Deriving verb-initial word order in Mayan
Lauren Clemens, Jessica Coon
May 2017

While languages in the Mayan family are predominantly verb-initial (V1), individual languages display either rigid VSO or alternating VOS-VSO word orders (England 1991). Existing proposals derive V1 order in Mayan by base-generating the subject in a vP-internal right-side specifier (Aissen 1992) or by XP-fronting a predicate to a high left-side specifier position (Coon 2010). We review problems with previous accounts and argue that V1 is consistently derived by head movement of the verb to a position above the subject and below Infl0. This proposal accounts for uniformity in verb-stem formation across the family and provides a natural account of VSO orders. Next, we turn to VOS-VSO alternating languages, where a variety of factors have been reported to determine postverbal argument order, including specificity, definiteness, phonological weight, discourse prominence, and argument animacy (see e.g. England 1991). After an in-depth examination of these factors, we suggest that there are three distinct and independently motivated paths to VOS order in the Mayan family. First, based on prosodic evidence from Ch’ol, we argue that VOS may be derived by postsyntactic reordering of NP objects (Clemens 2014). In addition, VOS may arise through right-side subject topicalization (Can Pixabaj 2004; Curiel 2007) or the shifting of heavy subjects towards the periphery of the clause (Larsen 1988). This account both provides better empirical coverage internal to Ch’ol, and makes testable predictions in the domains of word order and prosodic constituency for other Mayan languages.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003067
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Language
keywords: verb-initial languages; head-raising; prosody; ch’ol; mayan languages, syntax
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