Language contact and V3 in Germanic varieties new and old

  • George Walkden
Open Access
Original Paper


Certain recently-attested varieties of Germanic V2 languages are known to deviate from the strict V2 requirement characteristic of the standard. This is the case, for example, for Kiezdeutsch, a new German dialect, as well as urban vernacular varieties of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish: descriptively speaking, in these varieties, subject-verb inversion may be absent under certain well-defined conditions. In this article I outline those conditions and the type of syntactic analysis required to account for them, claiming that an articulated left periphery is needed to account for the findings. The similarity of the V3 patterns found in these new varieties, which are geographically isolated from each other but which share a characterization in terms of the demographics of their speaker groups, invites a diachronic account in terms of language contact. I argue that transfer cannot account for V3, but that a scenario of sequential simplification and complexification is able to do so. Finally, turning to Old English, which exhibits similar (though not identical) V2/V3 alternations, I argue that a similar synchronic analysis can be upheld and that its diachronic origins may well also have been similar—a case of using the present to inform our approach to the past.


Language contact Verb-second Verb-third New Germanic varieties Old English 



This material was presented at the \(16{{\rm{th}}}\) International Diachronic Generative Syntax Conference, Budapest, July 2014, and at the Workshop on Traces of History, Oslo, March 2015, and I am grateful to audiences there for their feedback, especially Hezekiah Akiva Bacovcin, Theresa Biberauer, Federica Cognola, Tolli Eyþórsson, Tony Kroch, Ian Roberts, and Elly van Gelderen. This article has benefited from the comments of three anonymous reviewers for The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics, and of Associate Editor Jim Wood. Special thanks go to Heike Wiese for help with KiDKo and constructive criticisms of an earlier draft. None of these people necessarily agrees with anything I have to say in this article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts, Languages and CulturesThe University of ManchesterManchesterUK

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