How come languages do not change? That is the core question in the project "Traces of History".
About the project
Languages change, all the time. Each generation changes the language, and these small changes will add up to larger language changes. Eventually, we may speak of different languages. Norwegians think of Old Norse as a different language, even though Modern Norwegian is a modern, living, variety of Norse. Even so, there are certain things that remain unaltered through centuries. The word order in which the verb occupies the second position of the clause regardless of what element comes in first position (so-called verb-second or V2) has been one of the characteristics of the Germanic languages for a thousand years. At the same time, V2 is a very rare word order in the languages of the world.
The question is why something that rare can be robust 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?
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.