Syntax and Information Structure: Discourse options after the loss of Verb-Second

Summary

This project studies the interaction between syntax and information structure, and the way such interaction can be modelled, taking as its case-study the loss of the verb-second rule in English and its consequences.
The only unmarked way to start a sentence in Present-day English is with the subject. Objects or adverbials may appear in a position preceding the subject, but this is a very marked, prominent, and contrastive position. This means that only subjects may establish a link to the preceding discourse in an unmarked way, by encoding ?old? information. When English was still a verb-second rule, any first constituent, whether subject, object or adverbial, could establish a link with the previous discourse in an unmarked way; after this rule was lost, in late Middle English/Early Modern English, such a link could only be encoded by the the subject. My hypothesis is that this new rigid syntax compromised the information flow, and that the resulting conflict was resolved by increasing the strategies for creating subjects. New constructions emerge in early Modern English that do just that, including the theoretically problematical Exceptional Case-Marking construction with to-infinitives (as in ?John was alleged to be a fool?), which from its earliest emergence appears almost exclusively in the passive ? a phenomenon for which no satisfactory explanation has so far been proposed, but which makes sense if we regard this new construction as providing a new strategy for creating subjects. Other evidence that the syntax no longer fitted the discourse needs of its users like a glove was the emergence of constructions known as clefts (?It is people like this who will benefit most?), a type of construction that has long been recognized to function primarily as a information packaging device.
Investigating in detail the circumstances in which these new constructions arose will enable us to uncover the interaction between syntax and information structure, especially its bi-directional effects: syntactic change affects information structure, and pressure from information structure results in new constructions. Constructing a model of this interaction represents a major advance in our insight into syntactic change.

Output

Book or monography

  • BLJ Los, C Blom, GE Booij, M Elenbaas, AMC van Kemenade(2012): Morphosyntactic Change , Cambridge

Thesis

Chapter in book

  • A.M.C. van Kemenade, S. Petrova, R. Hinterhölzl(2009): Information Structure and Language Change: New Approaches to Word Order Variation in Germanic (Trends in Linguistics: Studies and monographs 203) pp. 91 - 120 , New York/Berlin
  • S. Petrova, A.M.C. van Kemenade, R. Hinterholzl(2010): Information Structure and Language Change: New Approaches to Word Order Variation in Germanic (Trends in Linguistics: Studies and monographs 203) pp. 91 - 120 , Berlin/New York
  • E. Komen, R. Vogel, H. Broekuis(2010): Optimality Theory and Minimalism: Interface Theories (Linguistics in Potsdam 28) pp. 157 - 186 , Potsdam
  • AMC van Kemenade(2011): The Evolution of Negation pp. 77 - 114 , Berlijn
  • AMC van Kemenade, T Milicev(2011): Grammatical Change pp. 239 - 254 , New York
  • A Bergs, BLJ Los, L Brinton(2012): HSK Handbook on English Historical Linguistics pp. 1613 - 1631 , Berlin
  • AMC van Kemenade, A Meurman-Solin, MJ Lopez-Couso, M Westergaard, BLJ Los(2012): Information Structure and Syntactic Change in the History of English pp. 87 - 120 , New York
  • BLJ Los, MJ Lopez-Couso, A Meurman-Solin(2012): Syntax and Information Structure in the History of English pp. 3 - 18 , New York
  • AMC van Kemenade, T Nevalainen, EC Traugott(2012): The Oxford Handbook of the History of English pp. 1182 - 1199 , New York
  • AMC van Kemenade, N de Haas(2012): Historical Linguistics 2009 pp. ix - xxii , Amsterdam
  • ER Komen, J Tyrkkö, M Kilpiö, T Nevalainen, M Rissanen(2012): Outposts of Historical Corpus Linguistics pp. 000 - 000 , Helsinki
  • A Meurman-Solin, BLJ Los, MJ Lopez-Couso, BLJ Los(2012): Syntax and Information Structure in the History of English pp. 21 - 46 , New York
  • BLJ Los, GA Dreschler(2012): The Oxford Handbook of the History of English pp. 859 - 872 , New York
  • BLJ Los, T Nevalainen, EC Traugott, ER Komen(2012): The Oxford Handbook of the History of English pp. 884 - 898 , New York
  • R Hinterhölzl, T Nevalainen, EC Traugott, AMC van Kemenade(2012): The Oxford Handbook of the History of English pp. 1154 - 1181 , New York
  • BLJ Los, AMC van Kemenade(2012): pp. 1475 - 1490 , Berlin
  • R Kikusawa, BLJ Los, L.A. Reid(2013): Historical Linguistics 2011 pp. 267 - 288 , Amsterdam
  • GA Dreschler, K Bech, KG Eide(2014): Information Structure and Syntactic Change in Germanic and Romance Language pp. 111 - 139 , Amsterdam/Philadelphia
  • BLJ Los, AMC van kemenade, ER Komen, K Bech, KG Eide, R Hebing(2014): Information Structure and Syntactic Change in Germanic and Romance Languages pp. 81 - 110 , Amsterdam/Philadelphia

Scientific article

  • BLJ Los(2009): The consequences of the loss of verb-second in English: Information structure and syntax in interaction English Language and Linguistics pp. 97 - 125
  • G.A. Dreschler(2010): Topic introduction in the by-phrase Linguistics in the Netherlands pp. 59 - 72
  • EK Komen(2011): Review of Kenneth Safir, The syntax of anaphora SIL Electronic Book Reviews pp. 00 - 06
  • E.R. Komen(2011): New changes in English Linguistics in the Netherlands pp. 76 - 87 ISSN: 0929-7332.
  • AMC van Kemenade, T Biberauer(2011): Subject positions and information-structural diversification in the history of English Catalan Journal of Linguistics pp. 00 - 06 ISSN: 1695-6885.
  • BLJ Los, GA Dreschler(2011): Review of: Diachronic Change in the English Passive by Junichi Toyota Journal of English linguistics pp. 188 - 193 ISSN: 0075-4242.
  • GA Dreschler(2012): Review of Rohdenburg, G. & J. Schlüter (Eds.) (2009) One Language, Two Grammars? Differences between British and American English English Studies pp. 244 - 246
  • BLJ Los(2012): A typological switch in early Modern English ? and the beginning of one in Dutch? Leuvense Bijdragen pp. 98 - 126 ISSN: 0024-1482.
  • L. Verheijen, P. de Haan, BLJ Los(2013): Information Structure, The final hurdle? Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics pp. 92 - 107 ISSN: ISSN 2211-7245.
  • ER Komen(2015): Review of The English It-Cleft: A Constructional Account and a Diachronic Investigation by Amanda L. Patten English Studies pp. 232 - 233 ISSN: 0013-838X.

Professional publication

  • AMC van Kemenade, BLJ Los(2012): History of the English Language

Publications for the general public

  • A Meurman-Solin, MJ Lopez-Couso, BLJ Los(2012): Syntax and Information Structure in the History of English
  • AMC van Kemenade, N de Haas(2012): Historical Linguistics 2009

Details

Project number

360-70-370

Main applicant

Prof. dr. B.L.J. Los

Affiliated with

University of Edinburgh, Department of Linguistics and English Language

Team members

Drs. G.A. Dreschler, Prof. dr. A.M.C. van Kemenade, Dr. E.R. Komen MA, Prof. dr. B.L.J. Los

Duration

01/09/2008 to 02/06/2014