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Detecting the late stages of syntactic change: The loss of V-to-T in Faroese

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  • Caroline Heycock, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Antonella Sorace, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Zakaris Svabo Hansen, University of the Faroe Islands, Faroe Islands
  • Frances Wilson, University of Delaware, United States
  • Sten Vikner
While all of the Scandinavian languages have verb-second order in main clauses, they vary in the word order in subordinate clauses: in Icelandic the finite verb appears in a high position, to the left of negation and sentence-medial adverbs, while in all of the standard Mainland Scandinavian languages it remains in a low position, to the right of these elements. This order in Mainland Scandinavian is known to be the result of a historical change, and has frequently been tied to the loss of agreement morphology. Faroese has been argued to be currently undergoing a change of the same type, but it has proved difficult to establish a sound empirical footing for the various claims about the syntax of this language. In this article we present data from three experimental investigations of acceptability, supplemented with a study of available texts, that show that the language is very close to completing the change in the loss of the high position for the verb, but that its syntax is still distinct in this respect from that of Danish, the mainland Scandinavian language with which it is in most contact. In addition to establishing a firmer empirical basis for theories of verb movement, our study also makes the methodological point that grammaticality-judgment tasks can yield extremely fine-grained results even in cases where variability is at issue.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-600
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012

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