Does phonology influence the ordering of meaningful elements (morphemes, words, phrases)? The answer is usually taken to be no, but an investigation into the quantitative distribution of constituents tells a different story. This paper reports the results of a preliminary study of the English dative alternation in a written corpus of 1,580 prosodically annotated dative constructions. The evidence suggests that prosody plays a role in constituent linearization in English. The prosodic effects are mostly gradient and variable, yet entirely systematic. A phonological model is presented that predicts, for each input, the possible output variants as well as the quantitative preferences among them. The prosodic hypothesis is thus shown to be a serious alternative that must be taken into account in any attempt to explain the dative alternation in English.
Proceedings of the 26th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Charles B. Chang and Hannah J. Haynie
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