Please mark your calendars for a syntax LingLunch talk by Luis Vicente (PhD Leiden, currently postdoc at UCSC) on Wed April 23 from 11am-12pm in the Lounge.
“Deriving word order variation in Basque through prosody”
Basque scholars agree that the word order of the language is constrained by discourse (topic/focus) factors. Traditionally, this intuition has been implemented in terms of movement to designated topic/focus projections (Ortiz de Urbina 1989 et seq.). However, such analyses are based on the assumption that the verbal complex is a syntactic head that can undergo head movement to the relevant projections. There exists evidence, though, that the subparts of verbal complexes do not actually form a constituent at all, which poses a rather serious problem for this kind of analyses.
The alternative I pursue here is based on the assumption that the verbal complex is immobile, and word order variation is a consequence of what moves or doesn’t move around it. This approach results in a unified analysis of all word order types while keeping intact the insights gained by previous treatments of the problem. However, it raises the problem of how to motivate the different types of movements that are necessary. I propose that the trigger is prosodic: modifying Richards’ (2006) theory, I hypothesize that the C node defines the domain of stress assignment. More specifically, I propose that Basque specifies that pitch accent must be separated from C by as few XP boundaries as possible. With this much in place, word order variation can be derived as the need for certain constituents to appear or not appear in the focus position, depending on their discourse status.