Structural variation in Old English root clauses

Susan Pintzuk, Eric Haeberli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A standard observation concerning basic constituent order in Old English (OE) is that the position of finite verbs varies by clause type. In root clauses, the finite verb tends to occur toward the beginning of the clause, and we frequently find Verb Second (V2) order. In contrast, in subordinate clauses, finite verbs generally occur toward the end of the clause, and these clauses are frequently verb-final. We challenge the traditional assumption that verb-final orders and, hence, the occurrence of the finite verb in a head-final structural position are rare in OE root clauses. We present new data demonstrating that the frequency of head-final structure in OE root clauses is much higher than previously acknowledged. We then explore some of the implications of this finding for the general structural analysis of OE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-407
Number of pages41
JournalLanguage Variation and Change
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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