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  • Print publication year: 1975
  • Online publication date: January 2010

15 - Word order and versification


Sentence patterns

Word order is fairly free in OFr, since the case system facilitates easy recognition of subject and object. Certain sentence patterns however predominate, and these are illustrated below.

For convenient analysis the sentence can be divided into subject, verb and complement, ‘verb’ referring to the finite verb, and ‘complement’ covering direct and indirect objects, predicative adjectives and nouns, adverbs or adverbial phrases, participles and infinitives.

Note that there can be more than one complement in a sentence, and that unstressed oblique pronouns, which only carry weight in a short phrase, are normally excluded in the analysis.

The patterns below are listed in order of frequency of occurrence.

Subject – verb – complement

This pattern is common in both prose and poetry. It is found in main clauses:

Li vilains apele son fil. (Fb.3.39)

and in subordinate clauses, especially those beginning with a conjunction:

Quant il sorent la novele · · · (R.Tr.68)

A pronoun subject, normally stressed at the head of a phrase, is at times omitted in a main clause (especially before ne) and more often in subordinate clauses:

Ne sai quepuisse devenir. (VP.368)

Complement – verb – subject – (further complement)

This pattern is characteristic for OFr and should be noted. This inversion of subject and verb, common in prose but more so in poetry, is found chiefly in the main clause.