This book analyses the development of a number of English and French constructions involving various kinds of subject-verb inversion. The analysis is framed in terms of the principles-and-parameters approach to syntactic theory, and provides strong support for the adoption of this approach in the description and explanation of language change.
The book falls into three parts. The first presents an overall framework for the analysis of inversion constructions and motivates, on the basis of synchronic data, several parameters which distinguish among the various Romance and Germanic languages. The second part shows how several near-simultaneous syntactic changes in the history of French can be explained as a change in one of the parameters introduced in Chapter One. A notable aspect of this analysis is the way in which the distribution of null subjects is shown to relate to verb-placement. The third part of the book treats verb-movement in the history of English, arguing in detail that the attested changes in this area are due to a change in the internal structure of `Infl', a proposal which has important ramifications for the theory of functional heads. Throughout the book, emphasis is placed on the theoretical questions raised by language change. In this connection the two notions of diachronic reanalysis and parametric change are distinguished.
Verbs and Diachronic Syntax will interest all theoretical linguists as well as specialists in the history of English, history of French, Germanic philology and Romance philology.
This book combines several strands of my work, both individually and in collaboration with various people, over the last couple of years. To a very large extent, I have been inspired by the many talks, classes, appointments and other interactions that took place in the exciting intellectual environ ment that grew up among the linguists working in Geneva in the period 1989-90. It is impossible to mention by name everyone who influenced the devel opment of this material, but I'd particularly like to thank the students in my class 'linguistique diachronique' during that period, who had to suffer through preliminary versions of much of this book, and often seemed to understand what I was getting at better than I did. Luigi Rizzi did more than anyone else to create the unique atmosphere here in the last couple of years, and so he deserves our gratitude for that; he was also my collaborator on the synchronic work on French inversion that inspired much of this book; he also read the whole manuscript in draft form and gave detailed comments; he is also, as anyone working in current comparative syntax knows, a wellspring of knowledge, ideas and inspiration. Maria-Teresa Guasti also read the entire manuscript and gave me invaluable comments. Sten Vikner was a great help, for much more than just Danish data. Special thanks also to Adriana Belletti, Anna Cardinaletti, Liliane Haegeman and Cecilia Poletto.
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