Information structure and unmarked word order in (Older) Germanic [chapter]

Roland Hinterhölzl
2009 Information Structure  
Introduction Basic OV and basic VO order have been accounted for by different settings of the head complement parameter, raising the question of how languages with mixed OV/VO order should be treated. Next to (modern) Yiddish, we find mixed word orders in older stages of the Germanic languages. While mixed word orders in Old English and Old Nordic are subject to thorough investigation and heated debates concerning their correct analysis (cf. Roberts 1997 , Pintzuk 1999 , the discussion
more » ... g older stages of German has been mute owing to the -as I will show -incorrect assumption that German already was an OV-languages in its oldest accessible stage. In this paper, I will correct this picture by showing that Old High German should not be analyzed as a language with basic OV-order plus a higher degree of extraposition. The core of the paper thus is a careful empirical investigation of word order variation in the OHG-Tatian translation which reveals that word order in OHG was determined primarily by information structural restrictions. The most important empirical results are that arguments and predicates, which are not subject to extraposition in modern German, occupy a postverbal position in embedded clauses when they are part of the focus domain of the clause. The results are then embedded into a phase-based model of the interaction between syntactic, prosodic and information-structural conditions that define the characteristic word order properties of OV-and VO-languages, without assuming differences in the base structure or a directionality parameter in argument licensing (cf. Haider and Rosengren 2003). This approach crucially rests on dissociating unmarked word order and basic word order and having the unmarked word order in a language being determined by two types of mapping conditions at the interfaces to PF and LF. Word order Change in Germanic One of the most intriguing developments in the history of the Germanic languages, next to the grammaticalization of Verb Second (V2), is the change in basic word order in English and Scandinavian. This development involved a change from the presumed Indo-European basic OV order to the basic VO order in these languages. In this scenario, German (and Dutch) retained (modulo some changes in the application of extraposition) the inherited base order. The traditional explanation of this phenomenon is to assume that the loss of Case led to a positional marking of grammatical functions. However, this account faces serious difficulties if we consider the development of Dutch and Icelandic, since Dutch has also lost its Case distinctions but retained OV order, while Icelandic has preserved its rich Case morphology, but nevertheless changed to basic VO order (cf. Hroarsdottir 2000, this volume for additional discussion of this issue). Recently an alternative approach for the change in word order in English was proposed that assumes that the change from OV to VO is due to language contact and grammar competition in Early Middle English (EME) (cf. Pintzuk 1999 , Kroch & Taylor 2000 . This approach is based on the so-called double base hypothesis (Pintzuk 1999) according to which word order variation follows from the co-existence of competing grammars that differ with
doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570959.003.0012 fatcat:avommow6yrat5kndg4pmexu4iy