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Harmonic word order constraints are not created equal: the final-over-final constraint as an epiphenomenon

Philip, J; (2010) Harmonic word order constraints are not created equal: the final-over-final constraint as an epiphenomenon. In: (pp. p. 32). Centre for Research in Linguistics and Language Sciences, Newcastle University: Newcastle, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

The Final-over-Final Constraint (FOFC, Holmberg 2000, Biberauer et al 2007, 2008) is a descriptive generalisation stating that a head-initial phrase cannot be dominated by a head-final phrase. The empirical support for this observation is robust in certain clausal contexts, but elsewhere shows that the FOFC-violating order is simply dispreferred. There is therefore some confusion as to whether the FOFC is an invariant principle, or a non-absolute trend. This paper provides evidence that the FOFC acts as a robust principle only as regards the leftright asymmetry in the distribution of subordinating complementisers. For any other category, there are examples of FOFC-violating structures, including the categories Aux and T, contra previous claims (cf. Julien 2002, 2007, Biberauer et al 2007, 2008). The key contribution of the paper is to show that the only data directly supporting the FOFC—the distribution of subordinating complementisers—can be derived independently of it. It is shown that the attested distribution is fully captured by the interaction of three independently motivated harmonic word order principles: Head Proximity (Rijkhoff 1984, 1986, 1990, 1992), the Head Parameter (inter alia Chomsky 1981) and the preference for complement clauses to appear in sentence-final position (Dryer 1980). Where there is competition among these principles, it is Head Proximity that takes precedence. The disharmonic orders that occur elsewhere are explained by specific linearisation rules within a language pertaining to the semantics of a head. Such rules require a head with specified semantics to appear in a prominent position. The presence of such rules may result in either a FOFC violation or its inverse, whereby a head-initial phrase dominates a head-final one. The comparative rarity of the former over the latter can be attributed to two factors: firstly, linearisation rules targeting a prominent position more often target an initial, than final, position (Dik 1978, Siewierska 1991); secondly, there is a cross-linguistic preference to place shorter material before longer, such as heads before phrases (Siewierska 1988). Finally, the fact that subordinating complementisers always obey the optimal word order, and are therefore immune to more specific linearisation rules, is predicted by their lack of semantics.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: Harmonic word order constraints are not created equal: the final-over-final constraint as an epiphenomenon
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/linguistics/postgrad/conferen...
Additional information: Online publication
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/88638
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