Call for papers

Secrets of Success. Or: How to preserve a Verb Second word order?

OSLO 10th–11thJanuary 2019



From a typological point of view, Verb Second (V2) is a very rare word order. It is first and foremost found in the Germanic languages, but not exclusively. In a historical perspective, it has been attested in several Old Romance languages (Vanelli et al. 1985; Roberts 1993; Adams 1989; Vance 1997; Salvi 2004; Benincà 2006; Ledgeway 2012; Vance et. al. 2009; Wolfe 2015a, 2015b, 2016), but it was lost in the late Middle Ages. The parallels between historical Germanic and Old Romance are striking: the languages observed a V2 word order, but they also permitted V3 orders in constructions where they are not permitted in modern V2 languages (Walkden 2015). For instance, fronted adverbial clauses were a trigger for V3 in the medieval languages (Donaldson 2012, Vance et al 2010, Salvesen in press), while fronted clauses are generally the first element of the V2 construction in present day V2 languages (but see Haegeman & Greco 2018ab for examples of V3 in Modern West Flemish). We also find that both Old Romance and Old Germanic made use of resumptive particles, that also led to a surface V3 word order (Salvesen in press).


The medieval V2 languages combined this word order with an (admittedly limited) possibility of omitting the pronominal subject (see among others Adams 1987, Walkden 2013, Zimmermann 2014, Wolfe 2015, Kinn 2015). Some of these languages developed a general prodrop syntax, while others established a non-prodrop syntax.


The striking differences between the Medieval V2 languages, however, do not necessarily lie in synchronic comparisons. In a diachronic perspective, we find that while V2 is lost in all Romance languages (with the exception of certain Rhaeto-Romance varieties, see Poletto 2002), it is retained in Modern Germanic (with the exception of English). 


This workshop asks the fundamental question why did the Germanic languages retain a V2 word order while the Romance languages lost it. We welcome papers that discuss questions related to the retention and loss of V2. Papers treating the issue from a comparative perspective are particularly welcome.


Papers should be aimed at a presentation of 20 minutes + 10 minutes for discussion. 




Everybody working on word order related to Verb Second is welcome. Project members of the Traces of History group will present their research, including George Walkden, Sam Wolfe, and Tolli Eythorsson. 


When & where

The workshop will take place on the University of Oslo on 10th–11thJanuary 2019.



Anonymous abstracts of no more than two A4 pages should be e-mailed to The e-mail should include name, affiliation and title of the abstract.


Time frame

Abstracts should be submitted no later than on November 9th. Notifications of acceptance will be given no later than on November 30th.



Selected references

Adams, Marianne. 1987. From Old French to the Theory of Pro-Drop. In Natural Language and Linguistic Theory(5): 1–32.

Adams, Marianne. 1989. Verb second effects in Medieval French. In Studies in Romance Linguistics: Selected Papers from the Seventeenth Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages, C. Kirschner and J. DeCesaris. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 1–33.

Benincà, Paola. 2006. A detailed map of the left periphery of medieval Romance. In Crosslinguistic research in syntax and semantics: Negation, tense and clausal architecture, ed. RaffaellaZanuttini, 53–86. Georgetown: Georgetown University Press. 

Cecilia Poletto. The left-periphery of V2-Rhaetoromance dialects: a new view on V2 and V3. In Syntactic Microvariation, Susanne van der Kleij Sjef Barbiers, Leonie Cornips (eds). The Meertens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002.

Donaldson, Brian. 2012. Initial subordinate clauses in Old French: Syntactic variation and the clausal left periphery. Lingua122, 1021-1046.

Haegeman, Liliane & Ciro Greco. 2018a. Main clause external constituents and the derivation of subject-initial verb second. Nederlandse taalkunde, 23(1): 23–55. 

Haegeman, Liliane & Ciro Greco. 2018b. West Flemish v3 and the interaction of syntax and discourse. Journal of Comparative Germanic linguistics, 21(1):1–56.

Kinn, Kari. 2015. Null Subjects in the History of Norwegian. PhD thesis. Oslo: University of Oslo.

Ledgeway, Adam. 2012.From Latin to Romance: Morphosyntactic Typology and Change. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Roberts, Ian G.. 1993. Verbs and Diachronic Syntax: a Comparative History of English and French. Dordrecht, Kluwer.

Salvesen, Christine Meklenborg. In press. Resumptive particles and Verb Second. In Woods, Rebecca, Sam Wolfe & Theresa Biberauer (eds) Rethinking Verb Second. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Salvi, Giampaolo 2004. La formazione della struttura di frase romanza: ordine delle parole e clitici dal latino alle lingue romanze antiche. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie; Bd. 323. Max Niemeyer, Tübingen.

Vance, Barbara, Bryan Donaldson & B. Devan Steiner. 2010. V2 loss in Old French and Old Occitan. The role of fronted clauses. In Romance linguistics 2009: Selected Papers from the 39th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages, Sonia Colina, Anxton Olarrea and Ana Maria Carvalho (eds). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. P 301–320.

Vance, Barbara. 1997.Syntactic Change in Medieval French: Verb-Second and Null Subjects.Studies in natural language and linguistic theory; vol. 41. Kluwer, Dordrecht. 

Vanelli, Laura, Lorenzo Renzi, and Paola Benincà. 1985. Typologie des Pronoms Sujets dans les Langues Romanes. In Linguistique descriptive: Phonétique, morphologie et lexique. Actes du XVIIe Congrès International de Linguistique et Philologie Romanes, Aix-en-Provence. Université de Provence.

Walkden, G. 2015. Verb-third in early West Germanic: a comparative perspective. In Syntax over time, eds. Theresa Biberauer and George Walkden, 236-248. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Walkden, George. 2013. Null subjects in Old English.  Language Variation and Change 25(2): 155-178.

Wolfe, Sam. 2015a. The nature of Old Spanish Verb Second reconsidered. Lingua164: 132-155.

Wolfe, Sam. 2015b. Microvariation in Medieval Romance Syntax, A Comparative Study. PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, Cambridge.

Wolfe, Sam. 2016. On the left periphery of V2 languages. In Selected papers from the 41st Incontro di Grammatica Generativa. Rivista di Grammatica Generativa38: 287-310.

Zimmermann, Michael. 2014.  Expletive and referential subject pronouns in Medieval FrenchBerlin: De Gruyter.

Published Oct. 2, 2018 4:55 PM - Last modified Oct. 28, 2018 6:05 PM