Thursday 17 December – Marieke Meelen

Speaker: Marieke Meelen (LUCL)

Title: Reconstructing the Rise of V2 in Middle Welsh

Date: Thursday 17 December

Venue: Van Wijkplaats 3/006

Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs

Abstract: Middle Welsh word order has been a ‘vexed’ problem for a long time. First of all, because the basic order was verb-second (called the ‘Abnormal Order’ by Welsh grammarians), whereas Old and Modern Welsh exhibit verb-initial patterns. Secondly, there is a wide range of V2 patterns (subject, object, adjunct or verbal-noun-initial) in Middle Welsh and the distribution of those is not at all clear.

Data from a syntactically and pragmatically annotated corpus show that the sentence-initial position in Middle Welsh could be occupied by contrastively focused constituents at first, but later also by contrastive topics and new information focus as well as Aboutness and Familiar topics. In this talk I show how these V2 patterns developed by carefully reconstructing their syntactic history from earlier patterns with hanging topics and focussed cleft constructions in Old Welsh and related Celtic languages. I argue that a combination of pragmatic and syntactic features explains which word-order pattern appears in which particular context, thus contributing to a better understanding of the origin and distribution of these ‘Abnormal’ patterns in Middle Welsh and knowledge about the development of V2-patterns in general.

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