VO or OV: V to v or not to v

Activity: Talk or presentationAcademic


This talk sketches a new analysis of the diachronic development found in many West Germanic languages from a hybrid OV/VO order to a more rigid OV or VO order. I will depart from the joint paper by Schoenmakers and Struik on the diachronic development of Dutch (included in their theses), which focuses on the role of object shift (or scrambling), but my interpretation of their data will be based on my earlier analysis of the Germanic OV and VO languages in Broekhuis (2008: §2.4). The main conclusions are:

1. The change of the historical hybrid OV/VO systems into the (more) rigid OV and VO systems of the present-day languages is due to changing the “setting” [±V-to-v] into more categorical ones, viz. [–V-to-v] or [+V-to-v].
2. The role of object shift in the diachronic development is modest; it is not involved in the development of the OV-languages at all and involves only the (sometimes partial) loss of regular object shift in the VO-languages (contra S&S).
3. The encoding of the information-structural new-given distinction remains constant; the interpretation of (un)scrambled nominal object does not change over time (contra S&S).
4. The increase of adverb-object orders in Dutch for discourse-new objects is a direct consequence of the change in V-to-v (contra S&S).
Period16 Mar 2022
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • language typologiy
  • language change
  • diachrony
  • word order
  • VO-language
  • OV-language
  • verb movement
  • object shift
  • scrambling
  • Germanic languages