I am a bit confused with the xp-pro-v word order in middle English and was hoping, that someone could help me. Can someone explain, what exactly the term "xp-pro-v" means? I do understand, that it is the order of verb and subject pronoun inverted, as the example "each evil he can do". But I still somehow dont understand the term, and does it only apply in the middle of a sentence or also at the beginning of a sentence? Thanks in advance!

1 Answer 1


XP-PRO-V is a word order found in sentences in Middle English that have a pronoun as the subject of the sentences. If a non-subject phrase is the topic, then it is moved before the pronoun subject. The XP means "a phrase of any type," using the terminology that X is a variable name and P means "phrase." We can split the example "Each evil he can do" into NP-PRO-V, "[each evil NP] [he PRO] [can V] do." It's not just an inversion of two words, but a specific ordering of the first three elements.

This contrasts with the "expected" V2 word order, which can be described as XP-V, because it always has exactly one phrase before the Verb, which could be of any type. Like V2, this phrase is supposed to help explain the order of words at the beginning of a clause.

  • Thank you so much! Maybe you could help me once again. If I have, for example, the sentence "for which I tolde thee myna venture" is the word order also xp-pro-v or is it SVO? I have a lot of sentences starting with "that" "and" "but" "although" etc. are those sentences then also xp-pro-v or?
    – Jana
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 18:54
  • 1
    conjunctions like "and," "but," and "although" are outside the clauses in many languages - so they might be irrelevant for looking at differences of element orders within the clause. Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 19:32
  • You saved me, thank you so much!
    – Jana
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 19:57
  • I had guessed XP meant ?exponent; wouldn't that fit very well?
    – vectory
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 22:22
  • I have a follow-up question: Is this pattern also found with names or nouns instead of pronouns? (Also, I'm slightly confused by the terminology: "PRO" and "pro" mean "null pronoun" in a lot of syntactic research)
    – purlupar
    Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 19:16

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