Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Refining the V2 Hypothesis for Old Spanish

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2010), 87, (4), 379–396.

Abstract

This paper re-examines the view that medieval Spanish was a V2 language, i.e. one in which the finite verb systematically occupied second position within the minimal clause. Prototypical V2 configurations involve complement-verb word order, whereas the unmarked word order for VP-related constituents appears to have been verb-complement. The paper examines the motivation for the synchronic coexistence of these divergent sequencing possibilities and finds that the complement-verb pattern occurred in four specific cases: (i) where the preverbal complement resumed an item recently mentioned in the discourse; (ii) where it had quantificational force; (iii) where it was a predicate; and (iv) where it was a pseudo-argument. The common denominator of these cases is that the preverbal complement was inherently incapable of receiving argument focus. Thus the medieval complement-verb pattern was a device for signalling wide focus unambiguously, in contrast to the verb-complement order, which is well known to exhibit a focus ambiguity between wide focus and argument focus.

En este artículo se reconsidera la tesis de que el español medieval era una lengua 'V2', es decir una en la que el verbo conjugado ocupa forzosamente la segunda posición dentro de la oración mínima. Las configuraciones V2 más destacadas se presentan con el orden 'complemento-verbo', mientras que el orden no marcado para los sintagmas del VP parece haber sido 'verbo-complemento'. En el artículo se examina la motivación de la co-existencia sincrónica de esos dos órdenes divergentes y se demuestra que el orden 'complemento-verbo' se limitaba a cuatro casos específicos: (i) cuando el complemento preverbal retomaba un sintagma del discurso anterior, (ii) cuando aquel contenía un cuantificador, (iii) cuando era un predicado, o (iv) cuando era un pseudo-argumento. El factor común a los cuatro casos es que el complemento preverbal era incapaz de recibir el foco estrecho de 'argumento'. Por lo tanto, el patrón medieval de complemento-verbo servía para señalar un foco ancho sin ambigüedad, a diferencia del orden verbo-complemento, que se reconoce como ambiguo entre el foco ancho y el foco estrecho (de argumento).

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Mackenzie, Ian