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date: 21 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Until the fifteenth century, English was considered a V2 (verb-second) language. The loss of a multifunctional first position that could host adverbials and objects as well as subjects, along with unmarked topics and focused material, paved the way for new constructions (clefts) and a redefinition of old positions (with the presubject position increasingly reserved for a subset of contrastive topics). This article explores the interaction between syntax and information structure and argues that the loss of V2 resulted in the loss of a first position capable of hosting contrastive constituents. It suggests that the cleft evolves as a resolution strategy and maneuvers contrastive constituents in a position that fits the new, rigid SVO order while retaining their information-structural status. The article also considers another area where clefts partly stepped in after syntactic loss related to V2 compromised the expression of contrast: Contrastive Left Dislocation (CLD).

Keywords: verb-second, syntax, information structure, first position, clefts, Contrastive Left Dislocation, adverbials, focus, resolution strategy, contrast, Middle English, Early Modern English, linguistics

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