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Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Dziubalska-Kolaczyk, Katarzyna

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Volume 43, Issue 2

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English as a Mixed V2 Grammar: Synchronic Word Order Inconsistencies from the Perspective of First Language Acquisition

Marit Westergaard
Published Online: 2007-12-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10010-007-0015-2

English as a Mixed V2 Grammar: Synchronic Word Order Inconsistencies from the Perspective of First Language Acquisition

This paper discusses some word order inconsistencies found in present-day English and argues that these may be explained by natural processes in first language acquisition. English is usually assumed to have lost its verb-second (V2) properties in the Middle English period, but the paper argues that English should be considered a mixed V2 grammar, as subject-auxiliary inversion is still a syntactic requirement in all questions and a type of inversion also marginally appears in certain declaratives (with informationally light verbs). Discussing word order variation across Germanic V2 languages as well as some acquisition data, the paper develops an approach to language acquisition and change which is based on micro-cues expressed in the input. This means that there are many types of V2 grammars, which distinguish between different clause types, patterns of information structure, and natural classes of categories. In this model, historical gradualism is seen as successive changes affecting one micro-cue at a time, and the mixed V2 property of English is considered to represent no exceptional case, simply a somewhat more restricted V2 grammar than that of the other Germanic languages.

Keywords: Acquisition; change; micro-cues; variation; verb-second

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About the article


Published Online: 2007-12-28

Published in Print: 2007-12-01


Citation Information: Poznań Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, Volume 43, Issue 2, Pages 107–131, ISSN (Online) 1897-7499, ISSN (Print) 0137-2459, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10010-007-0015-2.

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