How Come We Can Say 'How Come'?
Verb Second and V-to-I Movement in Present Day English and Early Modern English
Keywords:verb movement, language change, V2, Early Modern English, Present Day English, syntax
In Present Day English (PDE), verb second (V2) occurs only in a few types of sentences, one of which is the interrogative main clause containing a wh-element that is not the subject of the sentence. Even then, it is never the main verb that travels to the second position. Instead, an auxiliary verb will move from the I° position to the C° position, while the main verb stays at its V° base position. For these reasons, the occurrences of the construction how come [emb] in PDE is surprising. Paying attention to the syntactic structures of PDE and Early Modern English (EModE), this paper investigates the ways in which the phrase how come [emb] is different from other PDE syntactic structures. It introduces and examines explanations for the syntax of the phrase, e.g., how come being a single constituent or come being a rare auxiliary verb. However, these explanations are found to be unsatisfactory. This paper instead proposes that how come [emb] is an idiomatic expression with a V2 structure adhering to earlier syntactic conventions such as those found in EModE and earlier versions of English where main verbs were allowed to move out of their V° position.
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