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Re: V2 languages

From:Raymond A. Brown <raybrown@...>
Date:Monday, May 31, 1999, 17:38
At 2:48 pm -0400 30/5/99, John Cowan wrote:
>Raymond A. Brown scripsit: > >> Yes, indeed. The same is the normal word order in Breton, which is also a >> V2 language (unlike its sister language, Welsh). > >Interesting. Perhaps the V2 ordering came in from Old French.
Cornish was developing the same way - indeed, IIRC late Cornish had changed, like Breton, to V2. I think basically it was an internal development in Brittonic Celtic whereby the V2 position of focussed sentences became generalized and the earlier, 'non-focussed' VSO ordering became obsolete. It may well be that Old French and Middle English, respectively, had some influence. That Welsh still retains the older form for normal, unfocused sentences probably has much to do with the influence of the literary language, especially the Welsh Bible of Elizabeth I's time. Elizabeth ordered the translation of the Bible and of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer into Welsh, not because she had any love of the Welsh language but for purely political reasons: she wanted the Welsh to adopt her settlement for the English Church (her father, Henry VIII, had incorporated Wales into England, dividing it up into counties in the English manner; Wales was not separated again until this century) - she did not want another bunch of Celts hanging on to the "old religion" as the Irish were (and the Scots Highlanders - but they were not her subjects). However, her act of political expediency did Welsh a great favor, setting a standard form which helped to prevent the dialects drifting hopelessly apart.
>BTW, is Breton a pro-drop language like Italian or Spanish, or a >pronoun-preserving language like English, German, or Modern French?
Neither :) In the normal VSO word order, the subject pronouns must be used, followed by 'a' and an invariable verb form corresponding with the 3rd singular; but if some other part of the sentence is fronted then the _conjagated_ verb is used with subject endings and no personal pronouns!
>And what about Welsh?
Literary Welsh and the Welsh used on official forms etc is essentially "pro-drop" but the spoken language is definitely "pronoun-preserving" (tho unlike the languages you list above, the pronoun come after the verb). Ray.