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date: 07 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Until about the fifteenth century, main clause word order in English was to a large extent subject to the verb-second (V2) constraint; this order was achieved by (i) movement of the finite verb into second position and (ii) topicalization of a constituent from the clause into first position. The loss of V2 syntax led to a change in the function of first constituent adverbial phrases, which had mostly been used as local anchors in Old English, i.e. links to the immediately preceding discourse. In Early Modern English, the system of local anchoring by adverbials was largely lost; links to the previous discourse came to be expressed primarily by the subject. This added to the functional load of the subject, and led to subjects being able to encode a wider range of semantic roles. The emergence of such "permissive” subjects in PDE, then, developed as a response to the loss of V2.

Keywords: verb-second, Old English, Present-Day English, Dutch, German, translation, syntax, adverbials, local anchors, information structure

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