marked and not frequent enough to trigger reanalysis of SOV to
SVO, but instead extraposition declined to become very limited in most contem-
porary West Germanic varieties.
Although the core OV parameter has remained unchanged, there has been change
to the microparameter that determines word order within the VC, which I call the
+ VR parameter.15 The VR parameter is set to þ in MHG, which allows but does
not require the 1-2 order. Moreover, there seem to be separate parameters for VCs in
the perfect tense versus VCs with a modal verb. Both of these parameters are set to
 in MSG, thus only 2-1 is possible. Standard Dutch and Zurich German, which
strongly disfavour the 1-2 order in the perfect tenses, but allow both orders in the
modal-infinitive syntagm, can be said to have different settings for the + VR
(perfect) and + VR (modals) microparameters. These differences are summarized
in Table 3.10.
Of course, loss or maintenance of VR were not the only possible outcomes.
A third possibility is that the high frequency of 1-2 (including 1-x-2) clauses could
have led to reanalysis of German as an Infl-medial language.16 There are certainly
ambiguous clauses, such as (11a.), which could be interpreted as an example of VR
with extraposition or as leftward movement of the finite verb into a clause-medial,

Although Zurich German and some Dutch dialects allow both 1-2 and 1-x-2 with modals, standard
Dutch allows only 1-2. This suggests that the 1-x-2 order is licensed by yet another microparameter, which
we could call + VPR following Haegeman’s (1992) verb projection raising analysis.
This would have resulted in a grammar like that attested in Early Middle English, which, according
to Kroch and Taylor (2000), has clauses that are Infl-medial and V-final.
Microparameters in the verbal complex 59

embedded V2 position (Infl). However, such clauses make up the minority of the 1-2
clauses in my database: of the 317 clauses with 1-2 or 1-x-2 order, only forty-eight
(less than 13% of 1-2 clauses, or about 4% of all clauses in the database) are
ambiguous with an Infl-medial analysis. The remainder cannot be analysed as
embedded V2, as there are at least two constituents between the complementizer
and the finite verb (11b.,c.). Thus, the majority of clauses with 1-2 or even 1-x-2
provide clear evidence for V-final grammar, and a reanalysis to Infl-medial grammar
was never triggered in German.
(11) a. Do Darivſ waz geweſen ſehſ iar kvnic. ambiguous VR or Infl-medial
when D. was1 been2 six years king
‘When Darius had been king for six years . . . ’ (Buch der Könige 09va)
b. den got gewalt uñ geriht hat verlihen. 1-2 (unambiguous VR)
rel God power and rule has1 granted2 cf. (2b.)
c. swaz wir vbelſ heten an dir getan. 1-x-2 (unambiguous VPR)
rel we evil had1 to you done2 cf. (2c.)
If the analysis presented in this chapter is correct, then the mechanism for the
changes in question can be attributed to the interplay between sociolinguistic
pressure and child language acquisition. I suggest that the development proceeded
thus: MHG-speaking children acquired positive settings for the core OV parameter
and the VR microparameters that allow the 1-2 order. With rich attestation of both
the 1-2 and 2-1 orders in the data, children would have gradually learned the
sociolinguistic, prosodic, and discourse conditions that favour or disfavour particu-
lar orders within the verbal complex. In the ENHG period, the most prestigious,
super-regional written German began to favour the 2-1 order (Ebert 1981), and this
preference was one that was learned as writers gained more exposure to such non-
regional writing (Ebert 1998). Being determined by microparameters and at the
periphery of the grammar, as argued here, these orders could be consciously
manipulated, and at some point the avoidance of the 1-2 variant in writing must
have carried over to speech. Children whose parents used mainly the 2-1 order, even
if that order was produced by the adults as a conscious manipulation, would have
reset the VR microparameter to disallow 1-2. This change has been carried farthest in
the perfect tenses, affecting most continental West Germanic varieties, while the
modal-infinitive syntagm continues to show variation across dialects.

Language acquisition in German

and phrase structure change in

4.1 Introduction
There is a long tradition, stretching back into the nineteenth century, of implicitly
assuming a relationship between language change and child language acquisition in
the notion of ‘reanalysis’. Recently, studies such as Yang (2000) have developed
formal models of language acquisition and expanded them to model how new
syntactic variants can arise among children and be maintained in adult speech
communities, formalizing the notion of ‘grammar competition’ (Kroch 1989). How-
ever, there have been very few empirical studies of language acquisition that can be
linked to specific, well-documented cases of grammatical change.
This chapter investigates the relationship between acquisition and change in a
study of a major phrase structure change in the history of Yiddish, the change in the
structure of TP from a German-like Tense-final grammar to its modern Tense-
medial grammar (Santorini 1992, 1993). In particular, this study will ask: was the
direction of this change predetermined? Additionally, this chapter explores the
question of exactly what parameter was changing when the position of the tensed
verb changed in the history of Yiddish, and I will suggest that an antisymmetric
approach to head-finality allows for a more precise understanding of how this
historical change took place.

I would like to particularly thank Charles Yang for helping me to think about change in terms of
acquisition in general, as well as for a number of helpful discussions regarding this chapter. Beatrice
Santorini and Anthony Kroch were also particularly helpful in working out the ideas for the chapter and
in interpreting the Early Yiddish data. I would also like to thank all of the attendees of DiGS XI at
Unicamp, and one anonymous reviewer, for many helpful questions and comments. I would also like to
acknowledge support for this work from NSF grant OISE-0853114. All errors are, of course, my own.
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 61

The rest of the chapter is organized as follows. In the section below I briefly
summarize the historical change in Yiddish phrase structure that is under discussion,
and frame the problem it poses for acquisition in terms of Yang’s (2000) model. In
section 4.3, I show that Yang’s (2000) model for how children acquire syntactic
variation in the input language cannot account for the data from Early Yiddish, at
least in the most straightforward way. Section 4.4 discusses some data from childhood
acquisition of modern German varieties which suggests that the previously assumed
division of the Early Yiddish data into Tense-final and Tense-medial data may be
flawed. Section 4.5 suggests a different understanding of the Early Yiddish data based
on an antisymmetric account of the Tense-final grammar and the West Germanic
verb (projection) raising construction, and shows that the observed historical change
is now predicted under Yang’s (2000) model. Finally, in section 4.6 I offer some
conclusions and directions for further study.

4.2 Yiddish and Yang’s acquisition model

As Santorini (1992) and Santorini (1993) showed, Yiddish gradually changed from a
Tense-final language, like modern German or Dutch, into a Tense-medial language
(or, a left-headed TP language, under classical X-bar theoretic assumptions) roughly
between the years 1400–1800. After the change was initiated, Tense-medial TPs were
introduced into the Yiddish speech community, and a period of variation began
during which there was a mixture of both phrase structures in the speech commu-
nity. That is simply another way of saying that while the change was underway, there
was a state of ‘grammar competition’ among Yiddish speakers (in the sense of
Kroch 1989 and much subsequent work): there were both Tense-final and Tense-
medial TPs evident in the performance of the community and produced by indi-
vidual speakers, who could alternate between the two structures even from sentence
to sentence within the same text (see Santorini 1992, where this fact is established
beyond doubt).
Ultimately, the frequency of Tense-medial TPs advanced at the expense of the
older Tense-final system, until this natural evolutionary process resulted in the
uniformly Tense-medial modern Yiddish. Under a classical X-bar phrase structure
(where headedness is a matter of linearization in accordance with a ‘head parameter’
setting), this would mean that Yiddish changed from 1 to 2 below. Note that I will be
assuming this classical, non-Kaynian (Kayne 1994, inter alia) view of head-initial and
head-final phrase structure for the first three sections of this chapter; this view will
be revised in section 4.5.
62 Joel C. Wallenberg

(1) CP



DPi T⬘

vP Tense
ti . . .

(2) CP



DPi T⬘

Tense vP
ti . . .

The change in the position of Yiddish tense is a perfect test case for Yang’s (2000)
model of syntactic acquisition: the change is as simple as a syntactic change can be,
as it involves only one parameter, and the state of variation is well documented
throughout almost the entire time course of the change (i.e. nearly all but the
actuation of the change is attested). Once a new variant has been introduced into
the linguistic environment of learners, the model in Yang (2000) is intended to
evaluate the ‘fitness’ (in an evolutionary sense) of the two variants and predict
whether the new variant will deterministically win out over the older variant
(given enough time, and holding other environmental factors equal). Yang adapts
the well-known learning model from Bush and Mosteller (1951) and Bush and
Mosteller (1958) to syntactic acquisition in a situation of grammar competition,
and evaluates the evolutionary fitness of the competing variants in terms of the
amount of evidence each grammar makes available to the learner for acquiring it.
A brief description of Yang’s syntactic learning model for the case of grammar
competition is as follows (for details and the relevant mathematical proofs, see the
full description in Yang 2000).
First, given a mixture of two grammars in the input to the learner, G1 and G2, a
child is expected to learn both grammars; this is simply another way of defining
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 63

‘grammar competition’, and it is the situation that Santorini (1992) observed in the
intraspeaker variation of Yiddish speakers during the period of variation (see also
Kroch 1989, Pintzuk 1991, Kroch 1994, and many studies building on those founda-
tional studies). In acquiring the two grammars, the hypothetical child assigns some
probability (weight) to each, and then continues to update these weights dynamically
throughout the learning process, depending on the input data the child is exposed to
in the speech community. Both grammars G1 and G2 generate some sentences that
unambiguously identify them to the learner; if they did not, then the learner would
not be able to know in the first place that both G1 and G2 are present. However, the
two grammars most likely also generate some ambiguous sentences, sentences which
could be the product of either grammar; e.g. an OV grammar and a VO grammar
will both generate some short intransitive sentences of the form ‘The dog barked’,
and these sentences will be string-wise identical no matter which of the two
grammars generated them.
Yang’s model states that when the child hears a sentence, the child picks a
grammar to analyse the sentence, choosing blindly based only on the pre-existing
weights associated with each grammar (i.e. the weights based on sentences the child
heard prior to the current one). If the child hears an unambiguous sentence, e.g. only
G1 could have produced the sentence, then if the child picked G1 beforehand and
used it to try to analyse the sentence, G1 will be rewarded; otherwise, G2 will be
punished and G1 will be indirectly rewarded. Either way, G1 ends up with an
augmented weight. However, if the child encounters an ambiguous input, i.e. either
G1 or G2 can analyse the string the child hears, then the child will reward whichever
grammar she happened to be using at the time. Ultimately, as the task is iterated
many times, the child will end up assigning a higher probability at the end of the
learning to the grammar that was most successful in analysing unambiguous inputs.
And, of course, this process can be iterated over a number of generations of learners
as well, so the winner of a diachronic competition between two grammars over a
long period of history will also be the one that can analyse the most unambiguous
sentences in the input to learning.
This is the same as saying that the most successful grammar is the one which
generates the highest frequency of unambiguous outputs. When the learning process
is iterated over a number of generations, the first generation of learners becomes the
second generation’s parents (or adult speech community, more generally) and
determines the composition of the linguistic input to the second generation’s
learning. The grammar which can analyse the most unambiguous inputs, from the
learner’s perspective, is by definition also the one producing the most unambiguous
outputs, from the adult speaker’s perspective. As the weights are updated over and
over again by the learner and, by extension, generations of learners using G1 and G2
alternately to analyse the outputs of G1 and G2 in the ambient linguistic environ-
ment, the grammar which produces more unambiguous sentences of its own type
64 Joel C. Wallenberg

will have its weight augmented more often. Yang (2000) also shows mathematically
that the proportion of unambiguous sentences a grammar generates is decisive even
independently of the initial weights of G1 and G2 and the initial frequencies of G1 and
G2 in the linguistic environment when the learning process begins. Thus, even if a
given grammar begins as an extreme minority variant, if it is detectable to the
learner at all, it will eventually win out over the majority variant if it generates/
analyses a higher proportion of unambiguous sentences of its own type than does its
In selectional, evolutionary terms, each grammar has a ‘fitness’ which determines
how likely it is to ‘reproduce’ itself in a given learner’s probability weights and in the
acquisition process of future generations of learners:
Fitness(G) ¼ proportion of unambiguously ‘G’ clauses it generates out of all the
clauses it generates.
If a grammar, G1, has a higher fitness than another grammar, G2, i.e. it generates
more unambiguous clauses which signal, ‘I’m a G1 clause’, then G1 has an ‘advantage’
over G2:
Advantage(G1 over G2) ¼ Fitness(G1)  Fitness(G2)
Yang argues that if Fitness(G1) > Fitness(G2), then G1 must win in the long run
(and vice versa). Thus the outcome of any syntactic change is entirely fixed, once the
change begins.
The goal of the remainder of the chapter is to test the model in Yang (2000)
against the empirical facts of the Yiddish change in the position of Tense, and make
sense of the results of this experiment. We already know the result of the change: the
Tense-medial (left-headed Tense) grammar won out and became the modern
language. So, reasoning backwards, Yang’s model hypothesizes that the Tense-final
grammar was less fit than the Tense-medial grammar; the Tense-medial grammar
should generate a higher proportion of unambiguously Tense-medial sentences than
the Tense-final grammar generates of unambiguously Tense-final sentences. As we
will see in the next section, under standard definitions of the two grammars, this
prediction is not borne out.

4.3 A hypothetical Early Yiddish learner

We can test the hypothesis from Yang’s learning model using a parsed diachronic
corpus of Yiddish (the Penn Yiddish Corpus, Santorini 1997/2008) to estimate the
fitness of the Yiddish Tense-final and Tense-medial grammars, which were in
competition during the period of phrase structure variation in the fifteenth through
to the eighteenth centuries. Note that all of the data below is taken solely from
subordinate clauses, as in Santorini (1992) and Santorini (1993), since even Tense-
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 65

final Yiddish matrix clauses were V2, exhibiting general tensed-verb movement to C
as in German (following the standard analysis of West Germanic V2 going back to
den Besten 1983). Thus, all matrix clauses in Yiddish are ambiguous between Tense-
final and Tense-medial phrase structure, from the point of view of both the analyst
and the learner.
In order to compare the relative fitnesses of the two grammars, it is necessary to
estimate the frequency of unambiguous (subordinate) clauses each grammar gener-
ates from some kind of representative sample of each grammar’s performance. For
the Tense-medial grammar, the natural choice is a sample of text from some time
period after the Tense-final-to-Tense-medial change had gone to completion. Any
Yiddish text from the nineteenth century or later is essentially uniformly Tense-
medial, and so the frequencies of unambiguous versus ambiguous clause-types
generated by the Tense-medial grammar were estimated from the texts in the
Penn Yiddish Corpus from the years 1848–1947. (Note also that I have verified that
no unambiguously Tense-final subordinate clauses occur in this sample.)
For the Tense-final grammar, I adopted the same method, taking as my sample
the West Yiddish texts in the Penn Yiddish Corpus from the year 1507 or earlier.
There were no unambiguously Tense-medial subordinate clauses in this group of
texts (which form the oldest time period of the most conservative dialect region in
the corpus), and so this sample is as close to pure Tense-final Yiddish as one is likely
to find.2 The majority of relevant clauses in this period come from one early Western
Yiddish text, Elia ha-Levi ben Asher Ashkenazi’s (also called Elia Levita or Elia
Bachur) Bovo Bukh (Joffe 1949).
Having chosen the two sample corpora to represent the Tense-final and Tense-
medial Yiddish grammars, the unambiguous clauses of each type are those that
contain certain diagnostic elements, elements which can unambiguously diagnose a
clause’s underlying structure. Following Santorini (1992) and Santorini (1993), these
diagnostic elements include sentential negation and verbal particles (i.e. also known
as Germanic separable prefixes) including loshen koydesh elements,3 both of which
only occur preceding a finite verb in Tense-final clauses and following a finite verb
in tense-medial ones (see also, for the use of diagnostic elements in analysing Old
and Middle English: Pintzuk 1991; Kroch and Taylor 2000; Pintzuk 2005; Pintzuk

It is not possible to be completely certain that this sample is 100% Tense-final. However, any error in
this regard would only artificially inflate the estimated frequency of ambiguous clauses generated by the
Tense-final grammar (because some truly Tense-medial clauses would be incorrectly counted as ambiguous
Tense-final clauses). However, this potential error is not problematic to the argument or results presented
in the rest of the chapter: as you will see below, it would only strengthen the main result of the chapter if we
corrected the estimated frequency of ambiguous clauses downward for the Tense-final grammar.
Certain elements that were borrowed from Hebrew and form predicates when combined with
German light verbs, such as khasone hobn (¼ ‘to get married’, lit. ‘marriage have’) or moykhel zeyn
(¼ ‘to forgive’, lit. ‘forgive be’). These have the syntax of native Germanic particles in Yiddish; see
Santorini (1989), Santorini (1992).
66 Joel C. Wallenberg

and Taylor 2006; Pintzuk and Haeberli 2006). Pronominal objects, which do not
participate in extraposition constructions because of their light prosodic status, are
diagnostic of a tense-medial clause when they occur following a finite verb (see
references above, inter alia). Similarly, Wallenberg (2008) and Wallenberg (2009)
showed that no objects scramble leftward across the finite verb in Yiddish (and in
other languages; see Wallenberg 2009 for details), and so all objects preceding the
finite verb are diagnostic of Tense-final structure. These diagnostics are illustrated in
the examples below:
Particle, object, and negation diagnosing Tense-final:
(3) zeyt gibetin d[a]z mir eyer fatr moykhl iz
be prayed that me-dat your father forgiving is
‘Hope/ask that your father is forgiving me’
(letter in Weinryb 1937, date: 1588)
(4) . . . das ikh im ab zag
that I him off spoke
‘that I refused him’
(G”otz fun Fiderholtz’s Complaint, date: 1518)
(5) vau keyn fleysh nakh keyn blut nit iz
What no flesh nor no blood not is
‘What neither flesh nor blood is . . . ’
(Preface to Lev Tov, date: 1620)
In (3) and (4) above, the particles moykhl and ab precede the Tensed verb,
indicating that the verb has not moved leftward to a medial Tense head in a left-
headed TP structure, and so these clauses are Tense-final. Similarly, the preverbal
positions of negation in (5) and of the objects in (3) and (4) also show that Tense
appears at the right edge of the structure in these examples.
In contrast, the examples below are Tense-medial clauses, showing particles,
negation, and a pronominal object following the finite verb. In examples (6)–(9),
the position of each of the boldface diagnostic elements shows that the finite verb has
moved leftward past it to a medial Tense head.
Particle, negation, and pronominal object diagnosing Tense-medial:
(6) un dernokh hot zi im gefregt, tsi er hot lib tsimes
and afterwards has she him asked Q he has love tsimes
‘Afterwards, she asked him if he likes tsimes’
(Olsvanger 1947, Royte Pomerantsen, date: 1947)
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 67

(7) . . . vi me ruft oyf dem rov tsu der toyre

how one calls up the rabbi to the Torah
(Olsvanger 1947, Royte Pomerantsen, date: 1947)
(8) az men hot ihm friher keyn mahl nist dem emes gzagt
that one has him earlier no time not the truth said
‘that he hadn’t earlier been told the truth even one time’
(Vos iz dos azuns geshehn in Vien un in Lemberg?,
revolutionary proclamation by Judah ben Abraham, date: 1848)
(9) der tate hot im gefregt, vi azoy men ruft im
The father has him asked how one calls him
‘The father asked him what his name was’
(Grine Felder, date: 1910)
Finally, in clauses containing a finite auxiliary and a nonfinite verb, the order
nonfinite-verb > finite-auxiliary is diagnostic of Tense-final structure, as that order
only occurs in undisputed tense-final languages (e.g. modern German, Dutch).4 (10)
and (11) both contain the tense-final diagnostic of a nonfinite verb preceding the
finite auxiliary, and, in addition, (10) also shows pre-finite-verb negation and a
preceding object, and (11) shows the additional diagnostic of the pre-tensed verb
particle, oyz (all diagnostics are in boldface below).
V > Aux order (among other things) diagnosing Tense-final:
(10) . . . d[a]z mir yusf di h’ zhubim nit gebn vil
that me Joseph the five guilders not give wants
‘that Joseph doesn’t want to give me the five guilders’
(court testimony, date: 1465; also cited in Santorini 1992)
(11) d[a]z es unzr her gut oyz ginumn hut far an
that it our lord good out took has presently
‘ . . . that our good Lord has made a success of it presently’
(Leib bar Moses Melir’s Book of Esther, date: 1589)
In addition to subordinate clauses with the above diagnostic elements, there is a
great deal of ambiguous data in the Early Yiddish written record, and so, presum-
ably, also in the input to the hypothetical learner of Early Yiddish. In fact, the
majority of clauses in the corpus are ambiguous with respect to the Tense-medial/
Tense-final parameter. Some of these are ambiguous because there is simply not

With the exception of stylistic fronting (SF) in languages like Icelandic. I do not pursue this point
further here, since there is no clear evidence for SF in the history of Yiddish and V > finite-Aux orders do
not persist into the modern Yiddish period. However, it is worth noting that SF may in fact arise from a
change from Tense-final to Tense-medial in the modern languages that exhibit it, which have arguably
undergone such a change.
68 Joel C. Wallenberg

enough material available in the clause to diagnose the underlying structure, such as
intransitive clauses containing only a subject and finite lexical verb. In other cases,
clauses with more material are nonetheless amenable to more than one analysis in
terms of underlying TP structure because of the existence of other syntactic oper-
ations/constructions which are known to habitually obscure the underlying position
of Tense. Following the numerous studies cited above with respect to the set of
diagnostic elements in Germanic, the two most important of these obscuring
constructions in studying the Tense-final to Tense-medial change are the West
Germanic verb (projection) raising construction (VPR), as found in modern
Dutch, West Flemish, and South/Swiss German (see Wurmbrand 2004, for an
overview of the phenomenon and relevant literature) shown in (12), and various
types of extraposition processes (e.g. PP extraposition as in (13) and DP extraposition
or heavy NP shift as in (14)). Note that the boldface diagnostic elements in the three
sentences below demonstrate conclusively that these constructions occur in Tense-
final Early Yiddish clauses.
(12) dz es di mtsreym nit zaltn zehn
that it the Egyptians not should see.
‘ . . . that the Egyptians shouldn’t see it’
(Leib bar Moses Melir’s Book of Esther, date: 1589)
(13) d[a]z ikh reyn verde fun der ashin
that I clean become from the ashes
‘that I become clean from the ashes’
(Johann Jakob Christian’s Eyn sheyn purim shpil, 1004, date: 1697; also cited
in Santorini 1992: 607)
(14) ven er nit veys eyn guti veyd
if he not knows a good pasture
‘if he doesn’t know a good pasture’
(Abraham Apotheker Ashkenazi’s Sam Hayyim, 41, date: 1590; also cited in
Santorini 1992: 607)
In this way, many very frequent strings in the corpus provide no evidence to the
learner as to whether the target language is Tense-medial or Tense-final; e.g. the
configuration Subject > Finite-Lexical-Verb > Object could represent a Tense-
medial clause or a Tense-final clause with extraposition. Or, if a situation of
competing grammars obtains in the input to the learner, these strings do not help
the learner determine what the target frequencies of the two grammars are. Two
examples of ambiguous subordinate clauses appear below. Note the difference in the
dates of the two examples: these strings are easily generated by either the Tense-final
or the Tense-medial grammar.
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 69

(15) vu er vust di altn hern

how he knew the old lords/knights.
(Elia Levita’s Bovo Bukh, date: 1507)
(16) az der rov hot a toes
that the rabbi has a mistake
‘that the Rabbi made a mistake’
(Royte Pomerantsen, date: 1947)
The table below shows counts and frequencies of ambiguous versus unambiguous
strings for both the Tense-final and Tense-medial grammars, as estimated by the
sample corpora of pre-1507 Western Yiddish and post-1848 (Eastern) Yiddish, respect-
ively. Clauses containing only a single finite verb are termed ‘simplex’, and clauses
containing a finite auxiliary and at least one nonfinite verb are labelled ‘complex’.5
The comparison of the two sample corpora in Table 4.1 and Figure 4.1 pose a clear
problem for our understanding of the phrase structure change in Early Yiddish.
(Figure 4.1: black ¼ simplex, grey ¼ complex)
According to the sample corpora, the Tense-final grammar produces a higher
frequency of unambiguously Tense-final clauses than the Tense-medial grammar

TABLE 4.1. Tense-final and Tense-medial sample corpora

Early West Yiddish (Tense-final sample)

Simplex Complex All

Ambiguous 50 42 92
CP-recursion: ambiguous, simplex, and complex counted together 34
Unambiguous 32 57 89
Frequency of unambiguous Tense-final .390 .576 .414

Late East Yiddish (Tense-medial sample)

Simplex Complex All

Ambiguous 752 841 1593

CP-recursion: ambiguous, simplex, and complex counted together 65
Unambiguous 363 479 842
Frequency of unambiguous Tense-medial .326 .363 .337

The ‘CP-recursion’ row refers to clear embedded V-to-C movement, which will always be ambiguous
between Tense-final and Tense-medial. The cases counted in this row are embedded contexts in which
some non-subject XP has been topicalized and the finite verb has inverted with a subject pronoun. Because
of a minor oversight, the query counting these did not separate the simplex and complex cases.
70 Joel C. Wallenberg



0.4 of Final
over Medial
0.2 = .077

All Tense-Final All Tense-Medial
(n = 215) (n = 2500)
FIGURE 4.1 Tense-final and Tense-medial chart 1.

produces of unambiguously Tense-medial clauses. Fitness(Tense-final) ¼ .414 and

Fitness(Tense-medial) ¼ .337, giving the Tense-final grammar an advantage of .077
over the Tense-medial grammar according to the model from Yang (2000). This
result predicts that the Tense-final grammar should have won out over the Tense-
medial grammar over time, and that the change from Tense-final to Tense-medial
should never have gone to completion. Indeed, if Tense-medial had come to occur at
an appreciable frequency in the Yiddish speech community for some non-obvious
reason, then the change should have reversed after that point.
Of course, the historical record and modern Yiddish show that the change did
indeed go to completion in favour of the Tense-medial grammar, and so we are left
with a puzzle that has one of three possible solutions:
1. Yang’s (2000) model of acquisition and change is wrong.
2. There is some inherent (UG or processing) bias in favour of Tense-medial
(or left-headedness generally), which causes learners to reward that grammar
more when it analyzes a sentence.
3. I have not grouped the data in a way that accurately represents how the
competition was actually perceived by the learner.
The first possibility would reject a model which is simply an adaptation of a very
simple and well-established model of statistical learning. The second possibility is a
serious one, but it is not clear how to explore it in the context of the present study.
Therefore, I will adopt the third hypothesis for the time-being as it is the most
restrictive one, and argue that it leads to a reasonable analysis of the historical
Yiddish case as well as a productive line of research in general.
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 71

4.4 The acquisition of modern German

Two observations concerning the childhood acquisition of modern German, a
uniformly Tense-final target grammar, provide a clue to the resolution of the
paradox with which we ended the previous section. First, the data show that the
modern Yiddish Tense-medial grammar is a natural innovation for acquirers of
Tense-final, even when those acquirers receive no direct evidence for a Tense-medial
grammar. And second, learners of Tense-final varieties of German, which also show
the West Germanic verb (projection) raising (VPR) construction (which in fact is all
varieties of German, but to varying degrees), do not straightforwardly interpret this
construction as an instance of the target Tense-final grammar. Instead, there is
evidence to suggest that they relate them to a Tense-medial hypothesis.
Fritzenschaft et al. (1990) and Gawlitzek-Maiwald (1997) show that children
acquiring German make a variety of errors in both matrix and subordinate clause
syntax on the way to their ultimately successful acquisition of the target grammar. In
particular, they record acquisition errors in which the children produce what appear
to be Tense-medial subordinate clauses; they produce subordinate clauses contain-
ing unambiguous diagnostics for Tense-medial of the type that occur in the modern
Yiddish Tense-medial grammar, and were not available in Yiddish before that
grammar was innovated. The sentences shown below were uttered by children
acquiring German monolingually from two German-speaking parents.
(17) dass du hast net die meerjungfrau
that you have not the mermaid
‘ . . . that you don’t have the mermaid’
(Benny, 3 years 1 month old, Fritzenschaft et al. 1990: 76)
(18) wenn des dreht sich was tut ’s dann
if it turns refl what does it then
‘if it turns, then what does it do’
(Benny, 3 years, 2 months, and 26 days old, Gawlitzek-Maiwald 1997: 137)
In (17) above, the finite verb has moved leftward across the negation net, leaving
it to the right in the modern Yiddish order. Similarly, the weak pronoun sich appears
to the right of the finite verb in (18), which is another of the Tense-medial diagnos-
tics I enumerated in the section above. Note that the overt complementizer dass in
(17) and the overt subordinator wenn in (18) show that these contexts are clearly
embedded and make it less likely that the verb movement in these clauses is due to
embedded V-to-C movement (i.e. CP-recursion).
Penner (1990) records similar examples from his study of the acquisition of
Bernese Swiss German, such as (19) and (20) below.
72 Joel C. Wallenberg

(19) nei eine, wo tuet nid hokche

no someone who does not sit
(S., 3 years old, Penner 1990: 178)
(20) we me tuet ’s lige la
when one does it lie let
‘ . . . when one lets it lie’
(M., 3 years old, Penner 1990: 178)
Like the sentences from the child Benny above, these two subordinate clauses
from two different acquirers of Bernese Swiss contain the unambiguous diagnostics
for Tense-medial of post-tensed-verb negation and weak object pronoun. Addition-
ally, (19) is the clearest example of Tense-medial of all since relative clauses are a
well-established non-CP-recursion environment across German, and so the tensed
verb must have moved to a lower head than C here (Iatridou and Kroch 1992).
In addition, Penner (1990) makes the second observation which relates directly to
the study of Early Yiddish: he finds that learners of Swiss German are slower to
acquire the target syntax of their variety than are learners of standard German, and
he suggests that this is due to the frequent use of the VPR construction in adult
Bernese Swiss German, which obscures the Tense-final grammar for the children. In
fact, it may be no coincidence that most of the Tense-medial subordinate clauses
cited in Fritzenschaft et al. (1990) and Gawlitzek-Maiwald (1997) come from the
child Benny, who has a Swabian mother, and so is likely to have been exposed to the
VPR orders that are common throughout the Southern varieties of German (includ-
ing Swiss varieties). The idea that VPR slows down the acquisition of Tense-final,
coupled with the fact that children exposed to VPR sometimes innovate a Tense-
medial grammar, suggests that children do not interpret VPR as a mere variant of
Tense-final. They may be positing a relationship between VPR and Tense-medial
which has the following result: if the children happen to entertain the hypothesis
that they should acquire a Tense-medial grammar, they do not consider VPR clauses
in the input as counting against this hypothesis. Or, possibly, these clauses even
reinforce the Tense-medial hypothesis. In either case, the presence of VPR in the
input would slow the acquisition of Tense-final, as Penner found, because it would
take longer for the children to reject their Tense-medial hypothesis under either
The results from German acquisition prompt a possible answer to the paradox of
the Yiddish historical development. If children acquiring German do not straight-
forwardly count VPR clauses as Tense-final, then the hypothetical acquirer of early
Yiddish would also have difficulty doing so. This is especially plausible given that the
acquirers of Early Yiddish were also confronted with actual positive evidence for a
Tense-medial grammar, unlike the acquirers of modern German: the goal of the
German and Swiss children is to reject the Tense-medial hypothesis, while the
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 73

Yiddish speaking children had the more subtle task of correctly acquiring the
frequencies of two competing grammars, once the Tense-medial grammar had
attained any appreciable frequency in the population.

4.5 A Kaynian solution to the puzzle

The solution to the problem posed at the end of section 4.4 above lies in how we
divide the evidence to the hypothetical learner of Early Yiddish. Yang’s model
predicts the outcome of Yiddish becoming a uniformly Tense-medial language to
be impossible according to the division of the input I presented in section 4.4. If we
have reason to believe that Yang’s model is still correct, then the division of the data
in section 4.4 must have been incorrect in some way. In particular, the data from the
childhood acquisition of modern German suggest that we divided the input to the
hypothetical Early Yiddish child wrongly with respect to the West Germanic verb
(projection) raising construction.
If studies such as Biberauer (2003) and Wallenberg (2009) are on the right track
in their analysis of VPR, then the effect of this construction on the childhood
acquisition of Tense-final Swiss German may go beyond the mere surface similarity
between VPR and Tense-medial languages. Penner (1990) only went so far as to
suggest that the seemingly Tense-initial verb-clusters which adult VPR creates in the
input to children represent a complication in the Bernese Swiss German system, and
so slow down the acquisition of the target Tense-final grammar. VPR clauses distract
from the evidence for the Tense-final system, and have to be learned as an additional
derivation in the grammar. However, in an antisymmetric approach to head-finality
in the tradition of Kayne (1994), head-final orders are derived from underlyingly
head-initial ones, and so by hypothesis, the Aux > Verb order characteristic of VPR
represents the underlying left-headed order of verbal heads in the structure, just as it
does in a Tense-medial language, such as modern English, Icelandic, or modern
Following the approach in Biberauer (2003) and Biberauer and Roberts (2005), the
difference between Tense-final and Tense-medial languages is not the underlying
order of heads, but rather whether or not the vP (or the relevant projection contain-
ing the lexical verb) is pied-piped along with the subject as it moves to fill Spec,TP,
leaving the tensed verb in final position. Thus, the derivation of the Early Yiddish
Tense-final clause in (10) above is as shown in (21) below:
(21) d[a]z [vP mir yusf di h’ zhubim nit gebn ] vil tvP
Wallenberg (2009: 6.3) expands on this analysis and proposes that the VPR
construction in Tense-final languages is the result of a similar pied-piping of a vP
to Spec,TP, but a smaller, remnant vP which the lexical verb has left by head-
movement. In this way, the arguments of the lexical verb and any low-vP-attached
74 Joel C. Wallenberg

adjuncts are deposited in a position preceding the finite verb, but leaving the lexical
verb in clause-final position, as shown in the following structure for example (12)
above (see Wallenberg 2009 for details and extensive discussion):
(22) dz [vP es di mtsreym nit ] zaltn tvP zehn tvP
Thus, the antisymmetric approach analyses the VPR construction in Tense-final
Early Yiddish and the modern Yiddish Tense-medial system as being quite similar.
The Tense-final VPR construction is distinguished by one additional layer of
structure being pied-piped to Spec,TP with the subject, but both Tense-final VPR
and the modern Yiddish Tense-medial system display the underlying order of verbal
heads in the surface syntax.
Returning to the data from our sample corpora, the chart at Figure 4.2 is identical
to the chart above in section 4.4, except that the light grey area shows how much of
the Tense-final grammar’s unambiguous data is composed of subordinate clauses
showing the VPR construction, i.e. clauses with a finite auxiliary and a nonfinite
verb, in which the verbs are in the VPR (Aux > V) order.
Now let us suppose that we have been incorrect in tallying these clauses up on the
side of unambiguous evidence to the learning in favour of the Tense-final grammar.
Of course, they are clearly not Tense-medial either, as they all contain some other
structure that is considered diagnostic of Tense-final, and so is not generated by the
modern Yiddish Tense-medial grammar. However, following the antisymmetric
approach described above, suppose that these clauses represent something of a
mixed signal to a learner, as the results in Penner (1990) potentially suggest,
particularly if the learner is faced with a situation of competing Tense-final and
Tense-medial grammars. On the one hand, the clauses provide evidence that the




0.4 Advantage
of Final
over Medial
= .077

All Tense-Final All Tense-Medial
(n = 215) (n = 2500)
FIGURE 4.2 Tense-final and Tense-medial chart 2.
Language acquisition in German and phrase structure change in Yiddish 75

underlying left-headed structure should appear on the surface, just as in the Tense-
medial grammar. On the other hand, these clauses provide evidence that more
structure should appear preceding the finite verb than the Tense-medial grammar
allows, as in the Tense-final grammar.
Perhaps this type of mixed signal can be learned in the context of a homogenous
Tense-final target grammar, as in the Swiss German case, but it cannot be success-
fully used by children to decide in favour of the Tense-final grammar over a Tense-
medial grammar if the target is a situation of competing grammars. The status of
VPR examples as a mixed signal is only expected under the Kaynian approach, since
VPR represents the underlying order of heads under that account. Under a trad-
itional non-Kaynian analysis of VPR, VPR is a local permutation of an underlyingly
right-headed structure, and VPR would only be learned as an additional variant of
the Tense-final system. VPR would therefore be straightforwardly counted as Tense-
final, as we did above.
If we remove the VPR sentences from consideration as suggested by the Kaynian
approach, and hypothesize that learners (and generations of learners) do not use
them to decide the outcome of the competition, then the revised relative fitness of
the two grammars can be seen in the chart at Figure 4.3.
The effect of removing the VPR clauses from consideration has changed Advan-
tage (GTense–final over GTense–medial) such that now the Tense-medial grammar is
predicted to take the place of the Tense-final grammar in the population over the
generations following its innovation. The conclusion is clear: treating VPR as a
minor variant of Tense-final makes the wrong diachronic prediction for Yiddish, but
applying an antisymmetric understanding of the VPR structure leads us to the
correct prediction.




of Medial
0.2 over Final
= .100
All Tense-Final All Tense-Medial
(n = 165) (n = 2500)
FIGURE 4.3 Tense-final and Tense-medial chart 3.
76 Joel C. Wallenberg

4.6 Directions for further research and conclusions

In this chapter, I have presented the change in the position of Tense in Early Yiddish
as a test case for the learning model in Yang (2000). This model has the property that
change is always unidirectional, and in this case, it predicted the wrong direction of
change according to the traditional understanding of the Tense-final grammar and
the West Germanic verb (projection) raising construction. This clear and precisely
defined incorrect hypothesis led us to entertain a new hypothesis about how the
learner must have interpreted the syntactic variation in Early Yiddish once the input
became mixed. This new hypothesis was in line both with data from studies of the
modern acquisition of German and a particular theoretical approach to the patterns
found in the Tense-final grammar, an antisymmetric approach.
However, this analysis raises a number of questions because of the prominent
place it gives the VPR construction in explaining the change in Yiddish Tense. For
example, does a Tense-final language need to exhibit VPR in order to change to
Tense-medial? Both Early Yiddish and Old English changed to Tense-medial and
both showed high frequencies of VPR (for OE see Pintzuk and Haeberli 2006), but
we need more detailed descriptions of this change in order to decide if VPR is always
a necessary condition for the change from Tense-final to Tense-medial. If possible,
investigating this change in North Germanic would be a potential next step in
deciding this question.
This study has shown that the study of language change, language acquisition,
and a careful understanding of the linguistic structures involved in variation can
interact to inform each other in the development and testing of precise quantitative
hypotheses. While there is clearly much more work to be done in relating the
acquisition of syntactic variants to morphosyntactic change, it is my hope that the
approach taken in this chapter will be found useful in future quantitative studies of
this relationship.

Extraposition of restrictive relative

clauses in the history of Portuguese

5.1 Introduction
This chapter investigates a specific change that took place in the history of Portu-
guese involving the extraposition1 of restrictive relative clauses (RRCs). Although
RRC-extraposition has been a neglected domain in the literature on Portuguese (in
both the synchronic and the diachronic dimension), I will show that this phenom-
enon raises some challenging questions for linguistic theory in general and for the
study of syntactic changes in particular.
From a theoretical point of view, there are a large number of competing analyses of
extraposition in the literature. Generally speaking, the different analyses can be divided
into three main groups: extraposition as right-hand adjunction (Culicover and
Rochemont 1990); extraposition as VP-internal stranding (Kayne 1994); and extra-
position as specifying coordination (Koster 2000; De Vries 2002). The different
syntactic theories on extraposition are usually seen as competing analyses, each one
trying to provide a unified account of extraposition across languages. In this chapter, I
will explore the hypothesis that there is no unified account of extraposition to be
offered across languages. Moreover, I will argue that, from a diachronic point of view,
different syntactic analyses are necessary to explain the changes affecting RRC-extra-
position at different stages of the same language. Focusing on empirical evidence from
Portuguese, I will show that Contemporary European Portuguese (CEP) sharply
contrasts with earlier stages of Portuguese with respect to the properties of RRC-

I will use the term extraposition in a pre-theoretical sense to refer to a relative clause (RC) that does
not appear adjacent to the antecedent, being separated from it by material that belongs to the matrix
clause, as sketched in (i):
(i) [ . . . [antecedent] . . . RC]
The material that breaks the adjacency between the antecedent and the RC (henceforth, intervening
material) will be underlined for expository purposes.
78 Adriana Cardoso

extraposition.2 To explain these contrasts, I will propose that extraposed RRCs in

earlier stages of Portuguese differ in their structure and derivation from extraposed
RRCs in CEP: the former are derived from specifying coordination (plus ellipsis) (De
Vries 2002), whereas the latter are derived from stranding (Kayne 1994).
As far as the syntactic change is concerned, I will tentatively suggest that the
change affecting extraposed RRCs is a by-product of another change that took place
in the history of Portuguese: namely, the loss of IP-scrambling as reported by
Martins (2002). Adopting Lightfoot’s (1991) insights on the relation between lan-
guage change and language acquisition, I will hypothesize that, with the loss of IP-
scrambling, an important trigger for the specifying coordination was lost and the
learners converged on a new grammar, starting to generate extraposed RRCs with a
stranding structure.
This chapter is organized as follows. Section 5.2 provides an overview of the
various properties of RRC-extraposition: (i) in CEP (section 5.2.1); (ii) from a
cross-linguistic perspective (section 5.2.2); and (iii) in earlier stages of Portuguese
(section 5.2.3). Section 5.3 is devoted to the syntactic analysis of RRC-extraposition
in CEP and in earlier stages of Portuguese. Section 5.4 shows how the change
that took place in the history of Portuguese can be explained in terms of the non-
unitary approach to extraposition proposed here. Finally, section 5.5 concludes the

5.2 Properties of RRC-extraposition

5.2.1 Properties of RRC-extraposition in CEP
In CEP, RRC-extraposition displays the following cluster of properties: (i) definite-
ness effect; (ii) restriction on extraposition from PPs; (iii) restriction on extraposi-
tion from pre-verbal positions. Definiteness effect Extraposed RRCs can only take ‘indefinite’ noun phrases
as antecedents. As illustrated in (1) and (2), RRC-extraposition is fine with indefinite
antecedents but impossible with definite ones.3

As for earlier stages of Portuguese, the data considered in this chapter are primarily drawn from the
texts edited in Martins (2001), available on-line in the Digital Corpus of Medieval Portuguese (CIPM –
Corpus Informatizado do Português Medieval), These data are combined with data
drawn from other sources, namely (i) other texts available in CIPM; (ii) texts in the Tycho Brahe Parsed
Corpus of Historical Portuguese (TYC), available in
index.html; (iii) other editions, namely Demanda do Santo Graal (ed. Piel and Nunes 1988), Livro de
Linhagens (ed. Brocardo 2006), Gil Vicente: todas as obras (coord. Camões 1999), and Crónica de
D. Fernando - Fernão Lopes (ed. Macchi 1975); and (iv) several data drawn from grammars and studies
of the history of the Portuguese language.
Note that the non-extraposed order of these sentences is acceptable with a definite antecedent, as
illustrated in (i):
(i) Chegou ontem o rapaz que te quer conhecer.
arrived yesterday the boy that you:cl wants meet:inf
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 79

(1) Chegou um/*o rapaz ontem que te quer conhecer.

arrived a *the boy yesterday that you: cl wants meet: inf
‘A/the boy arrived yesterday that wants to meet you.’

(2) Encontrei um/ *o rapaz no cinema que perguntou por ti.

met:1sg a *the boy at.the cinema that asked for you
‘Yesterday I met a/the boy at the cinema that asked for you.’

Moreover, the antecedent of an extraposed RRC (corresponding to the X position

in (3)) can be, for example, um livro ‘a book’, três livros ‘three books’, alguns livros
‘some books’, muitos livros ‘many books’, or livros ‘books’, but not os livros ‘the
books’, aqueles livros ‘those books’, or todos os livros ‘all the books’.

(3) Foi/foram publicado(s) X recentemente que vale a pena ler.

was/were published X recently that is.worth read:inf
‘X that is/are worth reading was/were recently published.’

Notably, the noun phrases that can surface as the antecedent of an extraposed
RRC can be grouped together under the class of weak noun phrases (as opposed to
strong noun phrases) identified by Milsark (1974). Hence, the descriptive general-
ization that captures the relation between RRC-extraposition and the definiteness
effect can be stated as in (4):

(4) The definiteness effect and RRC-extraposition

In CEP, RRC-extraposition can only take place from weak noun phrases. Restriction on extraposition from PPs Extraposed RRCs cannot take the
object of a preposition as their antecedent, as illustrated in (5) and (6).

(5) *O João deu o livro a uma rapariga ontem que estava

the J. gave the book to a girl yesterday that was
na festa.
at.the party
‘Yesterday João gave the book to a girl who was at the party.’

(6) *O João candidatou-se a uma câmara nesse ano que fica

the J. for a town.council in.that year that is
no distrito de Bragança.
in.the district of B.
‘That year João ran for a position on a town council that is located in the
district of Bragança.’
80 Adriana Cardoso Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal positions

A. Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal subjects Extraposed RRCs can
take post-verbal subjects as their antecedent, as illustrated in (7a.) and (8a.)
However, if the subject is construed pre-verbally, the sentence is out, as illustrated
in (7b.) and (8b.).

(7) a. Ontem explodiu uma bomba em Israel que causou 5 mortos.

yesterday exploded a bomb in I. that caused 5 deaths
‘Yesterday a bomb that caused 5 deaths exploded in Israel.’
b. *Ontem uma bomba explodiu em Israel que causou 5 mortos.
yesterday a bomb exploded in I. that caused 5 deaths

(8) a. Telefonou um rapaz ontem que queria informações sobre a

phoned a boy yesterday that wanted details about the
tua casa.
your house
‘A boy phoned yesterday who wanted details about your house.’
b. *Um rapaz telefonou ontem que queria informações sobre a
a boy phoned yesterday that wanted details about the
tua casa
your house

B. Restriction on extraposition from other pre-verbal constituents Extraposed

RRCs can take as antecedent a preposed focus (see (9)), a wh-constituent (see (10))
and a preposed emphatic/evaluative phrase (in the sense of Raposo 1995 and Ambar
1999) (see (11)).

(9) Poucas pessoas conheço que fazem interpolação, mas todas elas
few people know:1sg that make interpolation but all they
produzem coisas deste tipo.
produce things of.this type
‘I know few people who make interpolation, but all of them produce things
like this.’
(10) Quantas pessoas apareceram que não foram convidadas?
how.many people showed.up that not were invited
‘How many people who were not invited showed up?’
(11) Muito whisky o João bebeu que estava fora do prazo!
a.lot.of whisky the J. drank that was out of.the
‘João drank a lot of whisky that was expired!’
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 81

However, extraposition is incompatible with topicalization. See the contrasts

in (12) and (13):
(12) a. Pessoas que não tinham bilhete, apareceram às centenas!
people that not had ticket showed.up by hundreds
‘People who did not have a ticket showed up by the hundreds.’
b. *Pessoas, apareceram às centenas que não tinham bilhete!
people showed.up by hundreds that not had ticket
(13) a. Pessoas que praticam yoga, também conheço.
people that practice yoga also know:1sg
‘I also know people who practice yoga.’
b. * Pessoas, também conheço que praticam yoga.
people also know:1sg that practice yoga
5.2.2 Properties of RRC-extraposition from a cross-linguistic perspective
Interestingly, in a quick survey of the behavior of extraposition in different lan-
guages, we see that these restrictions do not universally apply. Some examples of
languages that behave differently with respect to these restrictions are given below. Definiteness effect Not all languages exhibit the definiteness effect found in
CEP: extraposition from strong noun phrases is possible, for example, in English (see
(14)), Dutch (see (15)) and German (see (16)).
(14) The woman came in yesterday that I told you about.
(Givón 2001: 206)
(15) Ik heb de man gezien die zijn tas verloor.
I have the man seen who his bag lost
‘I have seen the man who lost his bag.’
(De Vries 2002: 65)
(16) als sie endlich selbst über die Musik erzählen darf,
when she finally herself about the music tell may
die sie macht.
that she makes
‘( . . . ) when she finally is allowed to speak herself about the music that she
(Tübinger Baumbank des Deutschen/Schriftsprache, cited by Strunk 2007) Restriction on extraposition from PPs The restriction on extraposition from
PPs does not apply equally to all languages. It is reported in the literature that
extraposed RRCs can take the object of a preposition as the antecedent, for example,
in English (see (17)) and Dutch (see (18)).
82 Adriana Cardoso

(17) John is going to talk to someone tomorrow who he had a lot of faith in.
(Kayne 1994: 126)
(18) Ik heb op een plek gelopen waar jij ook bent geweest.
I have on a spot walked where you also have been
‘I have walked on a spot where you also have been.’
(De Vries 2002: 244) Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal positions
A. Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal subjects Barbosa (2009) reports
that the restriction against having extraposed-RRCs with pre-verbal subjects holds
for CEP, Spanish, Catalan, and Italian but not for English (see (19)a) and French (see
(19) a. A man arrived that wants to talk to you.
b. Un homme est arrivé qui veut te parler.
a man is arrived who wants talk:inf
B. Restriction on extraposition from other pre-verbal constituents There is no
contrast between CEP and other languages regarding RRC-extraposition from other
pre-verbal constituents. Just like CEP, some Germanic languages allow for RRC-
extraposition from a preposed focus (see (20)), a wh-constituent (see (21)) and an
emphatic/evaluative phrase (see (22)). Moreover, they do not allow RRC-
extraposition from topics (see (23)):4
(20) Not even one painting did I see which would please Laura.
(Smits 1988: 195)
(21) Who do you know that you can really trust?
(Kiss 2003: 110)
(22) People lose their eyesight when they don’t take support of the STD’s and
much more things can happen that are far worse than losing your eye sight.
(23) a. I like micro brews that are located around the Bay Area.
b. Micro brews that are located around the Bay Area, I like.
c. *Micro brews, I like that are located around the Bay Area.
(Kiss 2003: 110)

De Vries (2002: 244) reports the possibility of extraposition from topics in Dutch. However, there is a
possible terminological confusion here between the traditional notion of topicalization and the topic
position in a cartographic sense (see Rizzi 1997). The claim that RRC-extraposition can take place from
topics must not be understood as extraposition from an aboutness topic. Rather, it concerns the extra-
position from a constituent in first position. In fact, such constituents appear to be always affected by
focus in some way or another. Therefore, it may be better to speak of focalization rather than topicaliza-
tion in these cases.
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 83

5.2.3 Properties of RRC-extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese

Turning now to the history of Portuguese, we will see that CEP and earlier stages of
Portuguese behave differently with respect to RRC-extraposition. The historical data
from Portuguese that support this view are presented below.5 Definiteness effect Unlike CEP, earlier periods of Portuguese allow
for extraposed RRCs with strong noun phrases as antecedents,6 as illustrated in
(24) mas aquelle dia sem falha aveo que forom i todos
but that day without fail came that went there all
‘but the day everyone went there came without fail.’
(Piel and Nunes 1988; Demanda do Santo Graal; fifteenth century)
(25) As chagas erã muytas de que se uertia muyta sangue.
the sores were many of that se:cl shed a.lot.of blood
‘There were many sores from which a lot of blood was being shed.’
(Brocardo 2006; Livro de Linhagens do Conde D. Pedro; fourteenth century) Restriction on extraposition from PPs Unlike CEP, earlier stages of
Portuguese allow for extraposed RRCs with the object of a preposition as
antecedent, as illustrated in (26)–(27):
(26) e logo lhj abríu de todo mão que sseu era
and immediately to.him:cl opened of everything hand that his was
‘and immediately he gave him (¼ lit. opened hand of) everything that he had.’
(Martins 2001; Doc. Portugueses do Noroeste e da Região de Lisboa; year 1339)

The present research is framed within a qualitative approach (as opposed to a quantitative approach).
It investigates a particular syntactic configuration, not yet properly identified in the literature on
Portuguese, and explores its empirical and theoretical consequences. Hence, it does not offer a chronology
of change, based on quantitative evidence. Given the lack of syntactic annotated Portuguese texts for the
period between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries, the quantitative approach is left open for future
research. Nevertheless, additional empirical evidence for the properties listed in– is provided
in Cardoso (2010).
Brucart (1999) reports that extraposition from strong noun phrases is also possible in earlier stages of
Spanish (see (i)).
(i) Aquel decimos ser mejor médico, que mejor cura y más
that say:1pl be:inf better doctor that better heals and more
enfermos sana.
patients cures
‘We say that the better doctor is the one who heals (the diseases) better and cures more patients.’
(L. Granada, Introducción al símbolo de la fe, 1583, cited in Brucart 1999: 466)
84 Adriana Cardoso

(27) que en aquela hora morrera en que el vira estando

that in that hour died:pmqp.3sg in that he saw:pmqp be:gen
longe dele que lhi saira a alma do corpo.
away from.him that to.him:cl fell.out:pmqp the soul of.the body
‘[and he realized that] he died in that hour in which he saw (being away from
him) that his soul fell out of his body.’
(Mattos e Silva 1989: 766; Diálogos de São Gregório; fourteenth century) Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal positions
A. Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal subjects Unlike in CEP, in
earlier stages of Portuguese, extraposed RRCs can take a subject in a pre-verbal
position as antecedent, as illustrated in (28)–(29):
(28) se Alge~ A eles veer que diga que llj
if someone to them come:fut.subj that says that to.him:cl
eu Alguna cousa diuía
I some thing owed
‘[And] if someone who says that I owed him something comes towards them . . . ’
(Martins 2001; Doc. Portugueses do Noroeste e da Região de Lisboa; year 1275)
(29) que cayam. e cayades na pea que
that fall:pres.subj.3pl and fall:pres.subj.2pl in.the punishment that
filhos e netos deue~ a caer. que contra béénço de
children and grandchildren must a fall:inf that against blessing of
padre uéérem
father come:fut.subj
‘[and I order] that they and you receive the punishment that the children and
grandchildren who go against their father’s blessing must receive.’
(CIPM; Os Doc. em Português da Chancelaria de Afonso III; year 1278)
B. Restriction on extraposition from other pre-verbal constituents Earlier stages
of Portuguese pattern with CEP in allowing extraposition from a preposed focus
(see (30)), a wh-constituent (see (31)) and a preposed emphatic/evaluative phrase
(see (32)):
(30) pois d’el-rrei dom Fernando ne~hu~ua cousa teemos que
because of.the.king D. F. none thing have:1pl that
contar até a morte d’este rrei dom Pedro.
tell:inf until the death of.this king D. P.
‘( . . . ) because we do not have anything to tell about the king Dom Fernando
until the death of the king Dom Pedro.’
(Macchi 1975; Fernão Lopes, Crónica de D. Fernando; fifteenth century)
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 85

(31) Que caso pod’esse ser em que tanto sopesais?

what case can.this be:inf in that so.much think:2pl
‘What case can this be that you think so much about?’
(Camões 1999; Gil Vicente, Processo de Vasco Abul; year 1516)

(32) Muitos letrados sei eu (disse Solino) que não são moços
many lettered know I said S. that not are young.boys
‘I know many lettered men (said Solino) who are not young.’
(TYC; Francisco Rodrigues Lôbo, Côrte na Aldeia e Noites de Inverno;
year 1619)

By contrast, if a topic is involved, RRC-extraposition does not seem to be possible

in earlier stages of Portuguese, at least in the corpus inspected thus far.7

C. New contexts of extraposition Besides the contexts seen so far, there is another
important source of RRC-extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese:
IP-scrambling, which consisted of the movement of various types of constituents
to multiple specifier positions available in the IP domain (see Martins 2002).
As expected, extraposition is also possible in these contexts. See (33):8

(33) que llj eu Alguna cousa diuía que nõ seia

that to.him:cl I some thing owed that not be:pres.subj
escripto en Esta mãda
written in this will
‘(And if there arrives someone who says) that I owed him something which
is not written in this will ( . . . ).’
(Martins 2001; Doc. Portugueses do Noroeste e da Região de Lisboa; year 1275)

I found only one example that could be taken as involving RRC-extraposition from topic; see (i):
(i) Esta barca onde vai agora/ que assim está apercebida?
this boat where goes now QUE this.way is equipped
(Camões 1999; Gil Vicente, Auto da Barca do Inferno; year 1517)
Note, however, that (i) may instead involve a coordinate clause, introduced by the coordinating conjunc-
tion que, meaning since, as: ‘Where does this boat goes, as it is so well equipped?’.
In this respect, it is also worth pointing out that Martins (2002) suggests that topicalization (as opposed
to focalization) may not be a grammatical option in earlier stages of Portuguese.
Note that the scrambling of alguma coisa ‘some thing’ in (33) is confirmed by the relative position of
this constituent with respect to the verb and the clitic. According to Martins (2002), clitics in clauses with
interpolation set the border between left-dislocated/focused constituents and scrambled constituents.
Hence, in (33), because alguma coisa ‘some thing’ is interpolated (i.e. occurs between the proclitic and
the verb), it is necessarily a scrambled constituent.
86 Adriana Cardoso

5.3 A non-uniform account of extraposition

The main claim of this section is that extraposed RRCs in earlier stages of Portu-
guese differ in their structure and derivation from extraposed RRCs in CEP: the
former are derived from specifying coordination (plus ellipsis) (De Vries 2002),
whereas the latter are derived from stranding (Kayne 1994). Let us see how exactly
this non-uniform approach to extraposition derives the contrasts under scrutiny.

5.3.1 Extraposition in CEP The general proposal I assume, following Kayne (1994) and Bianchi (1999),
that RRCs are generated by head-raising. The main idea underlying this proposal is
that the head NP (the antecedent) of an RRC originates at the relativization site
inside the subordinate clause and then rises to the left edge. The relative clause itself
is generated as the complement of the so-called external determiner, with which the
head NP associates after rising. A relative pronoun or operator is then to be analyzed
as a relative determiner originally belonging to the internal head NP. See the
representation in (34).
(34) [DP D [CP [DPrel NP[ Drel tNP]] C [IP . . . . . . tDP ]]]
e.g. this book which I read
I also take from Kayne (1994) the idea that RRC-extraposition is the result of
VP-internal stranding. Under this approach, the antecedent is base-generated inside
the RRC and undergoes leftward movement, stranding the RRC in situ, as schemat-
ically represented in (35). As will become clear in section, the movement
of uma pessoa ‘a person’ in (35) can be explained by the syntactic representation of
weak determiners as adjectives attached within the NP.
(35) Encontrei [ uma pessoa]i ontem [ ti que estava à tua procura]
met:1sg a person yesterday that was at.the your search
The key assumption of my proposal is the following: extraposed RRCs in CEP
always involve A’-movement of the antecedent, either via short scrambling (when
the antecedent is in a post-verbal position) or via movement to the left periphery
(when the antecedent is in a pre-verbal position).
As an initial step towards a more precise formulation of my proposal, let us
examine in more detail how RRC-extraposition can be derived from short-scram-
bling. Costa (1998, 2004) reports that CEP has a scrambling rule that allows objects
to move from their base-position and adjoin to the VP. He also claims that the
position of the scrambled object is indicated by its position relative to monosyllabic
adverbs such as bem ‘well’, which mark the left edge of the VP. The idea is that
objects to the right of monosyllabic adverbs are in their base position, whereas
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 87

objects to the left of these adverbs are scrambled. This is illustrated in (36), taken
from Costa (2004: 40):9
(36) a. O Paulo fala bem francês. [non-scrambled object]
the P. speaks well French
‘Paulo speaks French well.’
b. O Paulo fala francês bem. [scrambled object]
the P. speaks French well
Costa also shows that objects are not the only constituents that may undergo
scrambling: subjects of unaccusatives can also scramble, as illustrated in (37), taken
from Costa (2004: 64). Here the adverb depressa ‘fast’ is taken as marking the left
edge of the VP.
(37) a. Chegou depressa o Paulo. [non-scrambled subject]
arrived fast the P.
‘Paulo arrived fast.’
b. Chegou o Paulo depressa. [scrambled subject]
arrived the P. fast
My claim is that the possibility of scrambling can be extended to subjects in
Spec,VP.10 There are three arguments in favour of this hypothesis.
Argument 1 – Distribution of adverbs
A subject base-generated in Spec,VP may also surface in a post-verbal position, to
the left of the monosyllabic adverb bem ‘well’, as illustrated in (38). If we want to
maintain that (i) the monosyllabic adverb bem ‘well’ marks the left-edge of VP and
(ii) the post-verbal subject is VP-internal (Costa 1998, 2004), then we must conclude
that the subjects of unergative verbs can also scramble.11
(38) a. Ninguém jogou nada.
‘No one played anything’
b. Jogou o Sporting bem até aos últimos dez minutos.
played the S. well until the last ten minutes
‘Sporting played well until the last ten minutes.’
c. Depois o Benfica reagiu e marcou dois golos.
‘Then Benfica reacted and scored two goals.’

Remark that CEP displays V-to-I movement, which derives the order Verb–Adverb/Object in (36).
To my knowledge, this issue has not been previously addressed in the literature on CEP, but similar
proposals have been discussed for other languages; see Broekhuis (2007) for Dutch/German and Takano
(1998) for English.
Note that (38b.) is also possible with the subject occurring to the right of the manner adverb bem
88 Adriana Cardoso

Argument 2 – Semantic effects

When indefinite noun phrases are involved, the scrambled and non-scrambled
orders can be semantically distinguished. More precisely, unscrambled indefinite
objects may have a cardinal reading, whereas scrambled objects necessarily have a
presuppositional reading (in the sense of Diesing 1992). See, for instance, the contrast
in (39). The unscrambled object in (39a.) preferably has a cardinal, non-presupposi-
tional reading; under this interpretation, João can actually speak only one language.
This contrasts with the scrambled order in (39b.); here the indefinite object can only
have a presuppositional reading, which can be paraphrased as a partitive (‘one of the
(39) a. O João fala bem uma língua.
the J. speaks well one language
‘João speaks one language well.’
b. O João fala uma língua bem.
the J. speaks one language well
‘João speaks one language well (the other languages he speaks very badly).’
Importantly, the same semantic effects are found when the subject of an unergative
verb is involved, as in (40).
(40) a. Dançaram bem oito concorrentes.
danced well eight competitors
‘Eight competitors danced well.’
b. Dançaram oito concorrentes bem.
danced eight competitors well
Eight competitors danced well; (the other competitors did not dance so well).’
This is a welcome result: if scrambling is involved in (39) and (40), we expect that
the same semantic effects are obtained.12
Argument 3 – The trigger for scrambling
It has been proposed in the literature that scrambling is a movement to Spec,AgrOP
driven by the requirement of accusative feature-checking (see de Hoop 1992 i.a.).
Under this assumption, subject scrambling would be unexpected because the noun
phrase in Spec,VP does not have an accusative feature to be checked by the complex
V-Agro. Fortunately, this problem does not arise: Costa (1998, 2004) shows that
scrambling is not a case-driven movement. One of the arguments he provides in
favour of this idea is precisely the possibility of subject scrambling (involving the
subject of unaccusatives, as in (37)).

For similar results concerning object and subject shift in German/Dutch see Broekhuis (2007).
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 89

Alternatively, Costa (1998, 2004) argues in favour of a prosodically/discourse-

driven approach to scrambling, according to which scrambling is used to create
appropriate focus configurations: namely to make the element bearing the sentence’s
nuclear stress escape it (see Reinhart 1995). Under this approach, the scrambling of
subjects can be treated on a par with objects: if scrambling is prosodically/discourse-
driven, there is a priori no reason to preclude the scrambling of a constituent in
Having made this short excursus into the properties of short-scrambling in CEP,
let us turn again to extraposition. The idea that extraposition may also involve short-
scrambling is supported by two different arguments:
Argument 1 – Distribution of adverbs
The antecedent of an extraposed-RRC may appear to the left of the monosyllabic
adverb bem ‘well’, as illustrated in (41). This indicates that uma candidatura ‘one
application’ has undergone short-scrambling.
(41) a. Não analisaste com atenção nenhuma candidatura.
‘You did not analyse any of the applications carefully.’
b. Analisei uma candidatura bem que foi proposta pela
analysed:1sg one application well that was submitted by.the
Universidade de Lisboa.
University of L.
‘I analysed one application that was submitted by the University of Lisbon
well (¼ thoroughly); (the others I actually did not analyse very carefully).’
Argument 2 – Semantic effects
When the antecedent of a non-extraposed RRC is indefinite, it may have a cardinal
reading. However, when extraposition is involved, the antecedent necessarily has a
presuppositional reading. This is illustrated in (42): (42a.) is compatible with the
reading that there is only one homeless person in my neighborhood, whereas (42b.)
necessarily presupposes that there is more than one homeless person there.
(42) a. Há no meu bairro um sem-abrigo que não pede
has in.the my neighborhood one homeless that not asks
‘In my neighborhood there is a homeless person who does not ask for money.’
b. Há um sem-abrigo no meu bairro que não pede
has a homeless in.the my neighborhood that not asks
90 Adriana Cardoso

Putting things together, the derivation of an extraposed RRC involving short-

scrambling proceeds as follows: (i) the antecedent is generated inside the RRC; (ii)
the antecedent undergoes short-scrambling and adjoins to the VP after raising. This
is sketched in (43), where the antecedent is the subject of an unergative verb and the
intervening element is an adverb (corresponding, for instance, to a sentence such as
(8a.) above):
(43) [IP V [VP S [VP adverb [VP ts RRC tv ]]]]
When short-scrambling is involved, only adverbs and PPs (see, for example, (7)
above) can intervene between the antecedent and the extraposed RRC. These
intervening elements can be either adjuncts (as in (7) above) or complements of
the verb (as in (44)).
(44) Dei um livro à Maria que foi escrito por mim.
gave:1sg a book to.the M. that was written by me
‘I gave Maria a book that was written by me.’
To derive these contexts, I assume that (i) adverbs and PP adjuncts that surface as
intervening material are left-adjoined to the VP (Barbiers 1995) and that (ii) double
complement constructions are base-generated with the order V-PP-DO and the
V-DO-PP order involves the scrambling of the object over the PP (Takano 1998).
This requires that on its way to the scrambled position, the antecedent crosses over
adverbs and PPs (either adjuncts or complements), stranding the RRC in situ.13 Deriving the properties of RRC-extraposition in CEP Let us now briefly see
how the theoretical apparatus put forth in the preceding section can account for the
properties of contemporary RRC-extraposition outlined in section 5.2.1:

A. Definiteness effect As already mentioned in section 5.2.1, extraposed RRCs in

CEP can take weak noun phrases as their antecedent but not strong noun phrases.
This property can be explained if we assume, following Bowers (1988), that strong
and weak noun phrases differ in their structure: strong quantifiers are of category D,
whereas weak quantifiers are adjectives and attach within NP.
Extending Bowers’ proposal to the raising analysis of relative clauses, I assume, in
line with Kayne (1994) and Lee (2007), that strong determiners are located in the
external determiner whereas weak determiners are within NP. This straightfor-
wardly explains why extraposed RRCs can take only weak noun phrases as antece-

For reasons of space, I will refrain from developing this analysis further. See Cardoso (2010) for more
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 91

dents: weak noun phrases can be moved leftward as a constituent, whereas strong
noun phrases cannot, because there is no constituent that includes the strong
determiner and the noun phrase but excludes the RRC, as sketched in (45):
(45) [DP strong determiner [CP [NP [weak determiner] [N’ . . . ]]i [C’ [IP . . . ti . . . ]]]]
B. Restriction on extraposition from PPs In CEP, RRC-extraposition is not allowed
if the antecedent is the object of a preposition. Again, this restriction is straightforwardly
derived under the standard assumption that movement only applies to constituents. As
sketched in (46), the preposition and the noun phrase in Spec, CP do not form a
constituent (excluding the RRC); as a result, they cannot undergo leftward movement,
stranding the RRC in situ.14
(46) [PP P [DP [CP NPi [C’ C [IP . . . ti . . . ]]]]]
C. Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal positions In CEP, extraposed
RRCs can take post-verbal subjects as antecedents but not pre-verbal subjects as
antecedents. Additionally, extraposed RRCs can take wh-constituents, preposed foci
and preposed emphatic/evaluative phrases as antecedents but not topicalized
constituents. I assume that the explanation of these contrasts rests upon the
semantic interpretation of the antecedent. More precisely, I claim that
extraposition in CEP obeys the Interpretative Principle given in (47):
(47) Interpretative Principle
The antecedent of an extraposed RRC must occur in a position non-ambiguously
interpreted as non-topic (in Kuroda’s (2005) sense).15
The fact that the restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal positions is seman-
tically motivated should not come as a surprise because several authors (Duarte 1997,
Martins 1994, Martins in prep.) have already observed that word order in CEP
reflects both information structure and the contrast between categorical and thetic
judgements (in the sense of Kuroda 1965, 2005).16

As one of the reviewers points out, the fact that P þ NP do not form a constituent in (46) could be
circumvented, under a Kaynian analysis, by a remnant-movement approach. In this case, it would be
sufficient to move the IP to the left of the PP and then move P þ NP somewhere further to the left under
remnant-movement. Under this view, what would have to be blocked is the extraction of an IP out of the
PP in CEP.
Kuroda (2005) proposes that a topic is a constituent that expresses an aboutness relation, interpreted
as familiar, presupposed, and part of the common ground.
Based on the Brentano-Marty theory of judgements, Kuroda distinguishes two types of judgements:
categorical/predicational versus thetic/descriptive. A predicational/categorical judgement is a cognitive act
of attributing a predicate to a subject, whereas a thetic/descriptive judgement is grounded, in its basic
form, on perception.
92 Adriana Cardoso

C1 Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal subjects

The Interpretative Principle in (47) derives this restriction as follows. Assuming
the distinction between categorical and thetic/descriptive judgements originally
proposed by Kuroda (1965), we conclude that Spec,IP is an ambiguous position in
CEP; it can be filled by topic elements (i.e. the subject of predication in sentences
expressing categorical judgements), but it can also be filled by non-topic elem-
ents (i.e. the subject of a sentence expressing thetic/descriptive judgements). In
contrast, the specifier and adjunct positions of VP are non-ambiguous positions:
they can only be filled by non-topic elements. Hence, in accordance with the
Interpretative Principle in (47), when the subject is the antecedent of an extra-
posed RRC, it must stay in a post-verbal position to be non-ambiguously inter-
preted as non-topic.17
C2 Restriction on extraposition from constituents in the left periphery
The Interpretative Principle in (47) can also explain why extraposition cannot take
place from topics. Assuming a split-CP approach (see Rizzi 1997), according to
which there are different functional projections especially dedicated to single dis-
course functions (e.g. topic and focus), the position occupied by a topic constituent
is non-ambiguously interpreted as topic. Therefore, RRC-extraposition is ruled out
by the Interpretative Principle in (47).
Conversely, the position occupied by the preposed foci, wh-constituents, and
emphatic/evaluative phrases is non-ambiguously interpreted as non-topic; hence,
the possibility of extraposition from these constituents is straightforwardly de-

5.3.2 Extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese The general proposal Building on ideas by Koster (2000), De Vries (2002)
proposes that extraposition involves coordination. He argues that besides the
traditional types of coordination (additive, disjunctive, and adversative), there is
another type called specifying coordination that is involved, for instance, in
extraposition, appositions, and parentheticals (see De Vries 2009 for a general
overview). In all of these constructions, the second conjunct provides an
alternative description, an example, or a property of the first conjunct.

One of the reviewers argues that generally scrambled elements are of topical nature, so if extraposi-
tion from a post-verbal subject depends on scrambling, we would expect frequent violations of (47). This
idea is built under the assumption, also found in Costa (1998, 2004), that scrambling serves to remove
unfocused material from the focus domain. However, in Cardoso (2010), I show that in CEP scrambling
can also be used to create specific discourse effects (namely, to place the most prominent constituent in the
rightmost position within the clause-internal space). In this sense, a scrambled constituent may be
contained in a focus domain. This analysis receives some typological support from the so-called focus-
scrambling in Dutch, which involves contrastive focus on a scrambled constituent (see Costa 2004: 69).
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 93

Assuming Munn’s (1993) and Kayne’s (1994) analysis of coordination (see also
Johannessen 1998), De Vries claims that RRC-extraposition is obtained according to
the scheme in (48), where the antecedent is generated within the first conjunct and
the extraposed RRC is generated within the second conjunct of a coordinate
(48) [CoP [ . . . antecedent . . . ] [ Co [ . . . RRC . . . ]]]
Under this account, the coordinated conjuncts are of the same category. The first
conjunct may range from VP to CP, depending on the position of the antecedent.
The second conjunct has the same categorial status as the first conjunct; it repeats
the material contained in the first conjunct, adding the extraposed RRC in its
canonical position. Then the repeated material is phonologically deleted.19 This is
illustrated in (49), where the antecedent of the extraposed RRC is a direct object;
here, both conjuncts are represented as involving the AgrOP-level of projection
(under the assumption that in Dutch the object moves to [spec,AgrOP], for reasons
of case).20
(49) [CP Ik heb . . . [CoP [AgrOP-1 de man gezien] [Co
I have the man seen
[AgrOP-2 [DP de man die zijn tas verloor] gezien]]]]
the man who his bag lost seen Deriving the properties of RRC-extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese Let
us now see how the specifying coordination (plus ellipsis) analysis can account for the
properties of extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese:

A Definiteness effect In earlier stages of Portuguese, extraposed RRCs could take

strong noun phrases as their antecedent. This property can be straightforwardly
derived using the approach adopted here because there is no movement relationship
between the visible antecedent and the extraposed RRC. As illustrated in (50), the
strong noun phrase aquelle dia ‘that day’ in the first conjunct is a constituent: it is
detached from the relative clause and base-generated in the first conjunct of the
coordinate structure. In contrast, the strong noun phrase aquelle dia ‘that day’ in

The structure in (48) involves an abstract coordinator that is semantically specialized: it constitutes
an asymmetric relationship of specification between the two conjuncts. Koster (2000) symbolically
represents this relator using a colon; De Vries (2002) employs an ampersand plus a colon ‘&:’. Here,
I will simply use the more general denotation Co for the coordinative head.
For more details regarding the conditions that govern the phonological deletion in the second
conjunct, see De Vries (2002, 2009).
To account for the intricacies of extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese, this analysis may
require some minor technical adjustments. Because I cannot go into this discussion here, I will hold to
De Vries’ (2002) original proposal in the analysis put forth in section 5.3.2. See Cardoso (2010) for more
94 Adriana Cardoso

the second conjunct is not a constituent (as there is no constituent that includes the
determiner and the noun and excludes the RRC). However, this is not a problem
because it is the DP (containing the antecedent and the RRC) that undergoes
leftward movement.
(50) [ mas [CoP [IP [DP aquelle dia]i sem falha aveo ti]
but that day without fail came
[ Co [IP [DP aquelle dia que forom i todos]i sem falha aveo ti]]]]
that day that went there all without fail came
B. Restriction on extraposition from PPs In earlier stages of Portuguese, extraposed
RRCs could take the object of prepositions as their antecedent. The same line of
reasoning applies here: as illustrated (51), the PP de mui poucos ‘of very few’ in the
first conjunct is a constituent because it is detached from the relative clause and base-
generated in the first conjunct of the coordinate structure. In contrast, de mui poucos ‘of
very few’ in the second conjunct is not a constituent; however, this is not a problem
because it is the PP (containing the RRC) that undergoes leftward movement.
(51) [CP que [CoP [IP [PP de mui poucos]i sabemos ti]
that of very few know:1pl
[ Co [IP [PP de mui poucos que bebessem vinho] i sabemos ti]]]]
of very few that drink:imperf.subj wine know:1pl
C. Restriction on extraposition from pre-verbal positions Unlike in CEP, extraposed
RRCs in earlier stages of Portuguese can take pre-verbal subjects as antecedents. This can
be derived by resorting to IP level coordination; see (52):
(52) [CoP [IP S V DO] Co [IP S RRC V DO]]
From a comparative perspective, the fact that CEP does not allow RRC-extraposition
from pre-verbal subjects is surprising. As shown in section, the explanation for the
pattern of ungrammaticality in CEP depends upon the Interpretative Principle in (47).
RRC-extraposition from Spec, IP is not allowed because this position is ambiguously
filled by topic and non-topic elements.
Apparently, nothing prevents RRC extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese
from being subject to the same semantic restrictions as CEP. However, as shown
above, there is strong empirical evidence suggesting that earlier stages of Portuguese
(and other languages) allow for it.
Somewhat tentatively, I would like to suggest that CEP and earlier stages of
Portuguese may resort to different strategies to resolve the ambiguity expressed in
(47). Whereas in CEP the ambiguity associated with Spec, IP is resolved syntactically
and prosodically (through subject inversion), in earlier stages of Portuguese, it may
Extraposition of restrictive relative clauses in Portuguese 95

be resolved only prosodically. In this case, a constituent in Spec, IP can be unam-

biguously interpreted as non-topic if it is prosodically marked by a pitch accent.21
This may suggest that there is a language split as far as the codification of semantic
information is concerned. Some languages codify the topic/non-topic status of the
subject prosodically and syntactically (as may be the case of CEP), whereas other
languages (and different stages of the same language) may codify it only prosodically
(as seems to be the case for earlier stages of Portuguese).

5.4 The loss of extraposed RRCs generated by specifying coordination

According to the analysis outlined above, the extraposed RRCs in earlier stages of
Portuguese are generated by specifying coordination (plus ellipsis), whereas the
extraposed RRCs in CEP are generated by stranding. Keeping in mind Lightfoot’s
(1991 i.a.) insights into the relation between language change and language acquisi-
tion, this implies that positive evidence triggering the specifying coordination
structure ceased to be available to the learners. I submit that such evidence is
found in the contexts of RRC-extraposition involving a strong noun phrase or the
object of a preposition as antecedent. When exposed to these contexts, children in
earlier stages of Portuguese knew that the antecedent was externally (and not
internally) generated because no movement chain could be established between
the visible antecedent and an RRC-internal position.
Capitalizing on what we know about the history of Portuguese, I would like to
suggest that the relevant contexts of extraposition were attested robustly in the
primary linguistic data until the sixteenth century. After this period, their frequency
decreased significantly because of an independent change that took place in the
history of Portuguese: the loss of IP-scrambling. Martins (2002) reports that earlier
stages of Portuguese displayed medial-scrambling, which consisted of the movement
of various types of constituents (DPs, PPs, APs, AdvPs) to multiple specifier
positions selected by the functional head IP. I have also shown in section 5.2.3 that
IP-scrambling generates contexts of extraposition, as illustrated in (33).
Based on these assumptions, I tentatively claim that with the loss of IP-scrambling
after the sixteenth century there was a decrease in the frequency of extraposition
contexts in general. As a result, Portuguese started displaying short-scrambling only,
which consisted of the movement of noun phrases (either subjects or direct objects)
to a VP-adjoined position. In this environment, the linear distance between the
antecedent and the extraposed RRC decreased and, more importantly, PPs ceased
to occur in a scrambled position. Given the loss of an important trigger of
the specifying coordination analysis, children converged on a new grammar. As

Here, I assume that the kind of prosodic prominence that serves to mark focused constituents is the
pitch accent (see, e.g. Avesani and Vayra 2003).
96 Adriana Cardoso

schematically represented in (53), in the new grammar, the visible antecedent is

analyzed as being generated in an RRC-internal position and the RRC-extraposition
as involving the rising of the antecedent (dispensing with the coordinate part of the
(53) [ S V [CoP [VP Obj adverb/PP ] [ Co [VP Obj RC adverb/PP ]]]]
[S V [VP Obj adverb/PP [tobj RC] ]]

5.5 Final remarks

On the basis of some comparative evidence, I have shown that RRC-extraposition is
subject to variation in both the synchronic and the diachronic dimension. As far as
Portuguese is concerned, the empirical evidence discussed here shows that RRC-
extraposition in earlier stages of Portuguese is to a large extent Germanic-like, unlike
From a theoretical point of view, I argued for a non-uniform approach to
extraposition, according to which extraposition involves two different syntactic
types. In this scenario, languages (and different stages in the development of the
same language) may demonstrate divergence with respect to the specific type(s) they
display. Ultimately, this amounts to saying that the concept of extraposition is
descriptively useful (in unifying a variety of apparently related constructions),
but lacks explanatory force because it does not unequivocally correspond to a

Doubling-que embedded
constructions in Old Portuguese
A diachronic perspective1


6.1 Introduction
This chapter examines the nature and structure of finite subordinate clauses in
Portuguese, in which two complementizers are realized (que1 and que2). Our
objective is to contribute to the research in the so-called sentence left periphery, in
particular, to the assumption that the complementizer system consists of distinct
functional heads, coding very different types of features (cf. Rizzi (1997) and many
subsequent works, among them, Benincà and Poletto (2004), Benincà (2004),
Roberts (2004), Aboh (2006), Paoli (2007), Ledgeway (2008), Mascarenhas (2007),
Demonte and Soriano (2009)).
Following Rizzi’s ‘cartographic approach’, we adopt the idea that the left periphery
of the clause expresses a typology of positions, defined by a system of functional
heads and their projections. This system is delimited upward by Force, the head
expressing various clause types: declarative, interrogative, exclamative, etc., and
downward by Finiteness, the head distinguishing between finite and non-finite
clauses. Rizzi (1997) emphasizes that the need for two distinct positions in the
complementizer system becomes apparent when the Topic/Focus Field is activated.
Besides that, we assume Rizzi’s layered CP with the refinements proposed by
Benincà (2004) and Benincà and Poletto (2004) in the sense that Topic and Focus
are fields (a set of projections). Topics, for example, can only be inserted to the left of
Focus. Looking for purely syntactic evidence to identify projections and fields, the
last authors also propose that the Focus Field hosts elements that are moved with

We would like to thank the comments and questions from the audience of the XI Diachronic
Generative Syntax Conference at University of Campinas, Brazil, and the suggestions from the two
anonymous reviewers. All remaining errors are entirely ours.
98 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

operator-like properties—contrastive and informational focus, and the interrogative

wh. Furthermore, the area of topics is articulated in two distinct fields, with distinct
syntactic properties. The higher field for merged topics is FrameP. In these terms,
Italian Hanging Topic (HT) and Scene Setting Adverbials are typical topics, in the
Frame Field. On the other side, Left Dislocation (LD) and topics with listed
interpretation are typical topics, in the Topic Field. The structure of the left
periphery we have in mind is outlined in (1) below:
(1) ForceP [Frame Field (HT) / (scene setting)] [Topic Field (LD) / (list interpretation) ]
[Focus Field (Contrastive F) / (Information F) / wh] FinP TP (SVO-ADV)
Another important point in the system is that the Frame Field and the Topic Field
are not V-related; it means that the verb does not move to this position. The
topicalized constituents in Topic or Frame Field are base generated constituents
(external merge). The Focus Field is different: it is specialized for constituents that
have to move there (internal merge). So, Focus and Fin are V-related positions: this
means that there is obligatory verb movement to these positions.
We also accept Roberts’ (2004) idea that the V2 phenomenon results from the
requirement that Fin must have a phonological realization (Fin* in the notation of
Roberts 2001). Based on this, we propose that V-movement to Fin is operative in Old
Portuguese (OldP), with the additional idea of movement of Fin to Focus, if FocusP
is activated. Doubling-que in complement clauses is another strategy to satisfy the
realization requirements by Fin. So, we also argue that Fin*, in the context of
completive sentences, can be satisfied by three strategies: V-to-Fin; Fin-to-Force;
merge of que2 in Fin. Brazilian Portuguese (BP) is not a V2 language. However,
when split-CP is active, Fin* is realized by merge of que/Ø complementizer, never by
V-to-Fin. The null complementizer is an innovative option in Portuguese history,
mainly in written patterns. This chapter is organized as follows:
First, we present some root V2 properties of OldP, in order to establish the pattern
of complement clauses in general and of the doubling-que complement clauses in
particular. We intend to show that in embedded complement clauses, the same root
properties are allowed. Second, we analyze finite complement clauses. We will
concentrate on the three forms of Fin feature realization. The first one results
from movement of Fin to Force; the second one, from movement of V to Fin; in
the third option, the insertion of que2 satisfies the requirement of finite Fin’s
realization. This is the main property of complement clauses with doubling-que.
Finally, we discuss doubling-que complement clauses in BP. In this language there is
no requirement of Fin*’s phonological realization by V movement. However, when
the left periphery is activated, there is variation between merging of que/Ø
complementizer into Fin. This chapter tries to show three points: (i) Historical
Portuguese presents evidence of split CP into Force and Fin in finite embedded
declaratives; (ii) There is a competition between two strategies that satisfy the
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 99

requirement of Fin*—movement of V to Fin* and merge of que into Fin*—what can

be in the origin of the loss of V2 property in OldP; (iii) The nature and structure of
doubling-que in OldP and Modern BP complement sentences stress important
differences and similarities between both languages.

6.2 Basic facts about root sentences in OldP

We can observe a root sentence pattern in OldP data,2 if we assume that the
superficial array of constituents expresses the interplay of three operations: (i)
movement of focused constituents to Spec,FocP; (ii) movement of thematic con-
stituents to Spec,FinP; iii) merge of topic constituents in FrameP/TopicP. Syntactic
evidence is observed in several studies on word order of constituents in Medieval
Romance (e.g. Salvi (1989, 1990), Benincà (1989, 1995), Ribeiro (1994, 1995a, 2009).
For example, the VS word order, where S is strictly adjacent to V, preceding both
verbal arguments and adjuncts. Or the clitic position, assuming that proclisis only
occurs when Spec,FocP and Spec,FinP are phonologically realized. If Spec,FinP is
not activated, enclisis is categorical.
The examples in (2) show the movement of V to Fin/FocusP head. Also they show
that different types of constituents can satisfy V2: complement objects (2a.), prep-
ositional phrases (2b.), and predicates (2c.). When the subject is lexically realized, it
is always in an immediate post-verbal position (the subject is italicized in the
examples below). This last property is clear evidence that the verb is above IP.3
(2) a. E [FinP estes dizimos quis [IP Nostro Senhor tv tobj pera as
And these tithes want-pst-3sg Our Lord for the-pl
eygreyas fazer]]4 (FR-thirteenth)
church-pl to-do
‘And Our Lord wanted these tithes to build the churches.’
b. [FocP Com tanta paceença sofria [FinP tPP tv [IP ela tv esta
with so-much patience suffered-pst-3sg she this
enfermidade tPP ]]] (DSG-fourteenth)
‘She suffered this disease with so much patience.’

The Old Portuguese analysis is based on collected data of the following documents: a) Os Diálogos de
São Gregório (DSG); b) Um Flos Sanctorum: XIV (FLOS); c) Foro Real (FR); d) A Demanda do Santo Graal
(GRAAL); e) Crônica de D. Pedro (CDP); f) Carta de Pero Vaz de Caminha (CPVC); g) data presented by
Ribeiro (1995a, 1996, 1997, 1998).
Notice that when Focus is activated we are not sure if the focused constituent passes through the
Spec,FinP or goes directly to its final position (cf. 2b–c).
An anonymous reviewer questions why the object is not a topic in TopP, given that the subject should
be closer to Spec,FinP than the object and it seems equally pragmatically unmarked. Observe that the
theme of the narration is the obligatory payment of tributes in different religions. The anaphoric object in
Spec,FinP ensure the continuity of the theme. This would not be possible if the DP subject were in Spec,
Fin. In this case, the theme would be changed. In fact, deictic DPs are common in Spec,FinP with this
pragmatic function. Besides that, if the direct object were in the Topic Field, the presence of a resumptive
clitic would be obligatory (cf. ex. 6).
100 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

c. E [FocP limpho és [FinP tadj tv [IP pro tv tadj desta razom ante Deus]]]
clear be-prs-2sg of-this reason before God
‘When it comes to this sin, you are all clear before God.’
The SV order can also satisfy V2, as shown in (3). Notice that the subject is
contrastive focus. We assume that the subject moves to Spec,FocP.
(3) [FocP Maestre Alexandre meteu] . . . [este escandalo aqui] (FLOS-fourteenth)
Maestre Alexandre put-pst-3sg this scandal here
‘It was Maestre Alexandre that was responsible for this scandal.’
So we are considering that only focused constituents can be in the Focus Field;
thematized arguments may be located in Spec,FinP if they are pragmatically un-
marked in some sense, that is, if they are not focused or merged into a Frame/Topic
Field. Thus, we assume an analysis which incorporates aspects of Benincà (2004) and
Roberts’ (2004) proposals. For the first one, in Medieval Romance languages,
thematized and focused constituents satisfy V2 in FocusP; for the second one, V2
is always the result of movement of V to Fin and of some constituent to Spec,FinP.
We admit a version of both of them, considering that the FinP head is not capable of
checking the [ þ focus] feature of a focused constituent.
The linear V2 effect is not categorical in OldP; V>2 sequences can be found in all OldP
written texts. We take up again questions related to V>2, presented by Ribeiro (1995a/b),
considering here that the V>2 constructions result from the merge of discursively
prominent constituents in one of the Frame and Topic fields (Benincà 2004). Because
they are non-V-related positions, they do not interfere with the V2 property.5
(4) a. E [FrameP quando chegaron ao rio,] [FocP tan aginha o
and when arrive-pst-3pl to-the river too quickly it-acc
passaron como se . . . [FinP . . . . . . (DSG-fourteenth)
pass-pst-3pl as if
‘And when they arrived at the river, they passed through it so quickly
as if . . . .’
b. e [TopP estas dobras que el-rrei dom Pedro mandava lavrar,]
and those coins that the-king don Pedro order-past-3sg to-mint
[FocP cinquoenta d’ ellas faziam ] [FinP . . . . . .
hüu marco]
fifty of-them make-pst-3pl one mark
‘And from those coins that the king D. Pedro ordered to mint, fifty made
one mark’.
For studies of other Medieval Romance varieties, cf. Salvi 1990, 1993; Benincà 1995, 2004; Benincà and
Poletto 2004; Ledgeway 2008, among others.
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 101

c. [TopP Aqueste homen] [FocP muito alonjado he] [FinP . . . daquestes

This man very distant be-prs-3sg from-these
que nós ora veemos] (DSG-fourteenth)
that we now see-prs-1pl
‘This man is definitely much more elevated than these that we see now’.
Notice that it is still possible to maintain a V2 analysis of these examples, if V2 is
not understood as a superficial descriptive label, but, instead, as a syntactic con-
straint which requires the finite verb to raise to the FinP head, and take a step further
to FocusP head, if there is a focus feature to check. A further movement operation
fronts the focused constituent to Spec,FocP. Other pragmatically salient constituents
may be merged into the functional projections in the C position, FrameP or TopicP
(cf. Benincà 2004, Benincà and Poletto 2004). So the italicized constituents in (4) are
all candidates to merge into Frame/Topic: in (4a.) there is a scene setting temporal
adverbial sentence; in (4b.) there is a Hanging Topic; in (4c.) a Left Dislocation
subject. None of them interferes with the V2 property, because they are not V-
related. The checking of the categorical feature [ þ topic] is realized with a null head
(Ø), a null counterpart of a topic associated with a morpheme in other languages,
such as d« in Saramaccan (cf. Aboh 2006).
We follow Benincà’s (2004: 270) generalization for all Medieval Romance dialects:
‘a direct object can be moved leaving a trace, incompatible with a resumptive clitic,
only in the projection immediately preceding the head to which a Verb moves in
main clauses . . . .’.6 We take this position to be either Spec,FinP, for a non-focused
object, or Spec,FocP, if the object is focused. If there is a clitic in this construction, it
is always related to another argument, and it is always proclitic (cf. 5).
(5) E [FinP esto lhis fazia [IP ele tcl þ v tobj pera lho
And this them-dat do-pst-3sg he for them-dat þ him-acc
agalardoar Deus ]] (DSG-fourteenth)
to-reward God
‘And he used to do this to them so God would reward him for this.’
Object arguments which merge into TopicP are analysed as Clitic Left Dislocation
(CLLD). They generally occur in constructions with an activated Focus Field; the
resumptive clitic is always proclitic (cf. 6).
(6) [TopP A verdade daquesta profecia] [FocP mais claramente a
The truth of-this prophecy more clearly it-acc
veemos] [FinP cadadia . . . ] (DSG-fourteenth)
see-prs-1pl every day
‘Every day we more clearly see the truth of that prophecy’.

Cf. also Salvi (1989, 1990), Benincà (1989), and Ribeiro (1995a).
102 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

However, a CLLD object merged into Spec,TopicP may co-occur with enclisis,
similarly to what happens in other kinds of left dislocation in OldP, as the following
examples show:
(7) [TopP Esto, Pedro, que ti eu ora quero contar,] [FinP OP
This, Pedro, that you-dat I now want-prs-1sg to-tell,
aprendi-[IP o duu homen muito honrado]] (DSG-fourteenth)
learn-pst-3sg-it-acc from-a man very honoured
‘What I want to tell you now, Pedro, I’ve learned from a very honoured man’.
In these cases, FocusP is never activated, and the enclisis is categorical. If V is always in
Fin and the dislocated constituents are in the Frame/Topic Field, Spec,FinP may be
realized by a thematic null operator. Notice that (7) occurs in a discursive context of
narration of miracles realized by a holy man, with emphasis on the speaker’s desires to tell
the story: I want to tell, I learnt, I should not be quiet. It behaves, then, as in coordinated
clauses like the one in (8), in which the subject of the second coordinate is not realized:
(8) Eu entendo esto e maravilho-me do que
I understand-prs-1sg this and amaze-prs-1sg-myself of-the what
ouço (DSG-fourteenth)
‘I understand this and I am amazed by what I hear’.
We do not have much to say about these types of clauses in this chapter, except
that it may result of a null operator (Ribeiro 1995a), or as a means to get a strong
textual cohesion (Fontana 1993, Ledgeway 2008). We can observe that there is a
subject continuity in all the examples in (7) and (8) above, realized as a null thematic
constituent in Spec,FinP. Additional evidence that the dislocated constituent in the
constructions with enclisis is not in a spec-head relation in Focus/Fin comes from
the possibility of a parenthetical clause between the constituent and the verb.7
(9) E [FrameP depois que esto prometi] [XP dezia aquel pecador]
And after that this promise-pst-1sg say-pst-3sg that sinner
[FinP OP say-[IP me da eigreja]] (FLOS-fourteenth)
leave-pst-1sg me-dat of-the church
‘After I promised that, said the sinner, I left the church’.
So, merge of null OP/Topic in Spec,FinP is a strategy available when there is
continuity of subject or of another thematized constituent. As we said, the enclisis is
mandatory in this type of construction.8
Following Cardinaletti’s 2004 analysis, we assume that parenthetical cannot occur in contexts where
strict spec/head agreement is required (cf. footnote 13).
Regarding the clitic positions, we assume a modified version of Ribeiro (1995a). We consider that the
clitic is non-V-related in OldP, as indicated by interpolation. In a broad sense, we assume that the clitic
occupies a position in the periphery of the split CP ( . . . FinP ClP TP), as proposed by a number of authors.
In our analysis, V movement to Fin/Focus is independent of clitic movement, in the sense that V does not
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 103

Having established the fundamental characteristics of root sentences of OldP, we

now discuss some properties of embedded complement clauses, with focus on the

6.3 Basic facts about embedded sentences in OldP

The main thesis we would like to defend here is that there are three ways to satisfy
Fin*’s phonological requirement in embedded complement clauses, in OldP: (i) Fin
to Force; (ii) V to Fin, when the left periphery is activated; (iii) merge of que in Fin.

6.3.1 Fin to Force

This operation occurs when the left periphery (namely, FrameP, TopicP, FocusP) is not
activated. In this case, the embedded sentences have only one realization of the com-
plementizer que. They resemble other embedded clauses with interpolation/scrambling,
indicating that the finite verb can follow these constituents. In the examples in (10) there
are interpolated/scrambled constituents between the clitic and the verb: the negation in
(10a.); the indirect object, subject, and direct object in (10b.); objects and negation in (10c.).
(10) a. mandou que o non dissessen a nengüü) (DSG-fourteenth)
order-pst-3sg that it-acc not tell-sbj-3pl to anybody
‘He ordered them not to tell it to anyone’.
b. que diga que llj eu Algluna cousa diuía
who might-say that him-dat I any-one thing owed
(from Martins 2002: 244; 1275)
‘[anybody] who might say that I owed him something (i.e. any one thing)’.
c. nõ possamos negar ( . . . ) que as del nõ Recebemos
not can-pst-1pl deny ( . . . ) that them-acc of-him not receive-pst-1pl
(from Martins 1994: 179; NO, 1365)
‘So that we couldn’t deny that we haven’t received them from him’.
In this kind of complementizer, either Force or Fin is realized as a syncretic head
(11a.), or the complementizer is generated in Fin and moves to Force (11b.).10

pass through ClP in its way to the head Fin/Focus, which results in enclisis. Proclisis results from the
independent movement of the head that hosts the clitic to Fin/Focus, whenever Spec,Fin/Focus is lexically
occupied. For more details, see Ribeiro (1995a). Also, Old Portuguese data show that the relationship
between Focus and clitic is much closer in some dialects, as illustrated below:
(i) E a mha cabeça, já a el tem metuda na sa boca (DSG-fourteenth)
And the my head already it-acc he have put.inside-part in its-fem. mouth
‘And he (the lion) has already had my head in his mouth’
In this example, the clitic is in Focus, the head of FocusP. Unfortunately there is not much on this subject in the
Old Portuguese literature. Our evidence shows that the clitic, by itself, can verify/check the features of Focus.
For a discussion about word order facts and V2 phenomenon in Classical Portuguese, cf. Torres
Morais (1995, 1997).
Cf. Rizzi 1997, note 28; Roberts 2004.
104 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

(11) a. [Force/FinP que [IP ]]

b. [ForceP quei [FinP quei [IP . . . ]]]11
Interpolation is observed in all finite embedded clauses in OldP, although it is rarer in
completive sentences than in relative and adverbial ones. We follow Martins (2002: 236)
in assuming that in OldP the clitic marks the limits between focused constituents, on one
side, and the interpolated/IP-scrambled constituents, on the other. In example (12a.), the
scrambled adverb follows the clitic; in (12b.), the focused adverb comes before the clitic.
(12) a. quando soube que a assi levarom (CDP-fifteenth)
when learn-pst-3sg that her-acc this-way took-pst-3pl
‘when I learned that she had been taken this way’
b. e elles disserom que assi o fariam (CDP-fifteenth)
and they say-pst-3sg that this-way it-acc do-pst-3pl
‘and they said that they would do it this way’.
We consider that (12b.) results from a split-CP with projection of the Focus structure.
It is this property that makes interpolation/scrambling rarer in completive clauses.

6.3.2 V to Fin
Direct objects and other thematized constituents can be moved to Spec,FinP, when Focus
is not activated. The derived order is: Theme V (S) . . . . , if the subject is not the theme itself,
or S V . . . . , when the subject is the theme and it is dislocated to Spec,FinP. The dislocated
themes are pragmatically relevant constituents to the discursive cohesion. In this case,
proclisis is systematic and a resumptive pronoun never occurs in the original position of
the constituent. The finite verb is attracted to Fin, as in main sentences. The thematized
constituent moves to Spec,FinP, resulting in the following V2 order: Theme V S (13a/b):
(13) a. deves a entender, Pedro, [ForceP que [FinP alguus
ought-prs-2sg to to-undersand, Pedro, that some
feitos contarei [IP eu per razon daquelas cousas que
doings will-tell-1sg I for reason of-that things that
entendo per eles]]] (DSG-fourteenth)
understand-prs-1sg by them
‘You must understand, Pedro, that I will tell you some facts based on what
I understand about them’.
b. disse-lhis [ForceP que [FinP taaes custumes aviam [IP eles que
say-pst-3sg-them-dat that such habits have-pst-3pl they that

Cf. Nunes 2004 for discussions of copy, merge, chain formation, and chain reduction.
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 105

non poderian convïïr con os seus]]] (DSG-fourteenth)

not can-pst-3pl suit with the-pl his
‘He told them that they had such habits that could not suit with his’.
c. mais pera non entenderes [ForceP que [FinP eu ti quero [IP ser
but to not understand-inf-2sg that I you-dat want-prs-1sg to-be
‘But, for you not to think that I want to disobey you’.
d. E porque o abade sabia [ForecP que [FinP os homens da
And because the abbot know-pst-3sg that the-pl men of-the
terra o honravan [IP muito ]]] (DSG-fourteenth)
earth him-acc honour-pst-3pl much
‘And because the abbot knew that the men of Earth honoured him very much’.
When a focused constituent is realized in FocusP, the finite verb always moves
from Fin to Focus, to verify the Focus head features. The word order observed is:
Focus V (S) . . . . The subject is post-verbal, if realized. Again, proclisis is systematic
in this context.
(14) a. a min semelha [ForceP que [FocP en vååoi cuidava ] [FinP ti tverb ]
for me-dat seem-prs-3sg that in vain think-pst-1sg
[IP eu tverb ti que en terra de Italia non avia padres
I that in land of Italy not have-pst-3sg priests
santos que fezessen miragres e maravilhas]] (DSG-fourteenth)
holy that do-sbj-3pl miracles and marvels
‘It seems to me that I vainly thought that in Italy there weren’t holy men
who would make miracles and marvelous things’.
b. osmo [ForceP que [FocP antei se acabaria ] [FinP ti tcl þ verb ] [IP o
think-prs-1sg that before itself would-end-3sg the
dia tcl þ verb [ti que] eu leixasse de contar o que . . . ]] (DSG-fourteenth)
day that I finish-sbj-1sg of to-tell what . . .
‘I think that the day would have ended before I finished telling what . . . ’.12
c. . . . dizer [ForceP que [FocP maisi teendes ] [FinP ti tverb ] [IP pro tverb juntas
. . . to-say that more have-sbj-2pl altogether
[ ti de vinte mil dobras]]] (CDP-fifteenth)
of twenty thousand coins
‘ . . . to say that you have more than twenty thousand coins altogether’.
Informational Focus can also be the first V2 element in completive clauses (15).
In the gloss, the word ‘before ‘stands for the temporal conjunctional expression ‘ante que’, but it is
only its adverbial portion (ante) that moves to Focus.
106 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

(15) E acaeceu huu dia [ForceP que [Foc/FinP huu lavrador

and happen-pst-3sg one day that one grower
veo] [IP . . . .. de mui longe pera vee-lo]] (DSG-fourteenth)
came-pst-3sg of very distant to to-see-him-acc
‘One day it happens that a grower from a very distant place came to see him’.
The examples in (10) above illustrate the interpolation (cl-neg), which is a
systematic behaviour of embedded clauses in OldP (cf. Martins’s 1994, 1997, and
Ribeiro’s 1995a analysis of this phenomenon). In main clauses, we observe the order
neg – cl:
(16) e non-nas preçava rem (DSG-fourteenth)
and not-them-acc appraise-pst-1sg nothing
‘And he didn’t appraise them at all’.
The relevant fact about OldP is that there is no interpolation in the completive
clauses when TopP is activated. In other words, there is no difference between main
and embedded clauses.
(17) rogoo-u o cavaleiro de tan gram coraçon [que [TopP
beg-pst-3sg-him-acc the knight of too great heart that
o don que lhi dava] [FocP non-no despreçasse] [FinP . . . . . . . ]]
the gift that him-dat gave-pst-3sg not-it-acc
‘The knight begged him, from the bottom of his heart, for him not to refuse
the gift that he gave to him’.

6.3.3. V to Fin versus merge que in Fin

We assume that Frame and Topic are not V-related heads, so there is no movement
of V to Frame/Topic. When a constituent merges in the Frame/Topic Field, there are
two different types of structures.
I. FocP is active; V moves to Fin, and to Focus head.
(18) ca temia o santo bispo [ForceP que1, [Frame/TopP se os
because fear-pst-3sg the holy bishop that1 if the-pl
homens soubessen aquelo que acaecera,] [FocP tanta vãã
men know-sbj-3pl that that happen-pass-3sg much vain
gloria lhi creceria] [FinP tDP t v ] [IP en seu coraçon
glory him-dat would-grow-3sg in his heart
quanto louvor . . . ]] (DSG-fourteenth)
as praise . . .
‘ . . . . because the holy bishop feared that, if the men knew what had happened,
it would grow, in his heart, as much vain glory as praise . . . ’
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 107

II. Focus Field is not active; Spec,FinP is occupied by a discursive null operator, a
strategy to keep the thematic cohesion.
(19) a. Ja ora podes entender, Pedro, [que1 [LD aquelas
Already now can-2sg to-understand, Pedro, that1 those
cousas que Deus ordiou e soube ante que
things that God demand-pst-3sg and know-pst-3sg before-that
o mundo fosse feito,] [FinP OP compriron [IP -se
the world be-sbj-3sg create-part, OP happen-pst-3pl-self
pelas orações dos santos homens]]
by-the-pl prayers of-the holy men]]
‘Now you can understand, Pedro, that those things that God has
demanded and has known before the world was created happened
because of the holy men’s prayers’.
b. Ca diz San Joane no seu Evangelho que1 [FrameP
Then say-prs-3sg S. J. in-the his gospel that1 [
todos aqueles que Jesu Cristo receberon e creeron
all those that J. C. receive-pst-3pl and believe-pst-3pl
que era filho de Deus], [FinP OP deu [IP -lhis el
that be-pst-3sg son of God] OP give-pst-3sg-them he
poderio ]] (DSG-fourteenth)
‘Then, S. J. says, in his gospel, that Jesus Christ gave power to all those who
received him and believed that he was God’s son’.
This is also the pattern observed in main sentences, when Spec,FinP is realized by
a discursive null operator, as previously illustrated in the examples in (8). In both
(18) and (19) examples, Fin*’s requirements are normally satisfied by V to Fin.
However, Frame/Topic constituents may merge into Spec,FinP, which is only
possible when FocusP is not activated. As Frame/Topic are not V-related, merge
of que2 is a last resort strategy to satisfy Fin*’s requirement.
(20) a. e rogamos-vos [ForceP que1 [FinP [LD essas joyas que ella
and beg-prs-1pl-you that1 those jewels that she
leixou ] [Fin’ que2 ]] [IP as mandees dar ao
left that2 them-acc send-sbj-2pl to-give to-the
dito Joham Fernandez]] (CDP-fifteenth)
aforementioned J. F.
‘and we beg you to send those jewels that she left to the aforementioned J. F’.
b. E pero non he pera creer - diz
And however not be-prs-3sg for to-believe – say-prs-3sg
San Gregorio – [ForceP que1 [FinP [LD o bõõ logar a
S. G. – that1 the good place to
108 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

que o ja levaron] [Fin’ que2 ]]] [IP o perdesse]

that him-acc already take-pst-3pl that2 it lose-pst-3sg
‘San Gregorio says that it is unbelievable that he had lost the good place
where he was taken’.
Between the two realizations of que, there is a left dislocated object, resumed by a
pronoun after the second que. We assume that the doubling-que structures result
from the merge of the left dislocated object into Spec,FinP.
Left dislocated subjects can also occupy Spec,FinP, as shown in the following
(21) a. e o abade San Beento dizendo o contrairo [ForceP
and the abbot San Beento saying the contrary
que1 [FinP Deus que2] [IP o fezera por el ]] (DSG-fourteenth)
that1 God that2 it had-done-3sg for him
‘And the abbot Saint Bento saying just the contrary, that God had worked
a wonder for him (not San Bento)’.
b. mandou-lhi dizer [ForceP que1 [FinP el que2 ] [IP
send-pst-3sg-him to-say that1 he that2
o ia ver ]] (DSG-fourteenth)
him-acc go-pst-3sg to-see
‘He (king Totila) sent someone to tell him (San Bento) that he was going
to see him’.
Scene setting adverbs can also be sandwiched between the two ques (as in 22):
(22) deffendemus firmemëte [ForceP que1 [FinP daqui adeante
defend-prs-1pl firmly that1 from now on
que2 ] [IP nenhüü seya ousado de coller në de midir
that2 no one be-sbj- dare of to-harvest nor to-measure
ome pan que teue na eyra senõ desta
man bread that have-pst-3sg in-the land except of-this
way (FR-thirteenth)
‘We strongly order that, from now on, nobody shall dare to harvest or
appraise the food that was grown in one’s land, except the way it was said

Both examples are ambiguous between a contrastive topic or focus reading. It is this kind of data that
is in the origin of the loss of V2 in focus constructions.
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 109

Based on Cardinaletti (2004), we consider that the quantified subject nenhüü

(nobody) in (22) cannot occur in a left-dislocated position. Instead it occurs within
IP. The constituent daqui adeante (from now on) merges into Spec,FinP.
The examples in (20)–(22) are clear evidence that there are two ques in OldP: the
first one (que1) is a complementizer specified as declarative. It merges in Force, the
topmost projection of the C-system. The second one (que2) is a expression of Fin.
Both ques can be realized simultaneously in the sentence.
The data of OldP also evidence a third realization of que (que3). It merges in
Topic head.14
(23) ca lhi semelhava [ForceP que1 [TopP quanto triigo
because his-dat resemble-pst-3sg that1 all wheat
despendera per todo ano que3 ] [FocP ali o
spent-pst-3sg for all year that3 there it-acc
viia ] [FinP tali tcl þ v ] [IP . . . . . ajuntado ]] (DSG-fourteenth)
see-pst-3sg gather-part
‘So it seemed to him that there he had gathered all the wheat he spent during
the whole year’.
As shown in (23), Spec,FocP is realized by the focused adverb ali (there) and the
focus head, by CL þ V. Notice that que3 can occur in variation with a Ø comple-
mentizer, as illustrated in (19a) above.
So, the relevant facts about embedded clauses in OldP are: (i) Fin is always Fin* by
different strategies; (ii) Fin moves to Force, if the C-domain periphery is not active;
(iii) V moves to Fin, when Spec,FinP is occupied; (iv) V moves to Fin-to-Focus,
when a focused constituent moves to Spec,FocP; In this case, the copy of V in Fin
must be relevant for Fin*; (v) que merges into Fin, when a Frame/Topic constituent
merges into Spec,Fin.

6.4 Brazilian Portuguese data and some diachronic observations

Doubling-que disappears from Medieval written texts at the end of the fifteenth
century (cf. Wanner 1998); however, it is documented in the Portuguese of some less
educated writers, in seventeenth century Inquisition letters and in nineteenth cen-
tury writings of African descendants in Brazil; also, in spoken BP. In this section, we
first discuss the possibility of doubling-que in spoken BP, and then highlight some
aspects of its diachronic development. The BP data discussed and presented here
come from our intuition as BP native speakers.

This OP doubling que is similar to Saramaccan and Gugbe. Aboh (2006) argued that the Saramaccan
form fu represents two complementizer types: fu1 and fu2, which encode C-type features. The same holds
for the Gugbe ni1 and ni2. Cf. also Roberts (2004) for Force and Fin particles in Welsh.
110 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

Doubling-que constructions in BP are used in spoken language, when the left

periphery is activated either by a Focus or by any topicalized constituent in FrameP
or TopicP.

6.4.1 Focus and Topic Fields

We first observe that none of the OldP-V2 structures derived from V-to-Fin/Focus
movement and from thematized/focalized constituent movement to Spec,FinP/FocP
result in grammatical possibilities in BP embedded completives:
(24) a. *Pedro, você deve entender [ que [ alguns fatos contei]
Pedro, you must understand that some-pl facts tell-pst-1sg
[ (eu) por este motivo]]
(I) by this reason
b. *João disse [ que [ ESSE LIVRO comprou] [ Maria,]]
John said that this book bought Mary,
e não esta revista
but not this magazine
The examples in (24) are ungrammatical, since they would be derived from
V-to-Fin/Focus movement. We assumed that V-to-Fin is a basic requirement for
movement of a thematized constituent to Spec, FinP, only possible in V2 languages.
However, constituents from the Frame/Topic Field and focused constituents can
occur between the two ques. The BP versions of some examples of doubling-que in
OldP are shown in (25):
(25) a. e pedimos a vocês [ForceP que [FrameP essas jóias
and ask-pst-1pl to you that these jewels
que ela deixou] [que (vocês) mandem dar elas
that she leave-pst-1sg that ( you) ask-sbj-2pl to-give them-acc
aos filhos legítimos]]
to-the sons true-born
‘and we beg you to send those jewels that she left to the true-born sons’.
b. defendemos firmemente [ForceP que [FrameP de agora em diante]
defend-prs-1pl strongly that from now on
[ que ninguém seja ousado de recolher impostos
that nobody be-sbj-3sg dare of to-collect taxes
sem autorização do governo.]]
without authorization of-the government
‘We strongly advise that, from now on, nobody dares to collect taxes
without an authorization from the government’.
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 111

c. e dizia [ForceP que [FrameP se não enviassem um médico]

and say-pst-3sg that if not send-sbj-3pl a doctor
[ que (ela) morreria logo/logo morreria]]
that (she) would-die soon/soon would-die
‘and she said that if a doctor was not sent she would die soon’.
d. e dizia [ForceP que [FrameP quando João chegasse]
and say-pst-3sg that when J. arrive-sbj-3sg
[que (eles) iriam ao cinema]]
that (they) would-go to-the movies
‘and she said that, after João arrives, they would go to the movies’.
e. e diziam [ForceP que [FrameP/TopP (a/pra) todos aqueles
and say-pst-3pl that (to/for) all those
que acreditaram em Jesus Cristo] [ que Deus lhes
that believe-pst-3pl in J. C. that God them-dat
deu a/pra eles grande poder]]
give-pst-3sg to/for them big power
‘and they said that God would give great power to those who believed in
Jesus Christ’.
We will explain the derivation of sentences in (25) as the result of merge of
que into Fin. Notice that, differently from doubling-que in OldP, the topicalized
constituent merges into the Frame/Topic periphery, and not into Spec,FinP. There is
no spec-head relationship between the topicalized constituents and que2, since
parenthetical sentences can occur between them, as illustrated in examples below:
(26) a. e pedimos a vocês [ForceP que1 [HT essas jóias que
and ask-pst-1pl to you that1 these jewels that
ela deixou Ø],
she leave-pst-3sg Ø,
[Parenth. segundo o que reza o testamento,]
according the that say-prs-3sg the will,
[FinP que2 vocês mandem dar elas aos filhos legítimos]]
that2 you ask-sbj-3pl to-give them-acc to-the sons true-born
‘and we asked you to give these jewels which she left to her true-born
children, according to what was said in the will’.
b. e dizia [ForceP que1 [FrameP quando João chegasse Ø],
and say-pst-3sg that1 when João arrive-sbj-3sg Ø,
112 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

[Parenth. segundo o que Maria disse],

according the that Maria say-prs-3sg,
[FinP que2 eles iriam ao cinema]]
that2 they would-go to-the movies
‘According to Maria, he said that they would go to the movies, after João
So, we assume that que2 merges into the Fin head and that the TopicP head is
realized by a Ø complementizer. We will return to this later.

6.4.2 Some comparative data between European Portuguese (EP) and BP

EP also produces the doubling-que completives in spoken language (data from
Mascarenhas 2007).
(27) a. Acho que este livro que a Ana não gostou dele. (p: 5)
Think-prs-1sg that this book that the Ana not like-pst-3sg of-it
‘I think that Ana did not like this particular book’.
b. Disseram-me que ao João que o professor
Tell-pst-3pl-me-acc that to-the J. that the teacher
(lhe) deu um dezoito. (p: 4)
(them.dat) gave a eighteen
‘They told me that the teacher gave J. an eighteen grade’.
According to Mascarenhas (2007), it seems that EP does not have syntactic
restrictions regarding the number of reduplications of C with the realization of
que between each instance (although there are processing restrictions):
(28) Acho que amanhã que a Ana que vai conseguir
Think-prs-1sg that tomorrow that the Ana that will be-able
acabar o trabalho (p: 1)
to-finish the job
‘I think that tomorrow Ana will be able to get the task done’.
The constituent in between may be somehow associated with the Topic Field,
but not with focused elements, which leads Mascarenhas (2007) to propose that
complementizers such as que can occupy topic positions, as in the structure illus-
trated in (29), with recursive TopicP:
(29) acho [ForceP que [TopP amanhã que [TopP a Ana que . . . . . . . . . ]]]
think-prs-1sg that tomorrow that the Ana that . . . .
Differently from EP, the discursive reading of (28), in BP, with the subordinate
null subject, covers the second sandwiched constituent more easily as Focus than as
Topic. This is illustrated in the examples below (30):
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 113

(30) a. João disse que ontem que Ana que foi

John say-pst-3sg that yesterday that Ana that go-pst-3sg
ao cinema (e não Maria / *e não ao teatro)
to-the movies (but not Mary / * but not to-the theatre)
‘John said that, yesterday, it was Ana that went to the movies’.
b. João disse que ontem que Ana que ela foi
John say-pst-3sg that yesterday that Ana that she go-pst-3sg
ao cinema (e não ao teatro / *e não Maria)
to-the movies (but not to-the theatre / * but not Mary)
‘John said that, yesterday, Ana went to the movies, not to the theatre’.
We see a contrast between the examples in (30): if there is no resumptive pronoun,
Focus is the only possible reading for Ana, the second sandwiched constituent (cf.
example 30a.). If the resumptive pronoun is present, Topic is the only possible
reading of this constituent (30b.). In the example (30a.), que2 is merged into Fin,
not into Focus, as represented below:
(31) João disse [ForceP que [FrameP ontem que3] [FocP ANA Ø],
John say-pst-3sg that yesterday that3 ANA Ø
[XP segundo Maria], [FinP que2 [IP foi ao cinema]]]
according Maria, that2 go-pst-3sg to-the movies
‘John said that, according to Maria, it was Ana that went to the movies
We conclude that que occupies Fin head when the CP domain is filled by Frame,
Topic or Focus, that is, if movement of Fin-to-Force is not operative.

6.4.3 About que3 and que4 in BP

In BP we have two more types of que: Top (que3) and Focus (que4) that also
alternate with an Ø complementizer.
(32) a. João disse [ForceP que1 [FocP (a) ANA que4 / Ø] [XP segundo Maria]
John say-pst-3sg that1 (the) ANA que4 / Ø according Mary
[FinP que2 [IP pro vai acabar o trabalho amanhã]]]
that2 pro will-to-finish the paper tomorrow
‘John said that, according to Mary, it is Ana that will finish the paper
b. João disse [ForceP que1 [TopP (a) Ana que3 / Ø] [XP segundo Maria]
John say-pst-3sg that1 (the) Ana que3 / Ø, according Mary,
[FinP que2 [IP ela vai acabar o trabalho amanhã]]]
that2 she will-to-finish the paper tomorow
‘John said that, according to Mary, Ana will finish the paper tomorrow’.
114 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

We observe that que2 is not allowed to follow both que3 and que4 unless some
phonological material is realized between the two. This restriction against the
repetition of morphemes is very familiar in the literature (cf. references in Paoli
2007). It explains the impossibility of (33). In BP this restriction can be avoided with
the Ø complementizer in the Topic/Focus head.
(33) *João disse [ForceP que1 [TopP/FocP (a) Ana que4/3]
John think-pst-3sg that1 (the) Ana that4/3
[FinP que2 [IP (ela) vai conseguir acabar o trabalho]]
that2 (she) will-achieve to-finish the job

6.4.4 Northwestern Italian dialects

Paoli (2007) shows that, in two Northwestern Italian dialects, Turinese and Ligurian,
doubling-que constructions are possible when the verb is in the subjunctive mood in
the embedded clause.
(34) A Teeja a credda che a Maria ch’ a parta (Ligurian)
the Teresa SCL believe-prs-3s that the Mary that SCL leave-sbj.3s
‘Teresa believes that Mary will leave’.
In Old and Modern Portuguese, C-doubling is not sensitive to the verb mood in
the subordinate sentence, having been documented in the indicative, conditional,
and subjunctive. The example in (34) can be expressed in Portuguese with different
mood realizations, depending on the main verb, as shown in (35):
(35) a. (A) Teresa deseja/espera que (a) Maria qu’ela
(The) Teresa wishes/hopes that (the) Maria that she
parta amanhã
leave-sbj-3sg tomorrow
‘Teresa wishes/hopes that Mary left/leaves tomorrow’.
b. (A) Teresa acredita que (a) Maria qu’ela partirá amanhã
(The) Teresa believes that 9the0 Maria that she will-leave tomorrow
‘Theresa believes that Mary will leave tomorrow’.
Thus, mood selection of the embedded clause seems to be related to selectional
properties of the root verb, and not to selectional properties of Fin. We follow
Cardinaletti (2004: 142) in that the second complementizer in (34) can be analysed as
the realization of an irrealis Mood head, within the INFL domain.

6.5 What about the diachronic perspective of doubling-que?

As we said before, doubling-que disappears from Medieval written texts, but it is
documented in the written seventeenth century EP, as shown in the examples below:
Doubling-que embedded constructions in Old Portuguese 115

(36) a. he homem q. migou na natureza da sua mula

is man that piss-pst-3sg on.the ass of-the his mule
dizendo q. a mula q. estaua com dezeios de fazer
saying that the mule that be-pst-3sg with wishes to do
tal couza (Marquilhas 1996; Anexos III, Documento IV – 1617–1620)
such thing
‘He is the man that had sex with his mule, saying that it was the mule which
wished to do such a thing’.
b. diz q. deuos q. não pode perdoar pecados . . . (Marquilhas 1996; Anexos III,
said that god that not can forgive sins. Documento IV – 1617–1620)
‘He said that God can’t forgive our sins.’

Also the doubling-que appears in writings of African descendants in Brazil:

(37) a. disse a o prizidente [ForceP que [FrameP quando hovesse
say-pst-3sg to the president that when there-were
um trabalho como este] [FinP que mandasse lhe chamar]]
a task like this that should-order him call (1862)
‘He said to the president that, whenever a task like this comes up, he should
call for him’.
b. o dispois o Prezidente disse [ForceP que [TopP o sunsuro
after the President say-pst-3sg that the whisper
que ocorese] [FinP que [IP elle não tinha curpa]]] (1862)
that occur-sbj-3sg that he not had guilt
‘And then the President said that whatever happened, he would not be
These historical data show that doubling-que has been always present in the
grammar of Portuguese. However, this phenomenon displays some diachronic
development: in OldP it competes with V to Fin; in EP and BP it competes with
Ø morpheme. Also, doubling-que is sensitive to the left periphery.

6.6 Conclusion
This chapter shows that the nature and structure of finite subordinate clauses in Old
Portuguese provide new evidence to the assumption that the C-system consists of
distinct functional projections, hosting distinct fronted constituents and coding very
different types of features. We assume Rizzi’s layered CP, with the modifications
proposed by Benincà and Poletto (2004) and Benincà (2004), in the sense that Topic
and Focus are Fields (a set of projections), Topic being a higher Field hosting non-
operator elements, and Focus a lower Field hosting operator-like elements. We also
116 Ilza Ribeiro and Maria A. Torres Morais

accept Roberts’ (2004) idea that the V2 phenomenon results from the requirement
that Fin must have a phonological realization. It was argued that in OldP que
represents different complementizer types. It merges under force (que1), under
Frame/Topic (que3) and under Fin (que2). In Frame/Topic head it co-occurs with
a Ø complementizer. It was also argued that there are three forms of Fin’s feature
realization in OldP. The first one results from movement of Fin to Force, the
operation that is behind the possibility of interpolation; the second one from
movement of V to Fin, which is required by the V2 grammar; the third one from
the insertion of que2. This is the main property of doubling-que complement
clauses. Finally we discussed doubling-que complement clauses in BP. In this
language there is no requirement of Fin*’s phonological realization by V-movement.
However when the left periphery is activated, there is variation between merging of
que/Ø complementizer into Fin. All these properties are represented in (38a-b),
respectively for OldP and BP:
(38) a. [ForceP [Force que1] [Frame/TopP [Top que3/Ø] [FocP [Foc V]
[ FinP [Fin V/que2]]]]]
b. [ForceP [Force que1] [Frame/TopP [Top que3/Ø] [FocP [Foc que4/Ø]
[ FinP [Fin que2/Ø]]]]]
The conclusion is that the nature and structure of doubling-que in OldP and
Modern BP complement sentences stress important differences and similarities
between both languages.

Brazilian Portuguese and

Caribbean Spanish
Similar changes in Romania Nova


7.1 Introduction
Brazilian Portuguese (BP) has been attesting syntactic changes in its core grammar
since the second half of the nineteenth century (cf. Roberts and Kato 1993 a.o.),
which has set it apart from the European variety (EP). Caribbean dialects of Spanish
(CS) have been undergoing surprisingly similar changes, which also made them
depart from General Spanish (GS) (cf. Toribio 1996 a.o.).
The first type of change (cf. Kato and Negrão 2000, and articles therein) is the
loss/decrease of referential null subjects. In this domain, what is also similar is that
different persons manifest different degrees of loss, the third person still licensing the
null variant when it is co-indexed with a c-commanding antecedent.2
(1) a. Cantas b. CantaØ c. Cantamos GS
a’. Tú canta(s) b’. Él canta c’. Nosotros cantamo(s) CS
(2) a. Cantas b. CantaØ c. Cantamos EP
b. Você canta b. Ele canta c. Nós cantamo(s) BP
c’. A gente canta BP
(3) a. El presidentei dice que proi va aumentar los impuestos. CS
b. O presidentei disse que proi vai aumentar os impostos. BP
Lit.: ‘The president says that (he) will increase the taxes’.
This work had the support of CNPq, grant 301219/2008-7. I thank Eugenia Duarte for the data sources
in Kato and Duarte (2002), and also her careful reading of the previous version of this work. Thanks also
to the two Oxford reviewers for the valuable comments and suggestions. I also thank Paco Ordoñez for
our preliminary discussion presented in Romania Nova 2006 on the same topic. Thanks also to Marcello
Marcelino for his usual help with revision. All the remaining errors are entirely mine.
These initial data from BP are from Duarte (1995) and those from CS are from Toribio (1996).
118 Mary Aizawa Kato

The second change in CS has to do with what has been considered the loss of the
order VS in wh-questions, when the subject is a pronoun (5) (cf. Nuñes Cedeño 1983,
Ordoñez and Olarrea 2006)3. BP is also on the way to lose the order VS, but equally
with full DPs (6) (cf. Lopes Rossi 1996, and Kato and Duarte 2002)4.
(4) a. ¿Qué comes tú? GS
what eat-2sg you ‘what do you eat?’
b. ¿A quién visitó Juan? GS
to whom visited-3sg John ‘Who did Juan visit?’
(5) a. Mas o que tens tu? nineteenth century BP
but what have-2sg you ‘But what do you have?’
b. Onde mora a Maria? nineteenth century BP
where live-3sg Mary ‘Where does Mary live?’
(6) a. ¿Qué tú quiere(s)? CS
what you want-2sg ‘What do you want?’
b. *¿Qué José quiere? CS
what José want-3sg ‘What does José want?’
(7) a. O que você acha disso? twentieth century BP
what you think-3sg of-this ‘What do you think of this?’
b. O que o João quer? twentieth century BP
what the John want-3sg ‘What does John want?’
The aim of this chapter is to answer the following questions: a) what can we learn
when two languages undergo similar changes, with regard to the trigger of the
changes, and the way these changes are implemented? b) are the two changes
accidentally related or can they have a microparametric correlation? Recall that
the order VS in interrogatives is traditionally considered a Germanic V2 type of
inversion (Cf. Roberts 1993), distinct from Romance inversion, allegedly part of the
null subject parameter (Rizzi 1982).

7.2 The loss/decrease of referential null subjects in BP and CS

In CS what caused the impoverishment of the agreement paradigm was the deteri-
oration of the inflectional ending itself (cf. Toribio 1996). In BP what caused the non-
distinctive agreement inflection was the replacement of tu and vós with nominal
address forms você/vocês (grammatically 3P), and the plural first person nós with the
nominal expression a gente (3PSG) (cf. Duarte 1995 a.o.). This suggests that whatever

Caribbean examples are from Ordoñez and Olarrea (2006).
BP examples are from Kato and Duarte (2002).
Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish 119

the cause that led to the impoverishment of agreement endings, the effect in
grammar was the same. The impoverished agreement was claimed to make the
inflectional paradigm unable to identify pro (cf. Galves 1993, among others, for BP).
But Toribio (1996) claims that languages that have non-pronominal INFL can
identify pro under co-indexation with a c-commanding DP or null operator, like
Chinese (see ex. (3)).
However, the traditional view of the null subject as pro identified by Agr/INFL
cannot be maintained in the minimalist theory, where Agr, or the phi-features of T,
are uninterpretable (Chomsky 1995). In view of this, I assume Kato (1999), who
argues that pro does not exist as an empty category.5 The agreement itself is
pronominal and interpretable. As in BP Agr is no longer pronominal, it introduced
a group of free weak pronouns, quasi-homophonous with the strong nominative
ones (cf. Nunes 1990), represented here in block letters, (EU/ô, VOCÊ/cê, ELE/ei,
VOCÊS/cês, ELES/eis). Though Kato (1999) uses the terms strong and weak in the
sense of Cardinaletti and Starke (1999), for her, the weak pronouns include agree-
ment affixes, and the division is tripartite for the latter as in:
(8) Pronouns

Strong Weak

Free Clitics Pronominal Agr

For Kato (1999), pronominal Agr, understood as the grammaticalization/incorpor-

ation of personal pronouns in verbal inflection, is claimed to be in complementary
distribution with weak pronouns and subject clitics. Thus the loss of one implies
the introduction of the other type of weak pronoun. This is what happened
with French, which lost pronominal Agr, but acquired pronominal clitics (see
Roberts 1993).
Pronominal Agr is syntactically defined by Kato (1999) as a D-category that
appears in the numeration as an independent item from the verb, being first merged
as an external argument, with Case and f-features. There is no spec of T/INFL
projected, as the pronominal agreement satisfies EPP morphologically. With Agr no
longer pronominal, free weak pronouns are introduced, and spec of T/INFL has to
be projected.

See different theories to deal with the problem in Alexiadou and Anagnostopoulou (1998) and
Holmberg (2005).
120 Mary Aizawa Kato

(9) a. before the change b. after the change


-oi fala-V DP V⬘ eu[ô] T VP

falo-V DP V
ti tV
ti tV

Strong pronouns are assumed to be in a higher projection than weak pronouns. This
higher projection can be SP, as in Martins (1994). When the pronoun is overt in NS
languages, it has always an emphatic or contrastive interpretation. If a non-NS
language has an overt pronoun, the sentence exhibits subject doubling, as in BP.
(10) a. before the change b. after the change


VOCÊ -∅i come-V DP V⬘ VOCÊ cê T VP

come D V DP comev DP V⬘
ti tv o bolo

ti V DP
ti o bolo
(11) a. VOCÊ come o bolo.
you eat the cake ‘You eat the cake’.
b. VOCÊ, cê come o bolo
YOU you eat the cake ‘YOU, you eat the cake’.

7.3 The innovative SV(O) order in wh-questions in BP and CS

I will base my analysis on Kato and Duarte’s (2002) data for BP,6 who show that the
loss of the VS order in wh-questions correlates with the increase of pre-verbal
pronominal subjects.
Actually in a previous work Duarte (1992) attributes the loss of VS order in wh-questions to a parallel
innovation that occurred in the nineteenth century, namely the appearance of é que questions, or cleft questions.
Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish 121

100% 95% 87%

57% 73%
60% 67%
40% 46% 50%
30% 23% 25%
10% 3% 14%
1845 1882 1918 1937 1955 1975 1992

Full Subjects SV Order

FIGURE 7.1 Loss of VS and increase of pre-verbal pronominal subjects (apud Kato and Duarte

The following are the patterns found in the two centuries:7

 Null subjects
(12) a. Com quem tenho o prazer de falar? (1845-ON)
with whom have-1sg the pleasure to talk
‘Who do I have the pleasure to talk to?’
b. Para que estudaste tanto, rapaz? (1882-CFD)
for what studied-2sg so much, boy
‘Why did you study so much, boy?’
c. Como apanhou esse reumatismo? (1918-OSJ)
how got-3sg this rheumatism (indirect 2nd person)
‘How did you get this rheumatism?’
 Overt postposed subjects
(13) a. Sim senhor, mas que tenho eu a temer? (1845-ON)
yes, sir, but what have-1sg I to fear
‘Yes, sir, but what do I have to fear?’
b. Por que desapareceu ele lá de casa? (1882-COM)
why disappeared-3sg he from home
‘Why did he disappear from home?’

These cleft constructions have, in general, the SV order, though they can also license the VS order. Lopes-Rossi
(1996) argues, however, that the appearance of é que (‘is that’) questions did not cause the loss of VS order in
European Portuguese, though this variety also implemented the cleft-interrogatives.
See data sources in the Appendix at the end of this chapter.
122 Mary Aizawa Kato

c. Quando pretende você deixar esta casa? (1937-OHQ2)

when intend-3sg you to leave this house
‘When do you intend to leave this house?
d. Que fez seu filho com os documentos em poder dele? (1955-UEC)
what did-3sg your son with the documents in power his
‘What did your son do with the documents in his power?’
(14) a. Para que o queres tu? (1845-ON)
for what it-want-2sg you
‘What do you want it for?’
b. Que lhe disse o Honorato? (1937-OHQ2)
what you dat-said-3sg the Honorato
‘What did Honorato tell you?’
An illustrative contrastive pair of the first change in BP appears in (15): when
pronouns are spelled out, they used to appear on the right of the inflected verb (15a.).
With the change, the pronouns can only appear to the left of the verb as in (15b.):
(15) a. Mas que tenho eu com isso (1891-OT)
but what have-1sg I with it
‘But what do I have with that?’
b. Em quem você vai votar? (1994-NILC)
in whom you will vote
‘Who are you going to vote for?’
Since the beginning of the change, the order SV is found with pronouns, but not
with DPs, which used to appear postposed (16a.). Later, DPs follow the change that
affected pronouns (16b.), as can be seen in example (16d.). But, Table 7.1 shows that
DPs are still possible in sentence-final position (16c.), at the end of the twentieth
century, in a construction popularized as ‘stylistic inversion’ (Kayne and Pollock
(16) a. O que quer essa mulher comigo? (1845-ON)
what want-3sg this woman with me
‘What does this woman want with me?’
b. O que ela te disse, Luiza? (1861,SL)
what she you-clitic said Luiza
‘What did she say to you, Luiza?’
c. E com quem o Serra tava falando? (1994-NILC)
and with whom the Serra was talking?
‘Who was Serra talking to?’

But in Kato and Duarte (2002), such constructions are analyzed as ‘fake inversions’, with the DP in a
right dislocated position, with the subject a resumptive null pronoun (Onde pro estava o Savio?).
Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish 123

d. Onde estava Savio? (1994-NILC)

‘where was Savio?’

Table 7.1. Full DP subjects in VS and SV structures (apud Kato and

Duarte 2002: 15)
Pattern 1845 1882 1918 1937 1955 1975 1992 Total

Full DP 16 16 11 7 3 3 8 61
VS 100% 100% 100% 78% 100% 27% 72% 84%
Full DP 0 0 0 2 0 8 2 12
SV - - - 22% - 73% 28% 16%
Total 16 16 11 9 3 11 7 73




no a




tu ello

av mbr


rm erm









FIGURE 7.2 Percentage of non-inversion by subject type (apud Ordoñez and Olarrea, 2006).

7.4 The synchronic data in CS (Ordoñez and Olarrea 2006)

For contemporary CS, Ordoñez and Olarrea (2006) shows a picture similar to
the one found in late nineteenth and early twentieth century BP:
(17) a. ¿Dónde yo he dejado los espejuelos?
where I have left the glasses
‘Where have I left my glasses?’
124 Mary Aizawa Kato

b. ¿Qué ellos trajeron a la fiesta?

what they brought to the party?
‘What did they bring to the party?’
c. *¿Qué José quiere?
what José wants?
‘What does José want?’
Though their study is not a diachronic one, they claim that the word order
change was not caused by the loss of V2 properties,9 but was triggered by the
entry of weak pronouns in the Caribbean system, with the consequence of pronoun
placement pre-verbally inside TP/IP. However, no connection with weak pronouns
is made regarding the loss of null subjects in CS.
Ordoñez and Olarrea propose that the order SV in wh-questions is the result of
movement of remnant IP above the position in which the subject lands (based on
Kayne and Pollock’s (2001) ‘stylistic inversion’ analysis for French). They also make
use of an exploded CP ‘a la Rizzi’ (1997), shown in (18), and derive the SV order in
(19) as in (19)a.:
(18) [OP2 [ Force [ Ground P [ TopP [ OP1]]]]]
(19) Qué tú quieres?
what you want
‘What do you want?’
(19) a. [IP tú quieres qué]?
(19) b. [Op1 Qué [Op1 [IP tú quieres tqué ]]?
(19) c. [Ground P [IP tú quieres ] [Ground [ Op1 Qué [Op1]]?
(19) d. [Op2 Qué [OP2[ GroundP [IP tú quieres][ Ground [ Op1 tqué]]?

They claim that General Spanish is not a V2 type of language like German, and therefore CS did not
lose a V2 type of grammar. Among the several arguments against a previous V2 grammar, they show that,
contrary to German, movement of auxiliary to C alone results in ungrammatical sentences:
(i) *¿A quién había la madre de Juan visto? (Spanish)
to who had the mother of Juan seen? ‘Who had Juan’s mother seen?’
(ii) ¿A quién había visto la madre de Juan?
to who had seen the mother of Juan? ‘Who had Juan’s mother seen?’
What is intriguing, however, is that Portuguese has been claimed to have been a V2 language (Ribeiro 1995
a.o.), and patterns like (i) were common in the eighteenth century. This led Kato and Duarte (2002), and
others before them, to consider that such WhVSX patterns were V2 structures:
(iii) Que tinha teu irmão comprado?
what had your brother bought ‘What had your brother bought?’
Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish 125

For Ordoñez and Olarrea, lexical DPs and strong pronouns in Spanish have two
possible positions: they may remain low below the final landing site of the verb,
yielding the VSO order, or they can move to a higher topic position.
(20) a. Qué quieres TÚ comigo?
what want you with me
‘What do you want with me?’
b. TÚ, que quieres comigo?
you what (you) want with me
‘YOU, what do you want with me?’
They provide the derivation for a postposed DP subject in VSX order still possible
in CS, and they unify both the WhVXS and the WhVSX under the same analysis of
‘stylistic inversion’.
(21) En qué fiesta comió José curry? GS
in which party ate José curry
‘In what party did José eat curry?’
(21) a. [IP comió [VPJosé [VPcurry en qué fiesta ]]]?
(21) b. [OP1 En qué fiesta [IP comió José curry]]?
(21) c. [GroundP [IP comió José curry] [OP1 En qué fiesta]?
(21) d. [OP2 En qué fiesta [GroundP[IP comió José curry].. [OP1 twh . . . . .
For the authors, both the strong pronoun and the DP subject are sitting in the
same position, a higher inflectional projection, as in Cardinaletti and Starke (1999)
and Kato (1999).
The two previous subsections lead to the following summary:
A. The picture in the second half of the nineteenth century BP is similar to that of
CS today: SV was licensed with pronouns, but not with DPs.
B. Comparing the way weak subject pronouns developed in BP, in the context of
loss of referential NSs, and the empirical synchronic distribution in CS in
WhSV context, we can suggest that the introduction of CS weak pronouns
followed the same order, with the third person pronouns having a delay
compared to the other persons. The delay in the third person may be behind
the reason why SV order is not fully licensed in CS.
C. This means that the change in this domain was gradual and lexically diffuse in
the Weinreich, Labov, and Herzog (1968) sense.
D. It was also observed that variation in a synchronic state may reveal the way
a change has been implemented (Labov 1975). Thus the synchronic variation in
CS must reveal the diachronic implementation of its change. But in this chapter
we also presented further cross-linguistic evidence for the Caribbean facts.
126 Mary Aizawa Kato

7.5 The joint analysis of the two changes in BP

In the previous section, we saw that Kato (1999) proposed that the loss of the NS was
the result of the emergence of free weak pronouns in both the BP and the CS systems.
Ordoñez and Olarrea (2006) suggested that the appearance of the order SV in wh-
questions was the result of the introduction of weak pronouns in CS. Both analyses
claim that weak pronouns are sitting in spec of IP/TP, while strong ones are sitting in a
higher projection (SP) or inside the original VP, namely in a lower projection.
In this chapter, I analyse the two changes as having the same trigger: the
appearance of weak pronouns. The result of this is the possibility for such pronouns
to appear pre-verbally (in spec of IP), independently of whether the clause is a
declarative (22a.’) or a wh-question (22b.’). Before the change, the only subject
pronouns that appeared overtly were the strong ones, in which case they would
appear immediately after the verb (VSX) (cf. (23a.,b.)) or, more markedly, or
ungrammatically, in sentence final position (VXS) (cf. (24a.)). After the change,
the position of strong pronouns is restricted to the high sentence periphery. The mid
sentence position is ruled out.
Nineteenth century Twentieth century
(22) a. Come-ste o bolo ontem. a’. Cê comeu o bolo ontem.
ate-2sg the cake yesterday you ate the cake yesterday
‘You ate the cake yesterday’.
b. Que come-ste ontem? b’. O que cê comeu ontem?
what ate-2sg yesterday what you ate yesterday
‘What did you eat yesterday?’
(23) a. Comeste TU o bolo ontem. a’. VOCÊ, cê comeu o bolo ontem.
ate YOU the cake yesterday YOU, you ate the cake yesterday
‘It was YOU who ate the cake yesterday’.
b. Que come-ste TU ontem? b’. VOCÊ, o que cê comeu ontem?
what ate-2sg YOU yesterday YOU what you ate yesterday
‘YOU, what did you eat yesterday?’
(24) Quando come-ste o bolo, TU? b. *Quando cê comeu o bolo, VOCÊ?
when ate-2sg the cake YOU when you ate the cake YOU
‘YOU, when did you eat the cake?’
Word order is usually determined by information criteria, and the position of
subject is not different. Thus, it is a mistake to compare sentences like VS and SV
only in terms of old and new forms without taking the information status of the
subject position into account.
Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish 127

Above we compared the forms before and after the changes that were functionally
equivalent. Notice that, contrary to common assumptions, the sentence that corres-
ponds to the old form (23a.), with the postposed subject, is not the new sentence in
(22a.’), with the preposed subject. As for the strong pronoun in sentence final
position, in both periods they are doubling patterns. In old times they double the
pronominal agreement, and in modern times they double the weak free pronouns.
The derivation of such sentences requires that once the strong pronoun is placed in
the left peripheral position, the remnant can be moved over it, resulting in its final
position, as part of informational focus.10
As we show the changes together, we realize that, when only pronouns are taken
into account, the change in wh-questions was not properly a change in word order.
Thus, if there is any word order change, it regards only the patterns with strong
pronouns. Moreover, what happens with DPs is that, while in the old grammar both
strong pronouns and DPs appeared as postposed subjects (25), today strong pro-
nouns share with DPs only the position external to IP (26a.,b.). In the new grammar,
DPs and weak pronouns appear as pre-verbal subjects (26c.).
(25) a. Que come-ste TU ontem? (nineteenth century)
what ate-2sg you yesterday
‘What did you eat yesterday?’
b. Que come-u a Maria ontem? (nineteenth century)
what ate-3sg the Maria yesterday
‘What did Maria eat yesterday?’
(26) a. VOCÊ, o que cê comeu ontem? (twentieth century)
YOU what you ate yesterday
‘YOU, what did you eat yesterday?’
b. A MARIA. o que ela comeu ontem? (twentieth century)
the Maria what she ate yesterday
‘As for MARIA, what did she eat?’
c. O que a Maria ela comeu? (twentieth century)
what the Maria she ate
‘What did Maria eat?’
What we do not have is a strong pronoun as a preverbal subject. This is
understandable also in semantico-pragmatic terms. The strong pronoun in all the
sentences above, be it the old form or the new form, has specific discursive functions
of either contrast or emphasis, which places it in the exploded CP domain. The DP on

Contrary to the previous stage, such movement in contemporary BP is constrained by weight, as is
the case in all VXS orders today.
128 Mary Aizawa Kato

the other hand, cannot have such exclusive functions. Comparing sentences with a
postposed subject, the DP can be part of the information focus, while the strong
pronoun is present necessarily only for contrast or emphasis.
The conclusion here is that DPs have been considered equivalent to strong
pronouns, but actually they are only partially so.

7.6 Some new assumptions and claims

7.6.1 Pronouns and DPs
We had assumed that DPs and strong pronouns are merged in the same positions: in
the high periphery of the sentence or left-adjacent to VP. Our claim, in this chapter,
however, is that a DP is always merged in spec of VP, as an argument. The difference
between the twentieth and nineteenth century is that, while the DP itself is the whole
external argument in the new grammar (27b.), the DP, in the previous period, is part
of a complex DP where the head is the third person Agr (cf. (27a.) and the DP is in
spec of D. This is similar to what has been proposed to underlie clitic doubling
(Uriagereka 1995a, Kayne 2001).
(27) a. nineteenth century b. twentieth century
vP vP

DP v⬘ DP v⬘


A Maria -u (3sg, nom) A Maria

(28) a. Cantou a Maria samba. (nineteenth century)
sang-3-sg the Maria samba
‘Mary sang samba.’
(28)’ a. [vP a Maria-u v [VP canto- samba]]
b. [IP cantoV-ui [vP a Maria-ti tV [ tV samba]]
(29) d. A Maria cantou samba. (nineteenth or twentieth century)
the Maria sang samba
‘Mary sang samba.’
 19th century derivation
(29)’ a. [vP a Maria-u v [V’ canto- samba]]
b. [IP cantV-oui [vP a Maria-t-i [ tV samba]]
c. [SP A Maria [IP cantoV-ui [vP tmaria -t-i [ tV samba]]
Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish 129

 20th century derivation

(29)’’ a. [vP a Mariai v [VP cantou samba.]]
b. [IP a Mariai cantouV [vP ti tV [VP tV samba ]]]
Notice that, in the nineteenth century, Agr is still pronominal, and what is raised to
check the features of T/INFL is the pronominal Agr. The DP a Maria is assumed to be
just a modifier, and can be stranded as a post-verbal subject as in (29)’b. or raised to an
A’ position as in (29)’c. In the twentieth century, Agr loses its pronominal properties,
and can no longer check the T features. The verb starts to appear fully inflected in the
numeration (Kato 1999).11 What is merged as the argument is the DP or a weak

7.6.2 Refining the periphery

Ordoñez and Olarrea have used the refined sentential periphery in (30), following
Kayne and Pollock’s (2001) analysis for ‘stylistic inversion’, but, though using the
same frame, we will consider a slightly modified version in (31). The last movement
of the wh-element, is to ForceP, as the wh-operator has a double function in
interrogatives: it is an operator and it also checks the interrogative force in languages
that do not have a specific clause-typing complementizer like the Japanese -ka.
(30) [OP2 [ GroundP [ TopP [ OP1]]]]
(31) [ForceP [GroundP [TopP [OP]]]]
The authors have not exploited the low vP periphery, proposed by Belletti (2004),
which I will consider to be a contrastive topic phrase (TopP):
(32) [IP [TopP [vP [VP ]]]]
nineteenth century
(33) a. Que comi ontem?
what ate-1sg yesterday
‘What did I eat yesterday?’
b. Que comi EU ontem?
what ate-1sg ME yesterday
‘ME, what did I eat yesterday?’
c. Que comeu a Maria ontem?
what ate-3sg the Maria yesterday
‘What did Maria eat yesterday?
The input vP is different in the three cases, but what they have in common is that
the external argument is Agr or Agr with a DP as its spec. Sentence (33b.), in
Recall that in Chomsky (1995), verbs are merged fully inflected. But see also Galves (1993) and Speas
(1994), who argue that in NS languages, Agr is merged separately from the verb.
130 Mary Aizawa Kato

addition, has a strong pronoun in the vP periphery, and (33c.) has a spec added to
the head Agr:
(33)’ a. Input: [vP -i v [ VP come- o que ontem]]
b. Input: [TopP EU [vP -i v [ VP come- o que ontem]]
c. Input [vP [a Maria[-u]] v [VP come- o que ontem]]
In the three cases, the verb moves to INFL and the pronominal Agr adjoins to it:
(33)’’ a. [IP come-i [vP ti tV [VP tV o que ontem ]]]
b. [IP come-i [TopP EU [vP ti tV [VP tV o que ontem ]]]]
c. [IP come-ui [vP a Maria[ ti ] tV [VP tV o que ontem ]]]
The following step is movement of the wh-element to OP:
(33)’’’ a. [OP o que [IP come-i [vP ti tV [VP tV to que ontem ]]]]
b. [OP o que [IP come-i [TopP EU [vP ti tV [VP tV to que ontem ]]]]]
c. [OP o que [IP come-ui [vP a Maria[ ti ] tV [VP tV to que ontem ]]]]
Next, the IP moves to target GroundP, where it is interpreted as presupposition:
(33)IV a. [GroundP [IP come-i [vP ti tV [VP tV to que ontem ]]] [OP o que [IP . . . ..]]]
b. [GroundP [IP come-i [TopP EU [vP ti tV [VP tV to que ontem ]]]]
[OP o que [IP . . . ..]]]
c. [GroundP [IP come-ui [vP a Maria[ ti ] tV [VP tV to que ontem ]]]]
[OP o que [IP . . . ..]]
Last, the wh-element moves to ForceP to check the force, or the clause-typing
(33)V a. [ForceP O que [GroundP [IP come-i [vP . . . . . . . . . ontem]]] [OP to que . . . ]]
b. [ForceP O que [GroundP [IP come-i [TopP EU[vP . . . . . . . . . ..ontem ]]]
[OP to que . . . ]]]
c. [ForceP O que [GroundP[IP come-ui [vP a Maria[ ti ] tV [VP . . . ..ontem ]]]
[OP to que]]]
In the new grammar, with the subject preposed, what is merged as the external
argument is a pronoun or a DP, and not a pronominal affix. The derivation proceeds
as in the examples below.
twentieth century
(34) a. O que eu[¼ô] comi ontem?
what I ate yesterday
‘What did I eat yesterday?’
b. O que a Maria comeu ontem?
what the Maria ate yesterday
‘What did Maria eat yesterday?’
Brazilian Portuguese and Caribbean Spanish 131

(34)’ a. [vP eu[¼ô] v [VP comi o que ontem]]

b. [VP A Maria v [VP comeu o que ontem ]]
(34)’’ a. [IP eu[¼ô] comiV [vP teu tV [VP tV o que ontem]]]
b. [IP A Mariai comeuV [vP ti tV [VP tV o que ontem]]]
(34)’’’ a. [OP O que [IP eu[¼ô] comiV [vP teu tV [VP tV to que ontem]]]]
b. [OP O que [IP A Mariai comeuV [vP ti tV [VP tV to que ontem]]]]
(34)IV a. [GroundP [IP eu[¼ô] comiV [vP teu tV [VP tV to que ontem]
[OP o que [ tIP]]]]]
b. [GroundP [IP A Mariai comeuV [vP ti tV [VP tV to que ontem]
[OP o que [tIP]]]]]
(34)V a. [ForceP O que [GroundP [IP eu[¼ô] comiV [vP teu tV [VP tV to que ontem]
[OP to que [tIP]]]]]]
b. [ForceP O que [GroundP [IP A Mariai comeuV [vP ti tV [VP tV to que ontem]
[OP to que[tIP]]]]]]

7.6.3 The implementation of the changes

A final question has to do with the implementation of the changes. We have to account
for the reason why the WhSV order was delayed with DPs, but also why the third
person pronouns took more time in losing their null counterparts. The answer can be
found in Roberts (2007), who claims that changes related to the substantive lexicon take
place in a gradual way, while functional items undergo parametric change. This
explains why the order of WhSV was gradual with DPs, but not with pronouns. But
it does not explain why pronouns did not lose the null counterpart in a uniform way.
We can attribute the cause to the mixed nature of pronouns. As happened with
auxiliary selection in Romance, which is both lexical and functional, personal pronouns
can be assumed to have such mixed nature and, thus, expected to have such gradual
change. In sum, when gradual, change would proceed affecting categories in the
following way:
(35) þ functional > þ functional, þ lexical > þ lexical

7.7 Conclusions
The type of weak pronoun that a language has can determine its typology in more
than one aspect of its grammar. Here we saw two such changes. Weak pronouns of
the free type occupy spec of IP/TP and strong pronouns occupy the high sentence
periphery or the low vP periphery. Contrary to previous assumption that DPs
occupy only peripheric positions like the strong pronouns, I proposed that DPs
132 Mary Aizawa Kato

are always merged in spec of VP or as its modifier. From these positions, they would
move to spec of TP or to an A’ position.
I adapted Ordoñez and Olarrea’s (2006) analysis of Kayne and Pollock’s 2001
account of stylistic inversion, adding Belletti’s (2004) low vP periphery besides the IP
periphery, to account for the different orders in wh-questions in both old and new
BP and CS. I suggest that the main difference between the two phases in wh-
questions is the exclusive use of the IP periphery in contemporary BP and CS as
opposed to the use of the low vP periphery in the old grammar.
With this chapter, I hope to have answered one of Kayne’s (2000: 6) questions in
his microparametric endeavour: ‘What are the minimal units of syntactic variation?’
In the new grammars, a) the weak pronouns are of the free type while in the old
grammar they are of the affixal type, and b) in the new grammar the discourse
projections are reduced to the IP periphery.

Appendix: the database

The primary sources included in the database are listed below containing: a) original
edition, b) author, c) title, d) abbreviation of title used in the examples, reference to
the edition used:
1818 Tojeiro, Gastão. O simpático Jeremias (OSJ). Sociedade Brasileira de Auto-
res Teatrais. Uni-Rio.
1861 Eiró, Paulo. Sangue Limpo. (SL). 2nd ed. Departamento de Cultura-Divisão
do Arquivo Histórico, São Paulo, 1949.
1882 França Júnior, J. de. Como se fazia um deputado. (CFD) Teatro de França
Júnior. Tomo II. Serviço Nacional de Teatro. Fundação da Arte. 1980.
1882 França Júnior, J. de. Caiu o Ministério (COM). Teatro de França Júnior.
Tomo II. Serviço Nacional de Teatro. Fundação da Arte. 1980.
1845 Martins Pena, L. C. O Noviço (ON). As melhores comédias de Martins Pena.
Porto Alegre: Mercado Aberto, 1987.
1891 Azevedo, Arthur. O Tribofe (OT). Estudo linguístico de Rachel Teixeira
Valença, Nova Fronteira, Rio de Janeiro, 1986.
1937 Gonzaga, Armando. O hóspede do quarto n8 2 (OHQ2). Sociedade Brasileira
de Autores Teatrais. Uni-Rio.
1955 Fernandes, M. Um elefante no caos (UEC). Porto Alegre: LPM
Editores. 1979.
1994 The subcorpus NILC-São Carlos for Brazilian Portuguese http://acdc.

Macroparametric change and the

synthetic–analytic dimension
The case of Ancient Egyptian


8.1 Introduction
This chapter reconsiders a restrictive theory of grammar change in the light of the
re-energized debate on the nature of syntactic parameters (Baker 2008b; Biberauer
2008b; Richards 2008; Roberts and Holmberg 2010). Much work in comparative
syntax has been devoted to the study of closely related languages and language
varieties (or dialects), with a view to detecting microparametric settings. In affecting
individual lexical and functional items, microparameters represent local points of
variation with only limited clustering effects (Kayne 2000, 2005a).
When extended to the domain of diachronic syntactic variation, changes in word
order and clausal structure are derived from shifting parameter values. Accordingly,
the parameter values specified for a given language are not fixed once and for all, but
‘can change as a function of time’ (Roberts and Roussou 2003: 11). A micropara-
metric comparison of different états de langue accommodates the broad type of
change known as grammaticalization, i.e. the creation of new functional categories
out of lexical material. This approach fares less well, however, when it comes to
explaining major typological shifts in language history, with several grammatical
phenomena changing at the same time.
Here I explore the possibility that large-scale changes in grammar may be on
account of the diachronic resetting of a macroparameter. Macroparameters are the
kind of parameters that define in one fell swoop a cluster of significant properties.
That languages cluster across categories and domains has already been acknow-
ledged in traditional morphological typology, with its fourfold division of the world’s
languages into agglutinative, analytic, fusional, and polysynthetic languages (Green-
berg 1974: 35–41; Comrie 1989: 42–52). Holistic morphological typology has been
134 Chris H. Reintges

criticized as incoherent and useless for conflating too many different variables
(Anderson 1985: 9–10; Comrie 1989: 52; Spencer 1991: 37–9; Haspelmath 2009).
However, canonical types seem to be more than just accidental collections of
morphological properties. Baker (2008b: 355) writes that ‘there seems to be a certain
global unity to a head-final as opposed to a head-initial language, or to a polysyn-
thetic as contrasted with a more isolating language, which seems more pervasive
than can be attributed to any particular lexical item, or even a small class of lexical
Provided that holistic morphological types are the surface manifestation of a
positively set macroparameter, the change from one morphological type to another
can be seen as the net result of parameter resetting. Ideally, one hopes to find
historical cases in which major changes in the inflectional system have far-reaching
consequences in different components of the grammar. Ancient Egyptian (Afro-
Asiatic) is such a case of a language that developed from predominantly agglutin-
ative–synthetic type into a thoroughly analytic one. A constructive way of looking at
the analyticization process would be in terms of shifting phases, whereby the verbal
domain ceased to be a phase at the PF side of the derivation. When considered from
this perspective, Ancient Egyptian provides a showcase for diachronic variation in
phasal syntax.

8.2 Micro- versus macroparameters in interlanguage variation

In Government and Binding theory (Chomsky 1981, 1982), natural language is
conceptualized as a system of general principles which interact to form complex
structures. To account for syntactic diversity across languages, there is a limited
space of variation, with a particular clustering of properties being amenable to a
small number of syntactic parameters.
(1) Parametrizability of universal principles
What we expect to find, then, is a highly structured theory of UG based on a number of
fundamental principles that sharply restrict the class of attainable grammars and narrowly
constrain their form, but with parameters that have to be fixed by experience. If these
parameters are embedded in a theory of UG that is sufficiently rich in structure, then the
languages that are determined by fixing their values one way or another will appear to be quite
diverse, since the consequences of one set of choices may be very different from the conse-
quences of another set (Chomsky 1981: 2–3).

The premise that the general principles of UG are directly parametrizable has been
abandoned in favour of the lexical parametrization hypothesis (Borer 1984; Fukui
1986; Chomsky 1995)—now better known as the Borer–Chomsky Conjecture (BCC).
Under the BCC parameters are restricted to the formal features of functional
categories, which vary considerably across languages. In reflecting lexical properties,
Macroparametric change 135

the parameters connected with functional categories fall outside of the domain of the
computational system proper.
(2) The Borer–Chomsky Conjecture (BCC)
Within the P&P [principles-and-parameters] approach the problems of typology and lan-
guage variation arise in somewhat different form than before. Language differences and
typology should be reducible to the choice of values of parameters. One approach is that
parameters are restricted to formal features with no interpretation at the interface. A still
stronger one is that they are restricted to formal features of functional categories (Chomsky
1995: 6) [emphasis in the text, CHR].

Although not necessarily requiring it, the BCC favours a microparametric ap-
proach, which looks for localized differences between genetically related languages.
Kayne (2005b) takes this raison d’être even further and posits a one-to-one corres-
pondence between microparameters on the one hand and individual lexical and
functional categories on the other hand.
(3) A one-to-one correspondence between microparameters and lexical/functional categories
(i) Every parameter is a microparameter (Kayne 2005a: 10).
(ii) Every functional element made available by UG is associated with some syntactic
parameter (Kayne 2005a: 11).
(iii) UG imposes a maximum of one interpretable syntactic feature per lexical or func-
tional element (Kayne 2005a: 15).

However, as Baker (1996: 7) points out, the proliferation of narrow and sometimes
item-specific parameters vastly reduces their efficiency as explanatory devices, with
the result that microparameters have become no more general than the construc-
tions of traditional grammar. The classic notion of a parameter as a choice point in
an otherwise universal system has proven quite successful in drastically reducing the
amount of actually occurring interlanguage variation.
(4) Language as a finite system of discrete differences
(i) There are some parameters within the statements of the general principles that shape
natural language syntax (Baker 2008b: 354).
(ii) Large-impact parameters ( . . . ) might be heuristically significant because they tend to
point to loci of variation in the grammar as opposed to the lexicon (Baker 2008b: 356).

Baker (2008b: 358–63) presents two compelling arguments for existence of macro-
parameters alongside with microparameters. First, in harmonic languages with
consistent head-initial or head-final order, the reduction of the head directionality
parameter to a set of lexically based microparameters would entail massive redun-
dancy. This is so because the head–complement order would have to be specified
separately for every word class or, even worse, for each and every lexical item. The
second argument is a statistical one. If all interlanguage variation were micropara-
metric in nature, one would expect to find a relatively smooth continuum of
136 Chris H. Reintges

languages without any coarse-grained head-initial and head-final types. The typo-
logical record shows otherwise: the vast majority of the world’s languages are
consistently harmonic in an across-the-board fashion or with respect to syntactic
category membership. Cases of disharmonic ordering evolve when microparametric
variation interferes with macroparametric setting, causing some degree of ‘noise’
around the peaks in the distribution of pure head-initial or head-final languages.
If syntactic parameters as conceived by the BCC are connected with the feature
content of functional categories, macroparametric variation can be seen as resulting
from the cumulative effects of interacting microparameters. According to Roberts
and Holmberg (2010: 40–41), the macroparametric clustering effects follow from a
preference of the language acquirer for identical or harmonic settings holding
among a subset of microparameters.
(5) Macroparameters as aggregations of microparameters
(i) If acquirers assign a marked value to [head] H, they will assign the same value to all
comparable heads.
(ii) Macroparametric effects arise from aggregations of microparameters acting in concert
for markedness reasons (Roberts and Holmberg 2010: 41).

It may very well be the case that the clustering effects that we see with accumulating
microparameters lay beneath medium-sized parameters. However, such composite
parameters are not of the same order as the macroparameters on top of Baker’s
(2001: 183, figure 6.4) parameter hierarchy. If macroparameters are responsible for
the major typological divisions of the world’s languages, there should be more than
one such large-scale parameter. Huang (2008) presents a strong case for an analytic
macroparameter, with Mandarin Chinese exhibiting high analyticity over a full
range of lexical and functional categories. In dispensing with verb movement
altogether, the language differs profoundly from Turkish, in which rigidly ordered
functional morphemes must be merged with the verbal root via head movement
(Julien 2002). Roberts and Holmberg (2010: 44, footnote 23) furthermore propose
that there may be no genuine fusional parameter. Rather, inflection/fusion seems to
represent a marked system that evolves when none of the three macroparameters of
agglutination, analyticization, and polysynthesis is set to a positive value.

8.3 Derivational syntax and the phase effects of tense

This section explores some theoretical consequences of the macroparametric view,
with particular attention for the role of tense in the narrow syntax—the computa-
tional system that relates structured expressions to the phonological and the seman-
tic interface. In standard phase theory (Chomsky 2001b, 2004, 2007, 2008), syntactic
derivation progresses incrementally through cyclic domains called phases. Phases are
composed of a phase head, an active left periphery (the edge), and a complement
Macroparametric change 137

domain. Once a phasal cycle has been completed, its domain is closed off for further
computation. Efficiency in the computational process is taken care of by the phase
impenetrability condition (PIC), which prevents derivationally later operations from
referring back to parts of the structure already processed at the interfaces.
Right from the outset, the strictly cyclic nature of the mappings to the interface
raises an important question of how to delineate the relevant chunks of the deriv-
ation. Chomsky (2004: 107, 2007: 17–21) acknowledges both transitive v*P (where
star is for transitive) and CP as phases in the clausal system, to the exclusion of
unaccusative/passive VPs and finite tense. The privileged status of v* and C as
phase-inducing heads was first explained from interface conditions, requiring that
phases ‘should be semantically and phonologically coherent and independent’
(Chomsky 2004: 124). As many researchers have commented (inter alia: den Dikken
2007: 29–30; Boeckx and Grohmann 2007: 217), the TP is certainly the closest
syntactic counterpart to a proposition in root contexts. As is well known, it can
undergo right-node raising, as in Mary wonders when and John wonders why—
[TP Peter left], and hence meets the criterion of PF independence.
More recently, Chomsky (2008: 143) acknowledges that the failure of Tense to
define a phase boundary alongside C seems problematic, since on the surface it looks
as if Tense rather than C constitutes ‘the locus of w-features that are involved in the
nominative–agreement system’. Despite appearances to the contrary, Chomsky
(2008: 195) considers the w- and the tense features borne by Tense not to be
indigenous to the head itself, but rather to be part of the feature composition of
the phase head C. Both feature sets are acquired by Tense via downwards feature
percolation—a process dubbed feature inheritance.1
The move away from an interface conception of phases may solve some of the
problems but it also raises new ones: for the feature inheritance model to work, it
must be stipulated that all clauses project up to the CP level (see Chomsky 2007: 20
note 27 for a statement to this effect). Yet, considerations of representational
economy would lead one to expect that a complementizer layer is projected only
when needed. It is widely believed that root clauses are interpreted as declaratives by
default, i.e. without resorting to a null complementizer as a force indicating head
(see Roberts 2005: 123–4 and the references cited therein).
Against this background, I would like to pursue an alternative route, namely that
the choice between v*P and TP as the first-phase domain may be parametrizable.
The idea of parametric variation in phasal syntax was first proposed by Gallego
(2006), but abandoned in favour of a phase sliding approach in his recent mono-

Richards (2007: 566–70) presents a conceptual argument for the feature inheritance model: Tense is
turned into a derivate probe once w- and tense features have been passed down from the selecting C head.
On the premise that the complement of a phase is transferred earlier than the head (by virtue of the PIC),
C’s unvalued features are valued at exactly the point when the TP complement is handed over to the two
138 Chris H. Reintges

graph (Gallego 2010). Simplifying matters somewhat, phase sliding involves a do-
main extending operation through which the v*P phase is pushed one level up. In
null subject languages, this is accomplished via verb-to-tense movement, which
effectively renders the temporal projection TP a hybrid phasal domain (see Gallego
2010: 108–12 for further discussion and explication). Despite its initial conceptual
appeal, the phase sliding approach turns out to be too restrictive when it comes to
the situation in analytic languages—a point to which I will return shortly.
My point of departure is Biberauer and Roberts’ (2010: 265–8) conjecture that the
richness of tense inflection provides an equally effective parameter as rich agreement
in accounting for the well-known verb movement asymmetries between Romance
and Germanic languages. Richness of tense is broadly defined in terms of paradig-
matic oppositions for temporal, aspectual, and modal distinctions. Even where
temporal, aspectual, and modal features are aligned with a functional head in the
extended projection of the verb, these features are connected with a single inflection
or a set of inflections in those languages that have the relevant morphology to begin
with. Consequently, these features are implicated in probe–goal relations that drive
core syntactic processes. In drawing a principled distinction between agreement and
tense inflection, Biberauer and Roberts’ (2010) typological model system is flexible
enough to carry over to agreementless languages such as Mandarin Chinese and
Coptic Egyptian. Here I propose to connect the inflectional richness of tense to its
phasal characteristics. More formally, this can be stated as follows:
(6) Richness of tense inflection and the phasal characteristics of the Tense Phrase
(i) In languages with rich tense inflection, the Tense head is endowed with enough
unvalued features to render it an active probe.
(ii) Reprojective verb-to-tense movement renders the temporal projection a hybrid first-
phase domain in fusional and agglutinative languages. By contrast, the presence of
independent tense/aspect particles in Tense blocks reprojective verb-to-tense move-
ment in languages of the analytic/isolating type.
(iii) In analytic languages, the verb–tense relation is accomplished in the syntax via an
abstract feature computation procedure—the syntactic relation Agree (see Chomsky
2000 et seq.; Bobaljik and Wurmbrand 2005).

The morphological category of the exponents of tense are determined by a lan-

guage’s parameter setting and may therefore be susceptible to inflectional change.
The next section takes a closer look at the analyticization process that Ancient
Egyptian underwent in the course of its history.

8.4 The synthetic–analytic dimension in Egyptian historical morphology

Within the formal parameters of Biberauer and Roberts’ (2010) model, Ancient
Egyptian can be classified as a language with rich tense inflection and virtually no
Macroparametric change 139

subject–verb agreement.2 The rich tense inflection comes in different morphological

guises though. Coptic, its most recent stage (from around the third to the eleventh
century ad), falls near the isolating pole of the synthetic–analytic continuum. The
analytic functional evolved historically from an essentially agglutinative model,
which is represented in its purest form by Old Egyptian (2600–2000 bc). Morpho-
logical change occurs in tandem with a typological shift from a rigid verb–subject–
object (VSO) to a flexible subject–verb–object (SVO) language. In the Old Egyptian
VSO structure (7), the clause-initial finite verb ms-n ‘has born’ is inflected for tense
and aspect by the perfect suffix -n. In the corresponding Coptic SVO structure (8),
the perfect tense/aspect particle a and the lexical verb stem mise ‘to give birth’ appear
on either side of the subject DP t@-kjamaule ‘the she-camel’. Neither the tense-
inflected verb in Old Egyptian nor the tense/aspect particle in Coptic exhibits any
sort of agreement with the adjacent subject DP.3
(7) VSO clause with tense/aspect suffix -n (Old Egyptian)
ms-n Nww Mrjj-n(j)-R¿ hr dZrt-f

give.birth-prf on
‘The ocean has born (King) Meri-ni-Re on his left hand’ (Pyramid Text
(8) SVO clause with tense/aspect particle a (Coptic)
a t@-kjamaule mise @n-u-Seere @n-shime
prf give.birth.abs
‘The she-camel delivered a daughter’ (Mena, Miracles 10b, 33–34)

To be more precise, Coptic is a language without agreement of any type. Person, number, and gender
markings on lexical and functional heads can be identified with pronominal clitics, which are strict
complementary distribution with full DPs (Reintges 2001: 177–80). Old and Middle Egyptian represents a
somewhat different case. The language possesses two finite verb paradigms. The pronominal suffixes of
the so-called Eventive paradigm can be identified with enclitic subject pronouns. By contrast, the
corresponding person, number, and gender markings of the Stative paradigm represent grammatical
agreement proper: they co-occur with preverbal subject DPs and license null subjects in first and second
person contexts (for further discussion, see Reintges 2005a: 44–59).
The following abbreviations are used in the glosses: 1, 2, 3 ‘first, second, third person’; abs ‘absolute
state’; ant.past ‘anterior past’; aux ‘auxiliary verb’; caus ‘causative prefix’; caus.inf ‘causative infinitive’;
cl.obj. ‘direct object clitic’; comp ‘complementizer’; cond ‘conditional’; conj ‘conjunctive’; cop ‘pro-
nominal copula’; def ‘definite article’; dem ‘demonstrative article’; du ‘dual number’; f ‘feminine gender’;
foc ‘focus marker’; fut.deon ‘deontic future’ fut.epist ‘epistemic future’; hab ‘habitual aspect’; imp
‘imperative’; ipfv ‘imperfective’; indf ‘indefinite article’; inf ‘infinitive’; link ‘genitival linker’;
m ‘masculine gender’; neg ‘negation’; neg.aux ‘negative auxiliary verb’; neg.hab ‘negative habitual’;
neg.imp ‘negative imperative’; neg.prf ‘negative perfect’; neg.pfx ‘negative prefix’; nom ‘nominal state’;
nominal ‘nominalizing affix’; opt ‘opative’; pass ‘passive morpheme’; pcl ‘particle’; prf ‘perfect tense’;
pfv ‘perfective/neutral aspect’; pl ‘plural’; plur ‘pluractional stem pattern’; poss ‘possessive pronoun’; prp
‘prepositional object marker’; prs ‘present tense’; pret ‘preterite tense’; pron ‘pronominal state’;
Q ‘question particle’; rel ‘relative particle’; sg ‘singular’; stat ‘stative’; term ‘terminative aspect’. Glosses
are given in parentheses for morphemes that have no surface-segmental shape.
140 Chris H. Reintges

Old Egyptian is considered a synthetic–agglutinative language, in which concatena-

tive and non-concatenative affixes encode tense, aspect, and mood distinctions as
well as grammatical voice (passive, stative, causative) (Loprieno 1995: 51–2; Reintges
1997: 40–2). A case in point is the pluractional causative s-n-fx-fx-n ‘has released’ in
(9a.), which can be decomposed into five verbal segments. These are, from left to
right, the causative prefix s-, the obsolete lexical formative n-, the root fx ‘to release’,
the reduplicative suffix fx of the pluractional stem, and the perfect suffix -n.
The tense and aspect inflected verb stem can further be expanded by adding the
passive morpheme -tj, as in the case of the pluractional perfect passive ? m-m-n-tj
‘has been seized’ in (9b.). The maximally inflected verb expresses up to five categor-
ies that are rigidly ordered: prefixes > root > reduplicant > tense/aspect suffix >
passive suffix.
(9) Agglutinative verb clusters with 3–4 inflectional categories (Old Egyptian)
a. s-n-fx-fx-n Gbb ¿r-t(j)-f
hr DZht(j)-nxt tn
‘(The god) Geb released his two jaws for this Thoth-nakht (here)
(the female deceased)’ (Coffin Texts VI 102b/B3Bo)
b. n(j) ?m-m-n-t(j) b?-f jn S?-w
neg seize-plur-prf-pass2 foc
‘His soul cannot be seized by the pigs’ (Coffin Texts I 397b/B1Bo)
To decide on the morphological status of Coptic particles, cluster formation
warrants closer inspection. In the Coptic descriptive tradition, it has long been
observed that tense/aspect and relative particles form sequences of more than two
elements (e.g. Layton 2000: 324 §398, 336–7 §417). The initial element in a triple
cluster is the relative particle e. It combines with the paired tense and aspect particles
ne and a, which together form a compound tense. A case in point is the relative
pluperfect e ne a-f O:s@k ‘had lasted’ in (10a.). The converbal preterit perfect e ne nt
a-i eire ‘if I had done’ in (10b.) reveals that the maximum number of particles in a
cluster is four.
(10) Triple and quadruple particle clusters (Coptic)
a. tSe e ne a-f O:s@k tSin @nt a-f mu:
comp rel last.abs since rel die.abs
‘(Pilatus asked the soldier) if he (Jesus) had already been dead’ (Mark 15, 44)
b. e ne nt a-i eire gar @n-u-tSi @n-kjons ( . . . )
rel pretrel prf-1sg do.abs pcl prep-violence.abs
‘If then I had committed an act of violence ( . . . )’ (Acts 25, 11)
Macroparametric change 141

As bound inflectional morphemes, Old Egyptian tense/aspect suffixes cannot occur

without a verbal host. The situation is different for auxiliary verbs, which share with
main verbs their verb-initial syntax and, to a certain extent, their compatibility with
tense and aspect morphology. The auxiliary verb construction thus formed consists
of two or more finite verbs in series, as exemplified in (11) (see Reintges 1997: 76–83,
298–303, 2005a: 71–2 for further discussion).
(11) Auxiliary verb construction with double occurrence of the perfect marker -n
(Old Egyptian)
wn-n mdw-n tSw Hr
be.aux-prf speak-prf
‘(The god) Horus had addressed you’ (Coffin Texts I 307h/T9C)
Coptic has a syntactic variant of clitic left-dislocation (CLLD), in which two copies
of the same tense/aspect particle surface in two different places: the lower particle
copy is placed in the regular presubject position, while the higher copy surfaces in
front of the CLDDed topic. Elsewhere (Reintges 2011), I show that this construction
involves head movement of the presubject particle, followed by the pronunciation of
the displaced item in the tail and in the target position of the movement chain.
(12) Head movement of the perfect particle a around a CLLDed subject DP (Coptic)
a ne-rO:me de @m-p@-ma et @mmau
prf pcl rel there
a-u: weh p@-sO:ma @m-p@-makarios
prf-3pl place.nom
Apa Me:na epeset h@m p@-kjamul
Apa Mena pcl from
‘The people of that place let the body of the blessed Apa Mena down from
the camel’ (Mena, Martyrdom 5a, 14–20)
The syntactically observable head movement that we see with Coptic particles
would receive a natural explanation if these free functional morphemes actually
represented somewhat more grammaticalized versions of auxiliary verbs. Attractive
though as this reasoning may seem, there are grounds here for distinguishing tense/
aspect particles from the category of uninflected auxiliaries of the Greenbergian
(1963: 85, 93) word order typology. One such distinguishing factor is phonological
dependence. Old Egyptian has an uninflected auxiliary verb jw, which can be
separated from the main verb by enclitic particles (Reintges 1997: 130–5).
(13) Auxiliary jw > particle swt > main verb > DP subject > DP object (Old Egyptian)
jw swt dZj-n M hw ¿-f m s-¿nx-s
aux pcl give-prf Mehu about
‘Mehu has put his order to support her ( . . . )’ (pap. Cairo CG 58043, col. 9–10)
142 Chris H. Reintges

By contrast, Coptic tense and aspect particles can never be separated from the
linearly adjacent subject DP by enclitic function words. Rather, the inferential
particle kje ‘therefore’ in (14) must be positioned to the right of the DP subject in
clause-fourth position. This generally shows that presubject particles must be sub-
ordinate in accent to the following phrasal constituent (Polotsky 1987/1990: 184–5
§16; Reintges 2004: 246–7 §7.1.1).
(14) Habitual particle Sare > DP subject > particle kje > verb > object (Coptic)
eStSe Sare p@-hairetikos k je m@n p@-h@llen
if hab pcl with
pO:r@S eßol @n-ne-u:-kjitS (...)
spread.abs pcl
‘When the heretic and the pagan open their arms ( . . . )’ (Shenoute, Amélineau I
3, 337, 1)
A general point to note about auxiliary verbs is that they are phonologically
dependent clitics in many languages, which must be attached to a host word (e.g.
Spencer 1991: 350–1; Muysken 2008: 40–1). One might therefore ask whether the
attachment of the presubject tense/aspect particle to the linearly adjacent phrasal
constituent—in our case, the subject DP—represents a straightforward case of
cliticization of this type. The habitual aspect particle comes in two forms, the shorter
base form Sa and the lengthened allomorph Sare. By adding the element -re to the
base form, the erstwhile monosyllabic particle is transformed into a disyllabic one,
with the result that it can form a well-formed foot on its own. Since -re epenthesis
applies when encliticization is excluded, the attachment of the longer form Sare to
the adjacent phrasal constituent may better be analyzed as an instance of leaning or
‘liaison’, in Klavans’ (1985) terminology. It is clear, then, that Coptic particles are
syntactically independent, but prosodically dependent function words. In this re-
spect, they are categorially distinguished from the bound inflectional affixes of the
agglutinative system. Even so, phonological dependencies need not map directly
onto syntactic dependencies, as many linguists have observed (Zwicky 1985: 291;
Klavans 1985: 97–8; Embick 2003: 326).

8.5 Analyticization and the emergence of T/Aux–S–V–O order

Before we turn to consider the parametric differences between the agglutinative and
analytic stages in further detail, I would like to point out some broader implications
of high analyticity for the syntactic encoding of the verb–tense relationship. Baker
(2002) formulates a restrictive theory of building and merging, not checking, accord-
ing to which the computational system has at its disposal only two options for the
union of the verbal root with tense inflection. The first option is verb movement to
Macroparametric change 143

the tense node, which hosts the relevant tense and agreement morphology. In French
(15a.), the finite verb precedes the clause-internal adverb souvent, while it follows
its English counterpart often (15b.). Following Emonds (1978), Pollock (1989),
Chomsky (1991) and many others, this contrast has been taken to show that the
finite verb moves to tense in French, but not in English. The English case (15b.) also
exemplifies the second option for the union between the verb and the tense
marking, which involves the postsyntactic merger of the two elements under linear
adjacency. In Bobaljik’s (2002) system, the merger operation is blocked by interven-
ing specifiers and complements, but not by traces or by adjoined elements, including
(15) Adverb distribution as a diagnostics for finite verb movement
a. Jean embrasse souvent Marie. a.’ *Jean souvent embrasse Marie. (French)
b. John often kisses Mary. b.’ *John kisses often Mary. (English)
Baker’s theory thus excludes more abstract syntactic relations between the verb
and the morphemes carrying temporal information, in particular, Chomsky’s (1995:
228–35, 238–41) checking theory, according to which verbs come out of the lexicon
fully inflected and check their features in the course of the derivation.
A typological prediction arises from the theory just outlined, namely that there
should be no stable T/Aux–S–V–O languages, even though this may seem a seman-
tically plausible word order. The argument runs as follows: if the tense particle or the
tensed auxiliary precedes the subject and the verb, verb-to-tense movement could
not have applied. At the same time, postsyntactic merger must be excluded on the
grounds that the subject DP counts as an intervening specifier (Baker 2002: 323–5).
In spite of this, Aux–S–V–O order is attested in Welsh compound tenses. Example
(16) features the periphrastic preterite, which is formed with the light verb gwneud
‘to do’ and a verbal noun (cf. Borsley et al. 2007: 41–2).4
(16) Aux–S–V–O order in compound tenses (Modern Welsh)
Naeth y dyn brynu car
did the man buy-vn car
‘The man did buy a car’ (Slightly adapted from Baker 2002: 322)

In Baker’s (2002: 323) typology, Modern Welsh is classified as a verb-raising and as a subject-in-situ
language, with ‘the tensed verb coming before the subject, in a different position from the nonfinite verb’.
In an earlier analysis by Sproat (1985: 202), Aux–S–V–O order was argued to have the same underlying
SVO configurationality as canonical VSO clauses, but with auxiliary verb insertion rather than verb
movement to C. Based on the distribution of adverbs and complementizers, Roberts (2005: 19–41) shows
that a generalized verb-to-C analysis of Welsh VSO order can no longer be sustained, since verb
movement never exceeds the inflectional domain.
144 Chris H. Reintges

For Baker (2002: 324, 2003: 28), the Aux–S–V–O order in Welsh compound tenses
is not a real counter example to his typological claims, as the canonical word order of
the language is VSO, with all verbs and not just auxiliaries moving to the left of the
subject. This move is, however, not entirely convincing: if UG provides only two
options for the union of a verbal root with tense, one must ask how Aux–S–V–O
order could ever emerge as an alternative basic word order. Regardless of their exact
hierarchical position, if the tense particle and the lexical verb appear on either side of
the subject, neither verb movement nor morphological merger could have been
applied. This question becomes even more pressing in the light of the Coptic word
order facts. The basic word order can be identified as T/Aux–S–V–O on the grounds
that this is the order that involves a minimal amount of syntactic structure and
morphological marking. It is also the dominant word order in simple declarative
clauses without topicalized or focalized constituents (see Comrie 1989: 87–91 for
ways to identify basic and derived orders in word order typology). Consider in this
regard example (17).

(17) Basic T/Aux–S–V–O word order (Coptic)

a t@-sophia ket u-e:ï na-s
prf build.nom
‘Wisdom has built a house for herself ’ (Proverbs 9, 1)

Coptic T–S–V–O order falls out naturally from the language’s parameter
setting. Because of the positive value of the analytic macroparameter, temporal,
aspectual, and modal connotations are coded by free-standing particles (but see
Baker 2002: 326 note 4 for a claim to the contrary). Presubject particles are located
in an uplifted Tense head, which correlates in structural height with the
Fin(iteness)-head of the Rizzian (1997) cartography. The non-projecting Tense
head dominates a modal projection MoodP, which contains in its specifier the
subject constituent. The mood head, on its part, provides a landing site for the
lexical verb stem but may also host the epistemic future particle na, the deontic
future particle e, and the conditional particle San. All three preverbal particles are
arguably related not only to tense but also to modality. The skeleton of functional
projections in root contexts is schematically represented in tree diagram (18)
(which corresponds to the simple declarative clause in (17)). The resulting se-
quence of functional heads Tense > Mood > Aspect is in accordance with
Cinque’s (1999: 58–9, 106–7) universal hierarchy of clausal functional projections.
(Strikeout indicates the copies left behind by movement; the agree relation is
marked by the dotted line.)
Macroparametric change 145

(18) The order of functional heads in Coptic clause structure

Tense0 MoodP
g ei
Perfect particle Subject MoodP
g g ei
a tə -sophia Mood0 AspectP
g ei
Verb Object AspectP
ket g ei
u-εï Aspect0 v ∗P
Verb ei
local agree relation between the tense particle na-s ei
and the lexical verb stem Subject v∗P

Verb ... Object

The merge of tense/aspect particles in a left-peripheral head creates a situation

reminiscent of that in Welsh, where verb movement to the C-domain is excluded
(Roberts 2005: 120–4; Rouveret 2010: 260–1; cf. also Borsley et al. 2007: 287–98 for the
loss of verb second in pre-modern Welsh). Consequently, Coptic no longer shows
the verb second effects, which are still observable in Old Egyptian. I will elaborate on
this issue in the next section.

8.6 Macroparametric differences between the agglutinating

and the analytic system
The drift towards a maximally general pattern of analyticity that we observe for
Egyptian diachrony shows some points of contact with the evolution of Classical
Chinese. Huang (2010: 402) notes that ‘[t]he development of Pre-Modern and
Modern Chinese from Archaic through Medieval Chinese may be seen as the
development of a highly analytic language from a language of considerable
synthesis’.5 Against this background, Roberts and Holmberg (2010: 43) conclude

Although the proposals about the reconstruction of Old Chinese (1066 bc–200 ad) are still being
tested and revised, there is a consensus among Chinese historical linguists that the language had various
morphological processes (affixation, reduplication, compounding), which have since been lost. In this
respect, Old Chinese was typologically similar to other Sino-Tibetan languages. The morphological
processes were mainly derivational rather than inflectional in nature, with the reconstructed *N-prefix
for derived detransitivized/passive verbs being a major exception. It looks as though some morphological
processes of Old Chinese may have survived in the modern dialects, such as the *k-prefix and the *r-infix
(see Baxter and Sagart 1998; Branner 2002; Pulleyblank 2004 a.o.). (Thanks to Edith Aldridge for her help
with the Old Chinese facts.)
146 Chris H. Reintges

that ‘[i]t is tempting, then, to try to maintain that “analyticization” is loss of

movement, associated to some degree with loss of morphology’.
The rationale behind this correlation is to be sought in the verb-attracting
properties or movement-blocking properties of employed tense marking. In the
agglutinative system, rigidly ordered tense and aspect morphemes must be merged
with the lexical verb via head movement. In this way, verb movement supports
bound inflectional affixes that would otherwise be left stranded (Cinque 2001; Julien
2002). In the analytic system, by contrast, tense and aspect particles are morpho-
logically and syntactically divorced from the lexical verb stem. Accordingly, the
verb–tense relation is furnished via Agree.

8.6.1 Argument crowding and verb movement processes in the

agglutinative system Evidence for verb-to-tense raising and v*P internal subject DPs Old Egyptian
displays the typical behaviour of a verb raising VSO language. The canonical
derivation of VSO order is one in which the finite verb moves to tense, while the
subject and the direct object DP remain within the v*P without moving. Examples
(19) and (20) illustrate this point for the clause-internal modal particle (j)r- ‘indeed’
and the negation adverb w ‘not’. Another point to observe is that the initial finite
verb and the subject are not necessarily adjacent.
(19) Verb > modal particle r-f > subject DP
jj r-f Wnjs pn
?x j-xm sk
‘Indeed, this (King) Unas (here) comes as an imperishable spirit’ (Pyramid
Texts 153b/W)
(20) Verb > negation w > subject DP > direct object DP
Szp w Hmn zftSt-f
accept.pfv not
hrw n(j) hm nb-j
‘(The god) Hemen will not accept his offering meat on the day of the
Majesty of My Lord’ (Mocalla Inscription nr. 8 III.5)
Since the verb precedes negation and lower adverbs, the target position of verb
movement must be higher than the position occupied by these elements. The finite
verb does, however, not move as high as the C phase head, which represents the
highest functional head of the clause. This can be seen from the fact that VSO order
is also found in subordinate clauses that are introduced by finite lexical comple-
Macroparametric change 147

mentizers such as ntt ‘that’, as seen in example (21a.). When embedded under a
bridge (dZd ‘to say’), this type of subordinate clause permits the topicalization of the
embedded subject, as seen in example (21b.).
(21) comp VSO order in subordinate clauses
a. j(w)-k rx-t(j) [ntt dZd-n Idw r learn-stat.2sg comp say-prf about
s?-f (...) ]
‘You know that Idu said about his son ( . . . )’
(Letters to the Dead, Haskell Oriental Museum Chicago 13945, 1)
b. dZd-n-k n R¿ [ ntt Nt jw(-w)-s ] to comp
‘You told (the sun-god) Re that (concerning) (Queen) Neith, she would
come’ (Pyramid Texts/Nt 40–41)
Since the verb does not target the position of the complementizer, but must raise
higher than clause-internal negation and focus-related adverbs, the landing site for
verb movement can be identified with a lower tense head. A generalized verb-to-
tense raising analysis correctly predicts the availability of additional functional
superstructure above Tense0 and below C0, in which a CLLDed DP subject can be
embedded (see Reintges 2005a: 62–5 for further discussion).
In the aftermath of Pollock’s (1989) Split-infl hypothesis, it has become increas-
ingly difficult to point to clear cases in which a postverbal subject can be shown to
reside within the verbal domain. Modern Irish was widely believed to be a VSO
language in which the subject and the direct object remain in situ in their initial
merge position. McCloskey (1996, 2001) has presented a different picture. Based on
variable subject positions in both unaccusative and passive constructions, the post-
verbal subject DP is shown to raise to a functional projection above the v*P, rather
than being located in a v*P-internal position. We are therefore left with Old
Egyptian as a clear example of a head-initial VSO language in which there is
converging evidence for the v*P-internal licensing of the postverbal subject. Here I
present one argument for the subject-in-situ character of VSO order and will refer
interested readers to my previous work for additional arguments. As illustrated by
example (22), subject DPs are lower than negation and lower than the target position
for pronominal object shift.
(22) Verb > negation w > direct object clitic sw > subject DP
jw¿(-w) w sw jw¿-f
succeed-prs not
‘His heir shall not succeed him’ (Mocalla Inscription nr. 8, III.7)
148 Chris H. Reintges

The object pronoun sw ‘him’ appears to the right of the negation w and as the
subject DP jw¿-f ‘his heir’ must occur to the right of the shifted pronoun sw ‘him’, it
must be lower in the tree than either of these. In line with Chomsky (2001: 26–8), I
assume that pronominal object shift targets the outer edge of the v*P phase. On this
analysis, the inner edge Spec,v*P qualifies as the only position in which canonical
subjects can be licensed.6 Probe–goal relations in the agglutinative system Following Biberauer and

Roberts (2010: 265) I assume that finite root clauses have as a universal property that
the verb enters into an agree relation with Tense, which thus acts as the probing
category. The feature content of Tense must minimally include interpretable tense
and finiteness specifications. As part of the extended verbal projection (Grimshaw
1997), it must also be endowed with verbal-categorial features. Yet, it lacks a
quintessential property of verbs, namely their ability to introduce arguments into
the structure (on this point, see Baker 2003: 23–34). Let us, therefore, say that Tense
has uninterpretable verbal features. The probed-for category—the lexical verb
stem—has the complementary set of uninterpretable tense and finiteness features
as well as interpretable verbal-categorial features. Aspectual features are implicated
in the verb–tense relation, since, as will be discussed in the next section, Old
Egyptian verb stems can be morphologically marked for aspect by means of
simplex and geminated stem forms. The feature composition of the non-projecting
Tense probe and the projecting verbal goal is summarized in (23).
(23) Agglutinative tense marker (probe) Lexical verb stem (goal)
interpretable tense features [iT] uninterpretable tense features [uT]
uninterpretable verbal features [iV] interpretable verbal features [iV]
interpretable aspect features [iAsp] interpretable aspect features [iAsp]
According to Biberauer and Roberts (2010: 267–8, 300), verbs in languages with rich
tense inflection are actually verb–tense compounds, which are formed in the nu-
meration as part of the process of presyntactic word formation. These morphologic-
ally complex words must first be merged with the V-complement to form a VP and
satisfy its argument-structural properties, and must subsequently be merged with the
T-complement to form a TP. This operation involves a form of partial reprojection
in the sense that the tense features of the compound determine the formation of the
TP projection.
The implementation of Biberauer and Roberts’ (2010) essentially lexicalist view is,
however, less straightforward for Old Egyptian, in which agglutinative tense markers

The qualification canonical subjects is necessary, since non-canonical quantified and focused subject
DPs are licensed in the specifier of Tense, which is not projected in the derivation of VSO order in the
normal course of events. See Reintges (2005a: 69–72, 2009: 54–7) for a more detailed analysis of focus-
driven subject raising.
Macroparametric change 149

enter the syntax as independent terminal elements and must be merged with the
verbal stem via head movement, in compliance with Baker’s (1985) Mirror Principle.
Evidence for the morphological category of agglutinative tense markers comes from
the language’s elaborate system of participle formation. Old Egyptian participles are
inflected nominally for number and gender and verbally for tense/aspect/mood and
grammatical voice. Crucially, the very same tense formation that surfaces on finite
verb forms also appears on tense-inflected participles (Reintges 2005b). Consider in
this regard the perfect particle rdZj-w-n ‘having given’ in (24a.) and the imperfective
active particle dZdZj-w ‘giving’ in (24b.). In the imperfective participle dZdZj-w, the
plural masculine declension -w is attached to the reduplicated stem dZdZj. This
contrasts with the perfect participle rdZj-w-n, where the tense inflection is attached
to the outer layer of the nominally inflected participle.
(24) Old Egyptian tense/aspect-inflected participles
a. jr mw jpn rnp-w [ rdZj-w-n(-j) n-k ]
‘About these fresh waters which I gave to you’ (Pyramid Texts 1002c/M)
b. j-xm-w sk (...) [ dZdZj-w
h? nw n xntj-w k?-w jm(-y)-w
descend.sbj to
‘The imperishable stars ( . . . ), which cause (lit. give) this to descend to the
Foremost of the Provisions (i.e. food deities) in heaven’ (Pyramid Texts
Since the agglutinative tense marker has clitic-like properties, it must be directly
mapped onto a functional head in the syntax. At a later derivational stage, head
movement provides an appropriate verbal host for enclisis. Following Pesetsky and
Torrego (2001, 2005), structural nominative and accusative case can be conceptual-
ized as the NP analogue of tense in the verbal domain. More specifically, nominative
case represents an uninterpretable tense feature on the subject DP. Given that the
postverbal subject DP is located in the inner edge of v*P, we can safely assume with
Bobaljik and Wurmbrand (2005: 818–43) that agree without subsequent move
qualifies as a sufficient structural relation for nominative case assignment, as repre-
sented in diagram (25).
150 Chris H. Reintges

(25) Probe–goal relations in the derivation of Old Egyptian VSO order


Tense v*P

Verb Tense obj-cl v*P

[uT, iV] [iT, uV]
Subject v*P
↑ v VP
nominative case assignment via agree
V ... Object

verb-to-tense movement

The Old Egyptian facts just outlined pose a potential challenge for Alexiadou and
Anagnostopoulou’s (2001, 2007) Subject-in-Situ Generalization, according to which
the subject and the direct object cannot concurrently check or value their case
features and be spelled out in their initial merge position: when the verb and tense
form a complex head through movement, they cannot both be endowed with an
active case feature. For this reason, no more than one argument can remain in situ
within the v*P phase. The prohibition against argument crowding can be circum-
vented though, when the finite verb bears rich agreement inflection (see Alexiadou
and Anagnostopoulou 2001: 216, 224–6, 2007: 47, 49 for the details of the argument).
But even with this modification, there is no straightforward way in which Old
Egyptian would fit the parameters of the Subject-in-Situ Generalization, since there
is no agreement inflection to begin with. This puzzle can be solved by a more fine-
grained analysis of the layered v*P. The split v*P Verbal aspect in Old Egyptian has a markedly derivational
character. The perfective–imperfective opposition is encoded by pairs of simple and
geminated stem forms: hz-j (perfective/neutral) ‘to praise’ versus hzz (imperfective)
‘to be praising’. Imperfective stems can only be derived from weak verbs, so called
because members of this class display a stem-final glide -j. In the vast majority of
case, the base verb is either transitive (e.g. 
hzz ‘to be praising’) or unergative (e.g.
h?? ‘to be descending’), with the unaccusative copular verb wnn ‘to be’ being the
marked exception.
Macroparametric change 151

(26) The distribution of imperfective stems across different lexical classes of verbs
a. wnn ¿? hzz wj hm-f
be.imprf praise.imprf cl.obj.1sg
‘It was enormous (how) His Majesty praised me’ (Urkunden I 221, 4)
b. h??-sn r t? m  hf?w-w
descend.imprf-3pl to as
‘They (the gods) are descending to earth as male serpents’
(Coffin Texts III 24a/B2Bo)
Since imperfective stem formation leaves the argument structure of the base verb
intact, Bendjaballah and Reintges (2009: 145–6) propose that the layered structure of
the Old Egyptian v*P contains an aspectual head, which is interspersed between the
argument-introducing verbal heads v* and V. The formation of perfective/neutral
versus imperfective stems in the syntax is accomplished by V-to-Asp-to-v* raising.
I furthermore assume, still following Pesetsky and Torrego (2005: 501–5), that accusa-
tive case represents an uninterpretable aspectual feature on the direct object. It is
matched with the corresponding interpretable feature on the intermediary aspect
head. Due to the presence of internal functional superstructure, direct object arguments
are licensed in situ in the specifier of the VP projection. Hence, the puzzle of argument
crowing in Old Egyptian VSO clauses disappears. The tree diagram in (27) illustrates.
(27) The v*P-internal aspect projection


Subject v*P
v* AspectP

Aspect VP

V Aspect Direct Object VP

[uAsp, iV] [iAsp, uV] [uAsp]

accusative case assignment via agree V Classifier suffix ‐j


A salient but not very well understood property of imperfectives is that they must
move all the way up to C0. As would be expected under a verb second analysis
(den Besten 1983), there are no attested examples of embedded imperfective verbs
152 Chris H. Reintges

that co-occur with a finite embedding complementizer. Example (28) features an

embedded imperfective passive jrr-t(j) ‘is being made’, which marks the beginning of
the subordinate clause.
(28) verb second effects of imperfectives
m?-t(j) [CP jrr-t(j) jm-snj m stp-z? r(-y)-t hrw]
see.pfv-pass2 do.imprf-pass2 at-3du in place
‘It was seen that the two (doors) were worked on in the palace daily’
(Urkunden I 39, 1)
The exact nature of the verb second effects, that we see with imperfectives and
passives, needs to be clarified in future research (but cf. Reintges 1997: 304–38, 2005a:
76–80 for a tentative analysis). It looks, though, as if the traditional idea that
imperfectivity is related to sentence mood and information structure, and hence to
the C phase head, is not entirely off track.

8.6.2 Argument voiding and remnant verb movement in the analytic system The phasal imbalance between v*P and TP In presenting a predicate-
argument configuration, the layered v*P may universally count as the first-phase
domain on the meaning side, without necessarily being a phase on the sound side.
I rely on Marušič’s (2009) proposal that such asymmetries in phasal composition
arise from non-simultaneous spellout. The v*P in Coptic Egyptian is a showcase for
a defective lexical phase. Supporting evidence for the non-phasal status of the v*
head comes from the process of argument voiding (Alexiadou and Anagnostopoulou
2001, 2007). In example (29), the lexical verb stem t@nneu ‘to send’, the subject DP
p@-nu:te ‘God’, and the direct object DP pe-f-S«:re ‘his son’ all linearly precede the
clause-internal negation adverb an ‘not’. Provided that negation heads its own
functional projection, the sequence subject DP > verb > direct object DP >
negation indicates that the v*P domain has been vacated by its main constituents.
Translated into terms of phase theory, this means that the phase head, the edge and
material inside the complement domain have all bypassed the PIC.
(29) relative particle @nt > perfect particle a > subject DP > verb > direct object
DP > negation an
@nt a p@-nu:te gar t@nneu pe-f-Se:re
rel prf pcl send.nom
an e-p@-kosmos tSe e-f-e krine
not comp judge.abs
‘God has not sent his son to the world to judge the world’ (John 3, 17)
Macroparametric change 153

As a consequence of verb raising and phrasal movement, the Coptic v*P is left
behind as an essentially vacuous structure. What is the fate of this structure? In a
recent paper, Kiss (2008: 460–3) argues convincingly that when the phase head
moves into the head position of the next higher functional projection, both the
silent copies of the moved head and their projections are pruned during the spellout
procedure. Subsequently, the hierarchical structure of the v*P collapses in a process
referred to as domain flattening.
Here I propose to connect the defective phasehood of the Coptic v*P to a
morphosyntactic property. Coptic verb stems are defective verbal categories, which
are no longer compatible with the exponents of tense, aspect, mood, and finiteness.
Rather, all these inflectional categories are encoded by means of externalized par-
ticles in the extended verbal projection. Because of their incomplete featural speci-
fication, lexical verb stems in the analytic system are not only less finite but also, to
some degree, less verbal than their counterparts in the agglutinative system.
Massam (2005: 236–8, 2010: 286–7) argues on similar grounds that Niuean predi-
cates do not house inflectional features since they are not morphosyntactically verbs.
For this reason, Niuean predicates cannot enter into an agree relation with higher
functional elements. As discussed in section 8.5, the Coptic situation is clearly
different insofar as tense/aspect particles enter into an agree relation with the
main verb.
The defective phasehood of the v*P is compensated for by the phasehood of the
left-peripheral tense projection. To move towards an understanding of the phasal
characteristics of root tense, one might envisage two different types of analysis. One
analytical possibility would be to say that analytic tense particles are actually tensed
complementizers. Massam (2000: 101, 2010: 292) and Biberauer and Roberts (2010:
296) propose an analysis along these lines for Niuean tense particles, which are
treated as portmanteau complementizer–tense elements. This analysis would seem
to predict that these particles are in complementary distribution with embedding
complementizers as there is only a single C0 node available. This prediction is borne
out by the Niuean evidence as preverbal particles in this language must be dropped
when a lexical complementizer is present (Massam 2010: 291–4). The situation is,
however, different with Coptic tense/aspect particles, which freely occur with sub-
ordinating complementizers and relative particles of various kinds (see above,
section 8.3). Accordingly, tense/aspect particles do not lend themselves for an
analysis as complementizer–tense elements.
On such grounds, it seems worthwhile to explore the alternative possibility of
correlating the phase effects of Tense to its left-peripheral position. Chomsky (2008:
143) suggests that the CP covers the entire left periphery of the clause, involving
‘feature spread from fewer functional heads (maybe only one)’. This can be imple-
mented into a formal account of calculating CP phasehood on the basis of hierarch-
ical relations. Since there are no phase boundaries in left periphery of the clause, the
154 Chris H. Reintges

TP only serves as the first-phase domain when it closes off the syntactic derivation. If
additional functional superstructure is projected on top of it, the highest functional
particle will furnish the relevant phase-inducing head. The cascaded mono-phasal
syntax of Coptic particles is schematically represented in the following diagram
(tam and rel stand for ‘tense/aspect/mood’ and ‘relative’ particle, respectively.)
(30) The mono-phasal syntax of Coptic partcles
CP → Particle closes off the derivation in non-root contexts
C0 …
REL particle FocusP → Particle closes off the derivation in focus contexts
Focus0 …
TAM or REL particle TP → Particle closes off the derivation in root contexts
Tense0 …
TAM particle Probe–goal relations in the analytic system When a probe–goal analysis is

applied to the case at hand, the probe—the tense/aspect particle representing the
language’s rich tense inflection—has interpretable tense and finiteness features. As a
verb-related category without an argument structure, it also has uninterpretable
verbal-categorial features. The probed-for category—the lexical verb stem—has the
complementary set of uninterpretable tense and finiteness features as well as
interpretable verbal-categorial features. Selectional restrictions of aspectually
sensitive tense particles, with respect to lexical verb stems, furthermore suggest
that the particle probe and the verbal goal both have interpretable aspectual
features (see Reintges 2011 for further discussion and explication).
(31) analytic tam particle (probe) grade-inflected verb stem (goal)
interpretable tense features [iT] uninterpretable tense features [uT]
uninterpretable verbal features [uV] interpretable verbal features [iV]
interpretable aspect features [iAsp] interpretable aspect features [iAsp]
The process of argument voiding generally shows that the Coptic v*P no longer
serves as a licensing domain for the verb’s main arguments. Rather, the subject and
the direct object must move to the specifier positions of designated modal and
aspectual projections for case-related purposes. In view of the fact that Coptic is
an agreementless language, one may plausibly assume that w-features do not play
any role in case-licensing processes.
While subject raising to the specifier of MoodP is driven by the need for
nominative case assignment, things may be slightly different for direct object shift.
In line with Kratzer’s (2004: 397–400) proposal, I assume that the phrasal extraction
of the direct object DP is brought about by the [ þ telic] specification of the Aspect
Macroparametric change 155

head. When the Aspect head has a negative value for telicity, it does not project a
specifier position. Because of this, the direct object is frozen in place within the
vacated v*P domain. To neutralize its uninterpretable aspect feature, a semantically
vacuous case preposition must be introduced into the structure. A particularly
illustrative case is example (32). Here the subject DP pei-hOß ‘this thing’ and the
verb areske ‘to please’ precede the negation adverb an, while the prepositional object
DP @m-p@-rO:me ‘the man’ stays in the lower v*P region and does not move.
(32) Conditional complementizer > subject DP > verb > negation an >
prepositional object DP
eStSe pei-hOß kje areske an @m-p@-rO:me
if pcl please.abs not
@nSu:So (...)
‘If this thing does not please the man who prides himself ( . . . )’ (Shenoute,
Amélineau I, 1, 13, 7)
The network of probe–goal relations gives rise to the appearance of rightward
licensing of the subject DP in the specifier position of MoodP by the presubject tense
particle. The diagram in (33) illustrates.
(33) Phasal and non-phasal domains in analytic clause structure
TP Non-defective TP phase (first-phase domain)

Tense MoodP Split- INFL domain (case licensing)

[uV, iAsp, iT] Subject ... Verb ... AspectP
[uT] [iV, iAsp, uT]

Object ... Verb ... v∗P Defective v∗P phase (argument voiding)

Subject ... Verb ... Object

In the analytic system, free-standing tense/aspect particles entertain an abstract

feature valuation relationship with the lexical verb stem, which is less finite and less
verbal than their tense and aspect inflected counterparts in the agglutinative system.
Although the analytic system severely restricts the movement space of verbs, verb
movement as a syntactic operation need not be entirely dispensed with as lower
inflectional heads should in principle still be available as movement targets. A case in
point is residual verb movement in Coptic, which preempts subject raising and
direct object shift. But, and this is a crucial point, residual verb movement is not
reprojective and hence does not extend the domain of the v*P phase.
156 Chris H. Reintges

8.7 Concluding remarks

In the agglutinative system, the affixal tense/aspect morphology must incorporate
into the lexical verb stem to avoid a stray-affix filter violation. Not only does verb-to-
tense raising remove the uninterpretable features on the probing Tense head and the
probed-for verb, verb movement is also a syntactic prerequisite for postsyntactic
merger to apply. On the whole, the Old Egyptian v*P constitutes a strong phase, in
which the subject and the direct object DPs are licensed in situ. The analytic
morphological system differs considerably from the agglutinative system in terms
of the basic syntactic operations. The Tense node is located in an uplifted syntactic
position at the borderline between the inflectional domain and the left periphery of
the clause. This gives rise to the typologically unusual T/Aux–S–V–O surface order.
As discrete words, tense/aspect particles do not require a verbal host. Since verb-to-
tense raising is ruled out, the path for verb raising is narrowed down to the
inflectional domain proper. The Coptic v*P constitutes a weak phase, which is
voided by the phasal head (v*), the edge (the subject) and material inside its
complement domain (the direct object). Table 8.1 summarizes the complexes of
morphological and syntactic properties that differentiate the agglutinative and
analytic system.

TABLE 8.1. Main parametric differences between the agglutinative and analytic

Agglutinative system Analytical system

Morphological category bound affixes free-standing particles (but li-

of tense aison with adjacent DP)
Basic word order VSO T/Aux–S–V–O
Scope of verb movement verb-to-tense raising, verb-to-aspect-to-mood raising
verb-to-C raising (V2 effects)
Triggers for verb verb movement supports verb movement extends the
movement affixal material domain for the phrasal extraction
of the subject and direct object
Argument licensing argument crowding (v*P- argument voiding (v*P-external
internal licensing of the licensing of the subject and the
subject and the direct object) direct object)
Activation of the EPP inactive status of the EPP on active status of the EPP on
tense (unless it is endowed clause-internal mood and aspect
with a focus feature) heads, but crucially not on the
left-peripheral tense head
Macroparametric change 157

The clustering of properties points in the direction of macroparametric variation

and change.7 Huang (2008) proposes that the different macroparameters may be
generalized to a single metaparameter of analyticity versus synthesis. To be sure,
such an analytic–synthetic metaparameter would be in tension with the lexical
parametrization hypothesis, which reduces interlanguage variation to the formal
features of functional categories. But then we might want to entertain Baker’s (2008)
provocative hypothesis that the Borer–Chomsky Conjecture is too strong, and derive
synchronic and diachronic variation in grammar from the complex interaction
between large- and small-scale parameters.

An anonymous reviewer for OUP wonders whether the case for macroparametric change can be
made stronger by presenting evidence from other agglutinative/analytical systems confirming the prop-
erties in Table 8.1 of the main text. Cyrino and Reintges (2011) present a macroparametric comparison of
the typological shift from a synthetic to an analytic verbal tense system in Brazilian Portuguese, where the
change is still going on, and Coptic Egyptian, where it has been completed. The results obtained in this
research support the conclusions of this chapter but cannot be presented here for reasons of space.

A diachronic shift in the

expression of person1

9.1 Introduction
The power of the notion of parameter lies in capturing a number of observable
differences among languages by appealing to a single, more abstract difference in
their grammar. For example, Holmberg and Platzack in their rich body of work (e.g.
Platzack and Holmberg 1989, Holmberg and Platzack 1995, Holmberg and Platzack
2005) have proposed that the presence or absence of agreement in Scandinavian
languages is responsible for a number of differences that characterize the Insular
Scandinavian languages and distinguish them from the closely related Mainland
Scandinavian languages. To provide a relevant example, Icelandic, a language with
agreement, displays transitive expletive constructions, a range of possible positions
for subjects, and V-to-T raising in embedded clauses. In contrast, Swedish, which
lacks agreement, displays no transitive expletive constructions, a more restricted
distribution for subjects, and no V-to-T raising in embedded clauses.
Sometimes we find languages that exhibit only a subset of the cluster of properties
that have been said to stem from a certain parameter setting. One such case is that of
Appalachian English, a group of varieties spoken in areas of the southeastern United
States. Appalachian English exhibits transitive expletives, a property not attested in
present-day standard English:2,3
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under collaborative grants BCS
0617210 (Bernstein) and BCS 0617133 (Zanuttini). For valuable feedback, we thank audiences at: Levels of
Analysis in the History of Indo-European Languages (University of Trieste, Italy, 2008), Linguistic Society
of America Annual Meeting (San Francisco, USA, 2009), Diachronic Generative Syntax (DiGS) XI
(UNICAMP, Brazil, 2009). We are grateful to our research assistant Goldie Ann Dooley for her help
and enthusiasm.
We note the source from which examples are taken with the following abbreviations: M&H stands for
Montgomery and Hall (2004), DOH stands for Dante Oral History Project (Dante, Virginia), Murray
stands for Murray (1873), H&P stands for Holmberg and Platzack (1995), H&P 2005 stands for Holmberg
and Platzack (2005), B&J stands for Bobaljik and Jonas (1996), J stands for Jonas (1996), and A&F stands
for Alexiadou and Fanselow (2002). The Appalachian English examples not followed by any of these
designations come from our own fieldwork in southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee.
The Appalachian English expletive pronoun can be there or they (see Montgomery 2006a, Tortora
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 159

(1) a. They can’t many people say that. (Appalachian English; DOH)
b. He’s stubborn and wild . . . There can’t nobody ride him. (M&H: 111)
c. . . . there don’t never nobody bother his still. (M&H: 570)
It also displays overt subjects in a wider range of positions than standard English:
(2) a. We don’t any of us need anything. (Appalachian English; M&H: lxiv)
b. They were both of them in the first religious organization . . . (M&H: lxiv)
c. They can every one sing. (M&H: lxiv)
But it doesn’t exhibit all the properties that characterize Insular Scandinavian
languages as opposed to the Mainland ones; for example, it doesn’t exhibit raising of
the verb from V to T.
An analysis of the distribution of verbal -s in this language had led us, in previous
work (Zanuttini and Bernstein 2009, Bernstein 2008b), to claim that Appalachian
English differs from standard English in a way that is similar to the way in which
Insular Scandinavian languages can be seen to differ from their Mainland counter-
parts: by exhibiting person marking on the finite verb.
This gives rise to two questions that will be addressed in this chapter:
A. Can a diachronic perspective provide support for the proposal that Appalach-
ian English differs from present-day standard English in the way just men-
tioned, that is, by having agreement (more specifically, person marking)?
B. How do parameters change over time, so that the daughter language no longer
displays the full set of properties of the ancestor language?
In answer to the first question, we will show that a diachronic perspective can
indeed provide independent support for the proposal that Appalachian English is a
language that marks agreement, and in particular person, on the verb. We will do so
by analyzing a variety shown to be its ancestor by Montgomery (1989, 1997):
Older Scots. Older Scots, like present-day Appalachian English, exhibited transitive
(3) a. . . . thare sal na dene of gilde be chosin for this yere. (Stuart 1474)
. . . there shall no dean of guild be chosen for this year

The Older Scots expletive pronoun can be thare or thay (Montgomery 2006a); Older Scots examples
in (3) come from Dictionary of the Scots Language,
A reviewer asks whether Older Scots TECs tend to involve negative subjects (see (3a.,b.)), as observed
and analyzed for Late Middle English in Ingham (2000). Although the pattern for Older Scots is unclear
(we have observed affirmative and negative cases), the tendency of negative subjects is certainly apparent
for Appalachian English. In current work on Appalachian English TECs, we consider an analysis along the
lines of Ingham (2000), one that ties an additional subject position to the presence of negation.
160 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

b. Thay will na man of jugement or learning mak difference betuix

there will no man of judgement or learning make difference between
thir wordis. (Kennedy 1561)
their words
c. Thare will ane vengeance fall ws but remede. (Hay 1456)
there will one vengeance fall us but remedy
Interesting, and relevant to our study of the relationship between Older Scots and
Appalachian English, is the fact that both varieties display subject-verb agreement
characteristic of Northern Subject Rule varieties.6 In particular, Appalachian English
(4) and Older Scots (5) display verbal -s with plural lexical subjects (but generally not
with pronominal subjects, descriptively labelled the ‘type-of-subject constraint’):
(4) a. All preachers likes fried chicken. (Appalachian English; DOH)
b. Them gals is purty, but they’re crazy as Junebugs. (M&H: 46)
(5) a. the burds cums an’ pœcks them (Older Scots; Murray: 212)
the birds comes and pecks them
b. the men syts (Murray: 212)
the men sits
We will take the parallelism in verbal agreement illustrated in (4) and (5) to show
that the two varieties share the same syntax in this domain: they both mark person
in their syntactic representation of the inflectional system. We take person marking
to be an abstract syntactic property that doesn’t necessarily correspond to a full set of
morphological distinctions, following the line of reasoning presented in Bobaljik and
Jonas (1996), Bobaljik (1995), Thráinsson (1996), Bobaljik and Thráinsson (1998), and
Bobaljik (2002b).
In answer to the second question, our work will show that the effects of parameter
change are gradual. A diachronic perspective allows us to observe these effects in
varieties that represent intermediate stages of the change. Older Scots, we will show,
had a full system of person marking. Appalachian English, its descendant, retains
only the vestiges of such a system, and it therefore represents an intermediate stage
of the parameter change. Over time, the loss of person from the verbal domain
(which correlates with the loss of other syntactic properties associated with person
marking) coincides with the shift of person marking to the subject DP, in the form of
personal pronouns.

The general pattern is found in northern UK varieties, such as Buckie English (Adger and Smith
2010), Tyneside English (Beal 1993), Belfast English (Henry 1995), Northern Irish English (McCafferty
2003), Southern Irish English (McCafferty 2004), and Ulster-Scots (Montgomery 2006b, Robinson 1997).
See Pietsch (2005a,b) for general discussion.
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 161

The chapter is organized as follows. In section 9.2, we examine verbal agreement

in Older Scots and propose that person is always expressed on the verb, either via a
verbal morpheme or a cliticized personal pronoun. We take this property to be
encoded in the syntax as a feature person expressed on a functional head independ-
ent of T. In section 9.3, we briefly compare the Older Scots patterns to those found in
its descendant, Appalachian English, taking the incomplete system found in the
contemporary variety to reflect a loss of person marking in the verbal domain. In
section 9.4, we review our proposals within the context of the notion of parameter
and language change. We view Older Scots, contemporary standard English, and
Appalachian English as displaying positive, negative, and intermediate settings of a
person parameter. We also suggest that person marking shifts from being a property
of the verbal system to one of the nominal system.

9.2 Person marking and its effects in Older Scots

Montgomery (1989, 1997) has traced the history of Appalachian English subject-verb
agreement to Ulster and then further back to Lowland Scotland.7 In this chapter, we
focus on subject-verb agreement of Older Scots of the fourteenth to seventeenth
centuries, before which documentation is scarce. The agreement pattern described
for Older Scots and illustrated in (5), so-called ‘plural verbal -s’ (Montgomery 1989:
249; 1997: 129; McCafferty 2003: 109), also characterized Northumbrian English of
the same period, and has been hypothesized to be the source of plural verbal -s in
Middle English of the Midlands (Montgomery 1997: 126).8,9

9.2.1 Verbal agreement in Older Scots

A striking property of present tense subject-verb agreement in Older Scots (and
other northern UK varieties), distinguishing it from the southern English varieties, is
that verbal -s appeared not only with singular subjects, but also with plural subjects
(hence the label, employed by some, ‘plural verbal -s’). But it also appeared with
singular subjects other than third person ones, so with I and you. Although the
particular person and number features of the subject did not seem to play a role in
the verbal form (-s appears across the paradigm), -s did not appear when the subject
pronouns I (aa), we (wey), you (yee), and they (thay) are adjacent to the verb.

Montgomery (1989, 1997) details two migrations, the first from the Scottish lowlands to Ulster, in the
early 1600s, and the second from Ulster to America, beginning in the late 1600s. All told, this migration
brought approximately 250,000 Scotch-Irish immigrants to America by 1776, many of them settling in the
area now known as Appalachia (Montgomery 1997: 125, citing Dickson 1966).
McCafferty (2003: 108) suggests that a Northern English influence on vernaculars in the UK and US
must be considered alongside the Ulster-Scots influence.
We will not use the label ‘plural verbal -s’ for examples like (4) and (5). Unlike Montgomery, we don’t
view verbal -s as sometimes a singular marker and sometimes a plural marker, but rather as encoding a single
feature, which we take to be person. For that reason we will use the descriptive label ‘verbal -s’ for all cases.
162 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

Murray (1873: 211–2) provides the following two-part description of the paradigm for
the relevant time period, which applies to weak as well as strong verbs:
(6) a. For any lexical subject or for a pronominal subject not adjacent to the verb,
verbal -s appeared in all persons:
singular plural
1st leykes/w’reytes leykes/w’reytes
2nd leykes/w’reytes leykes/w’reytes
3rd leykes/w’reytes leykes/w’reytes
‘like(s)’, ‘write(s)’ ‘like’, ‘write’
b. With a pronominal subject adjacent to the verb, verbal -s is absent, except
with second and third singular subjects:
singular plural
1st aa leyke/w’reyte wey leyke/w’reyte
2nd thuw leykes/w’reytes yee leyke/w’reyte
3rd hey, scho, (h)it leykes/w’reytes thay leyke/w’reyte
‘like(s)’, ‘write(s)’ ‘like’, ‘write’
Example (7) illustrates Older Scots verbal -s with plural lexical subjects and (8)
illustrates verbal -s with non-adjacent plural pronouns:
(7) a. sum thynks hey was reycht, but uthers menteins the contrar
some thinks he was right, but others maintains the contrary
(Older Scots; Murray: 212)
b. the burds cums an’ pœcks them (Murray: 212)
the birds comes and pecks them
c. fuok ăt cums unbudden, syts unsær’d (Murray: 212)
folk that comes uninvited remains unanswered
(8) a. yuw eanes seys quhat thir meins (Murray: 212)
you ones says what this means
b. huz tweae quheyeles gangs theare (Murray: 212)
us two sometimes goes there
c. yuw at thynks ye can dui aa-thyng (Murray: 212)
you that thinks you can do anything
Additional Older Scots examples from Montgomery (1994: 83, 89) illustrate verbal
-s with non-adjacent we in (9a.), separated from the verb by the adverb lely (‘lawfully’),
and non-adjacent thei (‘they’) in (9b.), separated from the verb by a relative clause:10

Example (9a.) is from The Buke of Knychthede, 24 (mid-fifteenth century prose). Example (9b.) is
from The Douglas Book, 29 (Old Scots Legal Document, 1381). Both are cited in Montgomery (1994).
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 163

(9) a. That we lely heichtis and grantis (Older Scots; Montgomery 1994)
that we lawfully raises in value and grants
b. gif thei that suld governe the said ordre, and manetene it
if they that should govern the said order and maintain it,
misgovernys it, and dois the contraire
misgoverns it, and does the contrary
As for the Older Scots pattern with adjacent personal pronouns, as described in
(6b.), examples of the bare verbal form are provided in (10):
(10) a. aa cum fyrst (Older Scots; Murray: 212)
I come first
b. wey gàng theare (Murray: 212)
we go there
c. ye say quhat thay mein (Murray: 212)
you say what they mean
Montgomery (1994: 83) provides an Older Scots example illustrating both the non -s
form (have) adjacent to the subject (I) as well as the -s form (hes) with the same non-
adjacent subject:11
(11) I have spokyn with my lord Maxwell and hes deleverit.
I have spoken with my lord Maxwell and has decided
(Older Scots; Montgomery 1994)
So the generalization for Older Scots verbal agreement that emerges from Murray’s
descriptions distinguishes adjacent pronominal subjects from all others. In other
words, verbal -s appears with all subjects other than adjacent personal pronouns
(with the exception of hey/scho/hit and thuw).12
Montgomery’s (1994: 88–9) corpus analysis of seven texts from the fourteenth to
seventeenth centuries confirms Murray’s descriptions of the Older Scots verbal
paradigms. In Table 9.1, we observe that overall, verbal -s appears 93% of the time

TABLE 9.1. Rate of -s marking for 3rd-person plural subject types (N¼527)

Conjoined Ns Relative pronouns Common Ns Total nouns

% -s 92% 95% 91% 93%
(from Montgomery 1994: 88)

Example (11) is from The Scottish Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine, 15; 1543–1546, cited in
Montgomery (1994).
Roberts (1993: 265) describes these patterns in a discussion of Northern English and Older Scots of
the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.
164 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

TABLE 9.2. Rate of -s marking with non-adjacent personal

pronoun subjects (N¼170)

they I we ye Total

% -s 90% 94% 94% 100% 94%

(from Montgomery 1994: 89)

with third person plural subjects. Similarly, Table 9.2 illustrates the rate of verbal -s
with non-adjacent personal pronominal subjects (they, I, we, you), a strikingly
parallel 94%.
Consistent with Montgomery’s findings on verbal -s with plural lexical subjects
summarized in Table 9.1, Meurman-Solin’s (1992: 617) examination of the Helsinki
Corpus of Older Scots reveals ‘that a suffixless verb is extremely rare after plural noun
subjects in the corpus . . . or date from the last decennia of the seventeenth century’.
Although Montgomery (1994: 88) does not provide a table for the rate of zero-
marked forms with adjacent personal pronouns in Older Scots (the number of
contexts is small), he states that the pattern appeared over 90% of the time in all
but one document source (where it appeared 82% of the time).
The hypothesis we put forth about verbal -s in Older Scots, which incorporates the
(non)-adjacency facts, is the following:
(12) In Older Scots, verbal -s is a generalized person marker, which occurs
whenever a person-bearing form (pronoun) is not cliticized to T.
This hypothesis captures the idea that, in Older Scots, person must always be
expressed in T, either through verbal -s or through a cliticized personal pronoun. We
have translated the descriptive relevance of subject type (traditionally labelled ‘type
of subject constraint’) and adjacency to the verb (labelled ‘proximity of the subject
constraint’) into a syntactic distinction between two different types of subjects:
lexical subjects, which we take to be full DPs, and pronominal subjects, which we
take to be pronominal clitics, at least some of the time. We represent Older Scots
lexical subjects and non-adjacent pronominal subjects as follows:
(13) TP

the burds
yuw eanes T vP
seysi ti
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 165

With these types of subjects, verbal -s is expressed because T does not otherwise
have a person feature.
We represent the adjacent (cliticized, in our analysis) pronominal subjects in
Older Scots as follows:
(14) TP


T vP
thay cumi
ye sayi ti

In other words, verbal -s is not expressed in these examples because person is

expressed via a person-bearing pronoun (thay, ye) in T. The intuition expressed in
(14) is the same one found in Börjars and Chapman (1998: 75–6) for the contem-
porary non-standard varieties of UK English they examine (spoken in Tyneside,
parts of northeast Yorkshire and west Yorkshire).
Can we consider an alternative proposal to the one defended here, namely that
verbal -s is a person marker in Older Scots? For example, could verbal -s be
interpreted as a ‘tense marker’ (Börjars and Chapman 1998: 75) or a ‘default
finiteness marker’ (Roberts 1993, personal communication)? This might appear to
be consistent with the facts, since verbal -s appears across persons in present
indicative. However, an -s-as-tense or -finiteness approach would fail to distinguish
the pattern in (6a.) from that in (6b.): if verbal -s is a tense or finiteness marker, why
does it fail to appear with adjacent personal pronouns? Our treatment of verbal -s as
a (generalized) person marker is consistent with the paradigm in (6a.) (i.e. its
appearance across first, second, third person forms); moreover, it offers an explan-
ation for why -s does not appear with adjacent personal pronouns in (6b.): the
cliticized pronouns express person (in T).
Having established that the general pattern with adjacent pronouns is zero verb-
marking, we now consider the two exceptions, hey/scho/(h)it (‘he/she/it’) and thuw
(‘thou’). Why would verbal -s appear with these subjects? Following Bernstein
(2008a,b,c), we suppose that hey/scho/(h)it do not carry person features, but instead
are endowed only with gender, a property of nouns (Ritter 1993).13,14 Some support

Similarly, Romance subject pronouns (i) and object clitics (ii) typically display gender only in third
person forms, as illustrated by Italian:
(i) a. lui (, lei ( b. io (1), tu (2-fam.), noi (1-pl.), voi (2-pl.)
(ii) a. lo (, la (, li (, le ( b. me/mi (1), te/ti (2-fam.), ce/ci (1-pl.), ve/vi (2-pl.)
Kratzer (2009: 219, 221) also distinguishes the person features of 1st/2nd pronouns, features referring
to speaker and hearer, from the gender features of 3rd person pronouns.
166 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

for this idea comes from examples like those in (15), which illustrate how in
contemporary varieties of English h- pronouns may modify common nouns
(examples from Déchaine and Wiltschko 2002: 46):
(15) a. she-society
b. she-goat
c. he-man
For us, the relevance of these complex nouns is that the h- pronoun contributes
gender, not person, to the interpretation: a she-society is one made up of women; a
she-goat is a female goat; a he-man is a macho man.15 In contrast, a we-society, which
contains the person-bearing pronoun we, indicates a society that includes the
speaker. Consistent with this interpretation of we-society, our intuition is that a
they-society would be one that excludes the speaker. These interpretations support
our contention that the h- pronouns, unlike the other personal pronouns, do not
contain a person feature nor do they refer. And, since T in Older Scots always
displays person, the absence of a person-bearing form in T necessitates the spelling
out of verbal -s. This view about absence of person with h- pronouns, accounting for
the expression of verbal -s, should also apply to second singular thuw (‘thou’). This
form must also somehow fail to contribute person information, accounting for the
required co-occurring verbal -s. Although we have no real explanation for why this
would be, we note that thuw is special in two respects: a) it is the only personal
pronoun to eventually drop out of the language; b) it is the only non-third person
form to display th- (cf. they, them, their, etc.; see Bernstein 2008a).
In this section, we have proposed that, in Older Scots, personal pronouns could be
clitic forms (expressed with the verb in T) or full-fledged DP pronominal subjects.
The form of the subject determined whether or not verbal -s appeared. According to
Montgomery (1994: 94), there is no evidence as yet that the so-called adjacency
effects of Older Scots ever characterized Appalachian English.16 In other words,
verbal agreement is identical with adjacent and non-adjacent person-bearing subject
pronouns (zero-marked forms in both cases). From our perspective, this means that
personal pronouns are no longer clitics in Appalachian English; rather, they are
always DP pronominal subjects.

Déchaine and Wiltschko (2002) also take person to be absent from these forms, and from N in
general. For them, the h- forms correspond to their fP, intermediate between DP and NP.
Interestingly, an Appalachian English speaker in Mountain City, Tennessee, produced examples
suggesting that she may have so-called adjacency effects:
(i) a. . . . and they come out to their home out here and stays all night
b. They’ve just jumped right in and fits right in.
c. . . . where you have to buy all your fertilizer and has to hire your plowing done . . .
Despite the existence of these examples produced by one speaker, we follow Montgomery (1994: 94) in
taking Appalachian English to lack adjacency effects.
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 167

9.2.2 Other syntactic properties of Older Scots

As pointed out in Platzack and Holmberg (1989: 70), also discussed in Kayne (1989a:
58–9), in the Scandinavian languages there is a strong correlation between the
presence of person agreement and verb-raising. In later work (e.g. Holmberg and
Platzack 1995, Holmberg and Platzack 2005) they note a number of systematic
differences between Insular Scandinavian languages (like Icelandic), which express
agreement on the verb, and the Mainland Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Danish,
Norwegian), which do not. Icelandic displays, among other properties, verb-raising
(16), verb second (17), transitive expletives (18), and object shift (19) (with full DPs
and weak pronouns):
(16) a. . . . að Jón las aldrei bókina. (Icelandic; H&P: 78)
... that John read never the-book
‘... that John never read the book’.
b. . . . að Jonas borðar oft tómata kemu flestum á óvart (A&F: 220)
. . . that John eats often tomatoes surprises most people
‘ . . . that John often eats tomatoes surprises most people’.
Verb second:
(17) a. Í gær kláraði mús ostinn alveg. (Icelandic; B&J: 218)
yesterday finished a.mouse the.cheese completely
‘Yesterday a mouse completely finished the cheese’.
b. Í fyrra máluðu stúdentarnir húsið stundum allir rautt. (B&J: 221)
last year painted the.students sometimes all red
‘Last year the students sometimes painted the house all red.’
Transitive expletives (with transitive and unaccusative verbs):
(18) a. Það borðuðu sennilega margir jólasveinar bjúgun. (Icelandic; B&J: 196)
there ate probably many Christmas.trolls the.sausages
‘Many Christmas trolls probably ate the sausages’.
b. Það hafa margir jólasveinar borðað búðing. (B&J: 209)
there have many Christmas.trolls eaten pudding
‘Many Christmas trolls have eaten pudding’.
c. Það hafa nokkrar kökur verið bakaðar fyrir veisluna (J: 169)
there have some cakes been baked for the party
‘Some cakes have been baked for the party’.

Object shift:
(19) a. Ég les þessar bœkur aldrei. (Icelandic; full DP; H&P 2005: 430)
I read these books never
‘I never read these books’.
168 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

b. Jón þekkir hana ekki. (weak pronoun; H&P: 141)

Jon knows her not
‘John doesn’t know her’.
If we are correct that verbal -s is a person marker in Older Scots, we might expect
Older Scots to display the clustering of properties familiar from another language
that marks person, such as Icelandic. The first stage of our research on Older Scots
indicates that this is indeed the case. Like Icelandic, Older Scots displayed verb-
raising (20) and transitive expletives (21):17
Verb-raising in Older Scots:
(20) a. . . . that he risis nocht with the Kingis officeris
. . . that he rises not with the King’s officers
(Older Scots; Acts I 208/2 1397)
b. That he gaif never his sister the chaines. (Selkirk B.Ct., ed. 1530–1531).
that he gave never his sister the chains
c. . . . that he chape nocht micht (Seven Sages 1560)
. . . that he buy not power
Transitive expletives (with transitive and also unaccusative verbs) in Older Scots:
(21) a. . . . thare sal na dene of gilde be chosin for this yere. (Stuart 1474)
. . . there shall no dean of guild be chosen for this year
b. Thay will na man of jugement or learning mak difference
there will no man of judgement or learning make difference
betuix thir wordis. (Kennedy 1561)
between their words
c. Thare will ane vengeance fall ws but remede. (Hay 1456)
there will one vengeance fall us but remedy
In addition, like the other Germanic (VO) languages (including both the Insular
and Mainland Scandinavian languages), Older Scots displayed verb second (22) and
object shift (23) (at least with pronouns):18

All Older Scots examples beginning with (20) come from Dictionary of the Scots Language, http://
We have not yet determined whether Older Scots displayed object shift with full DPs. If so, it would
be another property shared with Icelandic. Similarly, we don’t yet know if Older Scots allowed verb raising
with non-finite verbs, a property apparently found in Icelandic (Jonas 1996: 182). As far as we know,
neither property is found in Appalachian English.
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 169

Verb second in Older Scots:

(22) a. In malice spaik I newir ane woord. (Older Scots; Dunbar c. 1508)
in malice spoke I never one word
b. To Scotland went he than. (Barbour et al. 1375)
to Scotland went he then.
c. Than knew thai weille that it was he . . . (Blind Harry 1475)
then knew they well that it was he.
Object shift (with pronouns) in Older Scots:
(23) a. All lyke hir nocht. (Older Scots; Ritchie 1438)
all like her not
b. Thai fand it noucht swa then. (Wyntoun c. 1420)
they find it not so then
c. Thai ar commandit to revele it nocht. (Buke of Chess c. 1500)
they are commanded to reveal it not
We focus here on Older Scots verb-raising and transitive expletives (also found in
Icelandic), since we take these properties to correlate with person marking. Holm-
berg and Platzack (1995) took person marking on the verb to reflect the presence of
the feature Agr in I (now T), which in turn was the trigger for verb raising. Instead,
we take person marking on the verb to reflect a syntactic structure in which the
feature person is hosted in a functional projection distinct from T. This generally
follows proposals developed for Icelandic by Bobaljik (1995), Bobaljik and Thráins-
son (1998), Bobaljik (2002a), Johnson (1990), among others. We take Older Scots to
have the structure in (24), where the feature person is hosted in a functional
projection independent of T:

(24) FP



T vP

DP v⬘
170 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

According to these authors, the feature in F in (24) is the trigger of verb

movement; because F is not the sister of a projection of V, it can only be checked
if V raises and adjoins to it. Furthermore, the general configuration makes more
than one position available for the subject (Spec,TP and Spec,FP), thus accommo-
dating the transitive expletive cases (see, for example, Sigurðsson 1989, Bures 1992,
Jonas 1996, Vikner 1995, Bobaljik and Jonas 1996). In Older Scots as well, verb raising
to F applies and the same two positions are available for the subject.
What happens in a language that doesn’t encode person in a separate functional
projection? The relevant structure is as follows:
(25) TP


T vP

DP v⬘

In this structure, where there is no independent functional projection hosting a

person feature, the features of T can be satisfied via sisterhood, and so verb raising
is not required. In addition, only one position for the subject (Spec,TP) is
available. This is the case for standard English, which displays no evidence of verb
raising (with lexical verbs), and only one position for the subject (so no transitive
We can view (24) and (25) as two different settings of the person marking
parameter. In (24), we observe a structure in which person marking is expressed
on an independent functional head. In (25), we observe a structure in which person
marking is absent or expressed together with other features in T.
A question that arises is which of these structures is attested in Appalachian
English, a language that resembles Icelandic and Older Scots in displaying transitive
expletives, but also standard English in not displaying verb raising? In the next
section, we will suggest that Appalachian English displays both settings of the
parameter (in different contexts).

9.3 Vestiges of person marking in Appalachian English

As illustrated in the introduction, Appalachian English (unlike standard varieties of
English) displays transitive expletive constructions and also verbal -s with plural
lexical subjects, the latter a signature property of Northern Subject Rule varieties. In
Zanuttini and Bernstein (2009) (see also Bernstein 2008b), we have advanced the
idea that verbal -s in Appalachian English encodes person. The proposal we devel-
oped built on the fact that present-day Appalachian English, like Older Scots,
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 171

distinguishes lexical subjects from pronominal subjects.19 Unlike Older Scots, how-
ever, verbal -s in Appalachian English appears to be restricted to third person
subjects. We observe first in examples (26) and (27) that verbal -s appears with
both singular and plural lexical subjects in Appalachian English:
(26) a. The church is on one side of the road and the school is on the other . . .
(App. English)
b. . . . one sister lives in Kingsport, and . . . the other sister lives in
two-oh-seven or two-oh-eight.
(27) a. All preachers likes fried chicken. (Appalachian English; DOH)
b. Them gals is purty, but they’re crazy as Junebugs. (M&H: 46)
With pronominal subjects, Appalachian English distinguishes I/you/we/they, which
do not co-occur with verbal -s, from he/she/(h)it, which do:
(28) a. You see ’em coming in here every evening. (Appalachian English)
b. I go down there sometimes and that’s about as far as I go anymore, down there.
c. We go up in West Virginia a lot a-train-riding and stuff.
d. They live in Pennsylvania.
(29) a. But she goes to school every day and works. (Appalachian English)
b. . . . he makes money, and if he sees something he wants he gets it.
c. Well, when it gets too bad they . . . push the snow out.
We follow Kayne (2000) and take I/you/we to encode person, and we extend this
to they.20 In other words, what seems to be relevant to the appearance of verbal -s in
Appalachian English is not third person per se, but person marking more generally.
The only third person pronoun to display person, in our view, is they. This is why
verbal -s does not appear with it, though it co-occurs with he/she/(h)it. So the
generalization that emerges is that in Appalachian English, verbal -s is triggered
whenever the subject noun phrase lacks a person feature.21
Tortora and den Dikken’s (2010) approach to the Appalachian English facts follows a tradition that
interprets verbal -s with plural lexical subjects as an absence of agreement; their configurational analysis
builds on Henry’s (1995) work on Belfast English. We depart from this tradition, reasoning that an overt
morpheme should signal presence, not absence, of agreement.
We note that Kayne (2000: 139) would not take they to be a person-bearing form, since he views
so-called third person pronouns as not expressing person, so not forming a natural class with first/second
person forms, which do express person.
Although we do not go into detail here (see Zanuttini and Bernstein 2009), the more articulated
generalization appeals to the person feature of N, not D. Stated that way, it can account for the examples in
the main text as well as to the following complex subjects made up of a personal pronoun in D and a
lexical noun in N (the internal structure we assume builds on Postal’s 1966 work). In these pronoun þ
noun examples, verbal -s is triggered:
(i) a. . . . that was a church up there and if you fellows wants to preach up here (DOH)
b. I’m a odd person, you’uns already knows that.
172 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

What about standard English verbal -s? In Zanuttini and Bernstein 2009, we have
followed Kayne (1989a) and argued that verbal -s in this variety encodes number (i.e.
singular), not person. In other words, in this variety subject-verb agreement is
triggered by the number feature of the subject, not the person feature. So in standard
English he/she/it and singular lexical subjects trigger (singular) verbal -s and we/they
and plural lexical subjects trigger (plural) zero marking. Although the reference of
you may be singular or plural, you is a grammatically plural form (like French vous)
in present-day English, as it also was when you had a singular counterpart thou.
Finally, the inconsistent verbal agreement found with first person I (e.g. I am, I was,
I think, aren’t I?) leads Kayne (1989a) to argue that I lacks a number feature. In this
way, neither you nor I is a counter example to Kayne’s idea that verbal -s in standard
English marks singular number.
This overly brief comparison between verbal -s in present-day Appalachian
English and standard English ties a difference in its distribution to a difference in
the features encoded in the verbal system, person in Appalachian English and
number in standard English. The different historical developments of the two
varieties provide a source for such a distinction, since present-day standard English
developed mostly from southern varieties of UK English, whereas Appalachian
English developed primarily from northern varieties (Kurath 1928, Montgomery
1989, Montgomery 2004, Schneider 2004). In both cases, we can view the contem-
porary varieties as displaying vestiges of more complete systems, one (Appalachian
English) in which person marking was lost and one (standard English) in which
number marking was lost. The breakdown of the full person system seems to
correlate with a loss of verb raising. In a parallel development for present-day
standard English, Roberts (1993: 263) discusses a correlation between the loss of
verb-raising and the loss of the singular/plural distinction (i.e. the loss of plural
marking) in early sixteenth century southern (London) English.
We return now to the relationship between the ancestor variety, Older Scots,
and its descendant, Appalachian English. We reiterate that Appalachian English,
although it displays transitive expletives, does not display verb raising, at least with
lexical verbs. Furthermore, verbal -s, which was a generalized marker in Older Scots,
is restricted in the contemporary variety to contexts in which the subject does not
express person: singular and plural lexical subjects and he/she/it. A final property of
Appalachian English we note here is that transitive expletives are only found in
the presence of finite auxiliaries, modals, or finite be or do, never with finite lexical

Henry and Cottell (2007) analyzed transitive expletives in Belfast English, which display many of the
same properties found in Appalachian English. This work takes transitive expletives to be an innovation in
Belfast English, since they are found mostly among younger speakers. In contrast, Appalachian English
transitive expletives have been produced by older speakers and we take them to descend from the ancestor
variety, Older Scots.
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 173

What does this suggest to us about the structures of the two varieties, Older Scots
and Appalachian English? In particular, which of the two structures we proposed in
(24) and (25) for Older Scots and standard English, respectively, is attested in
Appalachian English? In light of the fact that Appalachian English shares properties
of both, we propose that it makes use of both structures. In particular, we propose
that the structure in (24), relevant for varieties like Older Scots and Icelandic, can be
used in Appalachian English in the presence of auxiliaries, modals, or finite be or do.
In contrast, we propose that the structure in (25), relevant for standard English, is the
one that must be used in Appalachian English in the presence of finite lexical verbs.
This recalls Tanaka’s (2000) proposal about the development of TECs in the history
of English. Tanaka claims that English went from having a more articulated struc-
ture, akin to that of Insular Scandinavian languages, to a less articulated one, akin to
that of Mainland Scandinavian languages and present-day English. During an
extended period of transition in the fourteenth century, Tanaka (2000: 490–1)
proposes that both structures were available in the grammar, until the more articu-
lated one eventually dropped out in the sixteenth century.23
What is our evidence that (24) can be the phrase structure used in Appalachian
English with auxiliaries, modals, and finite be/do? It is only with auxiliaries, modals,
or be/do that we see the finite form to the left of VP-adverbs, or to the left of the
subject in interrogative clauses; this evidence is consistent with both the structure in
(24) and the one in (25). However, it is only with auxiliaries, modals, or be/do that we
find evidence for multiple subjects, such as transitive expletives and expletive
constructions with unaccusative verbs. We take this to be a reflection of the fact
that Appalachian English has the option of merging the person feature as an
independent functional head, as in (24). This in turn triggers movement of the finite
form from T to F, and makes available an additional position for the subject. In other
words, Appalachian English can have either structure in this context: whether
person is a feature on T (as in (25)) or a feature carried by an independent functional
head merged above T (as in (24)), the derivation will converge in the presence of
auxiliaries, modals, and be/do, as they can raise from T to F, checking the person
feature. What is our evidence that (25) must be the structure instantiated in
Appalachian English with lexical verbs? The main piece of evidence is that lexical
verbs never appear to the left of VP adverbs, or of the subject in interrogative clauses,
suggesting that there is no verb raising. If the verb does not raise to T, it cannot raise
any higher, either; therefore the more articulated structure in (24), which results
from the merge of the person feature as the independent head F, cannot yield a
convergent derivation, because F’s feature cannot be checked on account of the

Tanaka (2000: 486) relates the change in clausal structure to a change in the status of subject
pronouns from clitics to full pronouns.
174 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

absence of verb raising. Moreover, multiple subjects never appear with lexical verbs
in Appalachian English. We take this to confirm the hypothesis that only the less
articulated structure in (25) leads to a convergent derivation with lexical verbs, as
this structure does not allow for an additional subject position.
Our proposal that Appalachian English displays both (24) and (25) can nicely
account for the properties we have observed so far, but should we be surprised by the
suggestion that a language can make use of two syntactic representations for a finite
clause, one in which a feature is merged as an independent head and another in
which it is merged as part of a bundle of features? The co-existence of two syntactic
representations is arguably what happens in the process of language change. In this
regard, Kroch (2001: 719–21) reviews Ellegärd’s (1953) study of English do in late
Middle and early Modern English, which shows a prolonged period of time (300
years) during which the rate of verb movement (V-to-T) declines and the frequency
of use of periphrastic do increases. In parallel fashion, we are proposing here that the
grammar of Appalachian English is transitioning from a system with a more
articulated structure in the inflectional domain (in which the person feature is
merged as an independent functional head) to one with a less articulated structure
(in which the person feature is merged as part of a bundle of features on T).24
If the rise of periphrastic do correlates with the loss of verb-movement in the
history of English, it is interesting to observe that Older Scots displayed an instance
of periphrastic do alongside verb raising. We will label it ‘unemphatic do’, as it
appeared in affirmative declarative clauses without expressing emphasis:
(31) a. . . . I Drawis Zow to witnes, and doys testify. (Older Scots; Douglas 1513)
. . . I draw you to witness, and do testify
b. I do desyre of thame no supporting. (Sir David Lyndsay Mon. 1552)
I do desire of them no supporting
c. In every volume quhilk thé lyst do wryte. (Douglas Ænid of Virgil 1513)
in every volume which thee list do write
Meurman-Solin’s (1993: 238–9) work with the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots
(1450–1700) shows that unemphatic do seems to have been introduced into Scottish
prose in the 1550s, which is much later than what has been found for English.
According to this work, in Older Scots of the seventeenth century ‘high frequencies
have been attested in texts dating from the last decade of the century’ (1993: 239).
Our comparative work on Older Scots and Appalachian English suggests that
Appalachian English is, generally speaking, a conservative dialect. So far, we have
seen that it resembles Older Scots in displaying person in the inflectional system as
Contact between Older Scots and the southern UK varieties of English, as well as that between
Appalachian English and standard American English may also be relevant, but we do not address it here
(see Montgomery 1994: 93).
A diachronic shift in the expression of person 175

well as transitive expletives. Now we also observe that Appalachian English displays
unemphatic do:25
(32) a. After they did organize, it went on and . . . (Appalachian English)
b. I never did know him.
c. Well, they didn’t have much for you to get when they did rob you because
they did . . .
d. He just barely did snore, you know.
These facts are consistent with our proposal that Appalachian English represents a
language in transition between a grammar with limited verb movement of certain
finite forms (auxiliaries and modals), from T to F, and one that lacks that additional
step of verb movement. Under our account, this change correlates with the change in
the encoding of person in the inflectional system: the person feature used to be
merged as an independent functional head and is now being merged as a feature of
T. Sentences with a finite auxiliary or modal can enter a derivation with either type
of encoding for the person feature (as F or as one of the features on T), whereas those
with lexical verbs only yield a convergent derivation if person is encoded in T.

9.4 Summary and further issues

In this chapter we have discussed the notion of parameter as it applies to the
expression of person, adopting the characterization that person may or may not
be expressed as an independent functional projection of the inflectional domain. If it
is, the syntactic configuration is such that the language will exhibit verb movement
and more than one position available for the subject. In light of these assumptions,
we have discussed three closely-related varieties and analyzed them as follows:
a) The grammatical system of Older Scots expresses person as an independent
functional projection in the inflectional domain. This is the positive setting of
the parameter.
b) The grammatical system of contemporary standard English does not express
person as an independent head in the inflectional domain (in fact, it does not
express it in the inflectional system at all). This is the negative setting of the
c) The grammatical system of Appalachian English is intermediate between the two:
it can express person as an independent functional head (the positive setting of
the parameter), but also, alternatively, as a feature on T (the negative setting of
the parameter). Whereas auxiliaries and modals yield a convergent derivation with
both kinds of encoding, lexical verbs do so only when person is a feature on T.

The existence of unemphatic do in Appalachian English is noted by Montgomery (1989: 244–5) and
has also been described for Southwest English dialects by Roberts (1993: 307).
176 Judy B. Bernstein and Raffaella Zanuttini

Through a comparison of Appalachian English and its ancestor Older Scots, we

have been able to provide further support for the idea that Appalachian English
expresses person in its inflectional system (a proposal we had originally made on the
basis of independent considerations). This has also led us to see Appalachian English
as a language whose grammar is in transition between the two settings of the
parameter: it used to express person as an independent head, but it now can employ
that strategy only in limited contexts (when a finite auxiliary or modal is present in
the derivation). In the absence of a finite auxiliary or modal, it expresses person as a
feature on T.
In addition to the shift between expressing person as an independent functional
head and expressing it as a feature on T, our data also reveal another diachronic
shift: grammars may shift from overtly marking person in the inflectional system (on
the verb) to overtly marking it in the nominal domain (on the subject noun
phrase).26 This shift can be seen by comparing the grammar of the three languages
we have discussed. We have noticed that in Older Scots person was always overtly
marked on the verb, either by means of a subject clitic left-adjoined to the raised
verb, or by the verbal morpheme -s. In contrast, in Appalachian English, person is
overtly marked on the verb (via verbal -s) only if it is not expressed on the subject.
Finally, in contemporary standard English, person is never overtly marked on the
verb, but only on the subject. These three differences in the morphological encoding
are likely to be a reflection of three ways in which the person feature can be encoded
in the syntax in the inflectional domain: as an independent functional head, as part
of a bundle of features, or not at all.

The property of expressing person in the inflectional domain or in the nominal domain is one that
has been argued to distinguish Insular Scandinavian languages (like Icelandic and Faroese) from Mainland
Scandinavian languages (like Swedish and Norwegian) in Platzack and Holmberg’s work.

The formal syntax of alignment


10.1 Introduction
Syntactic alignment refers to the patterning of morphosyntactic devices in a lan-
guage (e.g. agreement, case marking, word order) that distinguish internal and
external arguments. Such devices are used by linguistic typologists to define the
systems known as accusative, ergative, or active alignment. Change in syntactic
alignment has been a favourite topic among historical linguists for over thirty
years, roughly since Anderson’s (1976) paper and Chung’s (1976) dissertation, both
of which examined syntactic changes related to ergativity. Within non-generative
approaches to syntactic change, changes in alignment have often been described in
terms of reanalyses of a specific construction or morphological marker. For example,
it has been claimed that reanalysis of the passive in an accusative system can result in
ergative alignment, or that genitive or instrumental case markers can be reanalysed
as ergative markers. A generative (specifically, a minimalist) analysis of alignment
change requires a different approach. Rather than focusing on individual construc-
tions or morphemes, it investigates the formal properties of the grammatical system,
particularly the feature specifications of functional heads, and the surface manifest-
ations of those specifications that lead language learners to initiate the change. This
chapter builds on recent work on non-accusative alignment in a minimalist frame-
work to attempt such an investigation.
In what follows we first define what we think is an emerging consensus about the
formal analysis of non-accusative alignment. We use this synchronic baseline an-
alysis to study the change from a non-nominative subject construction to tense-
conditioned split ergativity in Iranian, and changes in alignment centred around
nominalized clauses in premodern Japanese. These examples involve changes that
are relatively well attested. The Indo-Iranian case is among the most thoroughly
discussed in the alignment change literature. The Old Japanese (OJ) system has been
178 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

identified as split active only recently (Yanagida 2005, 2007a,b), but the facts are well
The central argument of this chapter is that non-accusative alignment is fixed by a
small number of specific parameter settings. Changes to or from non-accusative
alignment result from changes in these settings. Non-accusative alignment occurs
when v assigns inherent case to the external argument in its specifier. This property
can be identified with a feature in v that we label for convenience [SpecCASE]. We
assume that [SpecCASE] is incompatible with the presence of uninterpretable case
features on v. The consequence is that v is unable to check the case feature of
the object, so that the object must check its case feature by some other means.
In the non-accusative alignment exemplified in Indo-Iranian languages such as
Hindi and Kurmanji (northern Kurdish), the object enters into an agree relation
with T. Change to a system of this type occurs when language learners encounter
primary linguistic data where there is a detectable agree relation between the object
and T, but no evidence that the object checks the EPP feature of T. As we show in
section 10.2, this kind of configuration arises in fairly specific sets of circumstances.
In the active pattern exemplified by Old Japanese, the object checks its case feature
by raising to a functional projection immediately to the left of vP, resulting in OSV
order. The change to accusative alignment in this language occurred when inherent
case in Spec,vP was attrited, largely because of changes in the pronominal system.
The eventual result of these changes is loss of the [SpecCASE] feature in v. Old
Japanese also raises the issue of the source for such an alignment system in earlier
stages of the language. Yanagida and Whitman (2009) suggest, in line with proposals
by Gildea (1998, 2000), that the system results from reanalysis of a predicate nominal
system involving an object nominalization.
The chapter is organized as follows. In 10.2 we establish what we suggest is a
consensus theory of ergative alignment. In section 10.3 we examine the case of
Iranian. In this section we also discuss a problem with the widespread hypothesis
that ergative alignment can originate from passive constructions. In section 10.4 we
discuss the changes in alignment of premodern Japanese.

10.2 A baseline theory of ergativity

A formal account of alignment change requires a precise synchronic account of
ergativity. While research over the past twenty years has made clear the heterogen-
eity of non-accusative alignment systems, we adopt as a baseline approach the
treatment of Hindi alignment in Anand and Nevins (2006). Under this approach,
agents receive inherent ergative case in their base position Spec,v, but raise to the
surface subject position in Spec,T to check the EPP feature of T. T enters into an
The formal syntax of alignment change 179

agree relation with the direct object, checking its own uninterpretable f features and
the f features of the object, including case. Anand and Nevins take the view that
traces are ignored by the Minimal Link Condition and v in Hindi is defective;
therefore T is able to establish an agree relation with the object.
TP (adapted from Anand and Nevins 2006: 17)

DPergS T'
Raam-ne vP T
Ram-erg tergS [EPP]
v' [uϕ]
VP vdef
rotii khaayii
bread eat.prf.fem

‘Ram ate bread.’

Thus in (1), the agent argument Raam receives inherent ergative case in Spec,vP,
and raises to check the EPP feature of T. The uninterpretable f–features of T are
checked under Agree with the internal argument rotii ‘bread’. The main empirical
evidence that Anand and Nevins provide for this analysis comes from scope
reconstruction facts: while ergative subjects take unambiguous wide scope over
objects, nominative subjects (found outside the perfective paradigm) allow both
wide and narrow scope relative to an object. This difference is important, as
most previous treatments have claimed that ergative and nominative subjects in
‘morphologically ergative’ languages are syntactically indistinguishable. Anand
and Nevins account for the scopal difference by deriving scope ambiguity from
reconstruction, and postulating that only items in an agree relationship may be
The analysis of ergative as inherent case assigned at the base position of the
subject converges with many recent treatments (Woolford 1997; Legate 2002, 2006,
2008; Aldridge 2004) and is, we believe, the core element of a consensus analysis of
ergative (and active) alignment.1 Movement of the ergative subject to Spec,TP, in
Anand and Nevins describe Hindi ergative case as lexical case. We adopt the view of Woolford (2006)
on the distinction between lexical and inherent case: lexical case is idiosyncratic, associated with particular
lexical items, while inherent case is associated with particular thematic roles or argument positions, such
as the position of external arguments.
180 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

Hindi and similar ergative languages, further explains some shared properties of
ergative subjects and nominative subjects. The agree relation between T and the
object explains the object-triggered agreement pattern in Hindi and other Indo-
Iranian languages.
However this baseline analysis also allows room for parametric variation. First,
whether or not lexical ergative is assigned to all external arguments in Spec,vP
accounts for the difference between ergative languages in the strict sense, where
ergative subjects are restricted to transitive clauses, and so-called active languages
(Sapir 1911), where lexical ‘active’ case occurs on agentive subjects in all clause types,
including intransitive unergatives. This can be handled by parametric variation in
the features associated with inherent case assigned to Spec,v. Inherent ‘ergative’ is
assigned to the specifier of [transitive] v, while inherent ‘active’ has no such
restriction (Legate 2008).2 Second, there is parametric variation in the locus of
EPP features. While in Hindi an EPP feature appears to attract the inherently case
marked (ergative) external argument to Spec,TP, this does not occur in Old Japanese
active clauses, as we see in section 10.3. In contrast, in Old Japanese active clauses, a
functional head immediately above vP bears an EPP and uninterpretable case
feature. This head attracts the object, deriving surface OSV order, and checks its
case feature. Summarizing, assignment of inherent case to the external argument by
v is the core feature of non-accusative alignment.

10.3 Iranian: non-nominative subject with participial predicate to ergative

The syntactic changes resulting in the ergative pattern in Indo-Iranian have often
been analyzed as resulting from reanalysis of passive to ergative (Matthews 1952,
Estival and Myhill 1988, Harris and Campbell 1995). In this section, we dispute this
analysis, adopting instead the hypothesis of Benveniste (1952/1966) (see also Ander-
son 1976) that ergative in Iranian results from reanalysis of a non-nominative subject
pattern, described by Benvensite as a possessive construction. We then consider the
broader theoretical reasons why passive > ergative reanalysis is problematic.

10.3.1 Iranian
The Iranian ergative pattern originates from constructions involving perfective
participles in -ta (< pIE *-to). In transitives, these show gender and number
agreement with the object, and do not assign accusative case. In a highly influential
proposal, Benveniste (1952/1966) argues that the source of the Old Iranian pattern is

Note that, strictly speaking, the label of Hindi as ‘ergative’ is incorrect: Hindi is an active system, as it
allows ergative intransitives (unergatives). This in fact simplifies the characterization of Hindi ne: it is
assigned to all external arguments, while ergative marking in the strict sense is restricted to external
arguments in [transitive] clauses.
The formal syntax of alignment change 181

a periphrastic possessive construction. We assign this construction the structure

shown for the Old Persian example in (2):
(2) ima [CP tya [TP manā [VP tmanā[PrtP PROmana krtam ttya] [exist e]]]]
this.n what.n 1s.gen do.ptcp.nom.s.n
‘This (is) what I have done since’ (Kent 1953: DB I, 28–29, cited from
Haig 2008: 26)
In (2), manā (1s.gen) is an argument of the null higher existential verb, following
the analysis of Benveniste, who assimilates the pattern to the genitive possessor þ
‘be’ construction in Old Persian shown in (3):3
(3) utā¼taiy tauhmā vasiy biyā
and¼2s.gen seed much be.can
‘And may you have much seed’ (Benveniste 1966: 179)
The genitive possessor is generated in the matrix VP and controls PRO in the
external argument position of the participial phrase. We take take no position on
whether genitive at the stage of (2)–(3) is an inherent case or is assigned structurally
within the matrix VP, but diachronically, the genitive on the matrix posessor is the
result of the merger of genitive and dative in Old Persian. In (2) we show the matrix
genitive possessor as raised to Spec,TP, based on the arguments of Haig (2008: 52–3).
Haig shows that the genitive in this pattern controls null subjects across coordinate
clauses and into clausal adjuncts. On this analysis, which essentially formalizes
Benveniste’s (1952/1966) proposal, the construction in (2) is a quirky or non-
nominative subject pattern. The possessor argument in VP—perhaps analysable as
an experiencer or location argument—receives case within VP but raises to check the
EPP feature of matrix T. This possessor argument also controls PRO in the external
argument position of the participial phrase.
Cardona (1970) argues contra Benveniste that the genitive pattern in Old Persian
was an Iranian innovation and that the original Indo-Aryan pattern is the one
attested in Sanskrit, where the agent is marked with instrumental case. The debate
continues to this day, with Bynon (2005) arguing that the possessive construction is
the older pattern within Indo-Iranian and that the instrumental construction an
innovation. However for the purposes of determining the proximate source of
ergative alignment in later varieties of Iranian, this debate is irrelevant. The source
of ergative alignment in Middle Iranian and modern Iranian ergative languages is
the pattern with genitive-marked subjects in (2). This can be seen in the Middle
Persian example in (4), where the oblique first person singular pronoun man is the

In both Old and Middle Persian, as illustrated in (2) and (4) respectively, the matrix copula was
frequently null, especially with third person singular nominative (object) arguments.
182 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

descendant of the Old Iranian first person singular genitive/dative pronoun manā
in (2):
(4) den īg man wizīd
religion which 1s.obl choose.ptcp
‘The religion which I choose’ (Boyce 175: a,1, cited from Haig 2008: 26)
By Middle Iranian, overt expression of case has been reduced to an opposition
between oblique and nominative, and the participial construction in (4) becomes the
only way to express past tense. The reflex of the participial pattern in Western
Iranian languages such as Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish) is the tense-sensitive
ergative pattern in (5):
(5) a. Min tu dît-î. (Matras 1997: 617)
1s.obl 2s.nom saw-2s
‘I saw you.’
b. Ez te di-bîn-im. (Matras 1997: 617)
1s.nom 2s.obl prog-saw-1s
‘I see you’
In the past (5a.), the ergative subject is marked oblique; agreement is triggered by
the nominative direct object. In the present (5b.), the subject is marked nominative
and triggers agreement. Matras (1992, 1997) shows that, in past transitive clauses, the
ergative (oblique- marked) argument has subject properties such as being a target for
control. The subject properties of ergative arguments can be explained, as in Anand
and Nevins’ analysis of Hindi, by assuming that both nominative and ergative
subjects raise to Spec,T. However ergative subjects also show syntactic properties
distinct from nominative subjects:
(6) a. Ez çû-m hindur û t1s ji xwe ra rûnişt-im. (Matras 1997: 640)
1s.nom went-1s inside and for self p sat-1s
‘I went inside and sat down’
b. Ez hat-im hindur û *(min) got rojbaş. (Matras 1997: 624)
1s.nom came-1s inside and 1s.obl said goodday
‘I went inside and said good day’
The contrast in (6) can be explained by analyzing (6a.) as a case of across-the-board
(ATB) raising of the subject to matrix Spec,T. The subjects in (6a.) in both conjuncts
bear the same f– (in particular, case) features. In (6b.), however, the nominative and
ergative (oblique) subjects bear different case features; thus ATB raising is blocked.4

The data are somewhat more complicated, in an interesting way. Contexts parallel to (6b.) with a
third person singular subject allow a null subject in the second conjunct (Matras 1997: 641). This can be
explained by a change in progress that is underway in Kurmanji, whereby many speakers allow in informal
The formal syntax of alignment change 183

We have seen that in a relatively well-studied modern Iranian language identified

by specialists as ergative, the properties of ergative alignment are consistent with the
baseline model adopted in 10.2. Not all Middle Iranian languages (e.g. Sogdian) are
ergative, but for those that are, such as Middle Persian in (4), the analysis in 10.2 is
consistent with the data.
In the development from Old to Middle Iranian, the main changes are the merger
of the non-nominative case forms on pronouns, the loss of most case endings on
nouns, and the loss of aorist tense, with the result that the participial construction
was reanalyzed as the only way to express past. We take this last change to be
accompanied by reanalysis of existential ‘be’ in the participial construction as an
auxiliary. As a consequence of this reanalyis, ‘be’ ceases to assign a theta role, and the
pattern in (2) is reanalyzed with the oblique subject originating in Spec,vP:
(7) [CP īg [TP man [vP tman wizīd tīg] [cop e]]]]
which 1s.obl choose.ptcp.3s
‘which I choose’ (¼4)
The pattern in (7) is fully ergative in the sense defined in 10.2. The derivation of
this pattern from the possessive pattern in (2) involves a minimal step, loss of the
theta position (possessor or location) originally associated with existential ‘be’. After
this change, the trace of the external argument in (7) must be analyzed as the foot of
a chain whose head does not check case, since T checks its case with the object.
Therefore, the foot of the chain, in Spec,vP, is analyzed by learners as an inherent
case position. The consequence is the introduction of the [SpecCASE] feature into v.
Viewed this way, the possessive structure hypothesized by Benveniste provides the
crucial ingredients for an accusative to ergative reanalysis. Participles already have
the property of not licensing accusative case, and agreeing with their objects. Indo-
Iranian-type ergative languages further require movement of the agent argument to
Spec,TP (that is, T in these languages bears an EPP feature). Here too, it is cross-
linguistically common for ‘quirky’ possessor obliques to raise to subject position. If
we assume that matrix possessors rose to Spec,TP in the source consruction (2), no
change in the surface position of the subject is required in (7).

10.3.2 Passive origin theories

This contrasts with the hypothesis that ergatives, in Indo-Iranian in particular,
derive from passives. Some problems with this hypothesis have been widely pointed

discourse a ‘double oblique’ pattern also found in some Eastern Iranian languages (Payne 1980), where
both subject and object surface with oblique case. In the double oblique pattern, normally neither subject
nor object agrees with the verb, but some speakers also allow a pattern where the subject in this pattern
triggers agreement (Dorleijn 1996). Since third person singular agreement is zero, a null third person
subject in the second conjunct can be analyzed as pro licensed by agreement, rather than the trace of ATB
184 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

out. For instance, while Indo-Iranian had a highly productive passive in -ya with
instrumental agents, no Indic or Iranian variety has developed an ergative pattern
based on -ya (Butt 2001, Bynon 2005, Haig 2008). In this section we focus on a
theoretical problem for passive origin theories. ‘Quirky case’ phenomena, involving
movement of a non-nominative DP into subject position, are well known cross-
linguistically. Possessor datives (or in the case of Iranian, dative/genitives) are one of
the best known instances of this phenomenon. But ‘quirky by-phrases’, that is,
patterns where the agent phrase in a passive moves to subject position, appear not
to exist.
To make this point, consider Korean case stacking as a productive diagnostic for
quirky case. In Korean, the ‘inner’ case of the DP is assigned in its base position, and
the ‘outer’ case marker in its derived position (Yoon 1996). In the instance of DPs
with stacked nominative case, the DP moves to Spec,TP to check the EPP feature of
T. Possessor datives, along with other oblique case markers such as locative, can be
‘case stacked’ with nominative case (8a.,b.). However case stacking with agent
phrases in passives is impossible, even when the agent marker is spelled out as
morphological dative (8c.):5
(8) a. Chungkuk uy puca hanthey ka ton i kacang manhta.
China gen rich dat nom money nom most plentiful
‘Chinese rich people have the most money’
b. Chungkuk eyse ka cicin i cal nanta.
China loc nom earthquake nom often occur
‘In China earthquakes often occur’
c. Holangi hanthey (*ka) so ka mek-hi-ess-ta.
Tiger by nom cow nom eat-pass-pst-dec
‘The cow was eaten by the tiger’
The generalization that agent phrases in passives cannot occupy subject position is
a basic tenent of modern syntactic theories. The issue is salient in frameworks
incorporating the VP-internal subject hypothesis; in such frameworks, since Fukui
and Speas (1986), it has become commonplace to generate the passive by-phrase in
the underlying external argument position. Collins (2005) and Bowers (2010) present
hypotheses which explicitly account for why the by-phrase does not raise to subject
position (and why the internal argument is able to raise over it). Regardless of which
account of these facts is correct, the core fact is that agents in passives do not raise to
subject position, even for EPP feature checking. Let us refer to this property as the
[anti-EPP] feature of agent phrases in passives.

We are grateful to Kyung-Ah Kim for assistance with the Korean data.
The formal syntax of alignment change 185

The [anti-EPP] feature raises a basic problem for any diachronic account that
derives Indo-Iranian-type ergative alignment from a passive constructions, since in
these languages the ergative case marked external argument moves to Spec,T. Thus a
passive > ergative reanalysis requires that the [anti-EPP feature] of the by-phrase in
the passive source construction somehow be lost. The absence of a clear explanation
for such a development casts doubt on the general plausibility of passive > ergative
reanalysis. Below we review the best known cases where passive > ergative analysis
has been proposed, and suggest that they are indeed dubious.

10.3.3 Indic
Indic is superficially a better case for passive > ergative reanalysis than Iranian,
because the predominant transitive pattern in Sanskrit with -ta participles expresses
agents in the instrumental, as in -ya passives. However as Butt (2001) points out, it is
unlikely that the particles used to mark ergative subject in modern Indic languages,
such as Hindi -ne, descend from the Sanskrit instrumental. Butt points out that
specialists have observed since the nineteenth century that the Sanskrit instrumental
cannot be the source for -ne; instead, the instrumental merged with the original
dative into an oblique case ending -e. -E is used to mark the external argument in
past transitive constructions in Middle Indic varieties, and modern varieties such as
Assamese. But note that -e has a dative, as well as an instrumental source. This raises
the possibility that Middle and Modern Indic ergative patterns have a source from a
possessor construction, like (2). This is essentially the position of Bynon (2005).

10.3.4 Instrumentals
Garrett (1990) argues that instrumentals can be the diachronic source for NP split
ergativity, that is, the common pattern where ergative marking applies to NPs low on
Silverstein’s (1976) NP hierarchy, such as inanimates. The basic idea is that in an
agentless expression like the door opened with the key, the instrument argument can
be reinterpreted as an ergative subject, and the case marking it receives (say,
instrumental) reinterpreted as ergative case.
Note that Garrett’s hypothesis does not say that passives can be reanalyzed as
ergatives. It specifically does not claim that passive by-phrases are reanalyzed as
ergative subjects; it says that instruments can be reanalyzed this way. Garrett’s claim
is consistent with the view we have developed here that ‘quirky case’—movement of an
argument to Spec,TP—is a step in the reanalysis of an oblique argument as an ergative
subject, because instrument arguments, unlike agent phrases in passives, may move to
subject position. Thus instrument arguments in Korean, unlike agent phrases in
passives, do allow nominative case stacking, unlike the agent phrases of passives:6

Kyung-Ah Kim points out to us that instrument or cause arguments allow case stacking in Korean
lexical passives as well—minimally contrasting with agents, which do not.
186 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

(9) I nom uy wuwulcung ey uyhase ka ay tul i ceyil manhi cwuk-ess-ci.

that bastard gen depression by nom kid pl nom most many died-pst-s
‘Probably because of that bastard depression kids died the most’

10.3.5 Polynesian
Polynesian is often cited as an example of passive > ergative reanalysis, based on
Chung’s (1976) hypothesis that the passive pattern found in accusative Polynesian
languages such as Maori was reanalyzed to produce the ergative pattern found in
languages such as Tongan and Samoan. However this hypothesis coexists with the
opposed view that the change in Polynesian was ergative to accusative. Dixon (1994:
192) concludes that in the absence of ‘a plausible reconstruction that is plainly
superior to any competitor’ ‘neither side in this debate has so far proved its case’.
A recent argument for the ergative > accusative hypothesis is Kikusawa (2002). Ball
(2007) argues for the accusative > ergative position.
In sum, there is no clear case of passive to ergative reanalysis as a historically
attested phenomenon. Given that passives are common in the world’s languages, and
ergative alignment is not uncommon, this fact would be surprising if passive were a
common source of ergativity. The approach we have developed in this section
explains why passives do not seem to give rise to ergative alignment: in core cases
of ergative alignment, the ergative subject occupies the surface subject position.
Passives systematically disallow agent phrases from occupying subject position.
This is a fundamental obstacle to reanalysis of the agent phrase in a passive as an
ergative subject.
In this section we have shown that Benveniste’s analysis of the Iranian -ta
participle construction as participle þ ‘be’, with ‘be’ selecting a possessor argument
coreferent with the agent of the participial phrase, accounts naturally for the genesis
of tense-sensitive ergativity. In the original construction, the possessor argument
checks the EPP feature of T. After ‘be’ is reanalyzed as an auxiliary, eliminating the
possessor theta position, the agent argument is reanalyzed as raising directly to
check the EPP feature of T.

10.4 Alignment change in Japanese

Modern Japanese (all varieties) is a textbook example of a nominative-accusative
language. Nominative ga marks the subject of both transitive and intransitive
clauses. Accusative o marks the direct object of transitive clauses.
(10) a. Taroo ga odotta.
Taroo nom danced
‘Taroo danced’
The formal syntax of alignment change 187

b. Hana ga saita.
flower nom bloomed
‘Flowers bloomed’
c. Taroo ga kabin o kowasita.
Taroo nom vase acc broke
‘Taroo broke the vase’
Historically, however, ModJ ga descends from a genitive marker, which is used in
Old Japanese (eighth century) to mark possessors of NP and the subjects of a variety
of subordinate clause types. In OJ, ga co-exists with another genitive marker, no,
which is the ancestor of the modern standard Japanese genitive marker. The
syntactic and semantic differences between ga and no in OJ have long been debated
by traditional Japanese linguists, but Yanagida (2005, 2007a,b) argues that ga func-
tioned as an active case marker, in a split active system restricted to certain types of
subordinate clauses. In this section, we first briefly introduce the phenomenon of
active alignment, then motivate the split active analysis of OJ. We describe the
change from split active to nominative alignment in Middle and Early Modern
Japanese, and then suggest a possible scenario for the source of split active alignment
in nominalized clauses in earlier Japanese.

10.4.1 Active alignment

In active languages, also called active-stative (Klimov 1974, 1977; Mithun 1991) or
split intransitive (Dixon 1994), intransitive subjects show two distinct patterns:
agentive intransitive subjects (typically unergatives) pattern with transitive subjects,
while non-agentive intransitive subjects (typically unaccusatives) pattern with tran-
sitive objects. This is illustrated by the Guaraní examples in (11).7
(11) a. A-jerok. b. Che-rugw.
1sa-dance 1sp-bleed
‘I dance’ ‘I bleed’
c. A-hetu ~ pee~.
1sa-kiss 2pp
‘I kiss you all’
Yanagida and Whitman (2009) argue that active is a distinct alignment type from
ergative, in two respects. First, the feature [transitive] plays a crucial role in the
assignment of ergative case, but it plays no role in active languages. Second, as first
observed by Dahlstrom (1983), active and ergative languages are sensitive to Silver-
stein’s (1976) nominal hierarchy in different ways.

We are indebted to Victor Burgos for the Guaraní data.
188 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

(12) The Nominal Hierarchy (adapted from Silverstein 1976)

pronouns > proper nouns > common nouns
1st > 2nd > 3rd person human [specific] > human > animate > inanimate

NP split ergativity applies from left to right: if ergative marking applies to some
NP on the hierarchy, it applies to every NP type on its right (cf. Dixon 1994). In
contrast, active marking applies from right to left: if an NP type receives active
marking, every NP type to its left does too. For example, active marking may be
restricted to pronouns (Koasati; Mithun 1991), or first and second person prounouns
(e.g. Lakhota; Dahlstrom 1983), or to human arguments (Central Pomo; Mithun
1991). This is the exact opposite of the situation found with NP split ergativity,
where, for example in Warlpiri, ergative marking is restricted to full NPs, and
personal pronouns follow an accusative system (cf. Legate 2002).
While noting the difference above, we apply the basic analysis presented in 10.2 to
active languages as well. Inherent case is assigned to the external argument in its base
position regardless of whether or not v bears a [transitive] feature. Assignment of
inherent active case may be sensitive to the f–feature composition of the external
argument, so that inherent case is licensed, for example, only for [human] or
[pronominal] external arguments. We discuss the licensing of object case after
introducing the basic facts of OJ alignment.

10.4.2 Active alignment in Old Japanese

Through Late Middle Japanese (sixteenth century), Japanese distinguished conclu-
sive (root) clauses from a variety of subordinate clause types that we will refer to as
The conclusive/nominalized distinction was marked on the predicate in some
conjugations. The conclusive form of the verb (13) appears in main clauses and in
complement clauses selected by verbs of utterance and cognition such as ‘think’ and
‘say’. Conclusive clauses show an accusative case marking pattern: both subject and
object are bare (zero-marked).

Conclusive: Accusative
(13) a. Wa go opo kimi Ø kuni Ø siras-u ras-i. (Man’yôshû (MY) 933)
I gen great lord country rule-conc seem-conc
‘My great lord seems to rule the country’
b. [waga yadwo no ume Ø saki–tar-i to] tuge (MY 1011)
my house gen plum bloom-prf-conc comp tell
‘telling (you) that the plum has blossomed at my house’
The formal syntax of alignment change 189

The subordinate clause types we have labelled ‘nominalized’ are exemplified by the
adnominal examples in (14).8
Adnominal: Active
(14) a. wa-ga sekwo ga koto Ø tor-u nape ni (MY 4135)
I-gen husband a koto take-adn when at
‘As soon as my husband takes up his koto (to play on)’
b. Wagimokwo ga swode mo sipopo ni naki-si so omopayu. (MY 4357)
my.wife a sleeves even drenched cry-pst.adn foc long.for
‘I long for my wife who cried so her sleeves were drenched’
c. Kanasiki kworo ga ninwo Ø pos-ar-u kamo. (MY 3351)
dear child a cloth drying-is-adn exclam
‘My dearest maid is drying her linens!’
d. Ikuri ni so puka miru Ø op-uru. (MY 135)
Reef on foc deep kelp grow-adn
‘It is on reefs that the deep sea kelp grows’
We see an active pattern in OJ (14). In (14a.–b.) the external argument, that is, the
agent of the transitive (14a.) and unergative (14b.) verbs, is marked by the genitive
particle ga. In (14c.–d.), the patient subject of the unaccusative verb behaves like the
object of the transitive verb in (14a.): both are zero-marked. Ga marks DPs higher on
the nominal hierarchy (12). The first and second person pronouns wa and na are
obligatorily marked with ga. [Human] DPs are marked by ga when specific. Non-
human DPs do not appear with ga, except for anthropomorphized nouns such as
tazu ‘crane’ and pi ‘sun’. With third person subjects, the choice of ga depends not
only on the semantics of the DP but on the semantics of the predicate. The contrast
between ga and zero marked subjects is sensitive to the Nominal Hierarchy and the
thematic role assigned by the verb. Table 10.1 shows the active case marking pattern
in nominalized clauses (see Yanagida 2007a,b; Yanagida and Whitman 2009).

TABLE 10.1. The active system in nominalized clauses

active inactive

subject ga Ø
object Ø

Other nominalized clauses types are the realis (izenkei) and irrealis (mizenkei) conditional, and in Old
Japanese, nominalizations in -aku.
190 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

10.4.3 Object marking in Old Japanese nominalized clauses

While bare objects occur between the subject and the verb, they are almost without
exception non-branching N0s, as in (14c.). Yanagida (2007a,b) shows that objects in
this position are incorporated into the verb. The restriction of bare objects to
incorporated N0s suggests that v in nominalized clauses is unable to check case on
the object.9 Of course this is what is expected in a language with non-accusative
alignment: in our baseline account of ergative/active languages, v does not license
object case. How, then, are phrasal objects licensed?
Yanagida (2006) shows that phrasal objects appear to the left of ga-marked
subjects in Old Japanese. In other words, for phrasal objects in nominalized clauses
in OJ, constituent order is OSV, a striking difference from later varieties of Japanese.
Examples are given in (15).
(15) a. pana tatibana wo wotomye-ra ga tama nuku made ni (MY 4166)
orange blossom wo maiden-pl a bead thread-adn until loc
‘until the maidens thread the orange blossoms on their beads’
b. kimi wo a ga omopu toki (MY 4301)
lord wo 1s a long.for time
‘the time when I long for my dearest lord’
Some, but not all phrasal objects are marked by wo, the ancestor of the modern
Japanese accusative marker o. However wo does not appear to be an object case
marker yet at this period. It marks not just objects, but a variety of adjuncts
including PPs (Motohashi 1989, Yanagida 2006):
(16) A ga koromo sita ni wo ki-mas-e (MY 3584)
1s a robe under loc obj wear-hon-imp
‘Wear this robe of mine underneath’
Yanagida and Whitman (2009) show that OJ wo is a marker of specificity. Thus
wo may mark wh-phrases, but when it does, they receive a specific interpretation:
(17) Sipo pwi-na-ba tamamo kari tum-ye ipye no
tide recede-prf-if seaweed cut gather-imp house gen
imo ga pamaduto kop-aba nani wo simyesa-m-u? (MY 360)
wife a want-if what obj proffer-con-adn
‘If the tide has gone out, cut and gather the precious seaweed! If my wife at
home asks for gifts from the shore, which (other) shall I offer her?’

The proposal that structural case is not assigned to objects in OJ adnominal clauses was originally
made by Miyagawa (1989).
The formal syntax of alignment change 191

We see then that OJ objects are fundamentally bare, conforming to the active case
marking pattern in Table 10.1, but they may be marked with wo if specific. The most
striking fact about OJ nominalized transitive clauses is that their constituent order is
OSV. Since placement of non-incorporated objects to the left of the subject is
obligatory, this fact would seem to be related to case licensing.10

10.4.4 Analysis
On the baseline account of non-accusative alignment that we presented in 10.2, non-
accusative v has two properties: it assigns inherent case to the external argument, but
does not license case on the object. The Hindi pattern as analysed by Anand and
Nevins represents one reponse to this situation: movement of the external argument
to check the EPP feature of T enables an Agree relation between T and the object.
Old Japanese represents another response to the basic properties of non-
accusative v. There is no evidence for an Agree relation between T and the object
in OJ, but there is clear evidence for dislocation of the object. We hypothesize that
the object is attracted by an EPP-bearing functional projection on the minimal phase
edge. The object checks its case feature with the head of this projection. Because the
inherent case of the external argument is checked off in situ, movement of the object
over the subject in (Spec,vP) does not violate Shortest Move (cf. Legate 2008).
Yanagida and Whitman (2009) hypothesize that the head that attracts the object
to the left of the subject is Aspect. Support for this view comes from Washio’s (2004)
analysis of OJ aspect selection. Washio shows that the distribution of the two OJ
perfective auxiliaries, tu and nu, is sensitive to the transitivity of VP. On this analysis,
OJ transitive sentences have the following structure:
(18) (=15b) AspP

DP0 Asp'
kimi wo vP Asp
lord wo [EPP]
DPerg v' [uϕ]
a ga VP v
1sa [uϕ]
tkimi V
‘I long for my lord’
This order is crosslinguistically rare. Whitman (2008) observes that Haspelmath et al. (2005) identify
four OSV languages in their typological database. The OSV status of two of these, Warao and Tobati, is
disputed. The other two, Nadëb and Wik Ngathana, are identified in the literature as ergative. It is
therefore possible that there is a correlation between OSV order and non-accusative alignment.
192 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

It is somewhat more difficult to establish whether T bears an EPP feature at this

period. If it does, the ga-marked subject must check the EPP feature of T in
intransitive nominalized clauses, and the wo-marked object must check this feature
in transitive clauses, to maintain OSV order.11

10.4.5 Change from active to accusative

Harris and Campbell (1995: 258) describe as a possible but hypothetical change a shift
from active to accusative alignment caused by reanalyis of an active case marker as
nominative. Klimov (1974, 1977) also suggests that active > accusative is a wide-
spread development. But these suggestions are speculative: previous literature has
not attested the change active > accusative within the textually documented history
of a single language. However over the course of about 800 years, the shift from
active to accusative is exactly what happens in Japanese. The change is not a one-step
process. The steps in the development of accusative alignment by the end of Late
Middle Japanese (sixteenth century) seem to have been the following: attrition of ga-
marked transitive subjects, expansion of no-marked transitive subjects, emergence of
wo as a structural case marker, limitation of ga to intransitive clauses, and finally,
establishment of nominative ga.
In the transition from OJ to Early Middle Japanese (ninth century), the pronom-
inal system undergoes major changes. In particular, the monosyllabic deficient
personal pronouns wa ‘I’, na ‘thou’, ta ‘who’, and si ‘s/he’ are lost in EMJ, except
in frozen expressions where wa serves as a possessor. As we noted in 10.3.2, these
pronouns are always marked with active ga in OJ when they serve as subjects, so
their loss results in a signficant reduction in the quantity of ga-marked external
arguments encountered by the language learner.
Already in OJ, [  human] and nonspecific subjects in nominalized clauses occur
marked with genitive no in SOV order:
(19) a. parusame no yokure-do ware wo nuras-aku (MY 1697)
spring rain gen avoid-although I wo drench-nom
‘(that) the spring rain, however (I) try to avoid it, drenches me’
b. Soko mo ka pito no wa wo koto nas-am-u? (MY 512, 1329,1376)
That too q people gen I wo things say-will-adn
‘Will people say that of me too?’

As observed by Yanagida and Whitman (2009), OSV order in OJ nominalized clauses parallels what
Gildea (1998: 190–6, 2000: 85–8) calls the ‘AV ergative’ system in Cariban languages, originally referred to
as ‘De-ergative’ by Franchetto (1990). In this system, the agent remains within VP, while the object appears
outside the VP. The De-ergative system in Kuikúro is sensitive to the nominal hierarchy, according to
Franchetto (1990), suggesting that it is ergative. Yanagida and Whitman show that the basic properties of
this structure are parallel to the active properties of OJ nominalized clauses.
The formal syntax of alignment change 193

This pattern is rare in OJ, but it becomes widespread in kunten glossed texts in
EMJ. The following examples are taken from the Konkômyô Saishô Ôkyô ‘The Sutra
of Golden Light’ (kunten text ca. 830; interpretations are based on Kasuga 1969).
(20) a. Yoki wotoko yoki womina no . . . sinkyau no kokoro wo nasamu (K 3–5:46)
good men good woman gen reverent gen mind wo produce
‘(that) good men and good women . . . might produce a reverent mind’
b. Yoki wotoko yoki womina no . . . Sanzyou dou wo syusemu (K 3–5:50)
good man good woman gen Triyāna way wo practice
‘(that) good men and good women might master the Triyāna doctrine’
The combined effect of more S no O V data and less—ultimately no—O Spronoun
ga V data was to make ga increasingly infrequent in transitive contexts. At the same
time, not only S no O wo V but also [e] O wo V data occurred, where [e] was pro or
the trace of A’ extraction such as relativization. The result of these changes in the
input was reanalysis of wo as a structural accusative case marker. Further evidence of
this reanalysis is the disappearance of PP þ wo examples like (16) during EMJ.
The reanalysis of wo as a structural case marker had far-reaching consequences.
Under the framework outlined in 10.2, structural accusative case assigned by v is
incompatible with the [SpecCASE] feature in v responsible for assignment of inherent
active case to the external argument. The first consequence of this change seems to
have been the disappearance of ga as marker of the external argument in transitive
clauses in Late Middle Japanese (LMJ). Yamada (2000) examines the increase in the
frequency of ga by comparing the oldest manuscript versions of the Tale of Heike,
which are believed to reflect fourteenth century LMJ, with the romanized text of
Heike (the Amakusa Heike) published by Jesuit missionaries in 1592. Yamada
observes that the frequency of ga increases in the Amakusa Heike, but that it is
more frequent with the subjects of intransitive predicates. At this period, we may
hypothesize that the [SpecCASE] feature has been lost in transitive v, leading transi-
tive clauses to appear with wo as the spellout of structural accusative case and
without inherent ga marking on their external argument. At around the same
time, the highest frequency nominalized clause type, the adnominal, supplants the
conclusive pattern of OJ and EMJ in root as well as subordinate clauses. That is, the
pattern that showed active alignment in earlier Japanese supplants the earlier
accusative pattern, at exactly the period when wo (originally a marker of specificity)
is reanalyzed as a structural accusative and inherent ga disappears.
Yamada finds ga in all types of intransitives in sixteenth century LMJ, both
unergatives and unacusatives. This indicates that ga is no longer sensitive to the
thematic role of the subject; that is ga has ceased to be an inherent case. By the
seventeenth century, ga reappears in transitive clauses, with subjects of all types, as
indicated by data like the following:
194 John Whitman and Yuko Yanagida

(21) ano mono ga orusu wo itas-eba (Kyôgen Busu, Toraakira-bon 1647)

that person nom acc do-if
‘if that person watches over the house’
By this period, conclusive and adnominal clause ending have completely merged
in favour of the latter; that is, the adnominal endings have been reanalyzed as matrix
clause endings. As a consequence, the syntax of adnominal clauses, which has
changed from active to nominative with overt structural case markers, becomes
the alignment pattern of main clauses in Japanese.
We can summarize the changes outlined above as follows:
(22) Active > accusative in Japanese
a. Decrease in ga-marked pronouns, increase in no-marked transitive subjects.
Consequence: loss of evidence for case-checking movement of object.
b. Wo reanalysed as structural accusative
Consequence: inherent ga restricted to intransitive clauses.
c. Ga licensed by T, adnominal reanalyzed as matrix.
Consequence: accusative alignment in main clauses.
Under this analysis, the loss of active alignment in OJ nominalized clauses is
triggered by independent developments, much as the reanalysis of the copula as
auxiliary in Iranian participle constructions triggers the change to ergative align-
ment. In Middle Japanese, attrition of active subjects in transitives led to the
reanalysis of wo as a structural case marker. This in turn led to limitation of inherent
ga to intransitive clauses, and eventually its reanalysis as a structural nominative.

10.5 Conclusion
In developing the account of alignment change in this chapter, we have focused on a
fairly small number of parametric changes. Chief among them are changes affecting
[SpecCASE], the feature responsible for assignment of inherent case to external
arguments in situ. Related parametric changes in non-accusative languages have to
do with the mechanisms for case licensing on objects. In the course of our discus-
sion, we have provided support from formal syntax for three claims made in the
earlier historical/typological literature: that possessive þ participle constructions
can be a source for tense-sensitive ergative alignment; that passive is not a plausible
source for ergative alignment; and that active alignment can be reanalyzed as
The formal syntax of alignment change 195

Texts (Japanese Primary Sources)

Kasuga, Masaji. 1969. Konkomyô Saishô Ôkyô Koten no Kokugogakuteki Kenkyû. Tokyo:
Kojima, Noriyuki; Kinosita, Masatake; and Tôno, Haruyuki. 1995. Man’yôshû (1–4), Nihon
Koten Bungaku Zenshû. Tokyo: Shogakkan.
Nakanishi, Susumu. 1978–1983. Man’yôshû. Tokyo: Kôdansha Bunko, (reprinted in
Satake, Asahiro, Kudô, Rikio, Ohtani, Masao and Yamazaki Yoshiyuki. 2002. Man’yôshû Shin
Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei (1–4). Tokyo: Iwanami.

Electronic Texts
Japanese Text Initiative Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library (http://etext.lib.
Yoshimura, Makoto, Yamaguchi University (

The diachronic development

of the Irish comparative particle

11.1 Introduction
The history of the Modern Irish particle particle ná ‘than’ can be traced from the
earliest prose examples of Irish (circa eighth century) until the present day and
therefore, the history of this particle is particularly instructive as a case study in
syntactic reanalysis and grammaticalization. The Modern Irish particle ná ‘than’ is a
phonologically reduced and syntactically reanalyzed form of the Old Irish sequence
ol daäs ‘beyond how is’. The difference between the two comparative markers can
be observed by contrasting the Old Irish example (1) with the Modern Irish
equivalent (2).
(1) Is dochu indala n-ái [ol OP daäs anaill].
cop.3s.prs likely.comp of.them beyond (how) (NAS)be.3s.prs.rel other
‘One of them is more likely than how the other is.’ (Wb. 4b24)
(2) Tá an ceann seo níos fearr [ná an ceann eile].
Be.3s.prs the one this more better than the one other
‘This one is better than the other one.’
In Old Irish, the verb is obligatorily present in the comparative clause and the
comparative marker is the preposition ol ‘beyond’. The verb in this sequence is
marked as relative (a fact which I will return to below) and is a form of the
locational/existential copula atá. It has the full range of verbal tenses, moods, and
person/number inflections. In Modern Irish, in contrast, a verb is not necessary and
the marker of comparison is the particle ná.
It is the purpose of this chapter to provide an account of the observed change
from verb to particle. In order to do so, it will be necessary to use the methods of
internal reconstruction within the realm of syntactic change. In particular, I will
examine various discrepancies involving the syntax of the comparative marker in
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 197

Old Irish and posit changes in pre-Old Irish1 in order to account for these discrep-
ancies. Specifically, I claim that the initial and fundamental change was a pre-
historical change from V to C, as found in many languages in various contexts
(Heine and Kuteva 2002). The textual evidence2 also shows many morphological and
syntactic extensions as well as one possible subsequent syntactic reanalysis from C
to P. These reanalyses, with their associated extensions, were long-term develop-
ments, which took place over approximately six hundred years, and are partly
obscured by the archaizing or ‘conservative’ tendency of the scribes of Irish manu-
This chapter is an attempt to apply the minimalist theory of grammaticalization
formulated in Roberts and Roussou (2003) to a new set of data. They argue that the
formal correlate of grammaticalization is upwards reanalysis of some feature (along
the clausal spine) associated with parameter change, i.e. grammaticalization is
‘reanalysis [that] gives rise to a new exponent for a higher functional head X’
(Roberts and Roussou 2003: 200). They characterize parameter change in terms of
the realization of features on a given functional head. The idea is that a formal
feature may or may not be realized at PF. If a feature is realized at PF they use the
diacritic *. Another way that features can vary is if they are satisfied via Merge or
Move (or Agree) or some combination of these. Finally, they argue that there is a
hierarchy of parameters settings for a given feature F, organized according to
markedness, where markedness is defined in terms of Longobardi’s simplicity metric
involving feature syncretisms (3).
(3) A structural representation R for a substring of input text S is simpler than
an alternative representation R’ iff R contains fewer formal feature syncretism
than R’
(Longobardi 2001: 294)

For the purposes of this chapter I will use the term pre-Old Irish to refer to the time period before the
earliest manuscripts of the eighth century. There is, of course, no definite time in which pre-Old Irish
became Old Irish.
The texts and manuscripts used in the corpus, along with their dates and abbreviations (if used as a
source of examples) are: Würzburg Glosses (eighth century, Wb), Milan Glosses (ninth century, Ml.),
Tógail Bruidne Dá Derga (tenth century), Fingal Rónáin (tenth century), Bethu Brigte (tenth century),
Triparite Life of Patrick (possibly tenth century), Orgain Denna Ríg (tenth century ODR), Liber Hym-
norum Prefaces (eleventh century), LU Táin (eleventh century), Aislinge Meic Conglinne (eleventh
century AMC), LL Táin (twelfth century), Acallam na Senórach (late twelfth century), Acallam Bec
(thirteenth century), Annals of Ulster (1200–1540), Marc Polo (post 1320), Astronomical Tract (fifteenth
century), Life of Beavis of Hampton (late fifteenth century), Travels of John of Maundeville (fifteenth
century), Stair Ercuil ocus a bás (fifteenth century), Life of Guy of Warwick (fifteenth century), Stair
Fortibrais (fifteenth century), Desiderius (sixteenth century). Examples were also taken from the following
texts: The Lambeth Commentary (seventh century, Lambeth Comm.), and the Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí
Dhomhnaill (seventeenth century, BAR) and the LU Fled Bricrend (before twelfth century). Finally, the
Dictionary of the Irish Language (DIL) is used as a reference for certain examples/phenomena.
198 Elliott Lash

Parameter settings tend to move from most marked to least marked. Therefore, as
some element grammaticalizes, the structure associated with it will become simpler.
As an example, consider the change of English modals from verbs in T to exponents
of T. In Roberts and Roussou’s terms, this is described as a change in parameter
setting T*move (triggering V to T movement), to the setting T*merge (whereby the
element in T is analyzed as a T element exclusively). Since moving an element into a
new position requires that there be a feature licensing it in its merged position and
one triggering movement, then movement is featurally more complex (Roberts and
Roussou 2003: 210). Hence, the grammaticalization of modals as T elements moves
from marked to less marked. I will return to these ideas in the discussion of the Irish
comparative marker.
In section 11.2, the earliest textual evidence of the comparative construction is
discussed. Furthermore, reasons are given as to why one must view the sequence ol
daäs in Old Irish as instantiating ‘relic grammar’, and hence open to the methods of
internal reconstruction. In section 11.3, an analysis of the possible earlier state of
affairs that underlies this sequence is provided. In section 11.4, the reanalysis leading
up to the historically attested forms is discussed and related back to the above
discussion of grammaticalization. Then, in section 11.5, I discuss a second reanalysis
that is problematic for the approach to grammaticalization discussed above. I term
this the second reanalysis. I will describe and motivate some extensions of the second
reanalysis in section 11.6. Finally section 11.7 will briefly conclude this chapter.

11.2 Eighth century Old Irish data

First, some preliminary structural issues need to be resolved. I have mentioned above
that comparative clauses are introduced by the preposition ol. This is then followed,
at least at a superficial descriptive level, by a verbal form. This is a form of the verb
a-tá ‘to be’, the root of which is -tá-. In one of the earliest Old Irish texts in a
contemporary manuscript, the eighth century Würzburg Glosses (Wb.), the form of
the verb varies for person and tense. Over time, these features are gradually lost from
this element.
Another important point to note is that the verb is inflected with special relative
morphology, showing up as the suffix -as in the third singular present tense. This is
unsurprising, since, as we know from the literature on comparatives beginning with
Chomsky (1977), these constructions tend to have all the hallmarks of a wh-depend-
ency. As it turns out, the wh-nature of the comparative construction in Old Irish is
doubly marked. In particular, another characteristic of the construction is that the
initial consonant of the verb has undergone consonant mutation. Consonant muta-
tion plays a large role in Old Irish (as it does in Modern Irish, see Duffield 1995,
McCloskey 2009) in expressing various syntactic relations among which is the
function of an antecedent in wh-constructions. The mutation found in comparative
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 199

clauses is termed ‘nasalization’ in the philological literature (see Ahlqvist 1983, 1985,
Breatnach 1980, McCone 1980, and Ó hUiginn 1986, 1987). In Old Irish, nasalization
was a morphophonological operation that voiced unvoiced stops and changed
voiced stops into the corresponding nasal. (4) shows that the initial /t/ of tá- ‘be’
has been voiced to /d/ and (5) shows that the initial /b/ of the past tense boí was
nasalized to /m/ (spelled <mb>). A vowel- initial verb just adds /n/, as (6) below
(4) Ba ferr ol daas a dígal.
cop.3s.pst better beyond (nas)be.3s.rel its avenging
‘It would be better than avenging it.’ (Wb. 9c21)
(5) Ba deidbiriu dún ni immormus ol mbói do som.
cop.3s.pst proper.comp for.1p us sinning beyond (NAS)be.3s.pst for.3s him
‘It was more proper for us to sin than it was for him.’ (Wb. 9c10)
The nasalization in comparative clauses is comparable to cases in which the verb
is nasalized in the presence of some sort of adverbial extraction. The adverbial
antecedent type that is most relevant for the current discussion consists of those
antecedents that designate manner/extent. For example, in the following sentence
(6), méit ‘extent’ denotes extent. In both comparative clauses (4), (5) and in the
sentence in (6), the verb in the wh-clause is clearly nasalized.3
(6) Is sí méit insin do n-indnagar in díthnad.
cop.3s.prs 3sf. extent that pv nas-bestow.3s.prs.pass the consolation
‘That is the extent to which consolation is bestowed.’ (Wb. 14b15)
The marking of verbs in the presence of extracted elements is fairly widespread in
languages (for example, Chamorro Wh-Agreement as discussed in Chung 1994,
1998). For Irish, a plausible account is to think that consonant mutation is the reflex
at PF of the presence of an operator in the specifier of CP, specifically the PF
expression of an Agree relation (Chomsky 2000) between the wh-complementiser
and the operator. This is because the mutation appears on the initial phonological
segment of whatever element is linearly to the right of any complementizer particle.
As a first approximation then, I propose that the structure of the comparative
clause in Old Irish at the time of Würzburg Glosses is (7). I will revise this structure
immediately below where further data is taken into account.
(7) [PP ol [CP [OPi] [C þ wh ] [TP NAS-ta þ wh(  as) . . . ti ] ] ]
(7) summarizes the features discussed above. It shows the original preposition ol;
an adverbial operator, which agrees with C þ wh and moves to its specifier; the

I follow Newton (2006) in assuming that preverbs, PV in (6) are in C.
200 Elliott Lash

nasalization on the element immediately following the operator; and finally wh-
marking on the verb.

11.3 A prehistory of the comparative

In this section, we will see that, despite its initial appearances, the structure in (7) is
in fact not appropriate for earliest historically attested Old Irish, but rather repre-
sents an earlier structure. There are three arguments to be made here.
First, the preposition ol is very rare outside of this construction and seems to be
obsolescent in the Old Irish period before nouns, being frequently replaced by the
preposition dar ‘beyond’ before such elements. Furthermore, even when it is found
in these contexts, al (DIL al A.281) is the more normal form. Moreover, from the
ninth-century Milan Glosses onward, an alternative construction with the overt
adverbial element in(d) (an adverbial dative form of the definite article) instead of
ol is attested. The obsolescence of ol both in comparative and non-comparative
contexts, and the appearance of in(d) in comparative contexts, make it likely that ol
is a relic of the original construction that was undergoing gradual replacement in the
historical period.
Second, the verb form daäs itself is very rare outside of this construction in the
historical period. Instead, suppletive forms are used in operator contexts generally.
Ó hUiginn (1987) mentions only three examples, (8) to (10), with a form of (a)-tá in
other constructions,4 and says that these are vestiges of an earlier system. Contrast
(10) showing the putative older system, with (11) which shows the more common
system in Old (and Middle Irish), with the suppletive past tense form ro-nd-gab
‘took’ acting as a present tense form of ‘be’ in nasalizing contexts.
(8) Is midlachda OP no taí.5
cop.3s.prs cowardly (how) pv be.2s.prs
‘How you are is cowardly.’ (LU, Fled Bricrend 8776)
(9) Is dicheill OP no taí frim.
cop.3s.prs unreasonable (how) pv be.2s.prs to.1s
‘How you are is unreasonable towards me.’ (Ériu xii 178 §9)
(10) amal daäs dechur fochricce la Día
like (nas)be.3s.prs.rel difference.nom rewards.gen with God.acc
‘like/as there is a difference of rewards with God . . . ’ (Lambeth Comm. 399)

There is another verb tá- ‘be angry, vex, ail’, also found in nasalizing operator contexts, which has
been confused with this verb in the philological literature, however Schumacher (2004) has argued for a
new etymology completely separating it from (a)-tá ‘be’.
Nasalization (i.e. voicing) of /t/ is not usually marked orthographically.
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 201

(11) amal rondgab dechur fochricce la Día . . .

since be.3s.prs.rel difference.nom rewards.gen with God.acc
‘like/as there is a difference of rewards with God . . . ’ (Lambeth Comm. 390)
Since the form daäs is essentially found in the comparative construction only,
whereas in all other instances there is a suppletive form, we can assume that the
suppletive forms are spreading at the expense of the form daäs. In the comparative
construction, daäs has been in a sense ‘frozen’ and is not susceptible to this spread.
Below, I will introduce a formal explanation for this ‘frozen’ or ‘relic’ behaviour.
The third reason for suspecting that (7) does not represent the structure of the
comparative in the synchronic grammar of the eighth and ninth-century historical
texts is that the verb in this construction does not exhibit one crucial characteristic of
wh-marked forms. Usually, first and second person verb forms in wh-constructions
undergo the morphological process of no-insertion. The sample paradigm of beirid
‘carry’ in (12) illustrates this. Examples (8) and (9), above, show no-insertion, in
(12) Non-wh-forms Wh-forms
1st biru bermai no-biur no-beram
2nd biri beirthe no-bir no-beirid
3rd beirid berait beires bertae
Since (12) shows that no-insertion happens in first and second person verb forms, it
is surprising that it does not happen with the verb (a)-tá in the comparative
construction. The forms of this verb found in this construction are given in (13).
(13) SG PL
1st ol daú/dó –7
2nd ol daí –
3rd ol daäs ol datae
In other words, given the paradigm in (14) and (15), the paradigm in (16) and (17)
is expected, in which daäs behaves like any other verb.8 Given that (16) and (17) are
not found, I conclude that the structure in (7) is not appropriate for the synchronic
grammar of Old Irish.

The change in endings in the first and second person is not relevant—any time a proclitic particle is
added to the verb, a different set of endings known as ‘conjunct’ are used. The endings of the third person
on the other hand are specific to wh-constructions.
Thurneysen (1946) gives the forms ol-dammit and ol-dathe, but these may be later forms.
Examples (14)–(17) are not found in the texts, they are constructed for the argument in the body of
the text.
202 Elliott Lash

(14) intan no n-ailim

when pv
‘when I nourish . . . ’
(15) intan n-ailes
when nas-nourish.3s.prs.rel
‘when he nourishes . . . ’
(16) *ol no dó/daú
beyond pv (nas)-be.1s.prs
‘beyond how I am . . . ’
(17) ol daäs
beyond be.3s.prs.rel
‘beyond how he is . . . ’
In Ahlqvist (1985), no-insertion is mentioned as a possible late development. This
seems confirmed by some examples of archaic poetry mentioned in Thurneysen
(1946: 493) where no-insertion does not apply. For example, (18) shows saigthe and
not the expected no-saigthe, the form used in wh-constructions like relative clauses.
(18) ata saidbri saigthe
cop.3p.prs.rel riches seek.2p.prs
‘whose riches they are that you seek . . . ’
Thus, because of the above concerns, the gradual obsolescence of ol outside of the
comparative construction, the gradual replacement of daäs outside of this construc-
tion, and the lack of no-insertion, there is some reason to think some reanalysis had
affected this construction. Specifically, I propose that daäs (and any other form in
this construction) should no longer be analyzed as a verb by the time of the Old Irish
Glosses (eighth and ninth centuries). At some point prior to the earliest Old Irish
texts, the structure in (7) was replaced and the sequence ol daäs was frozen or

11.4 The first reanalysis: V to C

The reanalysis of daäs in the comparative construction had to have occurred before
no-insertion was innovated in relative clauses, and before the shift to suppletive
relative verbal forms for the verb (a)-tá, because otherwise we would expect that
these processes should also apply to daäs in comparative clauses. The reanalysis
seems to have been from V to C, as argued below. The question is, how could such a
reanalysis have come about and why did it not target other instances of daäs, like the
one found in (10)? In this context daäs must have been fully verbal since it was
replaced with suppletive relative forms as in (11).
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 203

In answer to this question, I suggest first that the comparative context differed
from other contexts in which daäs was used because in this context an analysis
involving gapping may have been possible, whereas in other contexts this analysis
was impossible. Thus, the sentence in (19), could have both of the analyses in (20).
(19) ol OP daäs in fer
beyond (how) be.3s.prs.rel the man
‘than the man (is) . . . ’
(20) (a) [PP ol [CP [OPi] [C þ wh ] [TP [T NAS-taas] . . . ti ] ] ]
(b) [PP ol [CP [OPi] [C daas] [TP [T . . . ti ] ] ] ]
The possibility of both of these analyses is due to the fact that Old Irish clearly
allowed for tense and person agreement to appear in C as well as in T (which is to be
expected following Chomsky 2008). A clear instance of this is the third singular form
of the copula, which patterns with complementizers in hosting object clitics, as in
(21) and (22).9
(21) Iss um écen precept.
cop.3s.prf me necessary teaching
‘I need to teach.’ (Wb. 10d24)
(22) co te n-ibha
that it nas-drink.3s.prs.sbj
‘so that he may drink it . . . ’ (Heldensage 51.3)
For the gapping analysis to be posited, daäs would have to have been sufficiently
unstressed to become cliticized to ol, as only weakly or non-stressed items appeared
in the particle (or C) position (see the discussions in Watkins 1963 and Koch 1987).
Such phonological and prosodic correlates to grammaticalization are fairly com-
monly posited in the literature, although there is no direct evidence of such a stress
shift in Old Irish, merely because of the type of corpus available.
However, with the above caveat, I assume that such cliticization occurred. Why
then should other instances of daäs not allow a gapping analysis and therefore not
allow cliticization with subsequent grammaticalization to C? The answer here is
simply that in other contexts, gapping would never be possible because the gapped
element would not have been recoverable at LF. Consider again example (10), with
its full context, repeated here as (23).

There is further evidence that the copula is in C in Old Irish. Such evidence comes from the
interpretation of null subjects with the copula, copula and complementizer allomorphy, the positioning
of wh-induced consonsant mutation relative to the copula, and various details of identificational sen-
tences. For examples of these, see Lash (2011).
204 Elliott Lash

(23) amal daäs dechur fochricce la Día

like/as (nas)be.3s.prs.rel difference.nom rewards.gen with God.acc
like/as there is a different set of rewards with God . . . ’ (Lambeth Comm. 399)
In the text, this sentence is is completed with the phrase given in (24), such that
the translation of the whole is the sentence given in (25).
(24) atá dechur pían.
be.3s.prs difference torments.gen
‘There is a difference of torments.’ (Lambeth Comm. 399)
(25) ‘Just like there is a difference of rewards with God, there is a difference of
Gapping the verb from the first clause of (25) would result in a very different
interpretation, given in (26), where the most natural interpretation would be to
interpret amal as ‘similar to’.
(26) ‘Just like (¼ similar to) a difference of rewards with God, there is a difference
of torment.’
Additionally, much of the time, amal means not ‘as, like’ but ‘as if, as though’,
which likely would act similarly to these complementizers/conjunctions in English in
not allowing gapping. Moreover, none of the other elements that are found with the
nasalizing wh-construction, namely lasse ‘while’, céin ‘however long as’, in tain
‘when’ (among others) are compatible with a gapping analysis. This leaves only ol
daäs susceptible to such an analysis.
In connection with Roberts and Roussou’s (2003) proposal that grammaticaliza-
tion is upwards reanalysis due to parameter resetting, I take the view that the change
from V (in T) to C is a shift in the parameter setting of C. More specifically,
I propose that the change was a shift from C[tense]*agree to C[tense]*merge. This
essentially means that the realization of the tense feature shifted from being fulfilled
via an agreement relationship to being fulfilled via merge of a tense element in C.
Finally, note that this reanalysis is not obviously because of previous morphological
change which is claimed to be the usual cause of ambiguity (Roberts and Roussou
2003: 204). Rather, reanalysis is merely due to purely structural ambiguity. This is
similar to the case of the grammaticalization of Greek and English complementizers
pou and that respectively, which involves ambiguity in relative clauses (Roberts and
Roussou 2003: 196).
However, this does not seem to be the entire story. Recall the descriptive obser-
vation given above (20), (21) that the third singular form of the copula appears to
pattern like complementizers, although it is historically a verb. I take this to mean
that the copula was reanalyzed from V to C at some point in the pre-history of Old
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 205

Irish. This must have occurred before daäs underwent this same change, given the
facts of wh-consonant mutation in copula clauses as compared to daäs. In copula
clauses, when there is a wh-operator, the copula itself does not undergo nasalization.
Instead, the non-verbal predicate undergoes this mutation, as we see in (27). Thus, it
seems as though mutation effects the constituent immediately after the complemen-
tizer, at PF, whatever that constituent might be. Since daäs has obviously undergone
the mutation, there must have been a time when daäs was in a position to the right
of the complementizer position at PF.
(27) céin bas mbéo in fer
however.long cop.3s.fut.rel (nas).alive the man
‘however long that the man will be alive . . . ’ (Wb. 10b23)
I take the innovation of the copula as an instantiation of C (at some point in the
pre-Old Irish period) to be a consequence of the parameter shift discussed above:
C[tense]*agree to C[tense]*merge. That daäs could then be analyzed as a clitic to ol,
and thus also be merged in C, is, on this view, a later extension of this first parameter
change which allowed tense to be merged high.10 The following is a summary of the
first reanalysis and its consequences:
(28) a. Copula reanalyzed as C (parameter shift: C[tense]*agree to C[tense]*merge).
b. In gapping contexts, daäs can be analyzed as C, because of the previous
reanalysis allowing tense to be merged high.
c. daäs in C becomes enclitic to the preposition ol.
d. When no-insertion and suppletion are innovated, daäs in C does not
participate in the changes, since these processes only affect elements of
the category V.
It is often said that there are various hallmarks of grammaticalization, among
which are category changes, semantic bleaching and phonological reduction,
and non-systematicity. The grammaticalization of daäs as an exponent of C can be
seen to conform to all of these. First, it is obviously a category change from V (in T)
to C. Second, the verbal meaning of ‘existence’ is bleached and instead it becomes
comparative marker. Third, it is cliticized to ol, and therefore possibly unstressed.
Additionally, the evidence from later Irish shows that the hiatus was reduced
to a long vowel (recall the form of the modern Irish particle ná). Fourth, the
grammaticalization did not affect all instances of daäs (leaving some to be affected
by no-insertion or suppletion), only those in the relevant gapping context.

I assume that tense is usually only merged high in sentences without a lexical verb to host tense in T.
However, this is not crucial to the argument at hand.
206 Elliott Lash

11.5 The second reanalysis: C to P

After the prehistoric first reanalysis, the comparative marker underwent a second
reanalysis early in the history of Irish. There is evidence from surface extensions that
the reanalysis occurred between the early eighth and the middle of the ninth century.
This is because there is a difference in the syntax of the comparative marker between
the eighth-century Würzburg Glosses and certain examples from the mid-ninth-
century Milan Glosses.
After the second reanalysis, the comparative marker loses tense, allows non-
nominative case marking of the subject of the comparative clause, and shows
analogical morphological change. These changes combined, all of which will be
exemplified below, contributed to a system in which the comparative marker
patterns almost like prepositions in the language. I thus will argue in this section
that they are extensions consistent with a C to P reanalysis of the comparative
This reanalysis arose for two reasons. First, because of the cliticization of daäs to
the preposition ol, a complex phonological unit consisting of P-C was presented to
learners of Old Irish. The second and crucial reason that the reanalysis occurred is
complex and involves the formation of subcomparative sentences (for which see
Corver 2005) in pre-Old Irish. In such contexts pre-Old Irish appears to have had
two clauses: the normal comparative CP and then a second CP with the nominal or
adjectival element. Example (29) gives an instance of a subcomparative clause in the
glosses, with (30) its Latin counterpart. Note here that I am claiming that despite the
appearance of two clauses, because of the two different verbal elements with different
argument structure, there is in the historical period only one clause. Presumably
though, this structure arose from some pre-Old Irish structure in which both verbal
elements were actually in different clauses.
(29) (Is mó ata)11 forcitlidi ol daas
cop.3s.prs more cop.3p.prs.rel teachers beyond be.3s.prs.rel
ata ndiglaidi
cop.3p.prs.rel (nas).avengers
‘They are more teachers than they are avengers.’ (Ml. 111c7,8)
(30) Postremo [ipsa suplicia mansuetudinis nomine eruditoria putius
after these prayers gentleness.gen name.abl teachers more
quam ultoria fuisse] laetatus est.
than avengers be.prf.inf rejoiced be.3s.prs
‘Afterwards, he rejoiced that these gentle prayers in [God’s] name were
teachers rather than avengers.’ (Ml. Psalm 89, 111c)
The words in parentheses have been added, on the basis of the Latin, in order to provide a context
for the glosses.
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 207

Pre-Old Irish subcomparatives seem to have been formed by merging a CP with the
VP containing the verb -tá. It is likely that this is because subcomparatives always
contain an overt standard of comparison, which is an NP or an AP. Since -tá could
not select NP or AP (it is essentially a verb of locational or adverbial predication),
another means of embedding these categories must have been available, hence the
CP, headed by the copula, which did select NP or AP.
Subordinate non-wh-CPs may be introduced by nasalization in Old Irish accord-
ing to Thurneysen (1946: 503), hence the nasalization on the predicative nominal
diglaidi in (29). Thus, we can analyze this as (31), at least in the pre-Old Irish period
(that is, in the period before daäs became C as an extension of the parameter change
allowing overt manifestation of tense in C).
(31) [PP ol [CP [OP] C [TP [T NAS-taas] [VP . . . <taas> [CP [C ata]
After daäs was grammaticalized as C and cliticized (at PF) to P, creating the
complex P-C ol-daäs, the structure was as in (32). The PF realization of this complex
structure would have been (33).
(32) [PP ol [CP OP [C daäs] [TP . . . . [CP [C ata [(NAS)diglaidi]]]]]]
(33) ol-daäs ata NAS-diglaidi.
Finally, because of the cliticization of daäs and the fact nasalization is ambiguous
between merely indicating a complement clause and indicating the presence of an
operator in Spec,CP, (32) was potentially ambiguous. In one reading, there were the
two clauses of pre-Old Irish. On the other, ‘gapped’ reading (made possible through
extention of daäs to C), there was only one clause with the nasalization indicating
operator extraction. Reanalyzing the complement nasalization as operator induced
nasalization entails that the original nasalization on daäs would become, in a sense,
unneeded. Hence, it became merely part of the phonological makeup of the new
comparative marker oldaas, thus, not part of its morphosyntax at all. This analysis is
shown in (34).
(34) [PP oldaas [CP [OP ] [C ata] [ NAS-diglaidi]]]
In terms of Roberts and Roussou (2003), this is not in fact grammaticalization,
since it does not entail the realization of features of some item higher in the clausal
spine than in the original analysis. Furthermore, the change is from a purely
functional C element to a P element, which is arguably less functional. However,
given that daäs was putatively cliticized to P, and P allowed agreement features in
Old Irish (as in Modern Irish), the addition of an agreeing form to a P was allowed
by the system, even if it cannot be viewed as strictly grammaticalization in the formal
sense. Finally, there is no parametric change here: the tense features of C are still
208 Elliott Lash

realized directly by merger of a copula form in C. Having said this, there does seem
to be some structural change, or at least the possibility of a new structure. Since the
comparative marker is now a PP, it could appear with both full clauses as well as
with nominals, whereas previously as a C element, the structure associated with it
could only be CP. The two possible structures are shown in (35).
(35) a. [PP [P oldaäs] [CP OP [C copula] [TP . . . ]]]
b. [PP [P oldaäs] [DP]]
Thus there seems to be a distinction that can be made between morphology
created from former syntax via upwards reanalysis together with parameter change
and morphology created from former syntax that is a result of extension (by
analogy) in certain contexts, without parameter change. Only the former is gram-
maticalization. The latter is merely a type of syntactic extension, and may in fact
include degrammaticalization.12
As a final note before proceeding to the next section, recall that in place of ol-daäs,
there is, from the ninth century onward, an alternative indaäs, involving a
dative form of the article ind þ the erstwhile verb form. I assume that the formation
of indaäs is entirely parallel with the formation of oldaäs. In particular, I assume
that daäs became enclitic to ind and then became part of ind, especially in sub-
comparative contexts. The only additional statement that must be made is that the
complex form indaäs was then likely analyzed as a preposition by analogy with

11.6 Consequences of the second reanalysis

After the second reanalysis discussed above, it is expected that various extensions
may occur. As mentioned above, such extensions are attested in the ninth-century
Milan Glosses. To reiterate these, they include sporadic non-nominative case mark-
ing on the noun following oldaäs, analogical morphological change affecting the old
third singular relative ending -as, which is not needed because P does not express
þ wh in Irish, and finally the loss of tense marking, since prepositions do not inflect
for tense.
An example of the non-nominative case marking on what would have been
the subject of the comparative clause is found in (36). This example is similar to
the English use of than me instead of than I, because the original subject of the
comparative clause has dative marking. Note that prepositions agree in person and

Roberts and Roussou (2003: 208, note 2) mention the specific case of Greek midhen ‘zero’, which is a
lexical item created from a quantifier. Interestingly with this item, two morphemes were reanalyzed as one.
This is comparable to ol þ daäs becoming oldaäs.
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 209

number with the nominal in their complement (which is normally a pro), hence the
old verbal morphology has been reused as prepositional agreement marking.
(36) Huilliu ad cumnet indatae chlaidib.
Better pv wound.3p.prs than.3p swords.dat
‘They wound better than swords.’ (Ml. 77a1)
Reusing the old verbal morphology as new prepositional agreement, an instance
of exaptation, also led to certain analogical morphological changes in order to have
make the comparative marker look more like other prepositions. One major change
was the loss of the original wh-relative form in the third singular, i.e. the loss of the
suffix -as in certain contexts. This change is understandable when we compare forms
oldaäs/indaäs with the forms of other prepositions. Irish prepositions could (and
can) be inflected to agree with their complement (see McCloskey and Hale 1984). For
example, consider the forms of the comparative marker and the preposition fri
‘against, to, with’, given in (37).
(37) fri olda-/inda-
1st fri-m fri-nn olda-ú –
2nd fri-t fri-b olda-í –
3rd fri-s (M), fri-e (F) fri-u olda-as olda-tae / olda-it
(37) shows that the masculine third singular form of the preposition fri was fri-s.
I claim that, by a simple analogy, the old relative ending -as was reanalyzed as the
same -s found in fri (and several prepositions, including a ‘from’ and la ‘with’,
among others). After this morphological reanalysis, olda and inda could be used in
environments that would not call for the agreement form, namely when the com-
parative marker did not directly select a pronoun or nominal. Two examples of such
morphological change are given in (38) and (39). In these examples, the comparative
particle selects a full clause and not a DP—hence no agree relationship is set up and
thus the non-agreeing form is chosen. The former -as suffix has been reanalyzed as a
form of the copula.
(38) inda OP as toirthech són.13
than (how) cop.3s.prs.rel nas-fruitful that
‘than how that is fruitful . . . ’ (Ml. 84a3)
(39) olda OP as n-ermitnigthi feid
than (how) cop.3s.prs.rel nas-honour.ger honour.dat
‘than how it is to be honoured by honour . . . ’ (Ml. 137d1)

Again, it should be noted that wh-nasalization is not shown orthographically when the initial
consonant following the nasalizing C is voiceless underlyingly. However, phonologically toirthech would
have been /dorjujex/.
210 Elliott Lash

The morphological analogy discussed above seems to have been gradual in the
texts, with forms in final -as found together with forms with no final -as throughout
the Old and Middle Irish period. It is not until the fifteenth century that final -as
becomes very rare in the textual record. There appear to be various different reasons
for the loss of this suffix, and as these occur throughout Middle Irish and into early
Modern Irish, I will briefly discuss these further in the following section. It should be
noted that the form inda is the direct phonological precursor to the Modern Irish ná.
The third extension of the C to P reanalysis is the loss of tense morphology from
the comparative marker, as expected, since prepositions don’t inflect for tense. This
loss is seen clearly in the Milan Glosses. In the bracketed part of example (40), a
second form of the verb -tá is used after indaas in a situation in which the pre-
reanalysis structure would have just inflected oldaas itself as shown in (hypothetical)
example (41).
(40) Nicon ru accobrus ní bed uilliu [indaas
not prf desire.1s.pst something cop.3s.cond more [than
OP ro nd bói m’ ingnae.]
(how) prf (nas)it was my understanding
‘I haven’t desired anything more than how my understanding (of it) was.’
(Ml. 136b7)
(41) Nicon ru accobrus ní bed uilliu [ol OP
not prf desire.1s.pst anything cop.3s.cond more [beyond (how)
mbói m’ ingnae.
(nas)was.3s.pst my understanding
The loss of tense was likely complete in the tenth century. Afterwards, I have only
found one example from the eleventh century text LU Táin (line: 3980). However,
given that this is a compilation of various older texts, this tensed form can likely be
seen as scribal archaism.
After the extensions of the ninth century, as discussed above, a second round of
extensions occurred in the eleventh or twelfth centuries. The corpus of texts com-
piled for this chapter can be interpreted as showing that the main thrust of these
extensions was to assimilate oldaas/indaas as much as possible to other prepositions.
In the eleventh century, the beginnings of the Modern Irish comparative particle
ná can be seen. Since there is no phonological rule by which final /s/ is lost in the
transition between Old and Modern Irish, the loss of the final /s/ in oldaas/indaas
should be viewed as partially a morphological process as discussed briefly above with
regard to exaptation of -as as the copula (38, 39) and as a third person prepositional
agreement (37) and partially on account of a parameter change. McCloskey and
Hale (1984) observed that, in Modern Irish, agreement is only with non-overt
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 211

pronominals (pro), but the non-agreeing forms of verbs and prepositions are used
before overt nouns. In Old Irish this was somewhat true, for at least simple (non-
derived) prepositions. However, for verbs and derived prepositions this was not the
case. Verbs in Old Irish agreed with fully overt nouns, as we see in (42), and derived
prepositions did as well, as in (43), with the derived preposition genmotha- (from cen
‘without’ -tá ‘exist’).
(42) Do lotar meic Diarmata . . . fechtus n-aili hi tír
pv went.3p sons Diarmat.gen time.acc (nas)-other into land
‘The sons of Diarmat went another time to the land of the Leinstermen.’ (ODR 1)
(43) co-ro chriathrastair na criocha genmothat na dúine.
so-prf pillaged.3s.pst lands except.for/outside.of.3p forts
‘So that he pillaged the lands outside of/excepting the forts . . . ’ (BAR §89)
At some point, this system changed to a system that looks more like Modern Irish
as observed by McCloskey and Hale (1984). There is no space to go into the details of
this change. However, presumably, the loss of the possibility of agreement with overt
nominals should be described as a parameter change. In Roberts and Roussou’s
(2003) terms, this would be something like a change of phi*agree to phi(agree), the
loss being the requirement that an agreement relationship be phonologically real-
ized. This parameter change can help make sense of the eventual loss of agreement
with olda-/inda- the new preposition created during the ninth century as discussed
Other cases of the loss of agreement in general, and the loss of the former
relative ending -as in particular, are diverse and a full discussion of them would be
out of place here as they are not clearly on account of parameter changes. However,
as one final example, I note that other prepositions in Old and Middle Irish had
what I term s-forms, in a limited number of contexts: in the third singular (as we
have seen above) and before the definite article as in (44), which is an artificial
(44) Attá i-s in thig
be.3s.prs in-s the house.dat
‘He is in the house.’
This s-form was not used if a noun phrase was embedded under a possessive or if
it was indefinite. As the comparative particle was progressively assimilated to
morphology of normal prepositions, the texts show a loss of the former relative
marker, exapted as an s-form in these environments as well. This analogy happened
sometime in the eleventh century as (45) shows.
212 Elliott Lash

(45) Ní ba mó uide neich uaib

not cop.3s.pst greater journey anyone.gen from.2p
indé oldá m’ uidi sea.
yesterday than my journey 1s
‘The journey of none of you yesterday was greater than my journey.’ (AMC 265)
To summarize this section, I have shown that after becoming an enclitic in C, the
original verbal form daäs became reanalyzed again as part of the preposition
selecting CP or DP. This was followed by several extensions, which progressively
made the newly created preposition olda-/inda- more preposition-like. These
changes occurred between the ninth and fifteenth century, with major changes in
the distribution of tense and the s-form14 occurring in the ninth and eleventh
centuries. One further parameter change, that affected agreement, severely limited
the occurrence of the s-form as well as other agreeing forms, which eventually let to
the Modern Irish invariant ná.15

11.7 Conclusion
In this chapter I have examined the diachronic development of the Irish comparative
marker starting in the pre-Old Irish period (pre-eighth century) and showed that a
prehistoric parameter change, from C[tense]*agree to C[tense]*merge allowed for the
possibility that tense could be merged high. This led to the possibility of a gapping-
like analysis in comparative clauses. The verb daäs could be analyzed as instantiating
C, rather than V-in-T. This V to C category change was the extension of the
parameter change. As a C element, it was unstressed and could cliticize to the
preposition before it at PF. This led to the possibility of analyzing the original
verb as prepositional agreement, whence a C to P shift. Again, this should not be
viewed as a formal grammaticalization as it does not appear to conform to Roberts
and Roussou’s idea of grammaticalization as a phenomenon associated with upward
reanalysis because of parameter change. It is of course a grammaticalization from
the perspective of Givón (1971: 413), since it is an example of the development of
‘today’s morphology [from] yesterday’s syntax’. The origin of the Irish comparative

The development of the former relative ending can be summarized in the following way: It was
exapted as (a) copula, (b) third singular prepositional agreement, (c) s-form in definite contexts, or (not
discussed in the text) assimilated phonologically to following demonstratives (i.e. indaas/oldaas sin/so
became inda/olda sin/so); or its distribution, along with the distribution of other agreement inflexions was
curtailed via parameter change.
The last hold out of agreement before overt NPs was the form náit (3p) found in the seventeenth
century text, Desiderius. This late form can be compared with the Munster dialect forms such as táid
‘be.3p’ used before overt NPs, for which see Ó Siadhail (1989: 182).
Diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle 213

particle thus reveals a tension between grammaticalization as formally conceived

and grammaticalization as discussed in the literature devoted to grammaticalization
theory. Roberts and Roussou’s work makes great strides in enabling a discussion of
the formal aspects of grammaticalization. However, it is clear that more work needs
to be done in order to characterize non-parametric ‘morphologization’.

Deictic locatives, emphasis, and

metalinguistic negation

12.1 Introduction
The concept of metalinguistic negation acquired prominence in the linguistics
literature after the work of Laurence Horn (1985, 1989), who elaborated on work
by earlier authors (see, among others, Grice 1967, Ducrot 1972, and Dummet 1973). In
Horn’s words, metalinguistic negation is ‘a device for objecting to a previous
utterance on any grounds whatever’, ‘a speaker’s use of negation to signal his or
her unwillingness to assert, or accept another’s assertion of, a given proposition in a
given way’. Accordingly, ‘metalinguistic negation focuses not on the truth or falsity
of a proposition, but on the assertability of an utterance’ (cf. Horn 1989: 363).1
Sentences (1a.–e.) illustrate the metalinguistic use of negation (cf. Horn 1989:
362ff). Because the same negative marker (i.e. not) expresses ordinary negation and
metalinguistic negation, it is the rectification part of the sentences in (1) that undoes
the interpretative ambiguity. As shown by (1a.–e.), metalinguistic negation, in
contrast to negation proper, does not necessarily entail the untruth of the corre-
sponding affirmative proposition. Sentence (1e.) makes clear, in addition, that a
sentence expressing metalinguistic negation does not strictly require being anchored
to a previous utterance, as far as it is denial of a common ground presupposition.
(1) a. A: Some men are chauvinists.
B: Some men aren’t chauvinists—all men are chauvinists.

As for the notion of assertable, Horn elucidates: ‘It should be acknowledged that the notion
assertable, as employed by Grice, Dummett, and me, must be taken as elliptical for something like
“felicitously assertable” or “appropriately assertable”, where the adverbial hedge is broad enough to cover
the wide range of examples ( . . . ). But the distinction drawn by Grice and Dummett between rejecting
a claim as false and rejecting it as (pehraps true, but) unassertable suggests the proper approach for
characterizing the two uses of negation’ (Horn 1989: 379).
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 215

b. A: He is meeting a woman this evening.

B: No, he’s not (meeting a woman this evening)—he’s meeting his wife!
c. A: They had a baby and got married.
B: They didn’t have a baby and get married, they got married and had a baby.
d. A: Were you a little worried?
B: I wasn’t a little worried, my friend; I was worried sick.
e. It’s not a car, it’s a Volkswagen. (VW commercial and advertisement).
In every language the standard predicative negation marker may express meta-
linguistic negation as well (as illustrated by the sentences in (1) above, where not
allows a metalinguistic interpretation). Moreover, languages in general express
metalinguistic negation through certain sentence-peripheral idiomatic expressions,
which lexically vary from language to language (and within the same language) but
nonetheless display a similar syntax across languages. Sentences (2) to (4) exemplify
these sentence-peripheral metalinguistic negation markers in English, Spanish, and
(2) a. Like hell Al and Hilary are married. English
b. Al and Hilary are married my eye.
(cf. Drozd 2001: 55)
(3) a. Canta bien tu tía. Spanish
sings well your aunt.
b. Tu tía si que canta bien.
your aunt aff that sings well
‘She/he doesn’t sing well.’
(4) a. Canta bem uma ova. European Portuguese
sings well a fish roe
b. Uma ova é que canta bem.
a fish roe is that sings well
‘She/he doesn’t sing well.’
Languages do not usually display sentence-internal unambiguous metalinguistic
negation markers. In European Portuguese (EP), however, the deictic locatives lá/cá
(‘there/here’) can occur in sentence-internal position and express metalinguistic
negation. When playing such a role, they are totally devoid of locative meaning
(so, throughout this chapter, the glosses of the EP data will not show English
equivalents for lá/cá). Example (5) below, to be compared to Horn’s example in
(1d.) above, shows the particular pattern of metalinguistic negation found in Euro-
pean Portuguese (cf. (5)-B-b.).
216 Ana Maria Martins

(5) A: Tu estás um pouco preocupado, não estás?

you are a little worried not are
‘You are a little worried, aren’t you?’
B: a. Eu não estou um pouco preocupado. Estou
I not am a little worried. am
morto de preocupação.
dead of worry
b. Eu estou lá/cá um pouco preocupado. Estou morto de
I am lá/cá a little worried. am dead of
‘I’m not a little worried; I’m worried sick.’
The main goal of this chapter is to clarify how the deictic locatives lá/cá developed
into metalinguistic negation markers in EP, while preserving their regular working
as locatives. We will also want to know how may this particular feature of EP (i.e.
displaying clause-internal unambiguous metalinguistic negation markers) correlate
with other grammatical properties of the language. It will be proposed that Spec,TP
is not the subject position in EP but a utterance-time (UT-T) position (see Demir-
dache and Uribe-Etxebarria 2000). This allows deictic locatives to be merged in Spec,
TP in two ways: scrambled argumental locatives move from VP to Spec,TP, signal-
ling UT-T but preserving their locative meaning; non-argumental locatives can be
directly merged in Spec,TP, in order to give visibility to the speaker at UT-T, with
the interpretative result of emphasis. This emphatic value of the deictic locatives cá/
lá (which correlates with bleaching of the locative meaning) is attested in European
Portuguese from the sixteenth century, in declarative and imperative clauses. The
emphatic use of lá/cá is also found in rhetorical questions, which offer the natural
pragmatic and syntactic link with metalinguistic negation. Movement of lá/cá from
Spec,TP to higher functional positions in the left-periphery of the sentence derives
rhetorical questions and metalinguistic negation declaratives, in which the basic
emphatic meaning contributed by non-argumental lá/cá is preserved while further
meaning is added.
The chapter is organized in five sections. Section 12.2 offers evidence, through the
application of standard tests, that the deictic locatives lá/cá are metalinguistic
negation markers (in the type of utterances under discussion). Section 12.3 shows
that, in fact, the words lá/cá are cumulatively deictic locatives, emphatic markers,
and metalinguistic negation markers. The relevant non-locative values of lá/cá are
described and historical data are introduced in order to clarify matters of relative
chronology with respect to the change under scrutiny. Section 12.4 discusses two
aspects of the diachronic evolution of the deictic locatives lá/cá: first, the path from
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 217

ordinary locatives to emphatic markers; then the path from emphatic markers to
metalinguistic negation markers. The former issue will require that EP locative
middle-scrambling be taken into account (see Costa and Martins (2009, 2010)); the
development of the locative-based emphatic markers into metalinguistic negation
markers will call for a syntactic analysis of metalinguistic negation declaratives with
lá/cá. Section 12.5 concludes the chapter.

12.2 Metalinguistic negation in European Portuguese

Standard tests to identify metalinguistic negation are introduced below, in (i) to (iii).
In (6a.) the polarity-sensitive words pretty, somewhat, rather are incompatible with
ordinary negation; at the same time, lack of an appropriate discourse context blocks
the interpretation of negation as metalinguistic negation. Thus (6a.) is ruled out, in
contrast with (6b.). Example (7) shows that metalinguistic negation (see (7)-B-b.), in
sharp contrast to ordinary negation (see (7)-B-a.), does not license negative polarity
items (NPIs); it allows instead positive polarity items (PPIs), as illustrated in (8). All
the examples are taken from Horn (1989: 368ff).
(i) Metalinguistic negation must be licensed by the discourse context because it is,
typically, denial of the assertability of an earlier utterance
(6) a. ??He isn’t {pretty/somewhat/rather} tall.
b. A: He is {pretty/somewhat/rather} tall.
B: He isn’t {pretty/somewhat/rather} tall—he’s humongous.
(ii) Metalinguistic negation does not license NPIs
(7) A: Chris managed to solve some problems.
B: a. Chris didn’t manage to solve any problems.
b. Chris didn’t manage to solve {some/*any} problems—he solved them easily.
(iii) Metalinguistic negation is compatible with PPIs
(8) A: You still love me.
B: Like hell I {still love you/*love you anymore}.
By applying these same tests to sentences where the EP words lá/cá express denial,
we get unequivocal confirmation that lá/cá exclusively signal metalinguistic neg-
ation, not ordinary negation.
Take the discourse-context test, requiring metalinguistic negation to be denial of
(the assertability of ) an earlier utterance (or denial of a common ground presup-
position). Uttered out of the blue, to initiate a conversation, the sentences in (9) and
(10) are descriptions of a state of affairs and the negative marker in them can
only encode ordinary negation. As expected and confirmed by the grammaticality
218 Ana Maria Martins

contrast between the (a.) and (b.) examples in (9)–(10), the unambiguous metalin-
guistic negation markers lá/cá are ruled out in such sentences.
(9) a. Ah, não trouxe a carteira! Pagas-me o café?
ah not brought-1sg the wallet pay-2sg-me-dat the coffee
b. *Ah, trouxe lá/cá a carteira! Pagas-me o café?
ah brought-1sg lá/cá the wallet pay-2sg-me-dat the coffee
‘Ah, I forgot my wallet! Will you pay for my coffee?’
(10) a. Hoje não estás com boa cara. O que se.passa?
today not are-2sg with good face. the what is-going-on
b. *Hoje estás lá/cá com boa cara. O que se.passa?
today are-2sg lá/cá with good face. the what is-going-on
‘You don’t look good today. What happened?’
The licensing of positive polarity items constitutes a robust test to set apart
ordinary negation and metalinguistic negation. While the former excludes strong
PPIs, the latter is fully compatible with them. The examples in (11) and (12) show that
the idiomatic expressions do diabo (literally ‘of the devil’) and e peras (literally ‘and
pears’) are strong PPIs in European Portuguese, so they occur in affirmative
declaratives (see the examples (a.)) but are excluded from negative and interrogative
sentences (see the (b.) to (c.) examples). Crucially, they are perfectly fine in sentences
where denial is expressed by lá/cá, which supports the view that we are dealing here
with metalinguistic negation markers, not with ordinary negation (see the (d.)
(11) a. Ele é um nadador e peras.
he is a swimmer and pears
‘He is a great swimmer.’
b. *Ele não é uma nadador e peras. (out-of-the-blue declarative)
he not is a swimmer and pears
‘He isn’t a great swimmer.’
c. *Ele é um nadador e peras?
he is a swimmer and pears
‘Is he a great swimmer?’
d. Ele é lá/cá um nadador e peras. (as a reply to (11a.))2
he is lá/cá a swimmer and pears
‘He isn’t a great swimmer.’

Sentences (11b.) and (12b.) could be interpreted as instances of metalinguistic negation only if they
were associated with a continuation/rectification, which is not a necessary condition for the availability of
sentences (11d.) and (12d.), since the words lá, cá signal but metalinguistic negation.
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 219

(12) a. Tiveste uma sorte do diabo.

had-2sg a good-luck of-the devil
‘So lucky you were!’
b. *Não tiveste uma sorte do diabo. (out-of-the-blue declarative)
not had-2sg a good-luck of-the devil
‘You were not that lucky.’
c. *Tiveste uma sorte do diabo?
had-2sg a good-luck of-the devil
‘Were you really lucky?’
d. Tive lá/cá uma sorte do diabo. (as a reply to (12a.))
had-1sg lá/cá a good-luck of-the devil
‘I wasn’t so lucky.’
Sentences (13) to (15) further confirm that lá/cá are metalinguistic negation
markers, by revealing their inability to license NPIs like ninguém (‘nobody’), nem
morta (literally ‘not even dead’), and de todo (‘at all’), which are regularly licensed
under ordinary negation expressed by não ‘not’ (compare the (B-a.) examples with
the (B-b.) examples).
(13) A: Tu é que conheces uma pessoa que sabe arranjar isto.
you is that know-2sg a person that knows fix-inf this
‘You do know someone that can fix this.’
B: a. Eu não conheço ninguém que saiba arranjar isso.
I not know-1sg nobody that knows fix-inf that
b. Eu conheço lá/cá {alguém/*ninguém} que saiba arranjar isso.
I know-1sg lá/cá somebody/*nobody that knows fix-inf that
‘I don’t know anyone who can fix that.’
(14) A: Hoje vais sair comigo.
today go-2sg go-out with-me
‘Today we are going out together.’
B: a. Eu não saio contigo nem morta.
I not go-out-1sg with-you not-even dead
b. *Eu saio lá/cá contigo nem morta.
I go-out-1sg lá/cá with-you not-even dead
‘No way I will go out with you.’
(15) A: Eu sei que tu gostas de marisco.
I know-1sg that you like-2sg of seafood
‘I know that you like seafood.’
B: a. Eu não gosto de marisco de todo.
I not like-1sg of seafood at all
220 Ana Maria Martins

b. *Eu gosto lá/cá de marisco de todo.

I like-1sg lá/cá of seafood at all
‘I don’t like seafood at all.’
An additional test enables us to separate metalinguistic negation expressed by lá/
cá from ordinary negation. The former in contrast to the latter is confined to root
clauses and excluded from embedded ones.3
(16) A: O Pedro disse que vendeu o carro.
the Pedro said-3sg that sold-3sg the car
‘Pedro said that he sold the car.’
B: a. O Pedro disse lá/cá que vendeu o carro.
the Pedro said-3sg lá/cá that sold-3sg the car
b. O Pedro não disse que vendeu o carro
the Pedro not said-3sg that sold-3sg the car
‘Pedro didn’t say that he sold the car.’
c. *O Pedro disse que vendeu lá/cá o carro
the Pedro said-3sg that sold-3sg lá/cá the car
d. O Pedro disse que não vendeu o carro
the Pedro said-3sg that not sold-3sg the car
‘Pedro said that he didn’t sell the car.’

This test by itself does not single out metalinguistic negation since it is also a property of emphatic
negation (see (i) below), which additionally shares with metalinguistic negation the denial nature that
imposes licensing by the right type of discourse context. Emphatic negation in contrast to metalinguistic
negation, however, licenses NPIs (see (ii) below), thus qualifying as an instance of ordinary negation.
(i) A: O Pedro disse que vendeu o carro.
the Pedro said that sold-3sg the car
‘Pedro said that he sold the car.’
B: a. O Pedro não disse que vendeu o carro não.
the Pedro not said that sold-3sg the car no
‘Pedro did NOT say that he sold the car.’
b. *O Pedro disse que não vendeu o carro não.
the Pedro said that not sold-3sg the car no
‘Pedro said that he did NOT sell the car.’
(ii) A: Ela não gosta de ninguém.
she not likes of nobody
‘She doesn’t like anybody.’
B: Não acredito.
not believe-1sg
‘That can’t be true.’
A: Não gosta de ninguém não.
not likes of nobody no
‘No, she really doesn’t.’
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 221

Last but not least, the metalinguistic negation markers lá/cá occur in postverbal
position while ordinary propositional negation is obligatorily encoded preverbally in
European Portuguese (see (16) above).

12.3 Lá/cá through time: non-locative values besides

metalinguistic negation
The earlier (currently available) attestations of lá/cá as metalinguistic negation
markers are found in the nineteenth century (see (17) and (18)), first in the theatre
of Almeida Garrett (born in 1799), then, more profusely, in the Romantic novel of
authors like Camilo Castelo Branco (born in 1825) and Júlio Dinis (born in 1839).
(17) Duarte: E o seu almoço em casa do barão de Granja?
and the your lunch in-the house of-the baron of Granja
‘What about the lunch at the baron’s?’
B. F.: Importa-me cá o almoço nem meio almoço!
value-1sg-myself cá the lunch nor half lunch
‘I don’t care about the lunch!’
(A. Garrett. nineteenth century. CHTB)
(18) a. – Então andas doente, Ana? ( . . . )
so are-2sg sick, Ana
– Eu doente? Ora essa! Eu sou lá criatura que adoeça!
me sick? now that! I am lá creature that gets-sick
‘– I’ve heard you are sick. Is that so, Ana? – Me sick? What a silly idea!
I’m not someone to fall sick!’
b. – Quem foi? – Eu sei lá, senhora mãe!
who was? I know lá lady mother
‘Who did it? – I don’t know, mother. How shall I know?’
(Júlio Dinis. nineteenth century. CP)
Other non-locative values of lá/cá can be found much earlier. In fact, the plays of
the prominent sixteenth century playwright Gil Vicente are very rich in data
featuring non-argumental uses of lá/cá. The fact that the expression of metalinguistic
negation is not among them makes it quite indisputable that the metalinguistic
negation value arose as a later development. There is still enough room left for
uncertainty with respect to chronology, because for the time being we just do not
have access to written sources of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as
revealing of the colloquial language as the sixteenth century theatre of Gil Vicente
and the nineteenth century Romantic novel. Be it as it may, it is possible to establish
beyond reasonable doubt that other non-argumental uses of lá/cá chronologically
precede the metalinguistic negation use. We will now consider these other ‘non-
222 Ana Maria Martins

locative’ instantiations of lá/cá.4 In order to keep examples to a reasonable extent, in

the remainder of the current section exemplification will be restricted to sentences
with lá.

12.3.1 Emphatic lá in imperative sentences

The term emphasis will be used in this chapter to mean that in one way or other
some component of the speaker’s point of view with respect to an uttered propos-
ition is made visible or salient, so the presence of emphatic markers in a sentence
typically allows for inferences that would not be available in their absence.
Imperatives with lá do not express commands but vehement requests, by which
the speaker intends to grant a positive response from the interlocutor, in spite of the
fact that the speaker does not have evidence for it (see example (19)). The presence of
non-argumental lá in an imperative sentence adds imperative force in a polite and
cooperative manner, thus signalling the speaker’s attitude towards the prejacent
Imperative lá is devoid of locative meaning which allows it to co-occur with other
deictic locatives within the same sentence, as illustrated in (20).
(19) Adult: Dá-me um beijo.
Give me a kiss
Child: Não.
Adult: Dá lá.
Give-imp-2sg lá

Out of the picture will stay lá/cá as focus/emphatic markers in the DP domain and as polarity-
sensitive words. As NPIs, lá and cá are interpretatively distinct (the former is a down-toner/compromiser,
the latter reinforces the negative assertion, as exemplified in (i)), which is not the case when they are
metalinguistic negation markers. Lá (but not cá) is also a reinforcing PPI, as shown in (ii).
(i) a. Não gosto lá muito disso.
not like-1sg lá much of-that
‘I don’t particularly like that.’
b. Não gosto cá dessas coisas.
not like-1sg cá of-those things
‘I don’t like that at all!’
(ii) a. Está cá um frio!
is cá a cold
‘It’s SO cold!’
b. Tem cá uma casa! (lá em Barcelona)
has cá a house (there in Barcelona)
‘He has such a {big/beautiful/great} apartment! (there, in Barcelona)’
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 223

(20) a. Fica lá aí quieta.

stay-imp-2sg lá there-close-to-addressee still
‘Please, stay there and don’t move’
b. Põe lá a mesa aqui.
Put-imp-2sg lá the table here
‘Please, put the table in here (don’t be stubborn).’
Imperative sentences with emphatic lá are well attested from the sixteenth century
on. (21) and (22) display sixteenth and nineteenth century examples respectively.
(21) a. Agasalhai-me lá, Florença
warm-imp-2pl-me lá, Florença
‘Warm me, Florença!’
b. Ora escutade lá
now listen-imp-2pl lá
‘Now, listen to me, please!’
c. conta lá outra história
tell-imp-2pl lá another story
‘Please, tell us another story!’
(Gil Vicente. sixteenth century. GV)
(22) a. Deixa-os lá e não te consumas com isso.
Leave-imp-2sg-them lá and don’t yourself consume with that
‘Let them be and don’t you worry about it!’
b. Ó mulher, guarde lá a sua língua
hey woman guard-prs-sbjv-3sg lá the your tongue
‘Hey, woman, do me a favour and guard your tongue!’ / ‘Hey, woman,
you should not say such things!’
(Júlio Dinis. nineteenth century. CP)

12.3.2 Emphatic lá in declarative sentences

Declarative sentences with emphatic lá denote the speaker’s attitude towards the
prejacent proposition either by reinforcing the assertive force or by adding a
comment on top of the mere assertion of the proposition. The comment introduced
by the presence of lá allows a range of interpretations (at times very elusive) and the
bias can be towards a positive or a negative evaluation, as illustrated in (23).
Sentences (23a.–b.) describe a state of affairs and express annoyance with respect
to it (allowing the inference that the speaker would prefer to not be faced with such
state of affairs); sentence (23c.) also describes a state of affairs but expresses relief
with respect to it (permitting the inference that it was desired and not easy to
224 Ana Maria Martins

While in imperative sentences emphatic lá is postverbal, it is preverbal in declara-

tive sentences. If the structural position of emphatic lá in imperatives and declara-
tives is invariable (the simpler hypothesis), the word order facts are just what we
expect under the assumption that in imperatives the verb moves higher than in
declaratives (that is to say, it moves from T to S in imperatives, deriving the
order verb-lá because Spec,TP is the locus of emphatic lá; see Laka (1990) and
section 12.4).5
(23) a. Lá está ele aqui outra vez.
lá is he here another time
‘Here he is again!’
b. Lá fiquei sem almoço.
lá stayed-1sg without lunch
‘Shit! I won’t be able to have lunch today / I will have to skip my lunch!’
c. Lá conseguimos!
lá succeeded-1pl
‘We did finally succeed!’ / ‘We did succeed after all!’
Emphatic lá can be found in declarative sentences since the sixteenth century.
Illustrative examples taken from sixteenth to nineteenth century texts are given in
(24) to (27).
(24) se não andavam sobre aviso lá ia a cepa e a cepeira
if not were-3pl on guard lá went the vine and the grapevine
‘If they were not on their guard, they would have lost everything!’
(Gil Vicente. sixteenth century. GV)
(25) Lá disse o Propheta ( . . . ), que nas nuvens do ar até
lá said the prophet that in-the clouds of-the air even
a água é escura
the water is dark
‘So said the prophet, that when it comes to the clouds the water itself is dark.’
(António Vieira, seventeenth century. TB)
(26) a. depois que lhe deu os cabellos do boi la fes
after that him gave-3sg the hairs of-the bull lá made
a reza que lhe pareseu
the pray that him seemed
‘When he was given the bull’s hairs, he did practise some black magic.’

The fact that emphatic lá does not block the licensing of S (see section 12.4) suggests that emphatic lá
itself licenses S through morphological merger under adjacency (as for the relation between the functional
head S and emphatic affirmation, see Laka 1990).
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 225

b. Vmce la sabe melhor o q deve fazer

you lá know better the what must do-inf
‘You certainly know (better than I do) what must be done.’
(eighteenth century. CARDS, years 1717, 1797)
(27) a. Ele lá sabe voltar o pai para onde quer e
he lá knows turn-inf the father to where wants and
afinal quem fica mal sou eu.
finally who stays badly is I
‘He really knows how to put his father on his side, and eventually I will
be the bad guy!’
b. Essa lá me custa a engolir!
that lá me-dat costs to swallow
‘That’s a hard one to swallow!’
(Júlio Dinis. nineteenth century. CP)

12.3.3 Lá in rhetorical questions

The presence of lá appears to reinforce the implicated assertive component of
rhetorical questions. Thus (28), for example, carries a particularly strong bias
towards a negative reply, meaning that the speaker is predisposed to accept but
the confirmation that ‘there is nothing better than staying on the beach’ or the
agreeing silence of the interlocutor.
In contemporary European Portuguese (see (28)) and in the nineteenth century
(see (29)), rhetorical questions with lá seem to impose restrictions on the verbal
predicates they allow (haver ‘have’ and the epistemic modal poder ‘can, may’ are
preferred) unless they are introduced by a wh-phrase.
(28) Há lá coisa melhor que estar na praia?
is lá thing better than be-inf in-the beach
‘Could anything be better than staying on the beach?’
(29) a. Que tem lá isso?
what has lá that
‘And so what?’
b. E podem lá exigir-se afeições?
and can lá demand-inf-impersonal-se affection
‘Can affection ever be an object of demand?’
c. Há lá coisa que puxe mais por uma pessoa do.que o estudo!
is lá thing that takes more out-of a person than the study
‘Could there be anything unhealthier than studying all the time?’
(Júlio Dinis. nineteenth century. CP)
226 Ana Maria Martins

The rhetorical questions with lá that could be tracked down in the sixteenth and
seventeenth century texts do not display the grammatical properties of their con-
temporary cognates. In fact, each one of the sentences presented in (30) to (33) would
not constitute a grammatical option nowadays. It is particularly intriguing that most
of the attested earlier examples display an echoic use of the imperative, as illustrated
by (31) to (33). The imperative casai lá (‘get married’) in (31), folgai lá (‘enjoy
yourselves’) in (32), and olhai lá (‘look at him’) in (33) echoes what the girls’ parents
would tell them to do but they won’t. This echoic use of the imperative with
emphatic lá illuminates the link between imperatives and rhetorical questions
with lá.6
(30) Porteiro: en este templo sagrado / no entrarás labrador
doorkeeper in this temple sacred not will-enter farmer
‘You will not get in this sacred temple.’
Vilão: Achais lá que é consciência
plebeian find-prs-2pl lá that is fair
vir homem dalém de Braga
come-inf a-man from-above of Braga
do concelho de Cornaga
from-the district of Cornaga
gastando o que nam alcança
spending the what not reaches
depois estar nesta praga?
and-then be-inf in-this hell
‘Do you think it’s fair that someone who came from so far,
spending more than he has got, may go through such hell?’
(Gil Vicente. sixteenth century. GV)
(31) Inês Pereira: Pessoa conheço eu
person know I
que levara outro caminho
that will-take another way
casai lá com um vilanzinho
marry-imp lá with a little-plebeian
mais covarde que um judeu.
more coward than a jew
‘I will not do what I’m told to do. How can I possibly marry
such a coward nobody?’ (Gil Vicente. sixteenth century. GV)

Cf. Carston (1998, 1999) on the echoic nature of metalinguistic negation.
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 227

(32) Juliana: eu nam sei por que respeito

I not know for what respect
nossas mães e nossos pais
our mothers and our fathers
nos trazem maridos tais
us-dat bring-3pl husbands like-that
tanto contra nosso jeito
so-much against our liking
que os diabos nam são mais.
that the devils not are more
As cabeças como outeiros
the heads like knolls
os cabelos carcomidos
the hair rotten
louros como sovereiros
blond like corktrees
penteados d’ano em ano
combed once a year
maus chiotes de má pano
bad garments of bad cloth
folgai lá com tais maridos.
enjoy-imp-2pl lá with such husbands
‘It’s not understandable why our parents want to get us married with
men so utterly against our preference. How could we be pleased with
such unpleasant husbands?’
(Gil Vicente. sixteenth century. GV)
(33) Brites: Mas que não tenham ceitil,
but even-if not have a-cent
saibam falar português
should-know-3pl speak-inf Portuguese
tenham arte!
should-have-3pl art!
Olhai lá para um D. Gil
look-imp-2pl lá to a Don Gil
mais cansado que um maltês!
more tired than a vagabond
‘I will prefer any poor poet to that worthless of Don Gil. How can
I possibly look at such worn-out man?’
(F. M. de Mello. seventeenth century. FA)
228 Ana Maria Martins

12.4 From emphasis to metalinguistic negation: the role of Spec,TP

Following work by Costa and Martins (2009, 2010), it will be proposed in this
section that Spec,TP in European Portuguese is a dedicated utterance time position
(i.e. UT-T, in the sense of Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria (2000)), which can be
made visible by speaker/utterance-anchored deictic locatives. Argumental deictic
locatives may scramble from within the VP domain to Spec,TP; non-argumental
deictic locatives may give content to Spec,TP by external merge, in which case they
act as emphatic markers devoid of locative meaning. The fact that in the course of
time middle scrambling in EP came to be restricted to deictic locatives is presumably
at the origin of the particular relation between deictic locatives and Spec,TP that
would eventually allow the former to directly enter the TP domain.7 Through further
upward movement in the functional system, the basically locative emphatic markers
became, additionally, structural pieces of rhetorical questions and metalinguistic
negation declaratives. While the cross-linguistically pervasive sentence-peripheral
metalinguistic negation markers (such as my eye, like hell, EP uma ova ‘a fish roe’)
directly merge in the CP domain, the more unusual sentence-internal metalinguistic
negation markers (like EP lá, cá) are rooted in the TP domain and reach CP by

Differently from Modern Portuguese, Old Portuguese displayed generalized middle-scrambling (see
Martins 2002). The loss of generalized middle-scrambling happened in the sixteenth century, that is to say,
at the time when lá/cá emerged as emphatic markers devoid of locative meaning.
There are two series of deictic locatives in EP. The -á series is a binary system including cá ‘here’ and lá
‘there’; the -i series displays a three-forms system: aqui (‘here’), aí (‘there’—close to addressee), ali
(‘there’—distant from speaker and addressee). Although all deictic locatives can undergo middle scram-
bling, only the -á series locatives can act as emphatic and metalinguistic negation markers. The contrast
may be accounted for under the hypothesis that there is a weak/strong distinction between the two types
of locatives (in the sense of Cardinaletti and Starke 1999), as suggested to me by Jairo Nunes (p.c.). Only
the weak deictic locatives entered the functional system, in the sense of Roberts and Roussou (2003). The
weak deictic locatives (i.e. the -á series) in contrast to the strong ones (i.e. the -i series) cannot occur with
gestures and are incompatible with transposed deictic use:
(i) A: Mostra-me no mapa onde fica Portugal.
show me on-the map where stays Portugal
B: {Aqui /*Cá}. (pointing to the map)
here / here
(ii) Põe a mesa {aqui / ali / *cá / *lá}. (pointing with the hands or the eyes)
put the table here / there / here / there
(iii) Ele magoou-se {aqui / *cá} no braço (showing where)
he hurt-himself here / here on-the arm
(iv) {Aqui / *cá} começa a história dos dois amantes.
here / here begins the story of-the two lovers (introducing a scene in a play).
Sentence-internal metalinguistic negation (MN) markers and sentence-peripheral MN markers
behave differently with respect to a series of syntactic criteria besides word order, namely: availability in
isolation and nominal fragments, ability to deny a negative proposition, compatibility with emphatic/
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 229

12.4.1 Middle scrambling of deictic locatives as movement to Spec,TP

Previous work by Costa and Martins (2009, 2010) discusses the peculiar ability of
speaker/utterance-anchored deictic locatives to appear left-adjacent to the verb in EP
and the restrictions to which such placement is subject. The empirical observations
that are relevant for our current purposes are enunciated in (i) and (ii) below and
illustrated by (34) to (37).
(i) A preverbal element like the adverbs ‘never’/‘already’ in (34) or the quantifier
‘everybody’ in (36) is required to enable the deictic locatives to surface before
the verb.
(34) a. Eu nunca/já estive lá/cá.
I never/already was there/here
b. Eu nunca/já lá/cá estive.
I never/already there/here was
‘I’ve never been there/here.’ / ‘I’ve been there/here already.’
(35) a. Eu estive lá/cá ontem
I was there/here yesterday
b. *Eu lá/cá estive ontem.
I there/here was yesterday
‘I was there/here yesterday.’
(36) a. Todos de lá vieram doentes.
everybody from there came sick
‘Everybody came sick from there.’
b. *A Maria de lá veio doente.
the Maria from there came sick
‘Maria came sick from there.’
(ii) In the contexts in which locative-preposing is allowed, the locative is obligatorily
adjacent to the verb (in (37) below it is the underlined complementizer that
makes the preverbal position available to the locative).
(37) a. Ela diz que lá vai amanhã.
she says that there goes tomorrow
b. Ela diz que amanhã lá vai.
she says that tomorrow there goes

contrastive high constituents, compatibility with coordinate structures featuring a sequence of events,
compatibility with idiomatic sentences, compatibility with VP ellipsis. Sentence-peripheral MN markers,
but not sentence-internal MN markers, answer positively to these syntactic tests. See Martins (2010, 2011)
for a discussion of the empirical evidence supporting the bipartite typology of MN markers.
230 Ana Maria Martins

c. *Ela diz que lá amanhã vai.

she says that there tomorrow goes
‘She says that she will go there tomorrow.’
Costa and Martins (2009, 2010) propose that leftward movement of the deictic
locatives is middle scrambling, understood as movement to Spec,TP. Two sets of
data are smoothly derived under the analysis of locative-preposing as movement to
Spec,TP. First: since Portuguese has V-to-T movement and middle scrambling
places the deictic locative in Spec,TP, the scrambled locative is necessarily left-
adjacent to the verb. Second: movement of the deictic locative to a specifier position
fits in with the empirical evidence showing that lá-preposing is not head-movement
(cf. (36) above).
In order to explain why scrambling of the deictic locatives to Spec,TP is not
always permitted, the authors rely on the hypothesis that in EP the strong nature of
the polarity-encoding head S (which immediately dominates TP) requires it to be
‘lexicalized’ either by syntactic merger or by morphological merger under adjacency
(cf. Costa and Martins (2003, 2004)). Middle scrambling is barred whenever S and V
must be adjacent.9 In the environments that license scrambling of the locative, S is
licensed by some appropriate element syntactically merged in its domain or in a
higher domain. In the environments blocking scrambling of the locative, S merges
with the verb via morphological merger, specifically local dislocation merger, a post-
syntactic process operating under strict adjacency (Embick and Noyer 2001).
A configuration like (38) is not a grammatical option because the locative disrupts
the required adjacency between S and V.
(38) * [SP (Subjwithout polarity features) [S[ þ aff] [TP loc [ [ V þ T] . . .
Finally, and of crucial relevance to understand the emergence of the non-argu-
mental uses of the deictic locatives lá/cá, it is suggested by Costa and Martins (2009,
2010) that speaker/utterance-anchorage is what links together deictic locatives and
tense, enabling the former to enter the syntactic domain of the latter. While lá-type
locatives can become left-adjacent to the verb by moving to Spec,TP, this position is
not accessible to other locative constituents. The relevant contrast is exemplified in
(39) and (40). The sentences in (39) show that a PP integrating lá can undergo
middle-scrambling (see (39a.)) while a PP integrating a locative proper name, like
Lisboa, or a locative adverb like longe ‘far away’ cannot (see (39b.–c.)). Besides, (40)
shows that when the deictic locative lá is doubled by a prepositional phrase, leftward
movement of lá leaving the doubling PP behind is allowed (see (40a.)), but move-
ment of the whole big locative constituent is not (see (40b.)).

The analysis derives the particular syntax of the deictic locatives in different clausal structures,
including restructuring infinitives, and its puzzling parallelism with clitic placement in EP.
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 231

(39) a. O Pedro já para lá vai.

the Pedro already/soon to there goes
‘Pedro is ready to go there.’
b. *O Pedro já para Lisboa vai.
the Pedro already/soon to Lisbon goes
‘Pedro is ready to go to Lisbon.’
c. *O Pedro já longe vai.
the Pedro already far goes
‘Pedro is far away already.’
(40) a. O Pedro já lá vai a casa.
the Pedro already/soon there goes to house
‘Pedro is ready to go to his/her/their/our house.’
b. *O Pedro já lá a casa vai.
the Pedro already/soon there to house goes
Lá-type locatives denote a location identified with respect to the speaker’s location
at the utterance time. This is clearly shown in (41), as the location denoted by lá
‘there’ in this sentence is [  close] to speaker and addressee (the meaning of lá) at
the utterance time, but [ þ close] to speaker at the assertion/event time (an effect
created by the presence of the first person oblique pronoun comigo ‘with me’).
(41) Ontem ele esteve lá comigo.
Yesterday he was there
The special link between tense and lá-type locatives is rooted in their similar
nature as utterance-anchored deictics.10 According to Demirdache and Uribe-Etxe-
barria (2000), the utterance-time (UT-T) is an argument of T and its syntactic locus
is Spec,TP.11 Now, if the utterance time plays a central role in the interpretation of
lá-type locatives, and the syntactic locus of the UT-T argument is Spec,TP, it is not

Cf. Ritter and Wiltschko (2005, 2009) on the proposal that location, like tense, is one of the values
of INFL, which is basically a deictic that anchors events to utterances.
‘Abstracting away from the contribution of aspect, we assume that the universal core function of INFL
is to anchor the reported eventuality (Ev) to the utterance (Utt) ( . . . ). Specifically, we analyze INFL as a
predicate of coincidence ( þ /  coin) ( . . . ) which orders the eventuality encoded by the VP with respect to
the utterance encoded in Spec,IP. ( . . . ) We further propose that the substantive content of INFL varies: in
English it is TENSE, in Halkomelem it is LOCATION, and in Blackfoot it is PERSON, resulting in
different varieties of the category INFL’ (Ritter and Wiltschko 2009: 156–7).
Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria (2000) analyse tense and aspect as dyadic predicates projecting a
maximal projection in the syntax and establishing an ordering relation between its two time-denoting
arguments. The external argument of tense (T0) is a reference time, the utterance-time (UT-T); its internal
argument is the assertion time (AST-T). The external argument of aspect (Asp) is a reference time, the
AST-T; its internal argument is the event time (EV-T).
232 Ana Maria Martins

unexpected that Spec,TP might be the target of movement of this particular type of
deictic locatives.12
Before we proceed, a note of clarification is in order with respect to the structural
position of the subject in European Portuguese. Costa and Martins (2009, 2010)
assume that Spec,TP is not the canonical subject position in European Portuguese.
Independent evidence that we will not be discussing in this chapter supports the
view that in the general case Spec,TP is not projected in European Portuguese
(cf. Costa 2003). Under the perspective adopted in previous work and herein, the
regular position of preverbal subjects is Spec,SP (Martins 1994, Costa and Martins
2003, 2004).13

12.4.2 From scrambled locatives to emphatic markers to metalinguistic

negation markers
The development of the deictic locatives lá/cá from ordinary locatives to emphatic
markers at a first step (i.e. T-related functional elements under our analysis), then to
metalinguistic negation markers (i.e. C-related functional elements) features a well
known path for diachronic change, which Roberts and Roussou (2003) subsume
under the concept of grammaticalization:
Once an element enters the functional system, it will tend to be reanalysed successively
upwards in the structure, and this creates grammaticalization paths. (Roberts and Roussou
2003: 235).
Pathways of grammaticalization are defined by the functional hierarchy through which
grammaticalized material can travel by means of successive upward reanalysis. Thus gram-
maticalization pathways can be deduced from the functional hierarchy (and possibly vice
versa), once upward reanalysis is taken as a basic mechanism of syntactic change. (cf. Roberts
and Roussou 2003: 209).

Differently from standard cases of grammaticalization, however, each step of upward

‘reanalysis’ in the diachronic development of EP deictic locatives does not result in
the loss of an earlier grammatical value or property. Instead the deictic locatives
develop a type of pragmatic and structural polyvalence, which allows them to be
cumulatively ordinary locatives, emphatic markers, and metalinguistic negation
markers. Each valence is a function of the structural position where they enter the
derivation (i.e. where they first merge) combined with whether and where they
further move.14 The current case-study thus suggests that pragmaticization and

T(ense) may project multiple specifiers under Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria (2000) analysis; so
it can accommodate both the UT-T argument and a deictic locative.
As for its role with respect to the sentential subject, the SP projection of Martins (1994) may be taken
to be equivalent to the SubjP (subject-of-predication) projection of Cardinaletti (1997, 2004). See also
Alexiadou and Anagnostopoulou (1998), Barbosa (2000), Bailyn (2004).
How the basic lexical meaning of the locatives becomes inaccessible (for interpretation) when they
enter the functional system by external merge is an interesting matter that I will not be able to address in
this chapter.
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 233

grammaticalization (in the sense of Roberts and Roussou 2003) follow similar
To summarize up to this point: It was proposed that lá-type locatives and Tense
share central properties as speaker-anchored and utterance-anchored deictics. This
deictic-relatedness associated with the fact that Spec,TP is not the subject position in
EP but a dedicated UT-T position, allows argumental deictic locatives to scramble to
the middle field, that is to say, to move to Spec,TP. The particular link between lá-
type deictic locatives and tense came to be further grammatically expressed by
allowing direct merge of non-argumental deictic locatives in Spec,TP, where they
get interpreted as emphatic markers. This happens in the sixteenth century and
might be related to the fact that the generalized middle scrambling of Old Portu-
guese was lost in the sixteenth century when it became restricted to deictic locatives,
thus making more salient (on empirical grounds) the particular link between the
speaker/utterance-anchored deictic locatives and the middle field. Later on, move-
ment of the T-related emphatic markers to the CP field became an available
grammatical option giving rise to the EP sentence-internal metalinguistic negation
markers and presumably to the type of rhetorical questions with lá that contempor-
ary EP displays.
As the data presented in section 12.3 show, an echoic use of the imperative in
rhetorical questions in the sixteenth century made imperative sentences and rhet-
orical questions with lá somehow overlap. The sixteenth century type of rhetorical
questions with lá must have been the source for the ulterior development of the type
of rhetorical questions with lá found nowadays as well as the metalinguistic negation
declaratives (both involving verb movement to C).15 Pragmatically, the connection
between rhetorical questions and metalinguistic negation is unproblematic as rhet-
orical questions carry a negative implicature and at the same time have the evalu-
ative import that is also present in denials. Structurally, the change that occurred
after the sixteenth century corresponds to a further step in the ‘upward’ integration
of lá-type deictic locatives in the functional system.
The structure that I have in mind for metalinguistic negation declaratives with
lá/cá is given in (42).16 I leave undecided here which are the particular functional
projections of the CP field where the verb and lá/cá (i.e. the deictic locatives that
are additionally emphatic and metalinguistic negation markers) independently

I leave as a topic for future research the discussion of the structural differences between the
contemporary and the sixteenth century type of rhetorical questions with lá (the latter presumably
involving verb movement to S, like imperatives, not to C).
See Martins (2010, 2011) for further details.
Although the functional projections Eval(uative)P and Ass(ertion)P proposed by Ambar (2002)
easily come to mind.
234 Ana Maria Martins

(42) a. Ele deu lá um carro à Maria.

he gave lá a car to-the Maria
b. [TopP [Ele]k [Top’ [CP2 [C2’ [C2 deui] [CP1 láj [C1’ [C1 deui] [SP [ele]k [S’ [S deui]
[TP láj [T’ [T deui] [VP [ele]k deui um carro à Maria] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]
‘He didn’t give Maria a car.’ (as a reaction to: ‘He gave Maria a car.’)
Three types of arguments support the V-to-C analysis of metalinguistic negation
declaratives with lá/cá. First, subject-verb inversion deriving the order VSO is
extremely restricted with direct transitive verbs in EP. Nevertheless, metalinguistic
negation declaratives with lá/cá allow it smoothly—contrast (43b.) with (44b.).
Second, -ly adverbs like frequentemente ‘frequently’ may regularly appear in post-
verbal or preverbal position in declarative sentences, adjoining respectively to VP or
TP (see Costa 1998), as illustrated by (45 A), but are excluded from the preverbal
position in metalinguistic negation declaratives, as shown in (45 B). Third, the EP
adverb bem ‘well’ is basically a manner adverb that adjoins to VP (see Costa 1998),
but it may occur in a structurally higher position in which case it is devoid of
the manner interpretation, displaying instead a modal import—contrast sentence
(46a.), where the manner adverb bem appears in postverbal position, with sentences
(46b.-c.), which show the modal bem in preverbal position. Revealingly, metalin-
guistic negation declaratives may display the word order ‘verb-lá-subj-bem’, where
bem is not a manner adverb (see 47). This word order demonstrates that the subject
is outside VP. Moreover, since the modal bem regularly appears in preverbal
position when the verb is in T, the subject in (47) must be placed in Spec,SP
(which according to the view on EP clause-structure proposed in this chapter is
the regular position for the subject when it moves out of the VP). Therefore, as both
the verb and lá precede the subject in (47), they must have moved to C, which
supports the structural analysis given in (42b.).
(43) a. O meu irmão não perdia uma oportunidade destas.
the my brother not would-miss a opportunity of-these
b. *?Não perdia o meu irmão uma oportunidade destas.
not would-miss the my brother a opportunity of-these
‘My brother wouldn’t miss an opportunity like that.’
(44) a. O meu irmão perdia lá/cá uma oportunidade destas.
the my brother would-miss lá/cá a opportunity of-these
b. Perdia lá/cá o meu irmão uma oportunidade destas.
would-miss lá/cá the my brother a opportunity of-these
‘My brother wouldn’t miss an opportunity like that.’
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 235

(45) A: a. O João fica frequentemente em casa.

the João stays frequently at home
b. O João frequentemente fica em casa.
the João frequently stays at home
‘John stays at home often.’
B: a. O João fica lá/cá frequentemente em casa.
the João stays lá/cá frequently at home
b. *O João frequentemente fica lá/cá em casa.
the João frequently stays lá/cá at home
‘John doesn’t stay at home often.’
(46) a. O Pedro falou bem.
the Pedro spoke well
‘Pedro spoke well.’
b. Bem disse o Pedro que era verdade.
bem said the Pedro that was true
‘Pedro was right in saying that it was true.’
c. Ele bem sabe que é verdade.
he bem knows that is true
‘He definitely knows that it is true’. / ‘I’m sure that he knows that it is true.’
(47) Sei lá eu bem se isso é verdade.
know-1sg lá I bem if that is true

12.5 Conclusion
This chapter discusses the diachronic emergence of a typologically rare type of
sentence-internal unambiguous metalinguistic negation markers. It is shown that
the deictic locatives lá ‘there’/cá ‘here’ entered the functional system as T-related
emphatic markers, which later developed into C-related elements associated with
rhetorical questions or expressing metalinguistic negation.18 As each step of the
diachronic pathway from ordinary deictic locatives to metalinguistic negation mark-
ers did not result in the loss of former grammatical properties, the words lá/cá in
contemporary European Portuguese are cumulatively deictic locatives, emphatic
markers, and metalinguistic negation markers. The diachronic change displayed by
lá/cá can therefore be thought of as a case of pragmaticization, which follows the
same type of ‘upward’ integration in the functional system as grammaticalization, in
the sense of Roberts and Roussou (2003).

On the relevance of the category ‘deictic’ for the C-T system in the syntax of European Portuguese,
see Costa and Martins (2011).
236 Ana Maria Martins

Under the perspective adopted in this chapter, the crucial property of EP gram-
mar that lies behind the development of the deictic locatives lá/cá into metalinguistic
negation markers is the particular nature of Spec,TP as a dedicated utterance-time
(UT-T) position (see Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria 2000). This property of the
T domain in EP allows argumental deictic locatives to undergo middle scrambling,
moving from VP to Spec,TP. It also allows direct merger of non-argumental deictic
locatives in Spec,TP, which results in bleaching of the locative meaning and gives
visibility to the UT-T position, producing the effect of emphasis (understood as the
grammatical manifestation of the speaker at utterance-time). Further movement of
lá/cá to the CP field results in the total invisibility of the locative meaning, while the
emphatic import is preserved in some way or other and additional meaning arises.
The emergence of lá/cá as emphatic markers in the sixteenth century is presum-
ably related to the parametric change that at the same period led to the loss of
generalized IP-scrambling (Martins 2002). This change limited the availability of
middle scrambling to deictic locatives (Costa and Martins 2009, 2010), hence making
particularly salient (on empirical grounds) the relation between the deictic locatives
and Spec,TP.
Emphatic markers can be associated with different sentence types. Once the
emphatic markers lá/cá were available in declarative and imperative sentences,
their use extended to questions through the very particular type of rhetorical
questions echoing imperatives which were illustrated in section 12.3. Rhetorical
questions must have been the cornerstone for the final step of the change, leading
to the emergence of lá/cá as metalinguistic negation markers. On the one hand,
rhetorical questions necessarily activate the CP domain (see Poletto and Obenauer
2000, Obenauer 2006, among others) and would be the vehicle for the upward
movement of lá/cá from the TP to the CP domain. On the other hand, because
rhetorical questions introduce negative implicatures, they are the natural source for
the polarity import of metalinguistic negation lá/cá.19

Historical data
CARDS – Cartas Desconhecidas/Unknown Letters –
Corpus Histórico Tycho Brahe –

On the development of locative pronouns into negative markers in Bantu languages, see Devos,
Kasombo Tshibanda, and van der Auwera (2010).
Deictic locatives, emphasis, and metalinguistic negation 237

Corpus do Português (1300s–1900s), Mark Davies and Michael Ferreira (2006- ) – (CP)

Other sources
Gil Vicente, Todas as Obras. CD-ROM (GV)
D. Francisco Manuel de Mello, Auto do Fidalgo Aprendiz, Lisboa, 1676. (FA)

Negative changes: three factors and

the diachrony of Afrikaans negation

13.1 Introduction
This chapter focuses on variation in the Afrikaans negation system, at least some of
which appears to have arisen during the course of the twentieth century. Our central
contention is that standard Afrikaans (henceforth: Afrikaans A) instantiates a
typologically highly unusual negation system, one which raises particularly challen-
ging questions in the domain of learnability conceived in generative terms, and thus
also about successful transmission across successive generations. The negation
system of one variety of modern colloquial Afrikaans (henceforth: Afrikaans B)
departs from the standard system in at least two respects, one of which is also
attested in pre-standardization Afrikaans, while the other appears to be a relatively
recent innovation. Our objective is, first, to offer an overview of the relevant
empirical facts; second, to offer a feature-based generative analysis of the synchron-
ically attested Afrikaans A and B systems; and finally, to consider how the variations
on the standard pattern might have arisen, placing learnability considerations and
Chomsky’s (2005) ‘three factors’ model centre-stage. We argue that the Afrikaans A
negation system constitutes a system which cannot be acquired solely on the basis of
the input an acquirer will be exposed to, and that we might consequently expect the
negation component of Afrikaans A to be unstable, as indeed it is. Our overall
objective in this chapter, then, is to offer an illustration of a linguistic system which
can meaningfully be characterized as unstable and therefore as likely to give rise to
variation and, under the right circumstances, change.
The chapter is structured as follows: Section 13.2 introduces the empirical facts;
Section 13.3 situates the A and B varieties of Afrikaans in the standardly accepted
generative typology of Negative Concord (NC) languages (cf. i.a. Giannakidou 2000,
2006), highlighting the fact that the Afrikaans A negation system does not fit into
this typology, but that the feature-based proposal of Zeijlstra (2004, 2008) leads us to
Negative changes 239

expect the existence of this type of NC system, allowing us to characterize it in what

might be thought of as ‘parametric terms’; Section 13.4 is devoted to considering the
possible routes via which the variation attested in Afrikaans B might have arisen,
ultimately concluding that it is in part the consequence of the learnability challenge
posed by the Afrikaans A system, a conclusion which also allows us to understand
the non-standard negation patterns attested in pre-standardization Afrikaans; fi-
nally, Section 13.5 concludes.

13.2 Variation in Afrikaans negation: introducing varieties A and B

Standard Afrikaans/Afrikaans A is a language with a relatively short history, having
only been codified in 1925. Whereas many of its properties recognizably reflect those
of its Germanic ancestry, specifically, the various contemporary varieties of Dutch
exported to the Cape of Good Hope in the latter half of the seventeenth century (cf.
Ponelis 1993 and Roberge 1994 for overview discussion), its negation system very
strikingly departs both from the Dutch norm as it is now and, as den Besten (1986)
and Roberge (2000) convincingly show, from the systems that were introduced to
the Cape in the seventeenth century and subsequently. Whereas standard Dutch is a
so-called Double Negation (DN) language, in which each negator contributes its
own semantic negation, with the result that two negators will be interpreted as
conveying a form of positive meaning (though see Horn 1989 for further discussion,
and see also Section 13.3.2 below), Afrikaans A exhibits NC.
The relevant difference is shown in (1)–(2) below:1
(1) a. Ik begrijp nooit dat argument niet Dutch
I understand never that argument neg
‘I never don’t understand that argument’
i.e. ‘I always understand that argument’
(2 negative forms ! 2 negative meanings)
b. Ek het nooit die argument verstaan nie Afrikaans
I have never the argument understand2 neg
‘I have never understood the argument’
(2 negative forms ! 1 negative meaning)
(2) a. Niemand begrijpt het argument Dutch
no-one understands the argument
‘No-one understands the argument’
(1 negative form ! 1 negative meaning)
Negative markers are systematically glossed as neg throughout the chapter. The rationale for this
convention becomes clear in Section
The non-agreeing glosses given for Afrikaans in this chapter reflect the fact that this language does
not distinguish different verb forms morphologically, another respect in which it differs from its parent.
240 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

b. Niemand verstaan die argument nie Afrikaans

nobody understand the argument neg
‘No-one understands the argument’
(2 negative forms ! 1 negative meaning)
As the (b) examples show, Afrikaans A systematically requires a clause-final
negation element to occur with elements contributing to sentential negation. This
is true regardless of whether the elements are negative indefinites (NIs) as in (1b.)
and (2b.) above or negative markers (NMs) as in (3):
(3) Hy sal nie verstaan nie
he shall not understood neg
‘He won’t understand’
As (3) shows, the clause-internal Afrikaans NM—which occupies approximately
the same position as its Dutch source (cf. Hij zal niet verstaan)—is superficially
identical to the clause-final negation marker. This final element is also prescriptively
required in fragmentary answers (4), although it is in practice often omitted by
speakers of this variety, who, when questioned, state that both options are accept-
able; it may therefore be more accurate to view final nie in fragmentary answers as
an optional element.3 Furthermore, it also required where negative constituents are
focus-fronted (5; CAPITALS indicate intonationally focused elements) and in con-
stituent negation structures more generally (6):
(4) Wie het my boek gesien? Niemand (nie)
who has my book seen? Nobody neg
‘Who has seen my book?’ ‘No-one’
(5) Nie die BOEK nie, maar die TYDSKRIF het hy gelees
neg the book neg but the magazine has he read
‘Not the BOOK, but the MAGAZINE he read’
(6) Moeder Natuur het vir nie minder nie as drie beskermende
Mother Nature have for neg less neg than three protective
lae gesorg
layers cared
‘Mother Nature provided no less than three protective layers’
(cf. Donaldson 1993: 410)

To the best of our knowledge, prescriptive grammars are silent on the question of the structure of
fragmentary answers. They do, however, highlight the need for clause-final nie in negated sentences and
this requirement is also foregrounded in school and other normative contexts. We return to the
significance of this point in sections 13.4.2 and 13.4.3 below.
Negative changes 241

One type of clause-internal negative constituent that it may not co-occur with,
however, is the class of clause-internal NIs:
(7) Hy het niks (*nie) gekoop nie
he have nothing neg bought neg
‘He has bought nothing’
Based on the above facts, Afrikaans A appears to be a strict NC language of the
type defined by Giannakidou (2000, 2006): every NM and NI must be accompanied
by a further negation marker, clause-final nie, with even the NIs surfacing in
fragmentary answers being compatible with this marker (contrast other strict NC
languages where NIs—or n-words as they are, following Laka (1990 1994), more
commonly referred to—may occur independently of the otherwise obligatory con-
cord marker in fragmentary answers). We would therefore expect it also to exhibit
NC wherever two NIs co-occur. As (8) illustrates, however, this is not the case:
(8) a. Niemand het niks gesien nie
nobody have nothing seen neg
‘No-one saw nothing’, i.e. ‘Everyone saw something’
b. Ek verkoop nooit niks nie
I sell never nothing neg
‘I never sell nothing’, i.e. ‘I always sell something’
Worth noting about these structures is that they require a special intonation
pattern—the so-called contradiction contour of Liberman and Sag (1974). We return
to this point in Section below. What is worth noting here is that Afrikaans
A has, in descriptive terms, retained Dutch’s DN pattern where combinations of
NIs are concerned, whereas it has developed an NC pattern wherever clausal or
constituent negation is at issue.
Strikingly, a colloquial variety of Afrikaans spoken in particular by younger
speakers, but seemingly rather widespread among modern-day speakers of the
language generally, differs from Afrikaans A in that (8)-type structures deliver NC
readings. In this variety (Afrikaans B), (8a.) therefore means ‘No-one saw anything’,
while (8b.) means ‘I never sell anything’, just as corresponding sentences in, for
example West Flemish would (cf. Haegeman 1995). This variety further differs from
Afrikaans A in that it makes more liberal use of the final nie illustrated in (1b.) and
(2b.): whereas final nie in Afrikaans A is limited to clause-final position, barring the
constituent negation cases illustrated in (5)–(6), this nie may surface in all of these
cases, and, additionally, follow clause-internal NIs in Afrikaans B. Thus (7)-type
structures are well-formed in Afrikaans B; (9) illustrates:
(9) a. Hy is nooit (nie) tevrede nie
he is never neg satisfied neg
‘He is NEVER satisfied’
242 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

As the translation indicates, the presence of the additional nie, an optional

element, results in a more emphatic negation.
To summarize, then, modern spoken Afrikaans presents us with (at least) two
different negation systems, one of which, Afrikaans A, does not appear to fit into the
existing generative typology of NC languages, and the other of which, Afrikaans B,
which appears to be the innovative variety, does. The first of our theoretical
proposals is that these varieties can be understood within the context of the
generative analysis of negation systems put forth by Zeijlstra (2004, 2008). This is
the focus of the next section.

13.3 A formal analysis of Afrikaans varieties A and B

13.3.1 Theoretical background Giannakidou’s (2000, 2006) typology of negation types Before we turn to the
specifics of Zeijlstra’s analysis, it will be useful to summarize the typology of
negation systems proposed by Giannakidou (2000, 2006). In terms of this
typology, a broad distinction can be drawn between Double Negation (DN) and
Negative Concord (NC) languages, with every morphosyntatically negative element
crucially corresponding to a semantic negation in the former (cf. the Afrikaans
A examples in (8)). In NC languages, by contrast, multiple morphosyntactically
negative elements may yield a reading that results in only a single semantic negation
(cf. the Afrikaans B interpretations of (8) and also cases like those given in (10)):
(10) a. No-one took nothin’ NC varieties of English
‘No-one took anything’
b. Ninguém disse nada (a ninguém) European Portuguese
n-one4 said n-thing to n-one
‘No-one said anything to anyone’
c. Nin kacur ka mudi nin gatu Creole Portuguese5
no dog neg bite no cat
‘No dog bit any cat’
According to Giannakidou (2000, 2006), NC languages can be classified into two
types: strict and non-strict NC languages. In strict NC languages, every NI (¼n-
word; see note 4) must be accompanied by a negative marker (NM), regardless of its
clausal position; otherwise the sentence is ungrammatical. Czech instantiates a
language of this type, as (11) shows:

NIs which do not always contribute an independent semantic negation to the structures in which they
occur—i.e. n-words in Laka’s (1990/1994) terms—are systematically glossed with the prefix n- to mark the
fact that they differ from NIs in DN systems.
This is the variety spoken in Guinea-Bissau variety (cf. Holm and Patrick 2007: 67).
Negative changes 243

(11) a. Milan *(ne) vidi nikoho Czech

Milan neg.saw n-body
‘Milan didn’t see anybody’
b. Nikdo *(ne) volá
n-body neg.calls
‘Nobody is calling’
In non-strict NC languages, but contrast, only postverbal n-words must be
accompanied by the NM, preverbal n-words are not (neutrally) allowed to combine
with the NM. We illustrate on the basis of Italian:
(12) a. Gianni* (non) ha telefonato a nessuno Italian
Gianni neg has called to n-body
‘Gianni didn’t call anybody’
b. Ieri nessuno (*non) ha telefonato (a nessuno)
yesterday n-body neg has called to n-body
‘Yesterday nobody called anybody’
In the context of this typology, it is clear that Afrikaans B instantiates a strict NC
system, but it is not obvious what Afrikaans A would be, given the non-NC
behaviour of its NIs. We return to this matter in Section 13.3.2 below. The rest of
Section 13.3.1 introduces Zeijlstra’s (2004, 2008) formal analysis of the negation
typology outlined above. Zeijlstra’s (2004, 2008) formal analysis of negation Drawing on Minimalist

feature theory, specifically that centred on feature interpretability (distinguishing
uninterpretable features ([uF]) from interpretable features ([iF]) rather than feature
valuation (distinguishing valued features from unvalued features) as in Chomsky’s
(2001 et seq.) probe-goal theory, Zeijlstra (op.cit.) proposes a feature-based analysis
of Giannakidou’s typology. The key ingredients in Zeijlstra’s analysis of NC are that:
(13) a. n-words carry a feature [uNEG] that needs to be checked against a higher
negative operator, which may be either overt or covert, but which crucially
bears [iNEG], i.e. n-words themselves are semantically non-negative;
b. sentential negation must be formally represented at the vP boundary or
higher; and
c. the absence of an overt element carrying [iNEG], required to check the [uNEG]
feature associated with n-words, leads the language-acquiring child to postulate
an abstract negative operator (this follows an idea going back to Ladusaw (1992)).
On this analysis, the difference between strict and non-strict NC languages
reduces to the feature that the NM carries: in non-strict NC languages, the NM
244 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

carries [iNEG], whereas in strict NC languages, the NM carries [uNEG]. We

illustrate schematically, once again using Czech and Italian to illustrate:6
(14) a. Op¬[iNEG]nevolá [uNEG]nikdo[uNEG] Czech (Strict NC)

b. Op¬[iNEG]nikdo[uNEG]nevolá[uNEG]

c. Op¬[iNEG]nikdo[uNEG] nevolá[uNEG]nikoho[uNEG]7

(15) a. Gianni non[iNEG] ha telefonato a nessuno[uNEG] Italian (Non-strict NC)

b. ∗ Nessuno[uNEG]non[iNEG] ha telefonato a nessuno[uNEG]

c. Op¬[iNEG] nessuno [uNEG] ha telefonato a nessuno[uNEG]

The reasoning here is that Czech acquirers will anlayse ne- as [uNEG] since it
always co-occurs with n-words without inducing a further semantic negation (cf.
(14a.,b.) both when it is c-commanded by an n-word and when it c-commands one.
Since multiple NIs also do not result in DN structures (cf. (14c.)), these elements are
also analysed as [uNEG] bearers, i.e. as n-words. The locus of semantic negation in
all Czech sentences, then, is postulated to be an abstract negative operator. In the
Italian case, the combination of (15a.) and (15c.)-type input structures will once again
lead acquirers to analyse NIs as [uNEG] elements (n-words). In combination, these
structures also alert the acquirer to the fact that the analysis of the NM non must be
different from that of Czech ne-:8 unlike Czech ne, the surface position of Italian non
always coincides with the locus of semantic negation. Consequently, the child
hypothesizes that the lexical inventory of Italian entails two [iNEG] markers: overtly
realized non, which surfaces wherever n-words are limited to postverbal positions,
As the diagrams clearly show, Zeijlstra’s analysis assumes that a single interpretable feature can check
multiple uninterpretable features. In this respect, it is similar to the Multiple Agree analyses proposed by
i.a. Ura (1996), Hiraiwa (2001, 2005), and Bejar and Rezac (2009); see, however, Haegeman and Lohndal
(2010) who argue that Multiple Agree reduces to multiple instances of binary Agree.
See note 13 on the question of the location of the abstract negative operator assumed in structures
lacking an overtly realized [iNEG] element.
It should be noted that this statement is formulated from the perspective of the comparative linguist,
and that we are not suggesting that the Italian-acquiring child is in fact comparing the Italian input it receives
to other systems it might hypothesize or indeed to others which might in some sense be present as part of its
innate Universal Grammar. See Section 13.4.4 for further discussion of the role of UG in our proposals.
Negative changes 245

and a covertly realized abstract operator, which is postulated to be present wherever

preverbal n-words surface without non.
Returning our attention to the overall typology of negation types proposed by
Giannakidou (2000, 2006), we see that Zeijlstra’s system captures the different types
as in (16):
(16) a. the difference between DN and NC languages depends on the semantic value
of NIs: in NC languages, they carry [uNEG], whereas in DN languages they
are semantically negative (see Section 13.4.4 for further discussion).
b. the difference between strict and non-strict NC languages is dependent on
the semantic value of the NM: [iNEG] in non-strict NC languages and
[uNEG] in strict NC languages.
Represented in tabular form, we see that Zeijlstra’s formal analysis gives the
following typology of negative systems:
N-words semantically N-words semantically
negative non-negative
Negative markers DN languages: Dutch, Non-strict NC languages:
semantically negative German, Swedish Spanish, Italian, Portuguese
Negative markers ??? Strict NC languages:
semantically non- Czech, Serbo-Croatian,
negative Greek, Afrikaans B

As (17) shows, Zeijlstra’s typology features a gap, raising the question of whether
there are languages with [uNEG] NMs and [iNEG] NIs. Biberauer and Zeijlstra (in
press) argue that Afrikaans A, which, recall, does not have a place in Giannakidou’s
typology, instantiates a system of this type. In the following section, we will show
how this analysis appears to be correct for Afrikaans A, whereas the strict NC
analysis allows us to understand the properties of Afrikaans B.

13.3.2 A formal analysis of the properties of Afrikaans A and Afrikaans B Afrikaans A If NIs bear [iNEG], as suggested at the end of Section,
we expect every combination of two NIs to yield a DN reading. As we saw in (8a.),
repeated as (18) below, this is indeed the case.
(18) a. Niemand[iNEG] het niks[iNEG] gesien nie[uNEG]
nobody have nothing seen neg
DN: ‘No-one saw nothing’, i.e. ‘Everyone saw something’
b. Niemand[iNEG] het niks[iNEG] gesien nie[uNEG]
246 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

By contrast, where an NI co-occurs with nie in sentence-final position, or in a

fragmentary answer, only an NC reading is available. In formal terms, this can be
thought of as the consequence of the checking relation that takes place between the
n-word’s [iNEG] feature and the [uNEG] feature on nie. The relevant cases are
schematized in (19)–(20) (cf. (2b.) and (4) above):
(19) a. Niemand[iNEG] verstaan die argument nie[uNEG]
nobody understand the argument neg
‘Nobody understands the argument’
b. Niemand[iNEG] verstaan die argument nie[uNEG]

(20) a. Wie het my boek gesien? Niemand[iNEG] (nie[uNEG])

who have my book seen? nobody neg
‘Who has seen my book?’ ‘No-one’
b. Niemand[iNEG] (nie[uNEG])

The Afrikaans-acquiring child, then, has clear evidence for the [uNEG] value of
final nie. In relation to medial nie—which Biberauer (2008a, 2009) refers to as the
‘real’ negator—three possible analyses suggest themselves: either (a) final and medial
nie are the same lexical item, with the result that they both bear [uNEG], (b) final
and medial nie are analysed as distinct lexical items which, however, both bear
[uNEG], or (c) medial nie is analysed as a distinct lexical item, which differs from
final nie in bearing [iNEG]. On the former analyses—which we will not distinguish
between here—the child will postulate an abstract negative operator bearing [iNEG],
just like the Czech-acquiring child; on the latter, medial nie will be [iNEG] like
Italian non.9 As final nie is obligatory, regardless of the position of the NI, the child
will opt for the former interpretation (see Biberauer and Zeijlstra 2011 for more
detailed discussion of the acquisition of the featural specification of the Afrikaans
nies). Crucially, this analysis, in terms of which both nies are [uNEG], renders
Afrikaans A a system in which NMs bear [uNEG], while NIs carry [iNEG]. (21)
illustrates the formal structure ascribed to a structure containing two nies on this

As noted in the main text, Biberauer (2008a, 2009) distinguishes between nie1 (the ‘real’ negator) and
nie2 (the concord element), showing that the two elements behave very differently in respect of properties
like omissibility, modifiability, and prosodic and lexical reinforcement. On the analysis in terms of which
both nies are featurally identical (i.e. that proposed in Biberauer and Zeijlsta in press), these differences
would not follow from a difference in the formal feature specification of these negative markers, but
instead from a difference in respect of the position in which they are merged. See Biberauer (op.cit.) for
discussion of the structural positions associated with medial and final nie respectively.
Negative changes 247

(21) a. Hy is nie moeg nie

he is neg tired neg
‘He is not tired’
b. Hy is Op¬[iNEG] nie[uNEG] moeg nie[uNEG]]

One challenge that remains for this analysis is that a single NI co-occurring with
two NMs does not yield an NC reading, even though both instances of nie are
analysed as carrying [uNEG]; as (22) shows, only a DN reading is possible here:
(22) a. Niemand[iNEG] het nie[uNEG] die werk voltooi nie[uNEG]
nobody have neg the work completed neg
DN: ‘Nobody hasn’t completed the work’, i.e. ‘Everyone completed the work’
*NC: ‘Nobody completed the work’
On the analysis in terms of which medial nie bears [iNEG], the DN reading
follows straightforwardly, so one might conclude that (22)-type structures constitute
the crucial evidence for the Afrikaans-acquiring child that there are in fact two nies,
with medial nie being [iNEG] and only final nie being [uNEG]. Worth noting,
however, is a very important fact about the contexts in which (22)-type structures
occur: they can only be uttered felicitously in contexts where a speaker rejects a
negative presupposition uttered previously in the conversation, notably denial con-
texts (cf. Horn 1985, 1989 for an extensive discussion of the difference between
negation and denial). At least one of the negative elements in structures of this
type requires focal stress:
(23) a. NIEMAND het nie die werk voltooi nie
b. Niemand het NIE die werk voltooi nie
c. NIEMAND het NIE die werk voltooi nie, etc.10
The same is true for cases in which the NI is a non-subject:
(24) a. Ek het vir NIEMAND nie ‘n boek gekoop nie
I have for no-one neg a book bought neg
‘There’s no-one I didn’t buy a book for’, i.e. ‘I bought a book for everyone’
b. Ek het vir niemand NIE ‘n boek gekoop nie, etc.

Worth noting is that it is only medial nie that can be focused in denial structures (cf. Biberauer 2008a
for discussion), and also that it is also possible to focus appropriate non-negative elements alongside a
focused negative element. This latter scenario is illustrated in (i) below:
(i) NIEMAND het nie die werk VOLTOOI nie, maar daar was EEN student
nobody have neg the work completed neg but there was one student
wat laat INgehandig het
what late in-handed have
‘NOBODY didn’t COMPLETE the work, but there was ONE student who SUBMITTED late’
248 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

Crucially, niemand and the adjacent nie need to be in separate prosodic phrases in
this case. The significance of this fact will become clear in Section below.
Returning to the question of how the denial status of structures like (22)–(24) is
relevant in determining what Afrikaans-acquiring children will conclude about the
featural composition of the two nies, we note two central points, one distributional
and the other relating to the formal representation of these structures.
First, DN structures like those in (22)–(24) have often been observed to occur very
rarely in actual usage, and so we might expect them not to constitute a salient part of
the input to which an Afrikaans-acquiring child is exposed. If these structures do not
play a significant role in the primary linguistic data (PLD) on the basis of which the
child acquires the Afrikaans negation system, the alternative possibilities vis-à-vis
the featural composition of the two nies remain in play. We return to this matter in
Section 13.4.3 below.
Second, on the formal front, it has often been observed that focal intonation ‘seals
off ’ focused elements from the rest of the structure in which they occur, i.e. from their
usual licensing domain (cf. Haegeman and Zanuttini 1991 for earlier observation of
this phenomenon, and i.a. Corblin et al. 2004, Blaszczak and Gärtner 2005, Biberauer
2009, and Biberauer and Zeijlstra in press for subsequent discussions and references).
In formal terms, this insight could be taken to entail the presence of additional
structure—which we may informally label a FocusPhrase—which PF interprets as
an instruction to prosodically isolate the relevant elements from the prosodic phrase
which it would otherwise be part of, and which, viewed in phasal terms, may in fact be
taken to be an independent strong phase, i.e. a structural unit deriving from a lexical
array which is integrated with the clause in which it appears as an already-spelled-out
unit, opaque to further checking/valuing operations.11 On the assumption that a given
structural domain can only be successfully spelled-out at the point at which all of its
features are interpretable/valued, it is clear that focused elements must contain all the
elements required to check/value uninterpretable/unvalued features.12 Let us now see
how this enables us to understand the Afrikaans DN patterns.
Consider, first, the case of the focused NI illustrated in (24a.). (26) gives a formal
representation of this structure:

(26) Ek het Op¬[iNEG] vir [FOCUS niemand [iNEG]] nie[uNEG] ‘n boek gekoop nie[uNEG]


Note that if the label of a syntactic object simply corresponds to its constituent features, an already-
spelled-out/opaque XP will still be available as a checker/goal for a higher head bearing uninterpretable/
unvalued features. Thus T could still check/probe the f-features of a focused subject DP, even if it has
been spelled-out and therefore constitutes an island for the purposes of extraction, etc: the assumption is
that interpretable/valued features of spelled-out XPs are accessible via the label.
But see (amongst others) Sauerland and Elbourne (2002) for a view that allows phases not to be fully
interpretable at LF.
Negative changes 249

In (26), niemand cannot serve as the [iNEG]-bearing element that checks the
[uNEG] features on the nies in this case because it is ‘sealed off ’ within its own focus
domain (contrast niemand in (20), for example). An abstract negative operator
therefore needs to be merged to license the negative markers, in the same way that
an abstract negative operator is required in negative structures lacking n-words (e.g.
(21)). Consequently, we get two independent negations—I associated with the
sentential negator and II with niemand—and thus DN. The same holds for (23a.),
as shown below:
(27) [FOCUS Niemand [iNEG]] het Op¬[iNEG] nie[uNEG] die werk voltooi nie[uNEG]13

(23b.) follows the same pattern, with the difference that focus-driven isolation of
the [uNEG]-bearing negative marker entails the usual requirement that holds in
domains in which [uNEG]-bearing elements are merged independently of an
[iNEG] element, namely merger of an [iNEG]-bearing abstract negative operator.
This is illustrated in (28):

(28) Niemand [iNEG] het [FOCUS Op¬[iNEG] NIE[uNEG]] die werk voltooi nie[uNEG]

What we have seen in this section, then, is that the assumption that NIs in
Afrikaans A carry [iNEG], while nie carries [uNEG], correctly predicts the patterns
that we observe. It would therefore appear that the ‘missing type’ in Zeijlstra’s
featurally defined typology of negation systems is in fact attested, and that it may
be necessary to allow for partial NC languages. The few cases that seem to challenge
this analysis entail denial contexts, which involve focused negative elements, i.e.
negative elements ‘sealed off ’ from the clauses in which they occur, and which
therefore have independent licensing conditions. As these DN denial structures are

The precise location of the abstract [iNEG]-bearing negative operator is not crucial here. We
indicate it as having been merged at the edge of vP as this is the lowest point at which sentential negation
may be semantically represented in terms of Zeijlstra’s theory (cf. (13b.) above). If a phasal domain is only
semantically well-formed if its operator-related features have been checked/valued, there may additionally
be a phasally motivated rationale for merging the operator in this position. This latter view would,
however, also entail that relevant types of wh-phrases (i.e. those bearing [uWH] features) would need
to be checked/valued within vP. If recent work by Rackowski and Richards (2005) and den Dikken (2009)
is on the right track, this may in fact be correct (possibly even universally). Italian-type languages in which
[iNEG] (spelled out as non) is clearly merged higher than vP (cf. Zanuttini 1997) superficially pose a
challenge for this proposal. If the phase sliding and phase extension proposals of Gallego (2007, 2010) and
den Dikken (2006) respectively are on the right track, however, this challenge may, once again, only be
apparent. We leave these very interesting questions to future research as all that matters for the present
discussion is that an abstract negative operator needs to be represented within each independent structural
domain featuring one or more [uNEG] elements.
250 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

generally recognized to be very rarely attested, it naturally follows that they play little
or no role in the acquisition of the Afrikaans negation system. Our next concern will
be to establish the formal properties of the more innovative Afrikaans B in the
context of Zeijlstra’s system. Afrikaans B Recall that Afrikaans A and Afrikaans B differ in two respects:
(29) a. whether multiple NIs deliver NC readings, i.e. exhibit Negative Spread
(cf. den Besten 1986), or not (no: Afrikaans A; yes: Afrikaans B)
b. the distribution of final nie, namely whether it may follow clause-internal
NIs or not (no: Afrikaans A; yes: Afrikaans B).
Formally, the only difference between varieties A and B is that NIs in the latter
bear [uNEG] rather than [iNEG], i.e. they are n-words. Consequently, multiple NIs/
n-words deliver only a single semantic negation, and the Afrikaans B counterpart of
(18) is interpreted as an NC structure. This is illustrated in (30):
(30) a. Niemand[uNEG] het niks[uNEG] gesien nie[uNEG]
n-body have n-thing seen neg
NC: ‘Nobody saw anything’
b. [Op¬[iNEG] Niemand[uNEG] het niks[uNEG] gesien nie[uNEG]]

Thus Afrikaans B is a strict NC language in which all NIs and NMs are seman-
tically non-negative, with an abstract negative operator always inducing the seman-
tic negation.14
Importantly, DN structures are also possible in Afrikaans B; as in Afrikaans A,
they, however, require very specific intonational marking, necessarily exhibiting
the so-called contradiction contour intonation pattern. Once again, then, DN
readings result as a consequence of the ‘sealing off ’ effects discussed in sec-
tion (31) illustrates the contrast between an NC and a DN structure in
Afrikaans B:

Further evidence that Afrikaans B is a strict NC language comes from the fact that it has innovated a
reinforcing negation structure—g’n niks (‘no nothing’)—in which two negative elements serve to express a
single negation (cf. Biberauer 2009, Huddlestone 2010). This innovation very obviously parallels what we
see in NC varieties of English, as (ii) shows:
(i) Hy is g’n niks tevrede nie!
he is no n-thing satisfied neg
‘He isn’t remotely satisfied’
(ii) He ain’t gonna do no nothin’ to help!
Negative changes 251

(31) a. [Op¬[iNEG] Niemand[uNEG] gee my niks[uNEG] nie[uNEG] ]

n-one give me n-thing NEG
‘No-one gives me anything’ – NC reading; no special intonation required
b. [Op¬[iNEG] Niemand[uNEG] gee my [FOCUS Op¬[iNEG] NIKS[uNEG] ] nie[uNEG] ]
n-one give me n-thing NEG
‘No-one gives me nothing’ – DN reading; special intonation required

As the formal structures indicate, the ‘sealing off’ effect of focus requires the
postulation of an additional negative operator. Since it is not just NMs, but also NIs/
n-words which bear [uNEG] in Afrikaans B, ‘sealing off’ of any negative elements
requires the postulation of an extra negative operator, i.e. all focused negative
elements will be contained within domains (phases) containing an abstract negative
operator bearing [iNEG], not just the NMs as in Afrikaans A (see (28)). Afrikaans B,
then, is in a sense a more regular variety than Afrikaans A, with all negative elements
behaving in the same manner. We return to this point in Section 13.5.4 below.
Let us now consider the second property distinguishing Afrikaans A from Afri-
kaans B, namely the freer distribution of final nie in terms of which it may follow NIs
(n-words in this variety) not only clause-finally, but also clause-medially. This
development also follows naturally from the fact that nie bears [uNEG] in Afrikaans
B. Specifically, this variety has simply extended the range of structural domains in
which nie may surface finally: whereas Afrikaans A permits constituent negation
structures to feature final nie (cf. (5)–(6) above), Afrikaans B additionally permits
n-words to do so. As Biberauer (2009) observes, this could be thought of as a type of
‘sub-Jespersen’s Cycle’, affecting sub-clausal constituents in the same way as negative
reinforcement affects the sentential negator at Stage II of the Cycle originally
considered by Jespersen (1917). The relevant parallel is schematized in (32), with
the optional reinforcement stage, which appears to have arisen in the sub-clausal
domain in Afrikaans B, highlighted in bold:
(32) a. ‘Traditional’ Jespersen’s Cycle:
Stage I: NEG1 ne
Stage II: NEG1 . . . . (NEG2) ne . . . (pas)
Stage III: NEG1 . . . NEG2 ne . . . pas
Stage IV: (NEG1) . . . NEG2 (ne) . . . pas
Stage V: NEG2 pas
b. Sub-Jespersen’s Cycle in Afrikaans:
Stage I: nooit (‘never’)/niks (‘nothing’)/niemand (‘nobody’), etc.
Stage II: nooit (nie)/niks (nie)/niemand (nie), etc.
Stage III: nooit nie/niks nie/niemand nie, etc.
252 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

In the case of cyclic developments in the non-clausal domain, we expect stages IV

and V to be ruled out for functional reasons: if it were possible to omit the NI
component of stage II structures, it would no longer be clear which NI was intended.
Stage III, on the other hand, although it is not attested in any synchronic variety of
Afrikaans is not, in principle, ruled out.
Worth noting about extra nie-containing structures such as those in (9) above and
(33) below is that they are crucially very different from the structures in (34):
(33) a. Ek het vir [niemand nie] ‘n boek gekoop nie Afrikaans B
I have for n-body neg a book bought neg
NC: ‘I didn’t buy a book for anybody’
b. Hulle is [nêrens nie] gelukkig nie
they is n-where neg happy neg
‘They aren’t happy anywhere’
(34) a. Ek het vir [NIEMAND] nie ‘n boek gekoop nie Afrikaans A/B
I have for nobody/n-body neg a book bought neg
‘There’s NOBODY I didn’t buy a book for’, i.e. ‘I bought a book for everyone’
b. Ek het vir niemand [NIE] ‘n boek gekoop nie
I have for nobody/n-body neg a book bought neg
‘There is nobody for whom I DIDN’T buy a book’
The n-words and nie are within the same prosodic phrase in (33), whereas they
crucially cannot be in (34), where there is always a necessary prosodic break between
the adjacent negative elements. Given this crucial prosodic difference and the fact
that n-words in Afrikaans B bear [uNEG], we therefore expect NC in the former case
and DN in the latter. This is indeed the case.
What we have seen in this section, then, is that the semantic differences between
varieties A and B follow from the fact that NIs in Afrikaans A carry [iNEG], whereas
they carry [uNEG] in Afrikaans B, thus behaving like n-words. Since NMs in both
languages are [uNEG], at least following the analysis in Biberauer and Zeijlstra (in
press), Afrikaans B emerges as a strict NC language. Having established this analysis,
we now turn our attention to the question of the diachronic developments that led to
the co-existence of Afrikaans A and B.

13.4 From Afrikaans A to Afrikaans B: the diachronic

perspective and its wider implications
13.4.1 Introduction
As we saw in the preceding section, the synchronic difference between varieties A
and B lies in the featural make-up of their NIs: while Afrikaans A NIs are [iNEG],
Negative changes 253

their counterparts in Afrikaans B are [uNEG]. As Afrikaans B is a modern colloquial

variety, the question in diachronic terms would seem to be how the reanalysis in (35)
came about:
(35) NI [iNEG] ! NI [uNEG]
Since this change involves the loss of an interpretable formal feature, one might
also wonder whether it in any way parallels the familiar Jespersen’s Cycle develop-
ments, in the context of which an originally negative element ultimately loses its
ability to act independently as a negator. Furthermore, there is an additional question
as to whether the change in (35) is in any way connected with the increased use of final
nie in Afrikaans B. In relation to this question, three possibilities suggest themselves:
(36) a. Hypothesis I: The nie-related change happened first and created an
appropriate environment for the n-word-related change.
b. Hypothesis II: The n-word-related change happened first and created an
appropriate environment for the nie-related change.
c. Hypothesis III: The two changes are independent.
In the following sections, we will consider each hypothesis in turn, highlighting in
particular the role of acquisition considerations and the manner in which these may
be interpreted in the context of Chomsky’s (2005) ‘three factors’ approach.

13.4.2 Hypothesis I: the pathway from Afrikaans A to Afrikaans B

In terms of this hypothesis, the extension of the permissible domains in which ‘extra’
final nies may occur to bring about an emphatic interpretation led to the reanalysis
of NIs as [uNEG] elements. This proposal rests on the assumption that two types of
input in particular would have been relevant in the reanalysis: (a) fragmentary
answers, and, particularly, (b) emphatic structures featuring a clause-internal re-
inforcing ‘extra’ nie. We repeat examples of relevant structures below:
(37) a. A: Wie het jou gehelp?
who have you.obl helped
‘Who helped you?’
B: Niemand (nie)
n-one neg
b. Moeder Natuur het vir nie minder nie as drie
Mother Nature have for neg less neg than three
beskermende lae gesorg (¼ (6))
protective layers cared
‘Mother Nature has provided no less than three protective layers’
(cf. Donaldson 1993: 410)
254 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

On the assumption that the extension of the use of sub-clausal/constituent

negation-related nie to NIs simply represents the kind of overextension phenom-
enon that seems to arise very naturally in ordinary language use and that often plays
a role in change (consider, for example, the overextensions involved in lexical items
that ultimately become grammaticalized; cf. Hopper and Traugott (1993) for over-
view discussion), it is likely that the Afrikaans-acquiring child may interpret this
overgeneralized input, alongside the fragment-answer data, as signalling the fact that
NIs in Afrikaans are [uNEG]. This is because (s)he is presented with two distinct
types of input in which NIs are immediately adjacent to nie, with the combination of
these two negative elements giving rise to only a single negation reading, i.e. NC.
This is schematized in (38):
(38) The role of extra nie:
Input: [niemand nie]; [nooit nie]; [niks nie]; [nêrens nie]; etc.
Child’s conclusion: the concord element nie signals the presence of a senten-
tial negation [Op⌍[ineg]] outside the constituent [NI nie], rather than a
constituent-internal negation. Since NIs thus effectively require an abstract
concord element to be present in order to be licensed, they are in fact n-words
and thus bear [uNEG].
That Afrikaans B speakers view NI þ nie combinations as constituents is clear from
the fact that they permit these combinations to undergo fronting:
(39) NOOIT nie kom jy terug nie!
never neg come you back neg
‘You’re NEVER coming back!’
This hypothesis therefore seems to be plausible, allowing us to understand
how Afrikaans A-type [iNEG] NIs might be reanalysed as Afrikaans B-type
[uNEG] n-words: once acquirers have analysed [niemand nie], etc. as constituents
exhibiting an NC relation, they assume the NI to be [uNEG]; once NIs have been
reanalysed as [uNEG] elements, Afrikaans B is a strict NC language (both negative
markers and n-words are [uNEG]), with the result that the NC facts in the n-word
domain follow.
Despite the plausibility of this hypothesis, however, it makes some problematic
predictions. First, it leads us to expect that we may find Afrikaans speakers who do
not produce Negative Spread structures, but who do overextend the use of final nie.
This does not, however, seem to be the case. In fact, the opposite seems to be true:
there appear to be speakers of modern Afrikaans who permit Negative Spread
without producing NI þ nie structures. This is also true of the attrited Afrikaans
Negative changes 255

speakers living in Argentina15 and, even more interestingly, of Afrikaans speakers

using the language during the nineteenth century. The following examples are from
Roberge (2000: 126)
(40) a. . . . an moet noeuait niks peraat ien die guslnie
and must n-ver n-thing talk in the bath.neg
‘ . . . and must never say anything while in the bath’ [Abu Bakr, 1869]
b. Mar Afrikaans, Engels, Frans, ens. het glad niks gen
but Afrikaans English French etc. have absolutely nothing no
verbuiging van die Naamvalle an die word self
inflection of the cases of the word (it)self
o’ergehou nie
retained neg
‘But Afrikaans, English, French, etc. have retained absolutely no nominal
inflection’ [Du Toit 1876: 13]16
That nineteenth century Afrikaans speakers were producing Negative Spread is
particularly significant since these speakers would have been speaking pre-stand-
ardization Afrikaans (recall that Afrikaans was only standardized in 1925), and this
variety did not have a systematic requirement that negative clauses end in nie: as
Roberge (1994, 2000) observes, clause-final nie suddenly began to appear in negative
clauses in the latter half of the nineteenth century, having previously been stigma-
tized as ‘unDutch’, ‘uneducated’, and similar. From the later 1800s, however, na-
tionalist sentiments led promoters of the Afrikaans language to call for its
recognition as a language distinct from Dutch, a language which had originated
on African soil and which should therefore have the same rights as English, since
1806 the language of South Africa’s colonial masters. In this context, properties
distinguishing Afrikaans from Dutch were accorded new significance, with the result
that previously stigmatized final nie became enshrined as the prescriptive norm.
Importantly, Negative Spread, another feature which was clearly in use in the
nineteenth century and which would also have distinguished Afrikaans from
Dutch, was not accorded standard status. As Beatrice Santorini (p.c.) points out,
this may well reflect the fact that Negative Spread is so heavily stigmatized in
varieties in which it does not constitute the norm. We return to the significance of
these facts in the following section. For the moment, the key point is that NC use of

This observation is based on preliminary fieldwork among the so-called Patagonian Afrikaners of
Argentina, some of whom do not systematically employ final nie even in the clausal domain. See Section
13.4.5 for further discussion.
This structure occurs in a text, written by one of the foremost figures of the Afrikaans Language
Struggle (Afrikaanse Taalstryd) and a man who viewed himself as trilingual in English, Dutch, and
Afrikaans. The text in question seeks to set out the formal properties of Afrikaans, arguing for one
form over another where the language spoken at the time exhibited variation.
256 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

NIs in Afrikaans may clearly arise without the initial spread of reinforcing nie to the
domain of NIs. While Hypothesis I therefore remains an in principle plausible
account of how Afrikaans B could have arisen, it is clear that alternatives should
also be considered.

13.4.3 Hypothesis II: an alternative pathway?

In terms of the second hypothesis, the reanalysis of NIs as [uNEG]-bearing n-words
preceded the extension of the domains in which nie occurs. The question that needs to
be answered in this case is how Afrikaans A NIs could have come to be reanalysed?
Worth noting again in this connection is the fact that Afrikaans A (standard
Afrikaans) appears to be a highly unusual system crosslinguistically. Thus consider
Bernini and Ramat (1996: 187), who observe that:
(41) ‘A language having reached the final stage of the so-called “Jespersen’s Cycle”
[i.e. Stage V in (32), repeated in elaborated form in (42) and (43) – TB/HZ]
seems to be a necessary condition for its being N1 [i.e. having NIs which cannot
enter into NC relations, as seen throughout standard Germanic – TB/HZ]’17,18
(42) Stage I: NEG1 ne nie
Stage II: NEG1 . . . . (NEG2) ne . . . (pas) nie . . . (nie)
Stage III: NEG1 . . . NEG2 ne . . . pas nie . . . nie
Stage IV: (NEG1) . . . NEG2 (ne) . . . pas
Stage V: NEG2 pas
(43) Stage I: nie(t)[iNEG]
Stage II: nie[iNEG] . . . (nie) (spoken language—cf. Roberge 2000)
Stage III: nie[uNEG] . . . nie[uNEG] (prescriptively imposed)
As (42)–(43) show, Afrikaans is clearly at stage III, showing no signs of continuing
to stages IV or V, the final stage (cf. Biberauer 2009, 2012 for more detailed
discussion). As such, co-occurring NIs should, according to Bernini and Ramat
(1996), not systematically deliver the DN readings they do in Afrikaans A; what
we expect instead is the behaviour exhibited by NIs in Afrikaans B, where multiple
NIs deliver NC readings. In Zeijlstra’s terms, Afrikaans NIs should be [uNEG],
rather than [iNEG] as would be the case in a DN language meeting Bernini and
Ramat’s specifications. Standard Afrikaans, then, does not satisfy the necessary
condition specified in (41) for being a DN language.
Among so-called Bipartite Negation with Final Negator (BNF) languages—i.e.
languages with discontinuous negation and involving a clause-final negator (cf. Bell

Note necessary, but not sufficient. Thus West Flemish, for example, does not constitute a counter
On different grounds and in different terms, this conclusion was also reached in Zeijlstra (2004).
Negative changes 257

2004)—it also appears, as far as we can establish, to be unique in failing to exhibit

NC in the NI domain.19 Thus Afrikaans A is a peculiar hybrid, essentially a standard
Germanic language, with a sentence-final nie requirement added to it.
The question now is how children in fact acquire Afrikaans A. Let us first make
the assumption that double-nie-containing structures in the PLD will lead the child
to conclude that there is a single NM in the language, bearing [uNEG].20 Proceeding
with the nie ¼ [uNEG] analysis, however, we note that the child will, for the most
part (excluding fragment answers from which nie has been omitted), encounter NI-
containing structures ending in final nie. In principle, the NIs in such structures
could be analysed either as [iNEG] or as [uNEG]: as all the cells in Zeijlstra’s
typology of negation types are filled, it seems that we cannot postulate an implica-
tional relation in terms of which the identification of [uNEG] NMs would automat-
ically lead the child to postulate [uNEG] NIs.21 The question, then, is what data
would enable the Afrikaans-acquiring child to decide what the value of [NEG] on
NIs is?
As we saw in Sections and above, DN structures are identical in
varieties A and B (cf. (23)–(24) and (34)): both involve a characteristic intonational
pattern. These data, then, will not prove decisive. Since structures featuring an NI
and an any-type indefinite are also possible in NC varieties (cf. Italian (44a.)), the
fact that the Afrikaans-acquiring child will encounter structures like (44b.) will,
likewise, not resolve the uncertainty:
(44) a. Non ha visto alcunché
neg has seen anybody
‘He didn’t see anybody’
b. Hy gee niemand enige iets nie
he give n(o)-one any something neg
‘He gives no-one anything’
Input that would allow the acquirer to make a definitive decision regarding the
[uNEG] versus [iNEG] property of NIs is given in (45):

It is worth highlighting that this observation is based on a superficial consideration of a subset of the
relevant languages and awaits systematic investigation.
As noted in Section, there is in fact also the possibility that acquirers will assume medial and
final nie to be distinct lexical items, both bearing [uNEG]. As the featural property ([i/uNEG]) ascribed to
the NMs is our primary concern here, we need not consider the single versus distinct lexical items
proposals separately here.
In the context of the Minimalist Program, with its emphasis on a minimally specified UG, a question
would, of course, arise as to how any such implicational relation might be represented in the mind of the
acquirer. Ideally, if it is to guide acquisition, it should not be hard-wired, but, instead, derive from some
generalized consideration of economy (cf. the discussion of Chomsky’s so-called third factor to follow in
the main text).
258 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

(45) Hy gee niemand niks nie

he give n-one n-thing neg
‘He gives no-one anything’
As soon as a child encounters structures like (45), in which multiple NIs deliver
only a single negation reading, (s)he will know that (s)he is acquiring a system in
which NIs are [uNEG]. This is unproblematic for the Afrikaans B-acquiring child
since Afrikaans B is a system of this type, with the result that Afrikaans B speakers,
like their Italian and Czech counterparts, will utter structures like (45). But this is
precisely the PLD that will not be present in the input with which the Afrikaans
A-acquiring child is confronted. In other words, this acquirer still does not have
clearcut evidence as to the featural status of NIs in the language (s)he is acquiring.
And it is not clear that there is in fact any evidence of this kind. We therefore
conclude that Afrikaans A represents the type of system that cannot be fully
acquired on the basis of the PLD alone. This clearly has consequences for the
feasibility of Hypothesis II and, indeed, for any hypothesis, also including Hypoth-
esis I, which simply assumes that the child would be able to acquire the [iNEG]
specification of Afrikaans A NIs. Having established this much, we are therefore
effectively back to Square One as regards the question of how an Afrikaans A system,
from which Afrikaans B appears to have been innovated, might be acquired. In the
following section, we consider this question against the broader background of
Chomsky’s (2005) ‘third factor’ proposals.

13.4.4 Afrikaans A and the ‘three factors’

According to Chomsky (2005), there are three factors that enter into the creation of a
steady-state grammar. These are given in (46):
(46) Factor I: UG
Factor II: primary linguistic data (PLD/input)
Factor III: third factor considerations (computational and acquisitional
Factors I and II are, of course, familiar from earlier stages of the Chomskyan
enterprise, but Factor III has specifically been the focus of attention in the context of
the Minimalist Program. Rather than postulating a highly specified, ‘rich’ UG as in
earlier periods, Minimalism seeks to reduce Factor I to its bare minimum, appealing
to Factor III—at present, still a rather murky and ill-understood set of consider-
ations, which have, however, been generally characterized as follows:
(47) a. principles of data analysis that might be used in acquisition; and
b. principles of structural architecture and developmental constraints
(Chomsky 2005)
Negative changes 259

(47a.) explicitly foregrounds principles that may play a role in language acquisi-
tion (e.g. the Subset Principle of Berwick (1985), if this can be usefully formulated in
some way; Lightfoot’s (1989) Degree Zero Learnability, if this is thought of as a
strategy applied by acquirers, Roberts’ (2007) Generalization of the Input, etc.). The
proposal that Factor III may in fact determine many of the crosslinguistic regular-
ities previously ascribed to UG clearly has highly significant consequences for,
among other things, the parametric enterprise (cf. Biberauer 2008b, Roberts and
Holmberg 2010 and Boeckx 2011 for recent discussion) and also for our understand-
ing of the nature of what acquirers might be drawing on in order to interpret the
PLD to which they are exposed. As this chapter has, as is customary in Minimalism,
assumed lexical items to be composed of features, with these often being viewed as a
locus of parametric variation, it is worth considering their status in the context of the
‘three factors’ framework before returning to the specific question of how Afrikaans
acquirers are able to acquire Afrikaans A.
If UG is maximally underspecified, we might wonder whether it does indeed
contain a prespecified inventory of formal features from which languages make ‘one-
time selections’ (cf. Chomsky 1995, 2001). Minimalist considerations would seem to
dictate that this will not be the case. Building on this idea, Gianollo, Guardiano, and
Longobardi (2008) and Zeijlstra (2008) propose that establishing the class of formal
features that are active in a given language is in fact part of the acquisition task faced
by the acquirer. In particular, Zeijlstra (2008) suggests that we may think of the
features comprising lexical items in the manner schematized in (48):

(48) Phonological features Formal features Semantic features

• • • •

[P] [uF] [iF] [S]

Following standard minimalist assumptions about the architecture of grammar,

Zeijlstra assumes that there is an intersection between the set of formal (grammat-
ical) features and the set of semantic features, whereas the set of phonological
features does not intersect with the other two sets. Thus we expect to find languages
in which animacy, for example, is grammaticalized (in the sense of determining
aspects of the structure of the language in question) as opposed to others where it is
not, but we do not expect to distinguish languages in which [nasality] is gramma-
ticalized to convey a particular grammatical notion or where it expresses a particular
semantic meaning from those where it does not. The acquirers’ task, then, is to
establish which semantic features have been harnessed as part of the grammatical
system of the language which (s)he is acquiring, and which have not. According to
Zeijlstra, one of the considerations which determines this decision is whether or not
260 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

the acquirer encounters doubling/redundancy in the input. Thus, in the specific case
of negation, the co-occurrence of an NM with other negative elements would, for
example, signal that negation is grammaticalized in the language in question.
Crucially, this entails that negation in DN languages like English and Dutch is not
in fact a formal feature [i/uNEG], and therefore negation in these languages lacks the
possibility of projecting negation-specific syntactic structure (e.g. NegP); instead, it
is simply a semantic feature. The details of the analysis are not important here, and
we refer the interested reader to Zeijlstra (2008) for more detailed discussion. Our
key concern here is to establish the idea that the inventory of formal features in a
given language could quite plausibly have to be acquired on the basis of the PLD
and/or by appealing to ‘third factor’ considerations such as economy-driven acqui-
sition strategies, rather than originating from a UG ‘menu’.
In the specific case of the acquisition of Afrikaans A, we have already established
that the PLD will contain many instances of structures where negative elements are
doubled by NMs. The Afrikaans-acquiring child will, then, not have any difficulty in
establishing that Afrikaans is a language in which negation is grammaticalized, i.e.
that [u/iNEG] is part of the grammar (s)he is acquiring. What the child will not be
able to establish on the basis of the PLD, however, is what the (un)interpretability
status of the formal [NEG] features on negative elements in Afrikaans will be. In
particular, as we saw in Section above, there appears to be no plausible PLD
which will enable the Afrikaans A acquiring child to establish that NIs in this variety
are [iNEG]. The question, then, is whether there might be a ‘third factor’ consider-
ation—specifically, a principle of acquisition or an acquisitional bias—that might
enable the child to acquire this system. One possibility that suggests itself is that
children might operate with the starting assumption that elements with negative
form will in fact be genuinely negative (i.e. be semantically negative in a DN system,
without Negative Doubling, and bear [iNEG] in an NC system featuring doubling22),
unless there is evidence to the contrary.23 If children do indeed employ an acquisi-
tion principle of this type—and it is clear that it could be reduced to a very general
‘third factor’ principle relating to the interpretation of marked forms, which may, in
fact, be non-distinct from the Elsewhere principle (cf. Kiparsky 1973); negative-
marked items would be the ‘special case’ here—Afrikaans A is acquirable. Crucially,
however, it is only acquirable because of the conjunction of the PLD and third-factor

As Ian Roberts (p.c.) points out, we might further expect acquirers to operate on the basis of a
natural ‘economy’ strategy in relation to the question of whether ‘genuinely negative’ implies (non-formal)
semantic or interpretable formal features—essentially, assume there are no Agree relations (involving
formal [i/uF] unless there is clear evidence that this is necessary. This is clearly the spirit of Zeijlstra’s
(2008) proposal.
In the context of an OT approach, one might think of this acquisitional bias as a type of faithfulness
constraint (cf. De Swart 2010 for recent discussion of i.a. the faithfulness constraints that appear to play a
role in the domain of negation).
Negative changes 261

considerations; UG generally and parametric considerations more specifically do not

appear to play any role here.
Before we conclude that the negation system of Afrikaans A is ultimately acquir-
able, albeit possibly not as straightforwardly as that of other systems, including
Afrikaans B, a caveat is in order. If acquirers do employ a third-factor-imposed
markedness-oriented acquisition strategy of the type outlined above, it is clear that
the anti-Elsewhere proviso ‘unless there is evidence to the contrary’ would be of
particular importance. As observed in Section, there is no evidence either way
as far as NIs are concerned; therefore one might expect the default (Elsewhere)
assumption to lead Afrikaans A acquirers to conclude that NIs are [iNEG]. What is
not clear, however, is what the effect of these same acquirers having encountered
‘evidence to the contrary’ in relation to nie (analysed as [uNEG] owing to its
‘doubling’ distribution) might be: does this make them less willing to assume an
[iNEG] analysis for NIs? Or does the featural specification of NMs play no role in
children’s acquisition of the NI components of the negation system? It is possible to
imagine answers that might go in either direction, and it would seem that the best
route towards determining the answer would be an appropriately focused study of
the acquisition of Afrikaans negation. This is, however, clearly a matter for future

13.4.5 Understanding the relation between Afrikaans A and Afrikaans B

Before concluding, we return to the question we began with, namely how we might
understand the relation between Afrikaans A, a system in which NMs are
[uNEG] and NIs are [iNEG], and Afrikaans B, in which all negative elements
are [uNEG]. What we have seen is that Afrikaans A is a system which is inherently
very difficult to acquire: there is no PLD explicitly directing acquirers to the [iNEG]
nature of NIs. That some children might postulate a [uNEG] specification instead of
the prescribed [iNEG] seems, intuitively, rather natural, given the doubling evi-
denced in sentential negation contexts. In the context of Zeijlstra’s (2004, 2008)
system, it is also formally natural since this analysis results in a uniform analysis of
all negative elements in Afrikaans. That special intonation is required to signal DN
readings may further steer Afrikaans-acquiring children towards the analysis that
NIs are, in the neutral case, [uNEG] and licenced by an [iNEG] abstract operator;
wherever NIs are focalized and therefore ‘sealed off ’ from the rest of the clause, this
operator necessarily has to be merged within the focus domain, thus resulting in the
characteristic intonational contour associated with focused NIs and focused elem-
ents more generally. If the markedness-oriented acquisition metric discussed in the
previous section—negative-marked elements are assigned (semantic or interpret-
able) negative features unless there is evidence to the contrary—genuinely represents
a third-factor acquisition strategy, it cannot be ruled out that Afrikaans-acquiring
262 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

children might conclude that there is in fact sufficient evidence to the contrary, with
the result that they postulate Afrikaans B or, at least, a variety of Afrikaans in which
NIs enter into NC relations. That this may in fact be correct is suggested by the fact
that pre-standardization Afrikaans appears to have exhibited Negative Spread, as
does that of older Afrikaans speakers who do not employ NI þ nie structures. Hence,
it can be assumed that even in the early days of standard Afrikaans, children are
likely to have been confronted with Negative Spread in their PLD.
This, in turn, might lead us to question whether the negation system of Afrikaans
A (i.e. standard Afrikaans) is in fact that of a natural language: is it an accident that
we do not appear to have encountered Afrikaans A-type NC languages to date? Or is
this the consequence of the fact that the negation system of Afrikaans A is an
‘engineered’ system, one in which prescriptively imposed doubling by a NM is
‘unnaturally’ combined with a standard Germanic Double Negation system? A
potentially valuable testing ground for this radical proposal would be the acquisition
of this system: if Afrikaans-acquiring children, like pre-standardization speakers,
start off with a Negative Spread-permitting system, the evidence that a strict NC
system is in fact the ‘natural’ one for Afrikaans would be strongly suggestive. And if
this is the case, we may not actually be dealing with a change from Afrikaans A to
Afrikaans B, as we have been assuming until now, but instead with a natural system
(strict NC pre-standardization Afrikaans) which was partially ‘overwritten’—to
eliminate more generally stigmatized Negative Spread (cf. Section 13.4.2)—during
the process of standardization, and which requires further ‘overwriting’ each time it
is acquired by new Afrikaans speakers. This interpretation of the facts is the one
pursued in Biberauer and Zeijlstra (2011), to which the interested reader is referred
for further discussion.
Here, we summarize our conclusions about the likely considerations underlying
the discrepancy between Afrikaans A and Afrikaans B. Although at least three
hypotheses can be constructed as to how a change from Afrikaans A to B might
have proceeded, none of these seems very plausible. Hypothesis I, in terms of which
presumed overuse of non-clausal uses of nie led to a reanalysis of NIs as [uNEG]
elements, falls short as non-standard Afrikaans varieties featuring Negative Spread,
but not ‘extra’ nie exist; as such, extension of the domains in which final nie may
occur to NIs cannot be a necessary condition for the NI-related change, although it is
conceivable that a rise in the domains in which final nie may surface could reinforce
an already-present third-factor-driven tendency in this direction. We also have no
evidence of speakers currently or previously having had ‘extra’ nie grammars that
did not also permit Negative Spread, which would be expected if the nie-related
change preceded the NI-related one. Hypothesis II, that the n-word-related change
happened first and created an appropriate environment for the nie-related change,
is, in principle, very plausible: acquisitional considerations appear to undermine
acquirers analyzing Afrikaans NIs as [iNEG] elements, rendering a change from
Negative changes 263

[iNEG]-bearing NIs to [uNEG]-bearing NIs (n-words) extremely natural. The same

observations hold of the feasibility of Hypothesis III, in terms of which the two
putative changes are unrelated, with the featural status of NIs playing no role in
acquirers’ interpretation of the distribution of ‘extra’ nies in their system. Import-
antly, if the above is correct, the rise of Afrikaans B is not in fact very similar to what
we see in the context of Jespersen’s Cycle, despite the fact that the featural change
(loss of [iNEG]) could potentially be the same: the ever-increasing presence of a
reinforcing element (here: final nie) does not appear to be the consideration which
underlies the change from Afrikaans A to Afrikaans B. Even more importantly, if it
is correct that the Afrikaans A system is not straightforwardly acquirable, we must
ask whether it is in fact feasible to view this system as the starting point for a change
resulting in Afrikaans B. As we have shown in this section, Afrikaans A may
represent an artificial system in the context of which [iNEG] NIs are prescriptively
imposed on a system that would naturally be a strict NC system, featuring [uNEG]
NIs. If this is so, the case study considered in this chapter may be significant not for
the insight it provides into how a typologically rare NC system (partial NC Afrikaans
A) changes into a typologically common type (strict NC Afrikaans B), but, instead,
into what the currently poorly understood linguistic notion of ‘unstable system’
might mean in real terms.

13.5 Conclusions
This chapter has concerned itself with an aspect of the variation modern spoken
varieties of Afrikaans exhibit in the domain of negation. It was shown that one
variety (standard Afrikaans or Afrikaans A) appears to instantiate a new type of
Negative Concord system, one in which negative markers are semantically non-
negative, but negative indefinites are semantically negative. This system—which one
might call a partial NC system—appears to be typologically very rare and, at first
sight, able to change into a more familiar type of NC system, namely a strict NC
system, as exemplified by a modern colloquial variety, Afrikaans B. Assuming
Afrikaans B to be an innovative variety derived from Afrikaans A, we can formulate
the following diachronic questions: first, what causes change-inducing variation to
arise in the first place, and, second, how does this variation lead to the rise of
Afrikaans B. Ultimately, we conclude that Afrikaans A constitutes a formally
peculiar system, one that does not seem to be straightforwardly acquirable on the
basis of available PLD. Specifically, there does not appear to be unambiguous
evidence revealing the featural specification of negative indefinites in the system:
the relevant evidence would need to come from Double Negation structures, which
are known, first, to be rare in actual usage and, second, to bear the same intonation
contour in DN and NC languages. Furthermore, third-factor considerations such as
the bias towards interpreting marked (here: negative) elements as bearing a marked
264 Theresa Biberauer and Hedde Zeijlstra

meaning (here: negative) in the absence of evidence to the contrary may also not
direct the child towards the prescriptively correct analysis of Afrikaans A NIs as
[iNEG]-elements. If this is correct, we would then expect Afrikaans-acquiring
children to establish a Negative Spread-permitting system in the first instance,
only ‘correcting’ this system—or, possibly more accurately, given the widespread
nature of Negative Spread constructions in modern spoken Afrikaans (cf. Huddle-
stone 2010 for further discussion), supplementing it by an additional register-specific
negation structure—upon exposure to appropriate normative input. Impressionis-
tically, this appears to be correct, suggesting that it is not in fact the case that
Afrikaans B—and other varieties in which negative indefinites exhibit Negative
Concord—developed out of Afrikaans A. Should systematic study, which would
also focus inter alia on the L1 acquisition of Afrikaans, reveal the predictions of the
analysis proposed here to be correct, we would have a compelling case study of the
meaningfulness of a generatively defined notion ‘possible language’ and, further-
more, of the way in which Factors II and III may interact, independently of Factor I,
to determine the form of stable versus unstable language systems.

Romanian ‘can’
Change in parametric settings


14.1 Introduction
This chapter re-visits the analysis of Romanian modal putea ‘can’ in order to clarify its
path of grammaticalization and to integrate this process within a wider range of
changes in the morpho-syntax of this language. Unlike previous studies on putea, this
chapter starts from the assumption that variation in the modal interpretation (i.e.
epistemic, alethic, deontic) arises from a gradual upward re-analysis of the modal verb
in the clause hierarchy (Roberts and Roussou 2003).1 For the diachronic analysis,
I take my data from a corpus of Moldavian chronicles (Letopiseţe—belonging to
Ureche, Costin, and Necluce) and from philological work (Guruianu 2005, Frîncu
1969, Mareş 1994, a.o.) on other documents of Early Modern Romanian (EMR:
sixteenth to eighteenth centuries)—which are the first written texts in Romanian.
The use of putea in these texts is compared to Modern Romanian (MR).
The empirical questions addressed are: Why is the infinitive complementation so
productive with putea, when, in this language, infinitives are replaced with subjunct-
ives as complements to verbs? How does the syntax allow for ambiguous interpret-
ations (i.e. epistemic or deontic) for one and the same modal construction? Why is
the frozen form poate ‘maybe’ classified as an adverb when there is no evidence of
semantic enrichment?
These questions involve theoretical issues that concern the mechanism of para-
metric (re)-setting and the interpretive load we assign to the syntax versus the
lexicon: since putea selects infinitive complements whereas other verbs ceased to

This chapter focuses on the diachronic changes of putea ‘can’, without attempting to sort out the
relevance of this modal for the understanding of the semantics-syntax interface reflected in the use of
modals and auxiliaries. For an interesting investigation of this aspect, see Hacquard (2009, 2010). Here,
I work with the general assumptions on the syntactic mapping of modals (Cinque 1999), aiming only to
the axis of grammaticalization for putea—work that has not been done before in formal syntax.
266 Virginia Hill

do so, should we consider that the parametric change is sensitive to modal semantics
(Avram 1999) rather than applying blindly within given syntactic patterns? Further-
more, since the same sentence may yield two types of modal interpretations, should
we consider that the same syntactic configuration accommodates two polysemous
modals (Sarmento 2007)? In fact, should we increase the number of polysemous
items to include the adverbial epistemic?
Previous studies on putea suggest positive answers to these theoretical questions
(Avram 1999; Dobrovie-Sorin 1994). I disagree with these answers and argue that the
diachronic changes in this modal (i.e. from Latin to MR) yield different configur-
ations for the [modal þ infinitive] construction versus the [modal þ subjunctive]
construction (i.e. mono-clausal versus bi-clausal). Furthermore, the assessment of
the grammaticalization stages for putea within Cinque’s (1999) hierarchy points out
that the modal merges in two different functional heads within TP, which accounts
for the deontic versus the epistemic readings, on a syntactic (versus lexical) basis; for
independent reasons, both configurations may map to the same word order, yielding
ambiguity out of the context. Cinque’s mapping also allows us to push the re-
analysis of the modal in the speech act domain, where it qualifies as a functional
head (i.e. Modepistemic); this analysis accurately explains the semantic and morpho-
logical attrition of the modal, which is elsewhere classified as an adverb. Finally, this
analysis addresses the dichotomy between modal control configurations and deontic
readings versus modal raising configurations and epistemic readings: our data show
that raising configurations allow for both deontic and epistemic readings, a situation
that is supported by the formal analysis.

14.2 The complements of putea

The speaker of standard MR has healthy intuitions on the following modal con-
structions, although some of them are archaic:2
(1) Nu putea [să intre.]
not can-pst.3sg sbjv.mrk enter-sbjv.3
‘She could not get in.’
(2) Nu putea [intra.]
not can-pst.3sg enter-inf
‘She could not get in.’
(3) Nu putea [a intra.]
not can-pst.3sg inf.mrk enter-sbjv.3
‘She could not get in.’
(Radu Greceanu, eighteenth century; apud Frîncu 1969: 17)
Abbreviations: ind ¼ indicative; inf ¼ infinitive form; inv ¼ invariable; mrk ¼ marker; ptcp ¼
participle; pst ¼ past tense; sbjv ¼ subjunctive.
Romanian ‘can’ 267

(4) (*nu) Poate [că intră.]

not can-inv that enter-ind.3
‘She might get in.’
(5) Nu poate el [nimic.]
not can-3sg he nothing
‘He’s not capable of anything.’
The examples show that putea is a fully inflected verb that takes a range of
complements: subjunctives (1), infinitives (2), (3), indicatives (4), and DPs (5). The
difference between (2) and (3) consists in the presence of the infinitive mood marker
a in the latter (full-fledged infinitive), but not in the former (bare infinitive);
furthermore, (2) is productive whereas (3) is not. The subjunctive clause in (1)
and the full-fledged infinitive clause in (3) are considered to have the same config-
uration (Alboiu 2002, Pirvulescu 2002), being both headed by mood markers
(infinitive a has the same status as the subjunctive să). In (4) the modal is invariable
and cannot support items associated with the TP field (e.g. negation). The
constructions in (1), (2), and (4) are productive in modern language, whereas (3)
and (5) are considered archaic and infrequently occur in pretentious style and/or in
idiomatic expressions.
The first problem arising from the data is the productivity of the infinitives in (2)
(Rohlfs 1958). The expectation is that the subjunctive should have replaced these
complements in the same way (1) replaced (3).
Second, a construction as in (1) or (2) may have ambiguous deontic and epistemic
readings outside the context, as shown in (6) and (7) respectively.
(6) Am putea [să intrăm.]
would-1pl can-inf sbjv.mrk enter-1pl
(7) Am putea [intra.]
would-1pl can-inf enter-inf
‘We could get in.’ (ability, permission, alethic/epistemic)
There is no difference in the interpretation between (6) and (7), and both may
yield the variety of readings in brackets. Apparently, there is no one-to-one pairing
between interpretation and syntactic mapping.
Finally, the invariable form poate in (4) counters the expectations arising from a
lexicalization process: if this form is an adverb, why are its semantics so impover-
ished and its distribution restricted to wide scope?
The chapter derives the answers to these questions from the formal inquiry into
the grammaticalization of putea. It is argued that the structural configuration that
supports the re-analysis of the modal from lexical to functional may naturally
account for the variation in the complementation, the variation in interpretation,
268 Virginia Hill

the apparent exception to the infinitive replacement in (2), and the lexicalization
in (4).

14.3 Framework for assessment

The theoretical basis for assessment is adopted from Roberts and Roussou (2003),
where grammaticalization involves the re-analysis of an element by merging it at a
higher level in the hierarchy. The merge level for putea is assessed according to the
location of adverbs and of functional projections that encode agreement, tense,
aspect, and sentence typing. Thus, a hierarchy for the internal structure of the clause
must be established, which I do within the cartographic hierarchy.
The basic structure consists of Rizzi’s (1997) mapping in (8):
(8) [ForceP Force [FinP Fin [TP T [vP v/V ]]]]
Romanian instantiates Force as că, and Fin as de (Hill 2008). In the TP field, any
Romanian verb (including putea) moves to T, irrespective of the type of inflection
(Dobrovie-Sorin 1994 and other authors henceforth). The TP also includes the pre-
verbal mood markers (labelled as MoodP in Alboiu 2002, Pirvulescu 2002 a.o.).3
In Cinque (1999), modality is mapped over a hierarchy that I incorporate in (8).
Generally, modal interpretation is divided into epistemic or deontic/root, following
Kratzer (1977). Cinque (1999) maps the deontic interpretation as a Mod-ability/
permission head with narrow scope. The epistemic modality is further divided
according to whether the speaker’s point of view is involved or not: ‘objective’
epistemicity is mapped as Mod-alethic, under TP but higher than Mod-ability/
permission; ‘speaker-oriented’ epistemicity is mapped as Mod-epistemic, above the
domain for information structure. Thus, the map in (8) takes the more complex
organization in (9).
(9) [ModP Modepistemic [ForceP Force [FinP Fin [TP T [ModP Modalethic [ModP
Modabil/permission [vP v/V ]]]]]]]
The last reference point I need in this hierarchy concerns the location for
verb stems. The infectum stem of the infinitive is associated with active voice in
traditional grammars; as such, I locate it in voice in Cinque’s hierarchy. Perfectum
(or participial) morphology marks aspectual values on active verbs—in some
languages (although not in Romanian) it may trigger object-verb agreement (labelled
AgrOP in Kayne 1989b). In Cinque’s hierarchy, perfectum corresponds to an AspP,
and all AspPs occur lower than the Mod field and higher than Voice. Thus, the
complete configuration I adopt for the analysis has the representation in (10).

There is evidence from the periphrastic future that pre-verbal mood markers are merged and checked
within TP versus FinP in Balkan languages (Hill and Mišeska-Tomić 2009).
Romanian ‘can’ 269

(10) [TopP Top [ModP Modepistemic [ForceP Force [FinP Fin [TP T [ModP Modalethic
[ModP Modabil/permission [AspP Asp(perf) [VoiceP Voice(impf) [vP v/V ]]]]]]]

14.4 Lexical modal > functional modal

The foregoing analysis considers the lexical modal as the basic form to which
grammaticalization applied. The use of the lexical putea is well attested in EMR, as
an intransitive (11a.) or transitive verb (11b.). This use is rare or idiomatic in MR.
(11) a. Unde nu va Dumnezău, nu poate omul.
where not will God not can man.the
‘Where God shows no will, man cannot do a thing.’
(Ureche, seventeenth century; apud Panaitescu 1958: 81)
b. că atîta au putut, iar mai mult nu poate . . .
for this has could and more much not can
‘for this is all he could do—more he can’t’
(Neculce, eighteenth century; Iordan 1955: 138)
As a transitive, this verb may also allow for sentential complements with finite
(12a.) or non-finite verbs (12b.) or free relatives (12c.). These are control structures,
because of the ‘ability’ interpretation and are better attested in EMR than in MR.
(12) a. Cum ai putut [ de-ai făcut asta?]
how have-2sg could of have-2sg done this
‘How could you do this?’ (Avram 1999: 178)
b. Husari încă atîţea n- au putut [a face leşii ]
Hussars though so.many not have could to make Poles.the
‘however, the Poles could not gather so many Hussars’
(Costin, eighteenth century; Panaitescu 1979: 50)
c. au apucat [ce au putut de la margine]
have taken what have could from the edge
‘they have taken what they could take from the edges’
(Ureche, seventeenth century; Panaitescu 1958: 207)
Therefore, lexical putea ‘to be capable’ has the thematic grid of a transitive verb,
where the complement could be a DP/PP or a CP. However, there are signs that the
semantic make-up is deficient: First, putea cannot be passivized, as it would be
expected from a transitive verb (e.g. *Nimic n-a fost putut. ‘nothing not has been
could’). Second, the class of nouns that qualify as complements to putea is very
restricted: except for the demonstrative asta ‘this’, only quantifiers (including wh-
words) may occupy this position. This restriction in the s(emantic)-selection of
nouns contrasts with the flexibility of the s-selection of sentential complements,
270 Virginia Hill

where the only restriction concerns the availability of an anaphoric subject in the
embedded clause.
It is, then, predictable that learners classified putea as, primarily, a control verb,
reducing one th-role by half. This analysis assigns a CP structure to the embedded
clause, as in (13), as signalled by the lexical complementizers (e.g. de in 12a., ce ‘what’
in 12c.).
(13) [CP/TP T putea [vP v/V putea [CP C de/ce [TP T [vP v/V]]]]]
If frequency influences the parametric settings in learners (Bresnan 2007), then
the configuration in (13) cannot fare well, because de has been dropped from
indicative complements to substantive verbs very early, and free relatives occur
only idiomatically with putea. Thus, learners could not have had much evidence
for the configuration in (13) on the basis of (12a., c.). On the other hand, EMR texts
abound in constructions as in (12b.), with the full-fledged infinitive. This clause may
qualify as a regular CP, with a non-lexical C. These configurations, further illustrated
in (14), allow for a flexibility in the modal interpretation that the configurations with
lexical CP do not.
(14) Putea [a intra.]
could-3sg inf.mrk enter-inf
‘She could get in.’ (ability, permission, alethic)
(Greceanu, seventeenth century; Frîncu 1969: 17)
The ‘ability’ reading in (14) may still be attributed to the lexical definition of putea;
however, ‘permission’ and ‘alethic’ do not have the same source, unless polysemy
applies. So, we must either assume polysemy or a different syntactic processing of
the same lexical item. I argue for the latter, on two grounds: (i) polysemous modals
should not share the ‘ability’ reading; (ii) the full-fledged transitive and the control
putea, which are both restricted to the ‘ability’ reading, display a different syntactic
behaviour than putea in (14). More precisely, putea in (14) shows the properties of a
non-thematic, raising verb, on a par with ‘seem’, which implies the loss of the CP
layer and of the s-selection features. The tests proposed below, some of which are
borrowed from Davies and Dubinsky (2004), sort out the control versus the raising
verb status of putea. In these examples, the archaic full-fledged infinitive comple-
ment has a replica in the subjunctive complements, with which they could freely
alternate around the seventeenth century.
. Control versus raising verbs allow for pseudo-clefting:
(15) a. Ceea ce poate El e [toate a face şi a schimba.]
that what can He is all inf.mrk do-inf and inf.mrk change-inf
Romanian ‘can’ 271

b. Ceea ce poate El e [să facă şi

that what can He is sbjv.mrk make-sbjv and
să schimbe totul.]
sbjv.mrk change-sbjv all
‘What He (God) can do is make and change everything.’
The reading in (15) is exclusively ‘ability’, which is expected under the analysis of
putea as a control verb.
. Raising versus control configurations allow for impersonal se:
(16) a. Se poate [-a cuteza.]// Se poate [să cutezăm.]
se can inf.mrk dare-inf se can sbjv.mrk dare-1pl
‘It’s possible to dare.’//‘It is allowed to dare.’
b. Se pare [că va cuteza.] (raising verb)
se seems that will dare
‘It seems that s/he will dare.’
c. *Se începe [a cuteza.]// [să cutezăm.] (aspectual/control verb)
se starts inf.mrk dare-inf sbjv.mrk dare-1pl
Intended: ‘People start to dare.’
d. Începem [a cuteza.]//[să cutezăm.]
start-1pl inf.mrk dare-inf
‘We start to dare.’
. Non-thematic (raising) putea takes passive complements with inanimate
(17) a. Maria poate a schimba// să schimbe perdele. (raising)
Maria can inf.mrk change-inf sbjv.mrk change curtains.the
‘Maria might/is allowed to/is able to change the curtains.’
b. Perdelele pot a fi// să fie schimbate de Maria.
curtains.the can-3pl inf.mrk be// sbjv.mrk be-sbjv.3 changed by Mary
‘The curtains might be changed by Mary.’// ‘It is allowed to have the
curtains changed by Mary.’// *‘The curtains are able to be changed . . . ’
c. Maria a început a schimba// să schimbe perdelele.
Maria has started inf.mrk change-inf// sbjv.mrk change-sbjv.3 curtains
‘Mary started to change the curtains.’
d. *Perdelele au început a fi// să fie schimbate de Maria.
curtains.the have started inf.mrk be// sbjv.mrk be-sbjv changed by Mary
In this analysis, the multiple readings putea allows as a raising verb come from the
association of the modal with various functional projections in syntax, rather than
272 Virginia Hill

from a lexical list (as in the control configuration). This happens when learners strip
the control putea of thematic roles and of substantive features, while also dropping
the CP layer in (13). That is, putea is re-analysed as a raising verb, with grammatical
versus semantic transitivity (as in Roberge 2002 a.o.). In these contexts, putea is
semantically reduced to underspecified [possibility] modality. The values for [pos-
sibility] are assigned in the syntactic hierarchy: an ‘ability’/‘permission’ when the
modal checks the feature of low Mod head; an ‘alethic’ reading when the modal
checks the high Mod head under TP. The configuration is given in (18).
(18) [TP proi Tputea [ModP Modputea [vP Vputea [TP proi T . . . ]]]]
In (18), putea still merges in the lexical vP domain, but has no th-roles and no s-
selection features, being computed on the basis of c-selection only. Due to probing
from T, putea moves through the clause hierarchy to the highest level. On the way, it
checks the features of a Mod head—the type of Mod (high or low) is decided in the
The bi-clausal configuration in (18) is very productive in modern Romanian, but
with the subjunctive (versus full-fledged infinitive) complementation. No structural
or hierarchical difference is expected between these two types of clauses—both have
pre-verbal mood markers with clitic properties and attract verb movement to the
highest functional projection in the inflectional field (Alboiu 2002; Dobrovie-Sorin
1994). The switch between full-fledged infinitives and subjunctive clauses took place
around the sixteenth century (Frîncu 1969), and involved the change in the value of
one feature: [  finite] of the infinitive became [ þ finite] in subjunctives. Therefore,
I conclude that the replacement process detected only configurations with (CP)/TP
infinitives in the relevant contexts (i.e. complements to V), and had no consequences
for the grammaticalization of putea, which continued to be analyzed as either
control (13) or raising (18).

14.5 Modal auxiliary

EMR texts display co-occurrence of putea with full-fledged infinitive (4), subjunctive
(1), or bare infinitive complements (2). However, the alternation of full-fledged
infinitives and subjunctive complements can be quantified (the former predomin-
ating in sixteenth century texts but becoming almost extinct by the end of the
seventeenth century; Frîncu 1969), whereas the bare infinitive complementation is
a constantly productive alternative for both complements, preceding the replace-
ment of infinitives with subjunctives, as in (19).
(19) abia putumú ţinrea corabiia
barely could-1pl handle-inf boat.the
‘We could barely handle the boat.’
(document, 1563; Mareş et al. 1994: 82)
Romanian ‘can’ 273

The general assumption is that the bare infinitive in (2) or (19) belongs to a bi-
clausal structure where the embedded inflectional field is skipped (20a.) (Avram
1999; Dobrovie-Sorin 1994) or very reduced (20b.) (Motapanyane and Avram 2000).
(20) a. [TP Tar putea [vP Vputea [vP Vvedea-inf ]]] (Avram 1999: 192)
b. [TP Tar putea [vP Vputea [YP Yvedea [vP Vvedea-inf ]]]]
(Motapanyane and Avram 2000: 154)
In (20a.), the control/raising verb selects a vP complement; in (20b.) there is an
embedded functional domain YP, but it is very restricted. Both configurations are
assessed as bi-clausal; that is, there are two separate predicates, each verb projecting
its own argument structure. In other words, putea in (20) is no different from the
lexical putea in (5)/(12).
Such an approach has diagnostic problems. First, the preposing and the ellipsis of
the infinitive should be allowed in (20), which is contradicted by the data:
(21) a. *Vedea [ne-ar putea.] (preposing)
see-inf us would can-inf
Intended: ‘To see us, she could.’
b. *Pe tine nu te pot vedea, dar pe ea o pot. (ellipsis)
on you not you can-1sg see-inf but on her her can-1sg
Intended: ‘You, I can’t see, but her, I can.’
One may think that putea is a clitic constrained by phonology to attach to the
infinitive. This is not the case, since putea serves as a phonological support for other
clitics (e.g. the conditional auxiliary ar ‘have’ in (21a.)) and may be separated from
the verb by phrasal constituents, as we shall see in (22b.). Since putea is a free
morpheme, the ungrammaticality in (21) indicates that [putea þ infinitive] behaves
as a tight constituent that shares the same functional domain. Such an analysis
excludes the configuration in (20): in that structure, the modal and the infinitive
cannot be in the same domain since they are separated by two vP borders.
Another empirical problem for (20) comes from the word order: post-verbal
subjects in situ and certain adverbs follow the infinitive verb, indicating that the
infinitive moved out of vP:
(22) a. (Cineva) le- a putut ajuta (cineva) pe toate.
somebody them has could-pst.ptcp help-inf somebody on all
‘Somebody could help them all.’
b. Au putut deja verifica toţi foarte bine dosarele.
have-3pl could-pst.ptcp already check-inf all very well files.the
‘They all could already check very well the files.’
274 Virginia Hill

Bare quantifiers in subject position surface in situ in Spec,vP (Dobrovie-Sorin

1994 a.o.); hence, ‘somebody’ following the infinitive in (22a.) shows that the
infinitive moved above Spec,v. The adverb hierarchy in Cinque (1999) also indicates
the degree of verb movement: in (22b.) ‘well’ indicates the vP edge; this is preceded
by the floating quantifier ‘all’, which is stranded in Spec,vP; hence, the higher
infinitive form is out of vP (in Voice). Another adverb in (22b.) is ‘already’, which
merges high in the TP field (e.g. the order ‘well’—‘already’ is ungrammatical). The
modal merges higher than ‘already’. Hence, (22) shows that both the infinitive verb
and the modal are in the TP field, but the modal is merged higher than the infinitive
verb; so T sees only the modal for probing. Again, the word order in (22) cannot
arise from a structure as in (20), where the infinitive verb should have followed, not
preceded, the adverbs and the subject in Spec,vP. The representation in (20b.)
accommodates the word order by moving the infinitive verb to Y. However, it is
difficult to identify the nature of YP, except that this cannot be TP; also it is not clear
why only YP versus other functional projections is generated.
These tests indicate that putea is re-analyzed as a functional (versus lexical)
modal; this modal merges in the functional field either in the Mod for [ability/
permission], giving it narrow scope, or in the Mod for [alethic poss], giving it wide
scope. In both instances, putea ends up in T, since T always probes a non-clitic
verbal head, and putea is the closest candidate. The configuration appears in (23).
(23) [TP Tputea [ModP Modputea [VoiceP Voiceajuta [vP Vajuta . . . ]]]]
In (23), putea merges as a Mod head and receives the respective interpretation;
that is, if the Mod head is low in the hierarchy, the reading is ‘ability’ or ‘permission’;
if Mod is high, the reading is ‘alethic possibility’. The infinitive verb merges as V root
and moves to a projection that checks its voice [infectum] feature. In this configur-
ation, [tense] is valued by T probing putea. Thus, when the modal is merged in low
Mod it checks more functional features (longer head-to-head movement) than when
it is merged in high Mod, the latter being very close to T. One of the intermediary
heads checked by the low merged putea is the perfectum feature, which is active in
complex tenses, such as present perfect (e.g. am putut ‘have-1 could’). In the
Government-Binding framework, this perfectum projection would correspond to
AgrOP in Kayne (1989b). Thus, when putea is merged in high Mod, the perfectum
is unobtainable. This situation reflects the general observation that present perfect
constructions are always deontic in interpretation (Wurmbrand 2001). The example
in (24a.) shows this to be the situation in Romanian as well, in out of the context
declaratives. However, there are ways of circumventing the rule, as shown in (24b.).
(24) a. S- a putut termina treaba la timp.
se has could-pst.ptcp finish-inf work-the in time
‘The work could be finished in time.’
Romanian ‘can’ 275

b. S- o fi putut termina fără să ne dăm seama.

refl has be could-pst.ptcp finish-inf without sbjv.mrk refl give mind
‘It might have got finished without us noticing.’
An exclusive deontic interpretation applies to (24a.), whereas (24b.) has an alethic
reading, despite the presence of a past participle form. However, the latter also
displays a different mood (i.e. presumptive, versus indicative in 24a.), which is a
main factor for determining the epistemic value (Irimia 2008). Hence, epistemicity
with past participle forms of putea may occur when it is recovered through other
means than the modal’s merge position.
To sum up, this section argued that in constructions with [putea þ bare infini-
tives] the modal has been re-analyzed as a Mod head in the TP field, whereas the
infinitive verb merges as V, with further movement to Voice. The modal is seman-
tically underspecified for ‘possibility’ and obtains its reading (i.e. ability, permission,
alethic) according to its merge site (either in low Mod or in high Mod), as the effect
of syntactic checking. In this configuration, putea is not only stripped of s-selection
features, but it is also re-analyzed outside the argument structure domain, as an
inflectional element; as such, its c-selection becomes stripped of all typing features
(e.g. sentence/Force typing or [tense]/Fin typing) and is limited to non-typing
selection (e.g. VoiceP or AspP). The result is a mono-clausal (versus the bi-clausal
structure of control/raising putea).
Historically, the grammaticalization of putea as a high functional modal occurred
very early, at the branching from vulgar Latin. This process must be related to the
switch in infinitive morphology, from mood marking with the Latin suffix -re to
mood marking with pre-verbal a. Before this switch has been established, the learner
had insufficient evidence for a mood projection in infinitives; in the case of putea,
this has been compounded with the semantic weakness in the modal. Thus, vulgar
Latin [*potere þ infinitive] gave rise to two derivational patterns in early Romanian:
one with control/raising putea, and one with the modal auxiliary putea; the former
displayed a bi-clausal structure with a full-fledged infinitive complement, the latter
displayed a mono-clausal structure, where the modal is re-analyzed as a quasi-
auxiliary in the TP of the lexical verb that surfaces with a bare infinitive form.
These two constructions were very productive for centuries, and are attested as such
in EMR. When the subjunctive paradigm emerged as a replacement to infinitives,
the process applied only to bi-clausal structures, that is, to CP/TP (full-fledged)
infinitive complements. Mono-clausal structures with bare infinitives were not
visible to this process (not having a CP or a TP complement). Thus, constructions
with [putea þ bare infinitives] are not an exception to the replacement with sub-
junctive forms, they simply did not qualify for such operations.
276 Virginia Hill

14.6 Pragmatic marker

The last type of construction discussed is presented in (4) and repeated below:
(4) (*nu) Poate [că intră.]
not can-inv. that enter-ind.3
‘She might get in.’
This exact word order is more recent, being absent from the EMR. However,
slightly different versions existed in these centuries, as discussed later.
The form poate in (4) is invariable, and cannot support elements generally
associated with an inflectional field (e.g. negation, adverbs, clitic pronouns, auxil-
iaries). This is recognized in traditional and formal analyses, and led to the classi-
fication of this item as an adverb (Grammatica Academiei 1963; Avram 1999), which
would be somehow derived from the frozen indicative third person singular form of
the modal verb. This analysis implies that grammaticalization took place—which led
to the frozen verb form—followed by a re-lexicalization of the item, as a different
substantive category (i.e. adverb instead of verb).
There are serious objections to the adverb analysis of poate, and to the lexicaliza-
tion analysis. First, deriving adverbs from frozen verb forms is not the rule observed
in Romanian, where adverbs are derived from adjectives (e.g. firesc, adj. ‘natural’ >
fireşte, adv. ‘naturally’; versus puternic, adj. ‘strong’ > *puterniceşte ‘strongly’, based
on the putea root). Second, poate does not display the semantic complexity of a
substantive category; in fact, it has only one feature: [epistemic possibility].
Lack of a substantive set of semantic features is reflected in its syntax:
(i) poate takes only propositional scope, while sentential (propositional) adverbs
may also occur with predicational scope (e.g. Sigur, vorbeşte bine. ‘Certainly, he
speaks well’; or Vorbeşte mai sigur acum. ‘He speaks in a more assured way now.’).
(ii) Sentential adverbs project a phrasal structure (i.e. AdvP), where modifiers can
merge (e.g. Mai sigur, vine pe la ora 8. ‘More certainly, he come around 8
o’clock.’); poate cannot have modifiers (e.g. *mai/foarte poate ‘more/very poate’).
(iii) Sentential adverbs alternate with adverbial PPs (e.g. În mod sigur vine pe la
ora 8. ‘Certainly (in way certain), he comes around 8 o’clock.’); poate does
not alternate with PPs (e.g. *în mod poate ‘in way poate’).
These observations, together with the evidence on the semantic and functional
attrition of the invariable poate, led us to analyse this item as a pragmatic marker,
rather than a substantive (adverbial) category. More precisely, I argue that poate
springs from a high re-analysis of the modal putea, in Cinque’s Mod-epistemic,
above ForceP. This analysis naturally accounts for the syntactic restrictions
on invariable poate (i.e. lack of inflection and inflectional items, lack of phrasal
properties, word order).
Romanian ‘can’ 277

The evidence I found indicates that the high re-analysis of poate took place in two
configurations: (i) in the bi-clausal construction (i.e. with full-fledged infinitive or
subjunctive complements), poate has been re-analysed with ‘that’-indicative com-
plements (ForceP), as in (4); (ii) in the mono-clausal construction (i.e. with bare
infinitive complements), poate has been re-analysed without a ForceP complement.
Let us consider the occurrence of frozen poate in EMR:
(25) a. acest om, poate-fi, este trebuitoriu
this man may-be is necessary
‘this man is perhaps indispensable’
(Neculce, eighteenth century; Iordan 1955: 116)
b. dar or fi, poate, tăinute
but would be perhaps hidden
‘but they may be, perhaps, hidden’
(Neculce, eighteenth century; Iordan 1955: 103)
In this text, poate-fi ‘may-be’ alternates with poate. I consider that the latter
involves the dropping of fi, and only this further reduced form has been transmitted
to modern Romanian. In light of the grammaticalization process proposed in this
chapter, poate-fi represents a frozen form of the mono-clausal configuration, where
the modal shares the inflectional field with the bare infinitive ‘be’. This re-analysis
involves a hierarchical level above TP, since the reading is propositional, and TP is
filled with a different verb. After searching six texts, I found only two instances
where poate-fi precedes a ‘that’-indicative:
(25) c. poate fi că n- a ştiut
may be that not has known
‘perhaps he did not know’
(Ureche, seventeenth century; Panaitescu 1958: 65)
This word order confirms the high level of re-analysis for the compound poate-fi
(i.e. high in the CP), although the ForceP versus TP analysis of the clause was rare.
Importantly, the form poate-fi has no resemblance to the adverbial class in Roma-
nian, and the reduced form poate fails to qualify for a lexicalization analysis (dis-
playing further attrition instead of complexity).
After the generalization of the subjunctive as the complement to the non-thematic
putea (i.e. after the seventeenth century), impersonal forms of this modal with ‘that’-
indicative complements become productive,4 on a par with ‘seem’, when the verbs
are non-raising:

I did not find any construction with se poate că ‘refl can-invar that’ in letopiseţe.
278 Virginia Hill

(26) a. Se poate că are dreptate.

se can that has right
‘It is possible that s/he’s right.’
b. Se pare că are dreptate.
se seems that has right
‘It seems that s/he’s right.’
In (26), the se-generic forms are restricted in their inflection: they may take a
conditional form (which involves the auxiliary ‘have’), indicating that poate belongs
to the TP (i.e. it is in T). However, poate cannot be inflected for person, tense, mood,
and cannot support negations, short adverbs, clitic pronouns. I consider that this
lack of evidence for inflectional features led to the re-analysis of these generic verb
forms in the speech act domain, above ‘that’. Constructions as in (4) reflect this re-
Basically, the evidence I have discussed so far argues for a further grammaticaliza-
tion of putea, versus its lexicalization, when it occurs with invariable forms. In such
an approach, the exclusive epistemic interpretation of invariable putea comes from
its re-analysis in Cinque’s Mod-epistemic, which dominates ForceP:
(27) [ModPepistemic Modpoate [ForceP Force că [TP T . . . ]]]
The representation in (27) provides a uniform account for invariable poate with or
without ‘that’-indicative complements, since ForceP may or may not be projected.
Furthermore, (27) can be generalized to other frozen forms that have been reduced
to one pragmatic feature (e.g. [evidentiality] or [epistemicity]). There is a large class
of such elements in Romanian (e.g. las’că ‘assuredly’; trebuie că ‘must be’; parcă
‘seemingly’ etc.), each element receiving, at this time, a different categorial classifi-
cation (e.g. las ¼ injunctive interjection; trebuie ¼ verb; parcă ¼ adverb). In (27),
each of these elements qualifies as a pragmatic marker, merged directly in a
functional head above ForceP.
Within the class of pragmatic markers, poate has a special status, being the only
member that can surface with or without ‘that’. This follows from its dual context for
grammaticalization: in mono-clausal constructions (independently of ‘that’ but
dependently of ‘be’), or in bi-clausal constructions, in relation to the obligatory
indicative ‘that’. All the other members of the same class of pragmatic markers have
been re-analyzed in bi-clausal structures; hence, ‘that’ is obligatory with these

14.7 Conclusions
This chapter proposed a grammaticalization analysis for Romanian putea ‘can’,
which argues for the co-occurrence of two parallel configurations: one bi-clausal
Romanian ‘can’ 279

and one mono-clausal. Both configurations are attested in EMR (the earliest written
texts in Romanian), but the type of sentential complements has changed. Briefly, in
both configurations, the lexical verb putea ‘to be capable’ turns into a functional
verb, which is further re-analysed as a pragmatic marker. The difference occurs in
the hierarchical level at which the functional verb is merged; that is, either within the
argument structure (i.e. raising verb/bi-clausal structure) or in the TP (i.e. modal
auxiliary/mono-clausal structure). Each configuration provides generic contexts,
where lack of evidence for inflectional features triggers the re-analysis of the
functional putea in the speech act domain (i.e. above CP/TP).
This analysis provides answers to some empirical questions:
(i) Why is the infinitive complementation still productive with this modal?
These are mono-clausal derivations that were not visible to the process of
replacement by subjunctive forms, the latter applying only to complements in
bi-clausal structures.
(ii) Why is deontic/epistemic ambiguity possible in the same construction?
Each reading relies on a different syntactic configuration, but they both may map to
the same word order. Ambiguity, however, occurs only out of the context and in the
absence of adverbial modifications.
(iii) Why is putea compatible with either control or raising constructions?
The tests showed that raising putea arises from the semantic attrition of the control
putea. Control putea has lexical properties and allows only for an ‘ability’ reading,
whereas raising putea has an underspecified [possibility] feature that obtains its values
from the functional projection (ModP) putea checks (i.e. ability/permission; alethic;
epistemic). This analysis counters the general assumption that control structures pair
with deontic readings whereas raising structures pair with epistemic readings.
(iv) Why is poate classified as an adverb?
Such classification involves lexicalization, whereas poate is an invariable form dis-
playing acute attrition. I argued for a pragmatic marker status of this element,
involving its grammaticalization in the speech act domain, high in the CP field.
This analysis provides a uniform account for other similar forms.
Theoretically, this analysis is challenging insofar as it argues for the existence of
multiple parametric settings. Basically, the learner may reset the parameters in two
ways concurrently (e.g. as raising verb or as modal auxiliary), within the same
language register. The data clearly show that the parallel parametric setting leading
to the constructions in (1) and (2) survived for centuries (since the branching
from vulgar Latin), and they continue to occur in free alternation, attesting true
intra-language variation. Examples as in (28) provide the evidence, since the con-
280 Virginia Hill

structions alternate within the same sentence, in the eighteenth century, as in the
twenty-first century.
(28) a. Pământul acesta [n- ar putea [avea]] niciodată lipsă de pâine,
land.the this not would can have-inf never lack of bread
ce încă [s-ar putea [să iasă]] o sumă mare de pâine.
but still se would can sbjv emerge-sbjv a sum big of bread
(Documente bîrledene, 1781; Frîncu 1969: 17)
‘This land could never fail to produce bread, on the contrary, it could still
provide a lot of bread.’
b. [Nu poate nimeni [contesta]] că [ fiecare om
not can nobody contest-inf that each person
poate [să- şi hotărască soarta.]]
can sbjv refl decide-sbjv fate-the
‘Nobody can contest it that each person can decide for his own fate.’
The multiple grammar (Bickerton 1971 a.o.) and the feature-driven approaches
(Adger and Smith 2005) to language change and variation have still to contend with
these facts.

Prepositional genitives in Romance

and the issue of parallel development
From Latin to Old French


15.1 Introduction
The fact that the Romance languages, since their earliest attestations, appear to be,
from the point of view of their syntactic type, much closer to one another than to
their documented common Latin ancestor is often cited as a most striking case of
parallel development. As such, it poses a serious challenge to non-directional
theories of syntactic change (cf. the recent discussion in Roberts 2007: 351–76, and
Longobardi, this volume). In accounting for syntactic change, a diachronic theory
must be able to distinguish between three different factors:
(1) a. interference
b. chance parallelism / convergent evolution
c. (chain-effects of) an inherited change
Phylogenetic models refer to (1a.) as borrowing, to (1b.) as homoplasy, and to (1c.)
as homology. (1c.) is best recognized when there is a direct transmission of a
character (parametric value) from one language to the other. However, for the
syntactic domain, it has often been proposed that (1c.) can also arise more indirectly,
as the result of a chain of shifts, and that consequently it is often difficult to
empirically distinguish between (1b.) and (1c.). That is, apparent cases of chance
parallelism may in fact be due to a sequence of changes brought about by an actually
inherited grammatical property. The best known formulation of the problem is
represented by Sapir’s (1921: 172) notion of drift: ‘The momentum of the more
fundamental, the pre-dialectic, drift is often such that languages long disconnected
will pass through the same or strikingly similar phases’. Since Lightfoot (1979),
theories of linguistic change couched in the biolinguistic framework have discarded
282 Chiara Gianollo

directional explanations for syntactic change, on the basis of the fundamental

assumption that the mechanism of direct transmission through language acquisition
is incompatible with ‘racial memories’ of any sort. However, it has more recently
been proposed that a better understanding of the functioning of parametric systems
can help derive long-term effects on a principled basis (Roberts 2007: 340–57,
Longobardi, this volume, Roberts, this volume).
In this chapter, I will tackle the issue of parallel development and the problem
of distinguishing between (1b.) and (1c.) by focusing on the observed sequence of
morpho-syntactic changes affecting the realization of arguments of nominal
heads (genitives) from Latin to Romance. I will present data from a corpus
search over Late Latin (third–fourth century ad) and Old French texts (eleventh–
thirteenth century ad), with the addition of some Middle French data (until
1600). The expression of adnominal arguments undergoes a deep restructuring
from Latin to the modern Romance languages: genitives, which are inflectionally
encoded in Latin and occur in a variety of configurations with respect to the
head noun, come to be realized, in the Western Romance varieties, uniquely by
means of post-nominal prepositional phrases headed by continuations of the
originally ablative preposition de. Such restructuring is commonly considered to
be a consequence of the general process of deflexion observed in the transition
from Latin to Romance. However, neither the substantial similarity of outcomes
in the Western Romance languages, nor the existence of intermediate stages with
coexisting inflectional and prepositional realizations, are exhaustively addressed
by uniquely attributing this change to morphological impoverishment.
I will argue that a careful exam of nominal syntax in late varieties of Latin can
uncover the ultimate syntactic cause of the observed similarity in the Western
Romance outcomes. I will also propose a syntactic analysis of Old French inflec-
tional genitives (realized with the cas-régime absolu), which is able to capture the
diachronic link to the Latin genitive constructions and to elucidate the succession of
steps leading to the generalization of the prepositional realization in the modern
descendant. My explanation of the parallel development of prepositional genitives in
Romance will interpret it as a chain-effect of an original inherited change (1c.), thus
supporting the idea that a parametric model of syntactic variation combined with
some theoretical assumptions about the dynamics of change can lead us to choose in
a principled way among the competing hypotheses in (1a.–c.).
In the following section, I will propose a parametric model for the syntax of
genitives, together with some of its diachronic implications. In section 15.3, I will
discuss the Late Latin situation, and in section 15.4 I will present the Old French data.
Section 15.5 summarizes my conclusions.
Prepositional genitives in Romance 283

15.2 A parametric model for the syntax of adnominal genitive

The theoretical framework on which I base my syntactic analysis of genitive construc-
tions centres on the idea that genitive (i.e. the formal realization of adnominal
arguments) is a heterogeneous category from a syntactic point of view: genitive
case-marked constituents behave as structurally case-marked in some configurations,
and as lexically case-marked in others. Parametric variation exists with respect to the
kind of configuration allowed in a language, and more than one mechanism can be
present. While many languages have different morphological encodings for different
configurations (e.g. English), in some languages (e.g. Classical Latin) the same mor-
phological realization can be given to structures that originate from different sources.
In my analysis I adopt a parametric model, according to which the remarkable
cross-linguistic variation found in this domain can be reduced to three fundamental
strategies of adnominal argument realization:
(2) a. GovG: a non-iterating in situ genitive, realized via a government configur-
ation in the position of merge and requiring adjacency to its head noun (cf.
Shlonsky 2004);
b. AgrG: an Agree configuration, whereby genitives can be realized, according
to the restrictions imposed by the thematic hierarchy, in two different
functional projections, whose activation is subject to parametric choice (cf.
Longobardi 2001b);
c. ModG: a predicational structure, which can be analyzed as a reduced relative
clause, by means of which modifier-like genitives can be iterated without
showing ordering constraints (cf. analyses like Kayne 1994 and following, or
Cinque 1994 for a parallel configuration involving adjectives).
The model in (2) is very similar to the one adopted in the parametrization of DP-
internal syntax by Gianollo, Guardiano, and Longobardi (2008), with the addition of
the government configuration in (2a.). Some of the cross-linguistic data on which it
is based are presented and discussed in Longobardi (2001b) and Gianollo (2005). The
typology in (2) is particularly well illustrated by Classical Greek, a language that
displays all the options above, and that, despite giving them the same morphological
realization, requires different distributional contexts for each (cf. Manolessou 2000,
Guardiano 2003).
(3) a. Æıc  dÆØ tBr p¸keyr (GovG; NG order)
aute he dunamis tes poleōs
itself the strength the:gen city:gen
‘the strength itself of the city’
(Thuc., II.41.2)
284 Chiara Gianollo

b.  Æ¥æ
Ø tBr p¸keyr (GovG; NG order)
he hairesis tes poleōs
the conquest the:gen city:gen
‘the conquest of the city’
(Thuc., II.58.2)
(4) a. ÆE tHm pokelijHm  l ÆØ (AgrG; GN order)
tais tōn polemikōn meletais
the the:gen military.exercises:gen practice(pl)
‘the practice of military exercises’
(Thuc., II.39.1)
b. c toF K›wgtor tHm meHm Iæåc (AgrG; GGN order)
ten tou Lachetos tōn neōn archen
the the:gen Laches:gen the:gen ships:gen command
‘Laches’ command of the fleet’
(Thuc., III.115.6)
(5) a. K fiB gfi B t§ B Zhgmaßym (ModG; NG order)
en tei gei tei Athenaiōn
in the:dat land:dat the:dat Athenians:gen
‘in the land of the Athenians’
(Thuc. II.57.1)
b. K fiB g§ B tfi B Økfi B (ModA; NA order)
en tei gei tei Attikei
in the:dat land:dat the:dat Attic:dat
‘in the Attic land’
(Thuc. II.57.1)
The examples in (3)–(5) show that: (i) a post-N genitive adjacent to the noun can
express the subjective (3a.) and the objective (3b.) function (but see Shlonsky 2004 on
cross-linguistic and construction-specific restrictions); (ii) genitives can also be pre-
N (4a.); two genitives can co-occur in pre-N position, respecting the thematic
hierarchy Agent > Theme (4b.); (iii) in definite DPs, it is possible to see that there
is a further post-N configuration in Classical Greek, in which the genitive is
preceded by the doubling of the matrix DP’s definite article (5a.). The same phe-
nomenon appears with post-N adjectives (5b.); determiner doubling is in fact the
only possibility to license post-N adjectives (cf. the discussion of determiner spread-
ing in Modern Greek in Alexiadou and Wilder 1998).
As seen in (3)–(5), the same morphological form can appear in different syntactic
configurations. This seems to be the case also for prepositional genitives cross-
linguistically. There is an ongoing debate with respect to their nature, motivated
especially by the fact that they are somehow ‘freer’ than their inflectional counter-
Prepositional genitives in Romance 285

parts (can be iterated, can occur in orders which do not respect the thematic
hierarchy, can be non-adjacent to the head noun), but at the same time are sensitive
to structural constraints, such as possessivization, extraction, and binding (cf. Giorgi
and Longobardi 1991, Longobardi 2001b, Androutsopoulou and Español-Echevarría
2003 for a summary of the debate). It is plausible that this heterogeneity may arise
from a combination of licensing strategies. In 15.4.4 I will propose an analysis of the
Old French prepositional genitive, hinting however to some evidence suggesting that
the modern construction displays some crucially different properties.
In the Indo-European languages included in Gianollo, Guardiano, and Long-
obardi’s (2008) sample, the configuration in ModG is always realized post-nominally
(with all probability harmonically with the post-N realization of relative clauses).
Thus, in these languages a GN order can only be analyzed as an AgrG configuration,
in one of the two dedicated projections. The fact that there are two distinct positions
is indicated not only by the possibility of multiple occurrences (cf. 4b.), but also by
the positioning with respect to adjectives. The two projections for structural genitive
licensing, tagged GenS and GenO, and their position with respect to adjectives, are
shown in (6), from Longobardi (2001b: 597):
(6) [D [GenS [Num [H1 [S-or [M1 H2 [M2 H3 [Arg H4 [GenO [ÆP [S
[O . . . N]]]]]]]]]]]]
In (6), the lexical layer containing the noun and its arguments is indicated with Æ.
S-or (Speaker- or Subject-oriented), M1 (Manner-1), M2 (Manner-2), Arg (Argu-
mental) projections refer to hierarchically ordered positions for adjectives. The
positions tagged H1, H2, etc., represent the cross-linguistically attested targets of
intermediate N(P)-movement (cf. Bernstein 1993).
The possibility for the noun head or the NP to raise across functional projections
brings us to the next point, i.e. the structural ambiguity of the NG order. A linear
string NG in a language can result in principle from three different configurations:
(i) a GovG; (ii) one of the two positions where AgrG is licensed, in languages where
N(P)-raising to higher projections is present; (iii) a ModG. As we have already
mentioned, distinguishing between the three is not, to a large extent, a matter of
morphology. While a prepositional realization is restricted to types (2a.) and (c.), an
inflectional form is compatible with all types of licensing. The interplay with other
DP-internal parameters is, instead, revealing. In particular, adjectives represent a
crucial diagnostics for the syntax of genitives. Since the functional projections
hosting adjectives are situated in between the two AgrG positions, the relative
order of noun, adjective and genitive is a crucial cue for the activation of AgrG
projections. Also, an order N-A-G immediately rules out the possibility of analyzing
the genitive construction as a GovG, since the latter requires adjacency to the head
286 Chiara Gianollo

I propose that the structural ambiguity of the NG sequence is primarily respon-

sible for the diachronic lability of post-N genitives. In the next sections, I will also
argue that conditions on structural economy play a role in the historical dynamics
affecting these constructions.
The three basic types in (2) are listed in an order that mirrors their degree of
syntactic complexity, defined in terms of the interplay between the number of
additional projections that have to be generated and the movement operations
necessary for licensing. Syntactic complexity plays a crucial role in the process of
reanalysis, in that learners’ choices are guided by principles of structural economy in
case of ambiguous input (cf. Roberts and Roussou 2003, van Gelderen 2004, and the
discussion in Roberts 2007: 127ff and 226ff ). In the analysis of Late Latin genitive
constructions that I will give in the next section, it will be argued that the choice
between two possible parametric interpretations of the NG string is guided by such

15.3 Late Latin

15.3.1 Corpus
My database for Late Latin (LL) is represented by a corpus of c.80,000 words. It is,
therefore, much smaller than the database used for Old French (OF), for which a
syntactically parsed electronic corpus is available. The included texts date from the
beginning of the third century ad (Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis) to the end of the
fourth (Peregrinatio Egeriae and the four gospels in the Vulgata translation). If it is
true that a major part of the corpus is represented by the gospels, which are
translations from the Greek, their uniformity with respect to the native texts
observed in the domain of nominal syntax allows for their use as legitimate repre-
sentatives of a non-artificial variety of Latin (see Gianollo 2011 for arguments in
support of this position). I will also make reference to the results of a wider study on
Classical Latin (CLL), presented in Gianollo (2005, 2006). In general, the reader is
referred to these previous works for a fuller account of the Latin situation, which
I will only be able to summarize within the limits of this chapter.

15.3.2 Realization of adnominal arguments in Late Latin

Prepositional genitives in the Western Romance varieties are attested since the
earliest documents. They share the most fundamental syntactic characteristics
(cf. Giorgi and Longobardi 1991, Androutsopoulou and Español-Echevarría 2003)
and the preposition di/de introducing them can be formally traced back to a
common Latin origin, the ablative preposition de. However, the genitive function
of the prepositional phrase with de does not appear to be grammaticalized in any
documented stage of the Latin language. As seen in section 15.1, the question,
Prepositional genitives in Romance 287

therefore, is whether it is nonetheless possible to detect a commonly inherited

property accounting for such apparent parallel development.
The inflectional genitive realization was the only way of encoding real arguments
within the CLL nominal phrase. This situation persists significantly also in the LL
texts included in my survey: the prepositional phrase with de þ ablative is still
overwhelmingly found with its typical directional use. Partitive or pseudo-partitive
occurrences appear at a comparable rate as that of earlier—especially pre-Classical—
texts (cf. Molinelli 1996, Rosén 1999: 137–49, Vincent 1999). The expression of real
arguments with de þ ablative is extremely rare, and this conclusion seems to hold
also for later attestations (cf. Bonnet 1890: 607f on the few examples found in
Gregory of Tours, sixth century, where the original ablative value of the preposition
is still clear, and Väänänen 1981 for an overview of documents from the seventh and
eighth century).
However, despite the retention of the original inflectional system, LL shows an
extremely clear-cut shift in the distribution of genitive arguments (cf. Table 15.1).
While in CLL genitives occur indifferently and in even distribution in pre- or post-N
position, in the LL texts included in my sample genitives almost invariantly follow
their head noun, with only a few exceptions, which can be straightforwardly
accounted for as idiomatic expressions (cf. Gianollo 2005: 157ff ).
A similar shift is not observable with adjectives, which instead occur in pre- and
post-N position, at a rate comparable to that of CLL (cf. Table 15.2).
The major shift in the distribution of genitives, whose ultimate causes are admit-
tedly unclear (cf. Gianollo 2011), but do not seem to be reducible to concurrent
morpho-syntactic changes, results in a decisive loss in syntactic variation with
respect to CLL. Moreover, one of the consequences of this shift is that it is no
more possible to simultaneously express two arguments of the same head noun. In
my LL corpus there are no genuine instances of multiple genitive realization within
the same DP. The construction is generally rare also in CLL, but the examples show
that it was possible to iterate the genitive structure both in pre- and post-N position,
and that, when both genitives were pre-N, the thematic hierarchy (subjective >
objective G) had to be strictly obeyed (cf. Table 15.3).

TABLE 15.1. Distribution of genitives in Late Latin

Genitives NG GN

Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis 101 (84.2%) 19 (15.8%)

Peregrinatio Egeriae 505 (93.5%) 35 (6.5%)
Evangelium sec. Matthaeum 576 (96.6%) 20 (3.4%)
Evangelium sec. Marcum 267 (96.4%) 10 (3.6%)
Evangelium sec. Lucam 572 (96.9%) 18 (3.1%)
Evangelium sec. Ioannem 315 (94%) 20 (6%)
288 Chiara Gianollo

TABLE 15.2. Distribution of adjectives in Late Latin

Adjectives NA AN

Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis 52 (50%) 53 (50%)

Peregrinatio Egeriae 283 (50%) 284 (50%)
Evangelium sec. Matthaeum 164 (74%) 58 (26%)
Evangelium sec. Marcum 90 (60%) 60 (40%)
Evangelium sec. Lucam 146 (73.4%) 53 (26.6%)
Evangelium sec. Ioannem 88 (68.8%) 40 (31.2%)

TABLE 15.3. Co-occurring genitives in Classical Latin (data in Gianollo 2005: 73–8)

gng=18 ggn=10 ngg=9

gSngO¼18 gOngS=0 gSgOn=10 gOgSn=0 ngSgO=6 ngOgS=3

Multiple occurrences of ordered, pre-N genitives in CLL were one of the crucial
hints towards the analysis of these constructions as realized in an AgrG configur-
ation (cf. 2b.).
As for post-N genitives, the main pieces of evidence were represented by the
possibility of iteration and the possibility for other DP-internal elements, such as
adjectives, to occur between the head noun and the genitive. This excluded the GovG
configuration, leading to an analysis in terms of a predicative structure (ModG in
2c.). In LL, the fact that genitives start to be consistently realized to the right of the
head noun leads to the generation of an ambiguous input for acquisition: the NG
sequence becomes strongly P-ambiguous, in Roberts’ (2007: 233) terms, in the sense
that it may be analyzed by the learner according to different parametric values. As
we have seen in section 15.1, three possible parametric configurations can yield a NG
order. In LL, however, the GovG configuration is ruled out by the absence of the
adjacency requirement: as in CLL, adjectives can intervene between the head noun
and the genitive, as shown in (7).
(7) a. in novissimo autem die magno festivitatis
in last then day big festivity:gen
‘in the last great day of festivity’ (Vulg. Joh. 7.37)
b. spatium immensum horti
space immense garden:gen
‘the immense space of a garden’ (Passio 4.8)
Prepositional genitives in Romance 289

In Gianollo (2005), Crisma and Gianollo (2006) it has been proposed that the
primary evidence available in LL is responsible for triggering the reanalysis of the
post-N genitive from type (2c.) to type (2b.). The CLL parametric interpretation of
the post-N genitive as a ModG is now ruled out on the basis of (i) empirical
evidence, consisting in the absence of multiple occurrences, and (ii) a principle of
structural economy, valuing the AgrG configuration as less syntactically complex
than the ModG one. The learner opts for the generation of the least possible amount
of structure; therefore, in absence of contrary evidence, movement to a functional
projection is preferred to the predicative option. Given the existence of N-A-G
sequences, as seen in (7), and of pre-N adjectives (cf. Table 15.2 and 7a.), the only
position available is the lowest projection below ordered adjectives (GenO in 6). The
resulting structure for the DP in example (7a.) is shown in (8):
(8) [D [S-or novissimo [diei [M2 magno [festivitatisj [ÆPj [Ni]]]]]]]
According to this proposal, the reanalysis of the genitive construction, on account
of the interaction with adjectival syntax, is responsible for the birth of N(P)-raising,
i.e. for the assumption on the part of the learner of a movement operation which
takes the noun to land in an intermediate position in the functional layer.1
N(P)-raising is shared by all the Romance languages, and it is therefore highly
significant that, if the present reconstruction is correct, it is actually possible to trace
back its origin to the common LL stage. In the following section I will argue that
precisely the inheritance of this pan-Romance feature and of the post-N genitive will
trigger the sequence of changes leading to the system of genitive realization wit-
nessed by Old French, and, ultimately, to the emergence of prepositional genitives.

15.4 Old French

15.4.1 Corpus
For Old French (OF), and for the partial overview of Middle French (MF) data that
I will present, I have relied on the syntactically parsed electronic corpus MCVF
edited by Martineau (2008). I complemented the evidence offered by the MCVF
corpus with another text in verses, La Vie de Saint Alexis (eleventh century, 4,636
words), which represents a particularly archaic stage of the language. The MCVF
texts included in my search are presented in Table 15.4 (shaded texts are in verses).2

For the treatment of CLL post-N adjectives, see Gianollo (2005, 2006), where they are analyzed as
originating in a predicative configuration.
More information on chronology, authorship, provenance, and the edition followed for each text is
provided on the MCVF website. Some dates, which do not correspond to the scholarly consensus, have
been modified according to the Complément Bibliographique of the Dictionnaire Étymologique de l’Ancien
Français (DEAF). I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for pointing out some inconsistencies to me.
290 Chiara Gianollo

TABLE 15.4. Old and Middle French texts from the MCVF corpus used in the study

Date Number of words

Old French (until 1300)

La Chanson de Roland c.1100 29,338
Le Voyage de Saint Brendan 1120–1125 10,829
Leis Willelme 1150 4,026
Yvain / Le Chevalier au Lion 1177–1181 39,396
La Charte de Chièvres 1194 1,349
Aucassin et Nicolette 1190–1250 9,828
Pseudo-Turpin 1195–1205 4,136
La Conquête de Constantinople 1205 33,994
Queste del Saint Graal 1220–1225 108,678
Le Livre Roisin 1283 5,256
Middle French (until 1600)
Le XV Joyes du mariage 1375–1425 33,200
Chroniques, Froissart 1399–1410 216,520
Formulaire, Morchesne 1422–1427 11,062
Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles 1458–1467 147,229
Mémoires, Commynes 1489–1498 21,934
Lettres, Marguerite de Navarre 1521–1525 5,700
Hurons, Gendron 1644 3,663
Annales, Morin 1659–1725 98,564
TOTAL 784,702

Some of the queries have been performed on the whole material. In other cases
I concentrated on La Chanson de Roland as representative of texts in verses, and on
La Conquête de Constantinople by Robert de Clari for prose.

15.4.2 Realization of adnominal arguments in Old French

OF displays three different constructions for the realization of adnominal argu-
(9) a. the cas-régime absolu (Foulet 1928): also called Juxtaposition Genitive in the
literature, e.g. Arteaga (1995), Delfitto and Paradisi (2009); inflectional
realization in the oblique form of the extant two-case declension (tagged
BareG in what follows)
li filz [le roi d’Arragon]
the son the king of Aragon
‘the son of the king of Aragon’ (Charrete 5780)
Prepositional genitives in Romance 291

b. the prepositional phrase introduced by de (tagged DeG in what follows)

la teste [d’Agolant]
the head of Agolant
‘Agolant’s head’ (Aspremont 10532)
c. the prepositional phrase introduced by a
la chambre [a la pucele]
the room to the girl
‘the girl’s room’ (Perceval 5753)
Type (9c.), which is marginally retained in Modern French, is restricted to the
expression of [ þ human] arguments, and is always rare in the texts examined. For
the present purposes, I will disregard this configuration, to concentrate on the
relation between the cas-régime absolu and the main representative of the prepos-
itional construction, type (9b.).
In the most ancient text included in the survey, the Vie de Saint Alexis, the
distribution of the prepositional phrase introduced by de attests its full grammati-
calization as the expression of adnominal arguments. However, prepositional geni-
tives occur alongside inflectional realizations of genitives in the cas-régime absolu.
Table 15.5 shows that in the Vie de Saint Alexis the number of occurrences of
prepositional genitives only slightly exceeds that of inflected ones.
The grammaticalization of prepositional genitives, thus, cannot be mechanically
linked to the loss of the inflectional realization, and a long period of co-existence of
the two constructions has to be accounted for. As Figure 15.1 shows, the use of the
cas-régime absolu decreases during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, to disappear
by the MF period, following the more general fate of the two-case declension (on
which see Schøsler 1973, 1984, Plank 1979, Reenen and Schøsler 2000).3
Already in OF an overt morphological distinction between the nominative (cas-
sujet) and the oblique (cas-régime) was consistently visible only in the masculine

TABLE 15.5. Prepositional versus inflected genitives in the Vie de Saint Alexis

Genitives DeG BareG

Saint Alexis 35 (53.8%) 30 (46.2%)

The fact that Froissart in his Chroniques uses relatively many inflectional genitives, and in a remarkably
rich variety of syntactic and semantic contexts, could be interpreted as a sign of a longer persistency of the
construction in the Northern and Eastern dialects, especially Picard. This would be consistent with the longer
preservation, in such varieties, of the two-case declension, due at least in part to the fact that in the Northern
regions final -s disappears later (cf. discussion in Schøsler 1973: 260f, Reenen and Schøsler 2000). However, the
Middle French texts included in my search are too few and too scattered in time to allow for a safe conclusion
on this point. I thank Richard Ingham for suggesting this possibility to me.
292 Chiara Gianollo

BareG - ratio to word count



















FIGURE 15.1 The disappearance of the inflected genitive (column shading indicates the
transition from OF to MF).

paradigm of nouns and determiners, as shown in Table 15.6. Most feminine nouns
had a unique form for both cases and retained only the morphological marking for
plural number. Only the few feminine nouns that did not end in -e muet could mark
the cas-sujet singular with an -s, borrowed from the masculine paradigm; in addition
to these, a handful of nouns retained a marked cas-sujet (e.g. suer/seror ‘sister’, none/
nonain ‘noon’, Eve/Evain ‘Eve’). In any case, for feminine nouns the two-case
distinction was restricted to the singular. Nonetheless, feminine nouns were also
allowed in the BareG configuration, although very rarely. This point will, in fact,
turn out to be important for the following discussion.

15.4.3 The properties of the cas-régime absolu

In this section, I will examine the syntactic behaviour of the OF inflectional genitive
construction (type 9a.). In order to do so, I will start from the traditional description
of the cas-régime absolu given by Foulet (1928), and discuss it in light of the data
coming from my survey on the MCVF corpus.

TABLE 15.6. Case declension in Old French

Nouns Definite article


sg pl sg pl sg pl sg pl
Cas-sujet -s (-z) -Ø -Ø -s (-z) li li la les
Cas-régime -Ø -s (-z) -Ø -s (-z) le les la les
Prepositional genitives in Romance 293

Foulet (1928: 14–23) offers an analysis of the distribution of the inflectional

construction, which can be summarized in the following points:
(10) Typical semantic notions expressed
a. kinship, alliance, leadership
b. alienable and inalienable possession
c. the complement is overwhelmingly singular
d. the complement is preferably a proper name
e. the complement must be [ þ human]
f. it must play the role of subject/possessor
g. it must always be definite
h. it must immediately follow the head noun
To these points it should be added that, according to the data in the corpus,
BareG is never iterated, i.e. there can be no more than one BareG for DP.
Studies such as e.g. Palm (1977), Herslund (1980), Schøsler (1984), Arteaga (1995),
Delfitto and Paradisi (2009), have already confirmed the accuracy of Foulet’s descrip-
tion with respect to points (10a.,b.,e.). I will rather comment on the remaining ones,
which are of more direct import to understand the syntactic configuration in which OF
inflected genitives occur.4
Table 15.7 shows the distribution of inflected genitives in two representative OF
texts, according to (i) their order with respect to the head noun; (ii) the nature of the
complement with respect to the proper name/common noun distinction; (iii) the
complement’s number.5

TABLE 15.7. Distribution of inflected genitives in Old French

BareG NG GN Proper (sg) Common TOT

Roland 85 ( þ 1) 4 50 40 (36 sg) 90

Constantinople 113 4 ( þ 1) 24 94 (89 sg) 118

In my system, the [ þ human] feature does not play a syntactically relevant role and, as such, remains
unexplained. Delfitto and Paradisi (2009) propose that it may be related to the visibility of case
morphology, necessary to obtain the cas-régime absolu configuration.
In the second and third column, the number in parenthesis indicates constructions which are
retrieved by the MCVF search, but which I have set apart in my analysis in order to comply with the
criteria that I have adopted in my analysis of Latin. They are, respectively, a construction with a gapped
noun, and an instance of en-cliticization. On the other hand, in order to favour the replicability of the
query, I have kept in the total a number of structures which are tagged as inflected genitives in the corpus,
but which may not, in fact, represent adnominal arguments: these are forms of cas-régime complementing
the noun mi ‘middle’, which however appears in most occurrences to form a complex preposition together
with par and en (e.g. en mi la pleine tere, Roland 3278).
294 Chiara Gianollo

Table 15.7 largely confirms point (10c.), also in its not being an absolute restriction,
since plural complements are not impossible. Point (10d.), on the other hand, does
not appear to qualify as an accurate generalization, since common nouns may even
represent the majority of inflectional realizations in some texts.
It has been long noticed (e.g. Togeby 1974, Palm 1977, and more recently Delfitto
and Paradisi 2009) that also generalization (10f.) is incorrect: although there is a
predominance of possessive and subject-like relations, the cas-régime absolu can also
have the function of an objective genitive, as in (11):
(11) a. pur amur Alexis
for love Alexis
‘for the love towards Alexis’ (Saint Alexis 1529)
b. le servise Jhesucrist
the service Jesus
‘the service of/to Jesus’ (Queste 260)
In the corpus examined by Palm (1977), represented by literary texts of the second
half of the twelfth century–first quarter of the thirteenth century and partially
overlapping with ours, over a total of 1,395 BareG with singular nouns, 62 (4%)
can be analyzed as objective genitives. The rate is comparable to that observed
among prepositional complement introduced by a (3%), and not substantially
different from that found among DeG (9%).
Turning to the definiteness requirement in (10g.), our search over the corpus confirms
the fact that the BareG must always be definite. No examples occur of article-less
inflectional genitive DPs, apart from the cases where proper names, pronouns like
celui, or definiteness-inducing elements such as possessive adjectives or demonstratives
are present. The only cases where the complement can be indefinite are found after the
noun mi ‘middle’ (e.g. par mi un val herbus ‘across a grassy valley’, Roland 994). This
construction, however, is better analyzed as headed by a newly grammaticalized com-
plex preposition en mi, par mi (Modern French parmi), governing, as all other preposi-
tions, the oblique case, which is therefore not a real BareG anymore (cf. fn. 5; cf. also the
fact that after mi the complement can also be [  human]). Thus, it is possible to
conclude that the inflectional genitive always needs a strong element in D.
The definiteness requirement does not hold for the matrix DP, as is instead
implied by Delfitto and Paradisi’s (2009) treatment of the BareG construction.
Although examples in the corpus are rare in argument position (whereas in pre-
dicative position article-less DPs can more freely occur), they show that DPs with an
indefinite determiner can have a BareG complement, as in (12).
(12) a. un’ymagene Apolin le felun
an image Apolin the traitor
‘an image of Apolin the traitor’ (Roland 3252)
Prepositional genitives in Romance 295

b. uns serjans l’empereur

a servant the emperor
‘a servant of the emperor’ (Constantinople 1565)
Apparently, therefore, no agreement in definiteness features holds between the
matrix and the genitive DPs. This is a first, important hint toward the fact that a
construct-state analysis for these constructions is not correct (since definiteness
inheritance is a necessary property of construct states, cf. Ritter 1991, Siloni 1997,
Longobardi 1995, 1996). A second piece of evidence against a construct-state analysis
is represented by the fact that, as shown in (13), adjectives may intervene between the
determiner and the head noun in the matrix DP: the N(P), therefore, cannot be
argued to raise to the projection of D, as is commonly assumed for Semitic (and
marginal Romance) construct states (on the frequent confusion between Romance
construct states and the cas-régime absolu construction cf. Longobardi 1995: 307, fn.
14, and references cited therein).
(13) a. a la grant feste Seint Michel del peril
to the solemn celebration Saint Michel of.the danger
‘to the solemn celebration of St. Michael, (patron) of the danger’ (Roland 125)
b. le grant orgoill Rollant
the great pride Roland
‘Roland’s great pride’ (Roland 1797)
c. le boen cuer sa dame
the good heart his lady
‘his lady’s good heart’ (Yvain 7066)
This last observation brings us to our last point, (10h.), relative to the position of
BareG. As seen in Table 15.7 above, the post-N order is overwhelmingly dominant
(respectively in 95.5% and 96% of the cases). Foulet (1928: 18f ) states that pre-N cas-
régime absolu is typically found with the name ‘God’. With other nouns, the order is
almost always found in the rhyming part of the verse. For the purposes of this chapter,
the pre-N inflected genitive will be considered a relic and will be disregarded in the
following discussion. In order to fully confirm (10h.), also the requisite of immediate
adjacency has to be checked against the data in the corpus. Foulet (1928: 17–8) states
that a word appears between the head noun and the inflected genitive only very
seldom. The intervening element, judging from Foulet’s examples, is never part of the
DP, but results from independent sentence-level parameters, governing the position
of connectives and verbs, which are most often prosodically weak:
(14) a. Li feme aussi Mahiu l’Anstier
the wife also Mahiu the Anstier
‘also the wife of Mahiu l’Anstier’ (Le Jeu de la Feuillée 296)
296 Chiara Gianollo

b. Caÿn, qui freres fu Abel

Cain who brother was Abel
‘Cain, who was Abel’s brother’ (Le Vair Palefroi 882)
The query on the MCVF corpus and on the Vie de Saint Alexis confirms the
adjacency requirement. In particular, adjectives, the most likely candidates for DP-
internal intervention, never occur between a noun and a BareG.6 Since this aspect, as
with LL, turns out to be crucial for the diachronic interpretation, I will postpone a
more thorough discussion of the data to the following section, where I will propose
my analysis for the structural configuration in which BareG is licensed, and recon-
struct its relation to the Late Latin inheritance.
To sum up this section, I propose in (15) below a modified version of (10), where
some generalizations are reframed or complemented according to my empirical
findings (in italics):
(15) Typical semantic notions expressed
a. kinship, alliance, leadership
b. alienable and inalienable possession
c. the complement is overwhelmingly singular, but there is no ban against
plural DPs
d. the complement does not show a distinct preference for being a proper
e. the complement must be [ þ human]
f. it can express any argument of the head noun
g. it must always be definite, but there is no obligatory definiteness agree-
ment with the matrix DP
h. it must immediately follow the head noun
i. it can never be iterated

15.4.4 From Late Latin to Old French

In this section I will argue that OF inflected genitives are, in fact, a continuation of
Latin from a syntactic point of view. More precisely, I will propose that they
represent the result of a further reanalysis of the LL construction. I will further
argue that OF prepositional realizations (type 9b.) share the same structural source.
Some of the conditions in (15) suggest that the BareG construction represents the
outcome of the transmission of some fundamental parametric values relative to the
The co-occurrence of adjectives and BareG is quite rare, as can be seen by the data presented in Table
15.8. Therefore, as an anonymous reviewer notices, this conclusion is based on a limited number of
examples, which will be hopefully expanded by future research over a broader corpus.
Prepositional genitives in Romance 297

nominal domain from LL to OF. If it is impossible to straightforwardly derive the OF

system from the CLL one, the hypothesis that the OF BareG inherits the character-
istics of the intermediate LL stage sheds light on a number of shared properties: (i)
the fact that the noun raises to an intermediate projection in the functional layer,
landing in between the ordered adjectival projections, (ii) the fact that a non-
iterated, inflectional genitive, which is able to express any thematic relation with
the head noun, occurs in a post-N position. We may add to this the observation that
the residual pre-N instances of cas-régime absolu appear in a position that is
arguably the same of the residual pre-N genitives in LL, i.e. in the high AgrG
projection, immediately below D.
Despite these basic similarities, the OF construction displays an innovative struc-
tural property with respect to the LL post-N genitive realized in the low AgrG
projection, namely strict adjacency with respect to the head noun. We have seen
in (7) that this was not the case in LL, as N-A-G sequences were possible. Therefore,
to corroborate the hypothesis that the cas-régime absolu continues the LL post-N
genitive, a principled explanation has to be found as to why the new requirement
(15h.) would arise. In what follows, I will try to do so, connecting the adjacency
requirement to another peculiar feature of BareG, the definiteness requirement on
the complement (15g.), and establishing a structural parallelism with the DeG
I ended the last section by discussing the respective positioning of BareG and
adjectives. In Table 15.8 I present an overview of the data obtained from the MCVF
corpus, also with respect to the DeG configuration.
Adjectives can co-occur with the BareG construction (cf. also 13), but only if they
precede the head noun. The only safe example of adjective intervention in a DP
hosting a BareG configuration comes from a Middle French text, Froissart’s Chron-
iques, in a highly lexicalized expression (dou frere germain le duch de Bretagne ‘of the
duke of Brittany’s brother-german’, Froissart 10048).
The corpus study demonstrates that the requisite of adjacency imposed on such a
realization is also shared, until the Middle French period, by the prepositional
genitive. This is a noteworthy difference with respect to Modern French, where
the intervention of an adjective between the head noun and the prepositional
genitive is perfectly grammatical (in (16a.) the adjective can only be post-N, while
in (16b.) it could also precede):
(16) a. la voiture italienne de Marie
‘Mary’s Italian car’
b. le discours controversé du président
‘the president’s controversial speech’
298 Chiara Gianollo

TABLE 15.8. Co-occurrence of adjectives and genitives

Roland Constantinople Rest of corpus

A-N-BareG 3 2 12
N-A-BareG 0 0 2 (1?)
A-N-DeG 16 64 2153 (all de-PPs)
1290 (est. DeGen)7
N-A-DeG 1 0 165 (DeGen)

The only example of a N-A-DeG sequence in Roland shows, in fact, a still strong
ablatival value of the de-PP, which may therefore not qualify as a proper argument:
(17) A colps pleners de lor espiez
with strokes great of/from their pikes
‘with great strokes of/from their pikes’ (Roland 3388)
The counter examples found in the corpus are extremely rare in the OF period (4
to 7, depending on the uncertain interpretation of the de-PP as a real argumental
genitive or as an adjunct in some cases). They slightly increase in the MF period, but
the great majority of the instances counted in Table 15.8 (104 out of 165, 63%) are
attested in the latest text included in the corpus, Morin’s Annales de l’Hôtel-Dieu de
Also another fact observable in the corpus differentiates the DeG configuration
from the modern prepositional genitive: there are no instances in which DeG is
iterated. In Modern French, instead, it is possible to have multiple occurrences of
prepositional genitives within the same DP, as shown by the example in (18) (taken
from Sportiche 1990; multiple orders are possible):
(18) Le portrait d’Aristote de Rembrandt du Musée d’Orsay
The portrait of Aristotle of Rembrandt of the Musée d’Orsay
‘Rembrandt’s portrait of Aristotle in the Musée d’Orsay’
What is more, there are no instances in the corpus where DeG and BareG co-
occur as realizations of arguments of the same head noun. This hints toward the fact
that they may compete for the same position. The only difference between DeG and

In the case of the A-N-DeG combination, the automated query on the corpus retrieves all immediately
post-N PPs headed by de, without recognizing their function: thus, for instance, also partitives and
complements of quality and material are included. Due to the large number of occurrences, I did not
perform a case-by-case analysis for this combination; therefore I offer in the table both the total number of
de-PPs and an estimate of the number of argumental genitive among them (60% of the total). The estimate is
based on the case-by-case exam performed on La Chanson de Roland (55% argumental genitives) and on La
Conquête de Constantinople (64%). It is admittedly stipulative, and should be corroborated by more precise
data in the future, especially with respect to the diachronic developments in the functions of de-PPs.
Prepositional genitives in Romance 299

BareG observed in the literature (e.g. Foulet 1928, Palm 1977) is that, especially in the
older texts, de is preferably used with animals, inanimate referents, or (human)
kinds, and when the relation is that of an objective genitive. However, these are only
tendencies: the examples in (19) show that, since the earliest stages of the language,
DeG could express any thematic relation—respectively, possessor, agent, theme—
with the noun:
(19) a. l’ honur del secle
the honor of.the century
‘the honor of the century’ (Saint Alexis 200)
b. cunseill d’orguill
counsel of pride
‘a counsel of pride’ (Roland 196)
c. de tut cest mund . . . jugedor
of all this world judges
‘judges of all this world’ (Saint Alexis 364)
My hypothesis is that, in fact, the DeG and the BareG realizations have a uniform
structural source. They are licensed in a configuration that inherits from Late Latin
the post-N position, its non-iterability, and the possibility of realizing any thematic
role, thus the fundamental syntactic cues. It is further reanalyzed in OF, however, on
account of changes in the morphological cues.
The crucial morphological factor is deflexion. Jespersen (1918), Carstairs-McCarthy
(1987), Plank (1992) have shown that the morpho-syntactic development of the
English genitive was conditioned by the increased uniformity of the genitive expo-
nent, i.e. by the reduction of the declensional system to a unique genitive mark for all
declensional classes. The same change can be observed in OF, apart from lexical
exceptions. Moreover, most feminine nouns occur in the construction completely
unmarked for case, and are in fact quite rare. Adjectives display a strong tendency to
lose case marking: there is a unique form for feminine agreement and for masculine
forms ending in -e; adjectives ending in a consonant show many exceptions. In most
instances with masculine nouns, the only unambiguously case-marked element
within the genitive constituent is the element in the determiner position (article,
demonstrative, possessive adjective; cf. Palm 1977, Reenen and Schøsler 2000).
In this situation, OF case morphology is too weak to represent, in the process of
language acquisition, a cue to the movement of the genitive constituent to a higher
agreement projection: thus, the head noun’s extended projection loses its ability to
license nominal arguments in an AgrG configuration (type 2b.).8

Notice that here no isomorphism is necessarily assumed between syntactic structure and morpho-
logical exponence. Rather, morphology is considered to be one of the expressions of a certain parametric
value, representing a surface cue to parameter setting during acquisition. The impoverishment of such a
300 Chiara Gianollo

Given the disappearance of the morphological cue, a further reanalysis takes place
at this stage, leading to the positional licensing of the genitive constituent in a
government configuration (type 2a.). A GovG configuration cannot be iterated
(condition 15i.); it also requires strict adjacency between the head noun and the
complement (condition 15h.), and that is why the N-A-G sequence, probably already
underrepresented in the primary data, given the tendency of OF adjectives to occur
prevalently in pre-N position (cf. Boucher 2002, 2004), becomes ungrammatical. The
fact that in OF the post-N genitive is ‘frozen’ in place by the licensing under
government does not imply, however, that raising out of the lexical shell is lost;
rather, the whole NP complex reaches a higher position in the functional layer,
preserving the pan-Romance N(P)-raising parametric option.
In the spirit of the treatment of lexical case by Bayer, Bader, and Meng (2001),
I assume that the genitive complement takes the form of an outer KP, embedding a
DP and acting as a probe for the valuation of formal features of the complement.
Both inflectional endings and prepositions—or at least functional prepositions, with
a particularly impoverished set of lexical features, such as de, cf. Vincent (1999)—can
act as exponents of K0. More specifically, the requirement for K0 to be filled can be
satisfied by means of various strategies:
(20) Move
a. proper names (N-to-D-to-K)
b. overt definite determiners
c. possessive adjectives
d. functional preposition de
The merge option yields the DeG configuration, while the move option
results in BareG. This derives the requirement in (15g.) that the constituent in
the cas-régime absolu be always definite, accounting in a principled way for
Foulet’s (1928: 20) observation that the complement in this configuration ‘repré-
sente toujours un individu spécifiquement désigné, distinct de tous les autres
individus’. The semantic properties of the construction, under this account, are
only a by-product of the morphosyntactic requirement to fill K0. An overt
indefinite determiner is not able to satisfy such requirement because it is not in
D0, but originates in a lower functional projection (the cardinality projection
CardP, according to Lyons 1999).
The condition on K0 proposed for OF is reminiscent of a similar morphological
requirement holding for post-N genitives in Modern German, the so-called ‘genitive

cue can conspire in creating a situation of strong P-ambiguity, thus triggering reanalysis (cf. the discussion
in Anderson 2002 and Roberts 2007: 136ff ). I thank an anonymous reviewer for inviting me to make this
point explicit.
Prepositional genitives in Romance 301

rule’ (cf. Gallmann 1998, Lindauer 1998): according to it, a non-prepositional post-N
genitive is only possible if (i) represented by a proper name, or if (ii) there is at least
one inflected form within the DP (determiner, possessive pronoun or other inflected
pronoun, adjective with strong suffix). Further research is needed to assess whether
the diachronic emergence of this requirement can be linked to a reanalysis of the
configuration for post-N genitives along the lines proposed for OF.
The cas-régime absolu and the OF prepositional genitives have the same under-
lying structure and coexist, since the earliest documents, and until the two-case
declension eventually disappears. The DeG configuration, being subject to no
constraint relative to the syntactic and semantic nature of its DP complement, is
bound to become more frequent. The eventual generalization of the non-ambiguous
prepositional realization is very natural under current assumptions on processing. It
also complies with the ‘merge-over-move’ preference driving grammaticalization
processes (Roberts and Roussou 2003, van Gelderen 2004).
The mentioned increase in the occurrence of the N-A-G sequence after the
Middle French period signals that, at some point, the prepositional construction
itself undergoes the reanalysis which brings about the ‘modern’ characteristics of de-
genitives, i.e. the possibility of non-adjacency with the head noun and the possibility
of multiple occurrences within the same DP. In the proposed system, these proper-
ties are compatible with an analysis in terms of a ModG configuration (type 2c.).
This further diachronic step, which would attest once more to the lability of the
post-N genitive, must however be investigated on a much broader textual basis.
Once a substantial structural parallelism between inflectional and prepositional
genitives is established, the ultimate source of the prepositional construction can be
traced back to the crucial shift occurring in Late Latin, which unequivocally trans-
mits to the daughter languages genitives in the post-N position.
My account, although grounded into different assumptions about the nature of
genitive licensing, is in substantial agreement with the previous formal treatment of
the cas-régime absolu construction proposed by Arteaga (1995): the diachronic
processes affecting this form of genitive is ultimately due to the featural weakening
of the functional projection licensing it, in turn connected to morphological impov-
Ultimately, if we assume, as is plausible, that similar conditions may have hold for
the other Western Medieval Romance varieties, the reconstruction proposed here
accounts for the parallel development of prepositional genitives in these languages,
whose ancestor only had an inflectional realization. Under the present assumptions,
a diachronic process that is traditionally interpreted as an instance of (1b.) turns out
to be, instead, at least for OF, an instance of (1c.), i.e. the chain-effect of an inherited
change happening in LL.
302 Chiara Gianollo

15.5 Conclusion
In this chapter, I have traced the history of genitive realization from Late Latin to
Old French. I have proposed that a bundle of parametric features, crucially com-
prising the realization of genitives in a post-nominal Agree configuration and the
operation of noun raising, is transmitted from Late Latin to Old French and is
responsible for the retention of the genitive construction commonly referred to as
cas-régime absolu. However, the Old French construction displays some innovative
structural properties with respect to the originating Latin construction, most notably
strict adjacency to the head noun; moreover, it alternates since the first texts with the
prepositional expression of genitives. The existence of a mixed system shows that the
grammaticalization of prepositional genitives cannot be mechanically linked to the
loss of the inflectional realization, but also points to some restrictions that prevented
the inflectional genitive from being fully productive. I have argued that the ultimate
explanation for this state of affairs has to be sought in the interplay between
morphology and syntax.
The more general conclusion that can be drawn from my analysis is that post-
nominal genitive is diachronically labile because the space of parametric variation
within genitive syntax and the conspiracy with the values of other parameters allows,
in principle, for three different grammars for NG sequences. The Old French data
seem to suggest that choosing among the three in language acquisition may also be a
matter of morphology, as deflexion interacts to various degrees. In evaluating the
salience of structural parallelisms for comparative and genealogical purposes, the
potential polymorphism of constructions such as post-nominal genitives has to be
carefully taken into account. Some parametric values are more likely to change than
others: in some cases their lability can be attributed to the fact that they are subject to
the implicational effect of superordinate parameters (Roberts 2007: 357), but in other
cases, like the one under exam here, the ambiguity of the trigger arising under
certain conditions may represent the decisive factor.

Primary sources
Nestle, Eberhard, Erwin Nestle, Barbara and Kurt Aland et al. (1994). Novum Testamentum
Graece et Latine, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis

Van Beek, Cornelius (1936). Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis. Nijmegen: Dekker &
Van de Vegt.
Prepositional genitives in Romance 303

Bastiaensen, Antoon A. R. (1987). Acta Martyrum. Milan: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla.

Peregrinatio Egeriae
Heraeus, Wilhelm (1908) (1939). Silviae vel potius Aetheriae Peregrinatio ad Loca Sancta,
Heidelberg: Winter.
Prinz, Otto (1960). Itinerarium Egeriae, Heidelberg: Winter.

La Vie de Saint Alexis

Paris, Gaston (1872). La Vie de Saint Alexis. Paris: Franck.
Storey, Christopher (1968). La Vie de Saint Alexis, Texte du Manuscrit de Hildersheim (L).
Textes Littéraires Français 148. Geneva: Droz.

Corpus MCVF
Martineau, France (2008). Corpus MCVF: Modéliser le changement: les voies du français. U.

Convergence in parametric
Homoplasy or principled explanation?


16.1 Diachronic theory, historical linguistics, and ‘laws of history’

Most work in historical formal syntax since Lightfoot’s (1979) groundbreaking book
has been concerned with the development of theories posing general conditions on
so-called syntactic ‘change’ (essentially a metaphor for imperfect transmission of
I-languages across generations of speakers—cf. Clark and Roberts’ 1993 and Niyogi
and Berwick’s 1995 Logical Problem of Language Change); issues addressed in such
work can be defined ‘diachronic theory’ issues and their form often ultimately
amounts to something like the following:
(1) Given two I-languages L1 and L2, different and known to be H-related
(Crisma and Longobardi 2009: 61), which theory of the initial state of the
mind S0 and of acquisition principles can best explain the shape taken by L2?
Lightfoot’s (1999) ‘local causes’ approach, which rules out biologically improbable
explanations of linguistic historical phenomena, like teleological ‘laws of history’, is
conceptually certain to be correct and continues to be worth stressing as a founda-
tional tenet of the field; notice, however, that within such a framework, most practice

The relevant definitions can be summarized as follows:
1) An I-language L2 derives from an I-language L1 if and only if
a. L2 is acquired on the basis of a primary corpus generated by L1 or
b. L2 derives from L3 and L3 derives from L1
2) Two linguistic objects X and Y (I-languages or subparts of them) are H-related if and only if one
derives from the other or there is a Z from which both derive
3) Two H-related I-languages are H-contiguous if and only if 1)a. applies
Convergence in parametric phylogenies 305

has reduced ‘H-related’ to ‘H-contiguous’ and diachronic theory to a compounded

application of general ‘synchronic’ theory (indeed a pursuit of the Logical Problem
of Language Acquisition and of its solutions, aiming at classical explanatory
adequacy in the sense of Chomsky 1964). This strategy has been very successful in
enlarging our conception of UG and in establishing the relevance of diachronic work
for this goal (cf. previous DiGS volumes).
However, most longer-range historical problems (e.g. when we don’t know in
advance if or how much two languages are related) have escaped this approach, of
course. Such problems include some of the most classical and genuine historical
issues in linguistics, e.g. like the following:
(2) a. Given Lx and Ly (at some non-trivial distance in space and time), are they
demonstrably (i.e. chance-proof) H-related?
b. To what extent are they H-related? Given Lx, Ly, Lz, which two are more
(likely to be) H-related?
c. What are the sources of similarity between Lx and Ly (inheritance, areal
contact, chance, or other)?
Yet, it should be obvious that pursuing these issues is a task of high relevance and
presents some salient advantages for formal linguistics. First of all, answering
questions like those in (2) may determine actual growth of knowledge about past
events, a major objective of historical investigations and also a crucial component of
all historical explanations, in the sense defined in Longobardi (2003). Second,
hypotheses on previously undecided issues of language relatedness usually yield
insights for neighbouring disciplines (cf. Renfrew’s 1987 so called ‘New Synthesis’
of archaeology, linguistics, genetics . . . ) and may thus justify a historical paradigm in
syntax as a contribution to general knowledge, beyond its intrinsic interest for
linguistic theory. Finally, success in answering (2) may contribute even more widely
to establishing formal syntax, especially parametric syntax, as an autonomous
historical paradigm, which will not be just a ‘corollary’ of the synchronic one, but
can indeed guide and support the theoretical investigations of the latter on the basis
of a new domain of evidence. This line is suggested by a parallel with nineteenth
century linguistics: the study of issues like (2) in the lexicon and sound structure
preceded and grounded the development of a satisfactory theory of etymology,
phonological change, and ultimately of phonological structure itself.
Therefore, I claim that formal syntax may now both address genuine historical
issues, providing new tools to solve them, and in turn raise further intriguing
questions and evidence about the explanatory power of a theory of the language
faculty initial state S0 and of grammar acquisition. Here I will attempt to exemplify
how by addressing (in an admittedly very idealized way) a puzzling issue of type
(2c.), involving precisely a long-term phenomenon, namely parallel development,
and seemingly hinting at teleological approaches.
306 Giuseppe Longobardi

16.2 Background and methods: parameters in

quantitative historical linguistics
Within a parametric theory of syntax (from Chomsky 1981 on), the core grammar of
any natural language can in principle be represented by a string of binary symbols
(along with a crucial extra null symbol for unset parameters, cf. below), each of them
coding a parameter value: such strings can be unambiguously collated, hence
parameter values can be readily compared (Roberts 1998). On this basis, it has
been argued that quantitative parametric phylogenies are possible (Longobardi
2003): thus, language distances and chance probability of agreements can in prin-
ciple be measured through a parametric comparison method (PCM) and turn out to
be empirically significant in a first phylogenetic experiment on a specific module of
grammar (Longobardi and Guardiano 2009), based on sixty-three tentative binary
parameters of DP-internal structure.
In PCM, parametric distances between pairs of languages can be computed
basically from the number of identically or differently set parameters: e.g. Italian
and Greek turned out to have a relation <40,10>, meaning forty identically set and
ten oppositely set parameters, with thirteen irrelevant comparisons (i.e. cases where
at least one of the two languages exhibits an unset value). This last point is
fundamental. In fact, parameters exhibit an implicational structure (Baker 2001),
which Longobardi and Guardiano (2009) pointed out to be extremely pervasive
within the same module of grammar. Such implications can be logical in some cases,
empirical in others: the impressive depth attained by their deductive structure within
the DP module is apparent in the statement of the implications in the first column of
Table 16.1 and visually revealed by the graphic elaboration thereof made by Rigon
(2009), both reported here in the Appendix at the end of this chapter, but a more
focused exemplification is provided in the next section.
As a consequence, parameter values have three possible states: þ ,  , 0, the latter
meaning that the value is not set in a certain language, as irrelevant or completely
predictable owing to the setting of other parameters.
From the ordered pairs <i,d> of identities and differences, a monadic distance D
between any two languages can be computed, e.g. a Jaccard/Tanimoto distance (in
fact a normalized Hamming distance: D ¼ d/(d þ i) ), and from a distance matrix so
produced quite a plausible tree for twenty-three modern languages2 was automatic-
ally (by means of Phylip’s Kitsch program, with bootstrapped input under 1,000
resamplings) generated, presented in Figure 16.1.

Italian (It), Salentino (Sal), Spanish (Sp), French (Fr), Portuguese (Ptg), Rumanian (Rum), Grico
(Gri), Modern Greek (Grk), English (E), German (D), Norwegian (Nor), Bulgarian (Blg), Serbo-Croatian
(SC), Russian (Rus), Irish (Ir), Welsh (Wel), Hebrew (Heb), Arabic (Ar), Wolof (Wo), Hungarian (Hu),
Finnish (Fin), Hindi (Hi), Basque (Bas).
Convergence in parametric phylogenies 307

FIGURE 16.1 Phylogenetic tree from Longobardi and Guardiano (2009).

This way, generative syntactic theory provides reasonable hope of being able to
address problems of type (2a.) and (2b.), hopefully even some hardly addressable at
all through the classical lexical and phonological methods (Longobardi and Guar-
diano 2009, Colonna et al. 2010). At the same time, PCM makes conceptually
possible a new and most promising type of cultural phylogenies.

16.3 Intermezzo: the pervasive nature of parametric implications

We noticed before that, especially within compact modules of grammar, parameters
tend to show an intricate implicational structure: an impressive example in Long-
obardi and Guardiano’s (2009) tentative formalization of the DP module is provided
by the consequences of parameter 7 (cf. Table 16.1 in the Appendix). P7 governs the
requirement that the definite reading of a nominal argument be marked at least in
the subset of cases in which that nominal with the same designatum has already been
mentioned in the same discourse. This parameter is obviously set to þ in languages
with a so-called definite article, like the Romance ones, but to  in, say, Latin or
Russian. Now, the value  at p7 neutralizes, or contributes to neutralizing, the
relevance of fifteen other parametric choices in the Longobardi and Guardiano
308 Giuseppe Longobardi

In particular p8, p12, p15, p62 simply require that p7 be set to þ , to be relevant.
P8 asks if a language generalizes the overt marking of definiteness to environments
where no previous mention of the designatum has been made, including e.g. also
cases of situative Unika (Ebert 1970) or of definite generics like ‘The dog has four
legs’. Languages doing so apparently require a definite marker in all the environ-
ments of p7 as well, suggesting a typical subset strategy in the grammaticalization of
the so-called definite article and, thus, the implication. P12 asks if the definite marker
of a language is a bound morpheme cliticizing on the head noun, as e.g. in
Rumanian, or not, therefore it logically presupposes some amount of definiteness
(at least that of p7) to be grammaticalized. This is obviously also the case for p15,
which asks if the definiteness of the head of a relative clause is marked on the
introducer of the relative clause itself, as e.g. in Arabic, or not. P62, a more tentative
parametric hypothesis, asks whether or not a definite genitive argument necessarily
transmits its definite value to the head noun, as in ‘the man’s book’ or in Semitic
construct state. This latter too is a pertinent question only if a language grammati-
calizes some amount of definiteness to begin with.
P10, p22, p55, and p63 have a disjunctive implicational condition: namely, to be
relevant, they require that p7 be set to þ , unless p5 and p6 are set to  . P5 and p6
govern the existence of feature (in particular, number) concord between the D
position and the head noun. The lack of adequate number exponence on the head
noun, in fact, has far-reaching syntactic consequences: it prevents the existence of
bare argument nouns (Delfitto and Schroten 1991), forcing the generalized presence
of some overt determiner (an article essentially neutral between definite/indefinite),
even in languages which appear not to grammaticalize definiteness (e.g. Basque).
Thus, p10, p22, and p63 are relevant only in the presence of a definite or of a ‘general’
article, in this sense. P10 asks whether articles are subclassified for distal/proximate
distinctions (as e.g. in Wolof and one variety of Basque) or not (as in most European
languages), logically depending on the very existence of articles in the language. The
implication of p22, instead, embodies a more controversial and quite consequential
typological generalization: namely, that a true count marker (obligatorily opposing
count to mass singular indefinite nominals at least under certain defined conditions,
such as a specific reading: a so-called ‘indefinite article’) is only present in languages
which also have a definite (or general, in the sense above) article. P55 governs the
possibility for demonstratives to replace (cf. Italian or English) rather than cooccur
with (e.g. Greek or Arabic) articles, hence presupposes the existence of the latter, as
formalized in the disjunctive condition in question. Finally, p63 states that certain
languages may choose to mark through the presence of an article names of geo-
graphic extensions (e.g. countries and regions) as opposed to non-extensional ones
(e.g. cities and ‘small’ islands: Longobardi 1987, 1997): rather naturally, this option
seems to only concern languages which independently display a category of ‘articles’.
Convergence in parametric phylogenies 309

The third and last category of implications is that triggered by p7 by transitivity,

namely p11, p13, p14, p23, p24, p50, and p56. Thus, p11, asking if a language
obligatorily uses some special determiner instead of the straight definite article,
whenever referring to a salient discourse topic, has been taken to depend on not
having other subclassifications of the semantic domain of definiteness, such as the
one produced by  at p10, which in turn depends on p7. The same is true for p13
and p14 with respect to p12. the first implicational hypothesis is that definite markers
occurring in D can be doubled enclitically on head nouns only if in some cases they
are so instantiated on the noun alone (i.e. þ p12); the second implication results
from the generalization that only in languages which do NOT instantiate definite
enclitics on the noun, does it remain relevant to ask whether definiteness can be
marked on APs or not. P23 deals with the feature count and is a generalization of,
and therefore depends on, p22 (in turn depending on p7, as hinted at above) exactly
as, in dealing with the feature definite, p8 depended on p7 above. P24 asks if features
like count or bounded reference are in some language realized as enclitic on the
noun (cf. probably Sinhalese), exactly like definiteness is in Scandinavian or Ruma-
nian: therefore, of course, such features must be grammatically represented, hence
p24 depends on p22 or p23. The main effects of p50 (governing attraction to D of
various referential elements, among which proper names: Longobardi 1994, 2005)
appear to be superficially neutralized in languages in which D may remain empty
with almost all interpretations, i.e. those which do not overtly represent the full
amount of definiteness; hence the implication from p8. Given that p8 depends on p7,
the latter is indirectly responsible for p50 as well. Lastly, p56, governing the option of
using possessives essentially as definite determiners (‘my book’ versus