Kristin Melum Eide and Arnstein Hjelde

Features affecting topicalization: Norwegian varieties in the American Midwest

Following Eide (2009ab, 2010, 2011abc) Eide and Hjelde (forthcoming) suggest a relationship in Germanic languages between the verb second rule and whether or not the finiteness distinction is expressed in the productive paradigm for verbal inflection. Norwegian has such a distinction expressed in the paradigm, and employs the verb second rule in main clause declaratives. English differs from its Germanic siblings in having no productive finiteness distinction in the verbal paradigm and correspondingly, the verb second machinery broke down in English, from Middle English to Modern English. Eide and Hjelde (forthcoming) discuss this relationship between V2 and verb paradigm in Norwegian-English bilinguals.

By using three sets of recorded material, collected in the 1940s, 1990s and 2010, we found that violations of the V2 were extremely rare in the 1940, while they became more common over time, and in 2010 we found speakers who employed V3 almost as common as V2. At the same time, based on how borrowed verbs were integrated into the inflectional paradigms, we demonstrate that the productive verbal inflections in America Norwegian do not refer to the finiteness distinction (i.e. the finiteness distinction is lost for the productive paradigm). However, even if we demonstrated a clear temporal co-variation between the lacking finiteness distinction in the productive verb paradigm and V2 violations, our material does not allow us to state that there is a clear causality between these two phenomena.

Our case-study of one bilingual informant displayed that in more formal contexts the topicalization structure (i.e. fronting of a non-subject to the clause-initial position) is clearly overused as compared to Norway Norwegian. In contrast, in online production the topicalization structure was employed much more rarely than in Norway Norwegian. It was also obvious that this informant did not master the verb second inversion rule which is obligatory accompanying the topicalization of non-subjects in Norway Norwegian. In our present study, we include a bigger material and more informants and study tendencies of the language community more generally.

According to Matras (2009 and many other works), structural borrowings are rarely studied, but are in fact quite frequent in language contact situations. Within the more generative oriented paradigm, Ross (1967) identified what has been known as “Yinglish/Yiddish movement”, where a certain type of topicalization structure was deemed acceptable in English to bilingual speakers of Yiddish/English, but which sounded ungrammatical to monolingual English speakers. Since this seminal work, Prince (1999) and many others have shown that topicalization and other types of fronting structures are seemingly quite easily borrowed from one language to the other in a bilingual community. In our present paper, we want to go into the details of fronted elements and study their features in more detail: Their weight, their semantics (e.g. time adverbials, locative adverbials, frame-setting adverbials) and their function in information structure.


Eide, Kristin Melum 2009a: Finiteness: The haves and the have-nots. Alexiadou, Artemis,

Jorge Hankamer, Thomas McFadden, Justin Nuger & Florian Schäfer (eds.): Advances

in Comparative Germanic Syntax, Linguistik Aktuell 141. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 357–390.

Eide Kristin Melum 2009b: Tense, finiteness and the survive principle: Temporal chains in a

crash-proof grammar. Putnam, Michael. (ed.): Towards a Derivational Syntax:

Survive-minimalism. Linguistik Aktuell 144. Philadelphia: Benjamins, 91–132.

Eide, Kristin Melum 2010: Mood in Norwegian. Rothstein,  Björn & Rolf Thieroff

(eds.),Mood in European Languages. Philadelphia:  John Benjamins, 56—70.

Eide, Kristin Melum 2011a:  Modals and the present perfect. Mortelmans, Tanja, Jesse

Mortelmans  and Walter De Mulder (eds.): In the mood for mood : Cahiers

Chronos 23. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1—20.

Eide, Kristin Melum 2011b: The Ghost of the Old Norse Subjunctive: the Norwegian

Subjunctive Participle. Submitted.

Eide, Kristin Melum 2011c: Finiteness and inflection: The syntax your morphology can

afford, or: Why English is not Norwegian. Submitted.

Hjelde, Arnstein (2000): Norsk i Amerika. The promise of America. National library of



Hjelde, Arnstein (2012): “Folkan mine, dæm bære snakka norsk” – Norsk i Wisconsin frå            1940-talet og fram til i dag. Norsk lingvistisk tidsskrift. 183-203

Matras, Yaron, 2009: Language contact. Cambridge University Press.

Prince, Ellen F., 1999: How not to mark topics. Topicalization in English and Yiddish. In

Texas Linguistic Forum, chapter 8, 1999.

Ross, John R., 1967: Constraints on variables in syntax. PhD dissertation, MiT.