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Traces of History (completed)

Traces of History seeks to understand why certain aspects of a language may remain whereas others change. The main focus of attention is the Verb Second word order in the Germanic and the Romance languages.

About the project

Verb second word order (V2) is extremely rare in the languages of the world. However, this word order has proven itself robust in the Germanic languages for more than a millennium. In the Middle Ages, Romance languages also had V2, but these languages lost this feature. The only Romance language that still displays V2 is Rhaeto-Romance.

We want to understand these processes better. What did the Germanic languages have in common that served to preserve V2? Are there still traces of the V2 configuration in Modern Romance languages? These are the core questions of the Traces of History project.


The project Traces of History seeks to explore V2 in Medieval Germanic and Romance languages to identify possible features that may explain why the Germanic languages retained the word order while the Romance languages lost it. We also want to find out if existing features of the Modern Romance languages may be seen as remnants of the old V2 word order. The project leader is Christine Meklenborg Salvesen, and there will be one position as a PhD student in the project. The project has six international partners.       


The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway.


Concluding workshop: Secrets of success

10-11 of January 2019 - Niels Treschows Hus, University of Oslo, Norway


  • Vice dean Mathilde Skoie
  • Thórallur Eythórsson: V2: The phenomenon and the scholars.
  • Roland Hinterhölzl: On the secret prosodic condition behind generalized V2
  • Espen Klævik-Pettersen: One head, many features. Why strict V2 languages defy (strong) cartography.
  • Giuseppe Samo:  V2 languages do not challenge the split-CP: the predictive power of a criterial approach
  • Francisco J. Fernández-Rubiera & Christine M. Salvesen: With or without you. The roles of clitics in deriving a V2 word order
  • Adam Ledgeway: Word Order in the Histoire Ancienne jusqu’à César
  • Pierre Larrivée:    An Information Structure scenario for the loss of V2 in Medieval French and beyond
  • Cecilia Poletto: The dismay of failure: why Old Italian lost V2.
  • Sam Wolfe: V2 in Romance - Where are we and where are we headed?
  • Federica Cognola: On the role of isolation and contact in preserving V2: maintenance and new developments.
  • George Walkden: Rich agreement and the stability of V2 in early English: some problems
  • Marieke Meelen:V2 and V3 in Dutch, English and Welsh
  • Marit Westergaard, Terje Lohndal, & Björn Lundquist: Variable V2 in Norwegian Heritage Language
  • Jóhannes Gísli Jónsson & Filippa Lindahl: Preserving verb-second in Icelandic.
  • Ben Lowell Sluckin: Some methodological and theoretical concerns when dealing with a "residual"  V2 pattern
  • Björn Lundquist: V3-triggering adverbs in Mainland Scandinavian
  • Christine M. Salvesen: Resumption in V2 languages

Kick-off conference: Traces of History

9-10 March 2015, Nils Treschows hus, University of Oslo, Norway


  • Ian Roberts: Second Positions: A Synchronic Analysis and Some Diachronic Consequences
  • Theresa Biberauer: Not just preserved, but reinforced and expanded: V2 in modern Afrikaans
  • Federica Cognola: On Germanic and Old Romance V2. The view from Mòcheno
  • George Walkden: Language contact and the loss of strict V2
  • Cecilia Poletto: Scrambling phenomena in the Old Italian DP
  • Giuseppe Samo: Notes on FinP as landing site for V2
  • Elly van Gelderen: Subjunctives and the split CP in the history of English
  • Georg A. Kaiser & Michael Zimmermann: Exploring verb order differences between (Medieval) Romance and (Modern) Germanic
  • Fransisco José Fernández-Rubiera & Christine Meklenborg Salvesen: V2 and enclisis: a uniform analysis for Germanic and (some) Romance varieties
  • Þórhallur Eyþórsson: Anderson's revenge: V2 and Adjacency
  • André Antonelli: Roots of V-to-C Movement in Romance: Investigating Late Latin Grammar
  • Sam Wolfe: The Medieval Romance languages and V2: a new perspective for parameter theory
  • B. Devan Steiner: Focus Placement and Verb Second in the History of French


Salvesen, Christine Meklenborg & Walkden, George. To appear. ‘Diagnosing embedded V2 in Old French and Old English’. In From Micro-change to Macro-change, Eric Mathieu & Robert Truswell (eds). Oxford: Oxford University Press

Published Oct. 27, 2020 12:33 PM - Last modified May 20, 2022 3:00 AM