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re Germanic & Celtic

From:Daniel Prohaska <danielprohaska@...>
Date:Thursday, April 27, 2006, 14:49

"[...] Is there any evidence that ancient Gaulish was VSO? Or is the characteristic
VSO order an innovation (like, e.g. conjugated prepositions) of later insular

 The word order of modern Breton is, in fact, V2 and I believe is so in the
revived form of Cornish known IIRC as 'Cornoack' or 'modern Cornish' - the
other revived forms of Kernewek retain the VSO order of Welsh & the Gaelic
languages. The modern Breton word order developed from the earlier VSO order
of insular Brittonic. Is it being suggested that the Germanic word order,
in main clauses, developed from an earlier VSO order or what?

 I?m not too strong on the Breton side. I do know quite a bit about both
Revived and Traditional Cornish and the varieties of Revived Cornish (RC
henceforth) are V2 to a certain degree. The verbal syntax does not essentially
differ between the varieties of RC.

 I think you may be mistaking the so-called ?nominal sentence? for a V2 construction.
The nominal sentence is essentially a relative clause with the subject in
1st position followed by a relative particle and (regardless of number and
person of the subject) the third person singular verb form. To exemplify
here?s the present-future paradigm of the regular verb <gweles> ?see, seeing?:

1st sg.:            gwelaf
2nd sg.:           gwelyth, gwelys
3rd sg.:           gwel
1st pl.:             gwelyn
2nd pl.:           gwelough
3rd pl.:            gwelons

Nominal sentence has:  subj. + rel.part. + 3rd sg.

<me a wel> [mi: @?we:l]
lit.: ?I that sees? = ?I (shall) see?

<te a wel> [tSi: @?we:l]
lit.: ?thou that sees? = ?you (shall) see?

<ny a wel> [n@j @?we:l]
lit.: ?we that sees? = ?we (shall) see?

<an venen a wel> [@n?vEn@n @?we:l]
lit.: ?the woman that sees? = ?the woman (shall) see?

<an flehes a wel> [@n?flEh@z @?we:l]
lit.: ?the children that sees? = ?the children (shall) see?

 The VSO structure is typically called ?the verbal sentence? where the verb
is placed before the subject and inflected according to number and person
of the subject.

 In Cornish the VSO structure is retained mostly where the verb <bos> ?be,
being? is concerned as well as in subordinate clauses.

 A V2 structure of a certain nature is used when adverbs are placed at the
beginning of a sentence. Unified Cornish (UC) a form of Revived Cornish used
since the 1930s often used structure such as:

<Y whelaf vy an den.> ?I (shall) see the man.?
?prt. see-I I the man?

 While this sentence is not ?ungrammatical? it is not generally found in
unmarked Traditional Cornish sentences. The varieties of RC have been updated
and this construction is no longer taught in RC. UC was set up before the
longest prose text of Traditional Cornish was discovered and much of the
unusual phraseology is owing to it having been taken from verse.

If we were to say ?I shall see the man tomorrow.?, we could say:

<Avorow y whelaf vy an den.>
?tomorrow prt. see-I I the man?

And this would be a perfectly constructed Cornish sentence.
Otherwise it would just be:

<Me a wel an den.>
?(it is) I that sees the man? = ?I (shall) see the man?

This construction exists in Cornish, Breton and to my knowledge in the (moribund)
south eastern Welsh dialect of Gwent as well as in Middle Welsh literature.



R A Brown <ray@...>