[Lingtyp] Subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs
hartmut at ruc.dk
Sun Apr 12 13:30:27 UTC 2020
I just want to point out that V-initial structures have been analysed as quite common, if not statistically predominant, for languages like Italian and Modern Greek. (Talking about subject-verb inversion in pro-drop languages always has struck me as something difficult to grasp: do you invert first and then drop or do you drop first and invert then?).
Pointers to relevant literature (Vattuone, Sasse) in Haberland (2006). Thetic-categorical distinction. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2. ed. ed., Vol. 12, pp. 676-677). Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Fra: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> På vegne af Ernei Ribeiro
Sendt: 12. april 2020 15:23
Til: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Emne: [Lingtyp] Subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs
Languages like Spanish or Italian have a default, unmarked word order SVO that is most compatible with discourse contexts where no part of the clause is focused. However, these languages also display an alternative VS word order in declarative sentences, sometimes depending on discourse context and notions such as topic and focus. This alternative word order is illustrated in (1a) and (1b) with Italian and Spanish examples. Subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs is not possible in English, as shown in (1c).
*In this rainforest can find a lucky hiker the reclusive lyrebird.
It is generally assumed (Barbosa 2009) that languages like Spanish or Italian allow subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs because they have rich agreement, while English or French do not allow such inversion because they have poor agreement.
Subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs is also seen in languages without agreement. Japanese allows subject inversion, as shown in (2ab), while Chinese does not, as seen in (2cd). This is clearly related to the fact that Japanese has case morphology on nouns, while Chinese does not.
‘Taro ate cake.’
‘Zangsan made a phone call.’
Note that English and Chinese might sometimes allow subject-verb inversion involving intransitive verbs, as in the English directive inversion in (3a) and the Chinese clause with an indefinite subject in (3b).
Into the room came two students.
‘There came (some) guests.’
I am searching for possible exceptions to the aforementioned generalizations, that is:
(4) Are there languages without agreement and without case morphology on nouns that allow subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs?
(5) Are there languages with poor agreement and without case morphology on nouns that allow subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs?
(6) Are there languages with rich agreement that DO NOT allow subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs?
(7) Are there languages with case morphology on nouns that DO NOT allow subject-verb inversion with transitive verbs?
Many linguists have noted that it is difficult to define “rich agreement.” For the time being, I will consider agreement to be “rich” if it distinguishes six or more person, number and gender combinations, as in the Spanish present tense conjugation of the verb ‘eat’ in (8a). I will consider agreement to be “poor” if it distinguishes five or fewer such combinations, as in the English present tense in (8b).
Barbosa, Pilar. "Two kinds of subject pro." Studia Linguistica 63.1 (2009): 2-58.
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