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How much is determined by Syntax? An empirical Approach to the Position of the Direct Object in Persian

Abstract : Several theoretical studies (e.g. Browning & Karimi 1994; Karimi 2003; Ghomeshi 1997; Ganjavi 2007) claim that rā-marked (definite and/or specific) direct objects (DOs) occupy a higher position than their non-rā-marked (indefinite non-specific) counterparts. One of the main arguments to support this claim is the unmarked relative order between the direct and the indirect object (IO), which is broadly assumed to be IO−DO[-rā]−V and DO[+rā]−IO−V (e.g. Mahootian 1997; Rasekhmahand 2004; Roberts 2009). In this paper, we provide empirical evidence against such a dichotomous view. We have conducted a corpus-based study (Faghiri & Samvelian, 2014) and experimental follow up studies (Faghiri et al., 2014; Faghiri, forthcoming) to investigate ordering preferences between the DO and the IO in the preverbal domain. In addition to the realization of the DO, we have taken into account other potentially influential factors such as relative length, givenness, collocationality and lexical bias, via mixed-effect regression modeling, in line with key empirical studies on word order variations (e.g. Wasow 2002). The data reveal that while rā-marked DOs show a strong preference to appear before the IO, among different non-rā-marked DOs, i.e. bare nouns ketāb, bare noun with modifiers ketāb-e akkāsi and indefinite/numeral NPs ye ketāb(-i), only bare nouns show a strong preference for adjacency to the verb. Interestingly, indefinite (non-rā-marked) DOs show a clear preference for the inverse, grouping thus with rā-marked DOs. Moreover, extra syntactic factors such as relative length also play a significant role on these ordering preferences. Accordingly, we argue that the ordering preferences observed for different types of DOs is best reflected by a continuum based on the degree of conceptual and/or discourse accessibility. Consequently, any structural account of the latter would lead to wrong predictions. We furthermore examine other arguments provided to support a dual-position account and present some counterexamples that question their validity. Thus, in line with Samvelian (2001), we refute a dual syntactic position account of the DO.
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Contributor : Pegah Faghiri <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, December 23, 2015 - 12:28:22 PM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-01220381, version 2


Pegah Faghiri, Pollet Samvelian. How much is determined by Syntax? An empirical Approach to the Position of the Direct Object in Persian. 9th Iranian Conference on Linguistics, Allameh TabatabaI University, Department of Linguistics Feb 2015, Tehran, Iran. pp. 1419-1435. ⟨halshs-01220381v2⟩



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