The rise and fall of the passive auxiliary weorðan and strict Verb-Second in the history of English

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Abstract

The rise and fall of the passive auxiliary weorðan (WERDEN) in the history of English is investigated. We provide a new structural analysis of why and in what languages the passive diathesis can / cannot use the copula BE as auxiliary. We will do so in a comparative perspective within Germanic and Romance. We provide 1. language internal structural variation in BE and WERDEN as passive auxiliaries in relation with Verb-Second, 2. cross-linguistic i.e. comparative data of this variation 3. diachronic data on Old English weorðan that ties the need of a separate passive auxiliary to the Verb second constraint. It turns out that Old English displays a temporary rise and fall of strict-V2 around 1000, as well as a rise and fall of weorðan, which developments can be related because they comply to Kroch's Constant Rate Hypothesis (CRH). Finally, we sketch the first contours of a grammatical model that umbrellas tense/aspect, V2, and the passive diathesis, which predicts this correlation. By modifying Giorgi's projection of the Reichenbachian event indexes S,E, and R onto the syntax, we show that the (in)equality of these indexes is not ruled by structural templates stored in the lexicon, but are dynamically ruled by the syntax.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Workshop on V2-Languages
Subtitle of host publicationA Festschrift for Ans van Kemenade
EditorsBettelou Los, Pieter de Haan
PublisherBenjamins
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2015

Keywords

  • passive auxiliary
  • verb second
  • Romance
  • Germanic
  • Old English
  • Reichenbach events
  • left-periphery

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    Postma, G. J. (Accepted/In press). The rise and fall of the passive auxiliary weorðan and strict Verb-Second in the history of English. In B. Los, & P. de Haan (Eds.), Proceedings of the Workshop on V2-Languages: A Festschrift for Ans van Kemenade Benjamins.