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Embedded Verb-First in an SOV-language: the case of Frisian

Hoekstra, E. (2008) Embedded Verb-First in an SOV-language: the case of Frisian.

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Abstract

Eric Hoekstra, Fryske Akademy, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences ehoekstra@fa.knaw.nl Embedded Verb-First in an SOV-language: the case of Frisian Frisian, like Dutch and German, is a language in which the verb follows the object in embedded clauses, regardless of whether the verb is finite or infinitival. Unlike Dutch and German, Frisian features one very specific type of embedded infinitival construction in which the verb precedes the object. An examples is given below: Ik bin net fan doel en fertel har ús takomsplannen I am not of purpose and tell them our future-plans “I don’t intend to tell them our plans for the future.” The embedded clause has the meaning of a ‘normal’ infinitival sentence built on the infinitival marker te (German zu, Dutch te). Thus we can paraphrase the sentence above, using a to-infinitive: Ik bin net fan doel om har ús takomstplannen te fertellen I am not of purpose for them our future-plans to tell “I don’t intend to tell them our plans for the future.” The two constructions differ in the following respects: • the position of the verb: final or initial with respect to the Mittelfeld • choice of clause-initial complementiser: en or om • presence or absence of the infinitival marker te • verbal morphology: infinitival (-en) or zero-morphology It is furthermore the case that the verb-form with zero-morphology is formally homophonous with the imperative (as will be shown). As a result, linguists studying Frisian refer to the construction as the Imperativus-pro-Infinitivo or IPI-construction. Historical evidence will be provided that the present-day IPI-construction arose out of a construction with the same properties, except that the initial verb had the form of an infinitive. I will trace back the existence of this construction via Middle Frisian to Old Frisian. The two constructions show some further differences: • A constituent in an IPI cannot be questioned; it can, in an infinitival clause. • An IPI cannot be put in sentence-initial position, whereas an infinitival clause, very marginally, can. • An IPI is facilitated by negation, for many speakers, whereas infinitival clauses are not generally sensitive to negation. Thus IPI’s do not have all the possibilities which ‘normal’ embedded clause have, suggesting they are not fully grammaticalised. The verb-first construction can also be found in some Dutch dialects and in Low German. However, none of these dialects underwent the ‘Frisian’ development whereby a bare verb form replaced the infinitive. It should finally be pointed out that the complementiser introducing the IPI is homophonous to the coordinating conjunction. Interestingly, this is systematically the case in Danish. Furthermore, the IPI is also present in North Frisian dialects, providing us with European dialectal perspective on this construction.

Item Type:Lecture
Institutes:Fryske Akademy
ID Code:7749
Deposited On:23 Sep 2010 17:04
Last Modified:21 Mar 2012 14:36

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