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Bookmark and Share Paper 3257

Scrambling in German Is Driven by Prosody and Semantics
Volker Struckmeier
381-389 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This article investigates an alternative to information structure-driven analyses for word order phenomena (specifically, middle field scrambling) in German in a formal, generative syntactic framework. The paper rejects analyses that attempt to explain scrambling by a cartographic array of functional heads (such as topic phrases, (anti-)focus phrases, etc.). Cartographic proposals, the article demonstrates, do not represent attested word orders correctly empirically, and furthermore cannot truly explain the facts, for principled reasons. In their stead, the paper proposes to consider scrambling the joint result of both syntactic movement operations (which implement scopal and binding readings, as well as genericity effects) and spellout operations (which decide word order properties by prosodic factors, wherever it is underdetermined by syntax and semantics). To achieve this aim, the article proposes a 'subtractive' architecture that relates syntactic, semantic and prosodic word order factors to each other, and makes both recourse to formal trigger features and a rigid hierarchy of functional heads unnecessary. To the degree that this new architecture proves preferable to older cartographic assumptions, it argues for a shift away from a 35-year tradition of generative scrambling research, and offers a new outlook on the German data (as well as comparable phenomena in other languages).

Published in

Proceedings of the 33rd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Kyeong-min Kim, Pocholo Umbal, Trevor Block, Queenie Chan, Tanie Cheng, Kelli Finney, Mara Katz, Sophie Nickel-Thompson, and Lisa Shorten
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00