Second Position Phenomena: A Typology

Guest lecture by Professor Anton Zimmerling (Sholokhov Moscow State University for Humanities).


I am going to render the notion and typological validity of the so called Second-Position Phenomena, i.e. principles of linearization sensitive to the distance from the clausal (or phrasal) left edge rather than to the type of the preceding syntactic category.

The most famous syntactic constraint of this type is Wackernagel’s law (CL2) , a principle predicting clausal-second position of clustering clitics, i.e. weak stressed elements forming clusters. In my talk, I’ll propose a classification of word order systems with clustering clause-level clitics attested in genetically not related worlds language’s, including Slavic languages from the Indo-European family, and discuss the triggers and parameters of clitic-external ordering and clitic-internal ordering.

Another well-known syntactic constraint is the Verb-Second constraint (V2), in its canonic form attested in Germanic languages (except for Gothic, English, Old English and Elder Futhark) and Kashmiri. The interest to V2 languages has been revoked by the revival of the so called sentence cartography, which is a universalist version of the Template analysis proposed in 1930-1950s by the structuralists from the Prague and Copenhagen Linguistic Circles (Da. : sætningsskemaet). I argue against broad definitions of V2 and deny the existence of the so called  ‘partial V2 languages’, ‘residual V2 languages’ etc., where structures overtly resembling V2 are attested only in one part of declarative clauses.

I claim that neither CL2 nor V2 are principles of Universal Grammar. They are ‘shallow’ constraints of narrow syntax, specific for classes of world’s languages. I’ll discuss syntactic, prosodic and information structure mechanisms, which trigger second-position phenomena, in particular, the so called verb movement and constraints on the cooccurrence of syntactic categories (Comp vs V, Comp  vs CL, V vs CL, Comp vs Wh-words etc).