Marc Olivier-Loiseau, (PhD Researcher)

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PhD Researcher Profile

Thesis title: A Corpus Study of Clitic Placement with Infinitives in the Diachrony of French

Abstract: This thesis explores the diachrony of clitic placement with infinitives (both restructuring and other infinitival clauses) in French in a corpus of legal texts from the mid-12th to the mid-19th century which was built as part of this research project. We find enclisis in non-restructuring clauses until ca. 1300, and clitic climbing (CC) in restructuring clauses until the late 18th century. The two orderings are subsequently replaced by proclisis. These findings challenge the view that enclisis and CC are necessarily found within the same system, as Middle French is a language with proclisis and CC. Furthermore, CC is the major ordering found in restructuring clauses in Old French, and its frequency tops 100% from the 14th to the early 17th century. This finding reveals that the construction was not optional in Middle French. This thesis develops a theory of cliticisation based on verb movement: we account for the shift from enclisis to proclisis in non-restructuring clauses with the loss of V-to-T movement with infinitives. Independent evidence for this hypothesis stems from the loss of infinitival suffix -r in early Middle French, which we show acted as a movement trigger in Old French. This proposal is further supported by the consideration of the crosslinguistic picture: Romance languages that have enclisis also have infinitival suffixes and long V-movement (e.g. Standard Italian). Regarding CC, the analysis we propose is one of mono-clausal restructuring with cliticisation on the higher v-head. We argue that from the early 17th century on, the lower v-head is reanalysed as a cliticisation site, yielding proclisis. The diachrony of other Romance languages supports the view that cliticisation on the lower v is an innovation of late-Medieval Romance. Unlike other canonical languages however, French did not retain the optionality of cliticisation on the higher v and proclisis generalised to all infinitival clauses.

Supervisors: Dr Christina Sevdali and Prof Raffaella Folli


After a baccalauréat in Literature and Drama, I studied a BA in English Studies at Université François Rabelais of Tours, France. During my undergraduate studies, I received training as an EFL teacher in French Secondary Education. After graduating, I moved to the UK and took on the role of language assistant within the School of Modern Languages at Ulster University, the Univeristy where I study my Master's. The latter ended up with a dissertation on the syntax of Old French entitled A diachronic study of proclisis-enclisis alternation on infinitives and imperatives in Old French. After graduating, I started a VCRS-funded PhD under the supervision of Dr Christina Sevdali and Prof Raffaella Folli in order to investigate the syntax of Old French more deeply. 



  • BA English Studies
  • MSc Language & Linguistics
  • PgCHEP Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

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Research Interests

Theoretical Syntax · Generative Theory · Morphology · Diachrony · Change & Variation · Proto-Romance · French.

Teaching Interests

Linguistic Theory · Theoretical Syntax · Diachrony · Morphology · Translation · French Foreign Language · EFL


  • PC Romance languages
  • French
  • Old French
  • Syntax
  • Word Order
  • Diachrony
  • Generative Syntax
  • Old Romance
  • Variation
  • Historical linguistics


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