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The Variable Position of Initial Subordinate Clauses in Old French: Arguments Against a Semantic Account

  • Bryan DonaldsonEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory book series (SNLT, volume 95)

Abstract

This paper examines the influence of semantics in a case of syntactic variation in Old French, a verb-second language in which subordinate clauses that immediately precede a main declarative occur in either the left periphery of the declarative, or in the core of the declarative itself, in the first (preverbal) position (Combettes 2010; Donaldson 2012; Skårup 1975; Vance 1997; Vance et al. 2010). Explanations of this variation have sometimes implicated the nature of the link between the initial subordinate and the declarative as well as the semantic properties of the subordinate (e.g., Combettes 2010; Imbs 1956; Ménard 1988). Previous analyses have claimed that semantic relationships like concession, anteriority, and causality represent a particularly close relationship between the subordinate and the declarative, a claim that has been used to explain why such initial subordinates occur in the core of the declarative rather than in its left periphery. The present paper challenges this hypothesis, using data from 30 major texts spanning the 10th to early 14th centuries. The results reveal that semantic relations do not uniformly predict the syntactic position of the initial subordinate.

Keywords

Syntax Semantics Variation Left periphery Subordinate clause Verb-second Old French 

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Languages and Applied LinguisticsUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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