Verb cluster word order in Early-Modern Frisian
Jelke Bloem
(University of Amsterdam)
Friday (April 21st), 13:45-14:10
Lipsius 148

The word order preference in standard Dutch verb clusters has been shifting from auxiliary-final clusters to auxiliary-first clusters since around the year 1500, allowing the use of both orders. In West-Frisian, such a shift has also been observed, but it appears to be much more recent, and influenced by language contact with Dutch.

However, in older Middle Frisian texts, written before the order preferences in Dutch started shifting, the 'ungrammatical' auxiliary-first order also appears (e.g. the Elder Skeltenariucht from around the year 1300, where it is used about 10% of the time) This raises a question: is the modern use of this word order really a new development taken from Dutch, or rather a continuation or resumption of an older language-internal development? To study this, we have extracted verb clusters from a corpus of Early-Modern Frisian texts, including both poetry and prose by the same author.

Preliminary results show that auxiliary-first clusters are much more frequent in poetry. Furthermore, we found no effect of clause length or morphological complexity, unlike in modern Dutch. Given these two results, it seems more plausible that the auxiliary-first order is mainly a stylistic device used by these authors in the written modality, rather than a construction with the function of decreasing language processing load as in Dutch. Therefore, we will conclude that these auxiliary-first word orders used in Early-Modern Frisian texts may have come from Dutch, but do not have the same function.