LEL 1 Syntax 6 slides - Linguistics and English Language

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LEL 1
Syntax 6: Syntactic Typology and Universals
Peter Ackema
[email protected]
Outline
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Cross-linguistic variation in word order
Discourse-configurational languages
Non-configurational languages
Syntactic universals
Recap: Word order in English
• The subject is the phrase immediately preceding the verb and
its complements.
• The object (if there is one) is the first phrase immediately
following the verb.
• If there is an indirect object, this immediately precedes the
direct object if it (the indirect object) is an NP, and it follows
the direct object if it is a PP.
These generalisations hold for discourse-neutral sentences:
Maria has read the newspaper already. (neutral)
The newspaper, Maria has read already.
SVO, SOV, VSO
English is a Subject – Verb – Object (SVO) language.
There are also SOV languages. For example, Japanese:
Hiromi-ga
Naoko-ni
tegami-o
kaita.
Hiromi-nominative Naoko-dative letter-accusative wrote
Hiromi wrote a letter to Naoko.
Japanese is head-final in general:
[NP Taro-gaano
ie-o
kat-ta toiu uwasa-o] kii-ta.
Taro-nom that
house-acc bought that rumour-acc heard
I heard the rumour that Taro bought that house.
SVO, SOV, VSO (cont’d)
VSO languages exist as well:
Sgrìobhadh
iad
an leabhar.
write-conditional they the book
They would write the book.
(Scottish Gaelic)
daxal-at
n-nisaaʔ-u
makaatib-a-hunna
entered-fem the-women-nom office-plur.acc-their
The women entered their offices.
(Standard Arabic)
VOS, OSV and OVS languages appear to be rare at best.
Case and word order freedom
German has some case morphology left. Dutch does not.
German allows more word orders in the double object
construction than Dutch.
Der
Mann gab
the(nom) man gave
der
the(dat)
Frau den
woman the(acc)
Der Mann gab den Hut der Frau.
German
De man gaf de vrouw de hoed.
Dutch
*De man gaf de hoed de vrouw.
Hut.
hat
Discourse-configurationality
In English, you do not need to use a particular word order to indicate
what the focus (new information) of a sentence is.
You can stress the focused constituent, regardless of its position in the
sentence.
Who saw an elephant in the zoo yesterday?
MARY saw an elephant in the zoo yesterday.
What did Mary see in the zoo yesterday?
Mary saw AN ELEPHANT in the zoo yesterday.
Where did Mary see an elephant yesterday?
Mary saw an elephant IN THE ZOO yesterday.
When did Mary see an elephant in the zoo?
Mary saw an elephant in the zoo YESTERDAY.
Discourse-configurationalty (cont’d)
In some languages, the focused constituent must go into a fixed
position of the sentence, regardless of its grammatical function. The
same holds for topics, constituents that explicitly encode old
information.
For example, in Hungarian the word order is
topics (if there are any) – focus (if there is any) – rest
János zsuzsi-nak adott egy könyv-et.
John Susi-dative gave a book-accusative
As for John, it was SUSI to whom he gave a book.
János egy könyv-et
adott Zsuzsi-nak.
John a book-accusative
gave Susi-dative
As for John, it was A BOOK that he gave to Susi.
Non-configurationality
Both languages like English and discourse-configurational
languages show evidence that their sentences are
hierarchically structured. For instance, the subject is higher in
the sentence structure than the object.
Mary congratulated herself on her achievement.
*Herself congratulated Mary on her achievement.
In non-configurational languages any evidence for a
hierarchical syntactic structure is lacking.
Non-configurationality (cont’d)
What English expresses by syntactic means is typically
expressed by morphological means in non-configurational
languages. That is why they are sometimes also referred to
as polysynthetic languages: they ‘glue’ all their constituents
together into one complex word.
Men-neki-ure-qepl-uwicwen-mek.
1pl-imperative-night-long-ball-play-1pl
Let us play ball for a long time at night.
Chukchi
Pe-ke-ilot-aan-akin-it-o-to-ri.
Turkana
not-they.cause.me-wash-habitual-dative-aspect-v-pluralinstrumental
They do not force me to do the washing for somebody all the
time.
Non-configurationality (cont’d)
Non-configurational languages do not need any syntactic
subjects or objects in a sentence. Instead, there must always
be rich agreement morphology on the verb that indicates who
the ‘doer’, the ‘undergoer’, and so on, are.
At’ééd ashkii yiyii-tsa.
girl
boy 3sgobject-3sgsubject-saw
The girl saw the boy.
Yiyii-tsa.
3sgobject-3sgsubject-saw
She/he saw her/him.
Navajo
Syntactic universals
If in a language the verb is final in the VP (so if it is an SOV
language) there is a tendency that the heads of other phrases
are final in their phrases as well.
Therefore, we can state a generalisation like the following:
If in a language verbs follow their complements, then
prepositions follow their complements as well (that is, they will
show up as postpositions). If in a language verbs precedes
their complements, then prepositions precede their
complements as well.
This is an example of a syntactic universal, in particular of an
implicational universal.
Implicational and non-implicational
universals
An implicational universal has the general form ‘If a language
has X, then it will also have Y’.
Another example of an implicational universal:
If a language has SOV as its basic word order, then adverbs
may intervene between verb and object in this basic word
order. If a language has SVO as its basic word order, adverbs
are not allowed to intervene between verb and object in this
basic word order.
An example of a non-implicational universal is the following:
All languages have verbs and nouns.
Statistical and absolute universals
Going back to...
If in a language verbs follow their complements, then prepositions follow
their complements as well (that is, they will show up as postpositions). If in a
language verbs precedes their complements, then prepositions precede
their complements as well
… it can be observed that not all languages adhere to this. It is even
possible that a single language shows both prepositional and
postpositional use of the same P:
Ze
zwommen [in het kanaal].
they
swam
in the canal
They were swimming in the canal.
Ze
zwommen [het kanaal in].
they
swam
the canal in
They swam into the canal.
Dutch
Statistical and absolute universals
(cont’d)
Therefore, this
If in a language verbs follow their complements, then prepositions follow
their complements as well (that is, they will show up as postpositions). If in a
language verbs precedes their complements, then prepositions precede
their complements as well
is a statistical universal.
In contrast, an absolute universal is claimed to be without
exceptions.
Perhaps ‘all languages have verbs and nouns’ is absolute.
A universal about the Noun Phrase
In an earlier lecture, we have seen that in English Noun Phrases
the order is
Determiner – Adjective – Noun
and cannot be
*Adjective – Determiner – Noun
The latter order is not found in other languages, either.
Apparently:
If a determiner and an adjective precede the noun in a Noun
Phrase, they must appear in the order Det - Adj
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