Against the Asymmetric CP- V2 Analysis of Old English

  • Published : 2004.06.01


The paper is to argue against the asymmetric CP-V2 analysis of Old English, according to which finite verbs invariably undergo movement into a clause-final T within subordinate clauses and reach the functional head C within main clauses. The asymmetric CP-V2 analysis, first of all, faces difficulty in explaining a wide range of post-verbal elements within subordinate clauses. To resolve the problem, the analysis has to abandon the obligatoriness of V-to-T movement or introduce various types of extraposition whose status is dubious as a legitimate syntactic operation. Obligatory V-to-T movement in Old English lacks conceptual justification as well. Crosslinguistic evidence reveals that morphological richness in verbal inflection cannot entail overt verb movement. Moreover, the operation is always string-vacuous under the asymmetric CP- V2 analysis and has no effect at the interfaces, in violation of the principle of economy. The distribution of Old English finite verbs in main clauses also undermines the asymmetric CP-V2 analysis. Conceptually speaking, a proper syntactic trigger cannot be confirmed to motivate obligatory verb movement to C. The operation not only gets little support from nominative Case marking, the distribution of expletives, or complementizer agreement but also requires the unconvincing stipulation that expletives as well as sentence-initial subjects result from string-vacuous topicalization. Finally, textual evidence testifies that Old English sometimes permits non-V2 ordering patterns, many of which remain unexplained under the asymmetric CP-V2 analysis.