Effects of text form on grammatical changes in Medieval French. A treebank-based diachronic study
Alexandra Simonenko, Benoît Crabbé, Sophie Prévost
April 2018

This paper presents a corpus-based study of the effect the text form (prose vs. verse) has on the course of two grammatical changes in Medieval French: the loss of null subjects and the loss of OV word order. By means of statistical analysis, we demonstrate that naive estimates of the spread of overt subjects and VO orders give the impression that there is a significant difference between the rates of development in prose vs. verse. In contrast, estimates based on an abstract grammar competition model which distinguishes between grammar-ambiguous surface forms (overt personal subjects, null subjects in coordination contexts) and grammar-unambiguous surface forms (overt expletive subjects, null subjects in non-coordination contexts) show prose-verse parallelism, prose having an earlier change onset, in line with traditional intuitions. At a more general level, these results suggest that the product of the interaction of a particular grammar with universal pragmatic laws is constant, which can be observed if the factors responsible for variation in grammatical choices are controlled for.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004019
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: accepted in Diachronica
keywords: historical syntax, language change, constant rate effect, null subjects, word order, prose vs. verse, syntax
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