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Bergin’s Rule: Syntactic diachrony and discourse strategy

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Bergin’s Rule constructions, whereby verbs in Old Irish occur in other than normal clause-initial position and with ‘conjunct’ flexion in simplex verbs and ‘prototonic’ stress in compound verbs, has traditionally been viewed as evidence for the language’s prehistoric clausal configuration, usually considered to be SOV or, more recently, V2. Others view the construction as entirely artificial, i.e., as not reflecting any historical reality, perhaps based on Latin models. This paper demonstrates that the difficult evidence emphatically does not support a V2 analysis, but is otherwise indeterminate. The conjunct flexion of simplex verbs and the prototonic stress of compound verbs used in the construction is also diagnostic of the fact that it is not simply the result of scrambling the normal VSO clausal configuration of Old Irish, but represents vestiges of real syntax.
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Keywords: metrical requirements; poetic ornamentation; poetic overdetermination; reconciliation of competing grammars; syntactic diachrony

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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