The Syntax of Verb Initial Languages

The Syntax of Verb Initial Languages

The Syntax of Verb Initial Languages

The Syntax of Verb Initial Languages

Synopsis

This volume contains twelve chapters on the derivation of and the correlates to verb initial word order. The studies in this volume cover such widely divergent languages as Irish, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Old Irish, Biblical Hebrew, Jakaltek, Mam, Lummi (Straits Salish), Niuean, Malagasy, Palauan, K'echi', and Zapotec, from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives, including Minimalism, information structure, and sentence processing. The first book to take a cross-linguistic comparative approach to verb initial syntax, this volume provides new data to some old problems and debates and explores some innovative approaches to the derivation of verb initial order.

Excerpt

Andrew Carnie and Eithne Guilfoyle

Until quite recently, the study of basic word order and correlates of 'basic' word order was limited to typological studies of language. The issue was either ignored by generative grammar or assumed to have no theoretical basis. Recent work in the minimalist approaches to principles and parameter syntax, however, has opened up the study of word orders, their derivations, and the correlates of those orders. Influential papers by Pollock (1989) and Chomsky (1991) provided a framework in which to develop a constrained view of phrase structure and predicate-argument placement. Kayne (1994) antisymmetric approach to phrase structure further constrains the possible word orders of language. In his view, the only underlying word order is subject-verb-object; all other word orders are derived from this order by one means or another. In this volume, we consider one subset of word orders--those that are verb initial; whether these orders are derived or not; whether there is a uniform derivation of the word orders; and whether there are any putative universal correlates of these orders.

Languages that have as their "basic" or "default" word order an order that puts the verb first in the sentence (verb-subject-object, VSO, and verb-object- subject, VOS) make up about 10% of the world's languages, yet they are relatively untreated in the generative grammar literature. These languages bring their own special problems to the discipline. As will be seen in section 1, the basic derivation of one of these word orders (VSO) is itself highly problematic and a matter of great debate. With the advent of restrictive theories of phrase structure, such as Kayne (1994), even the simpler VOS order is also problematic. Despite the fact they come from a variety of language families and from a great variety of geographical locales, all verb initial languages seem to have certain properties in common, such as preverbal particles and special types of locative constructions. Questions as to the nature of the derivation of verb initial order and its correlates are the focus of this volume. We have compiled here a collection of essays by a variety of authors about a number of verb initial languages. Even though many of these essays are about diverse and unrelated languages, the results show a remarkable uniformity in a number of domains.

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