What is “residual verb second”? And what does Romance have to do with it?



This paper aims to clarify a point of persistent confusion in the literature: namely, the status of residual verb second. We approach this from both a terminological and typological perspective. Terminologically, traditional usage of residual V2 in the literature has conflated two different senses (one formal, and one historical); we argue that it is essential to keep these two senses separate. We propose a distinction between partial V2 and residual V2 within the general typology of verb second. Following a formal definition of V2 from the recent literature, we define partial-V2 systems as involving genuine instances of V2 that are limited to nondeclarative environments in a given language (e.g. English). By contrast, we (re)define residual V2 as describing purely vestigial structures that do not qualify as formally V2 in the synchronic grammar of a given language, despite their historical origins in an earlier stage in which the language had true V2. In this respect, almost all modern Romance languages provide clear examples of residual V2: the syntax of these languages is only historically related to V2, with all formal traces of V2 having been long lost, even in nondeclaratives. With these clarifications in place, we propose an updated typology of V2 systems, conceiving of it as a spectrum of degrees from partial V2 through strict V2 (as measured by the set of formally-V2 environments that a given language allows).


Residual verb second; partial verb second; verb movement; word order; Romance; English


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