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Poster communications

Relative weight and givenness in constituent ordering of typologically different languages: Evidence from French and Persian

Abstract : Grammatical weight has been recognized as a key factor influencing constituent ordering across languages (Hawkins 1994, Wasow 2002). Constituents tend to appear in order of increasing weight in VO languages, as French (Thuilier 2012), and of decreasing weight in OV languages, as Persian (Faghiri 2016). Weight is often reduced to (phrasal) length or complexity and corpus studies fail to disentangle them, because of their extreme correlation. Wasow et al. (2005) showed however that acceptability rating of English speakers is sensitive to both length and complexity. Givenness of the referents is also known to affect word order and has been hypothesized as a language universal: given referents tend to be produced before new referents (Prince 1981, Arnold et al. 2000). Models of sentence production have proposed that constituent order reflects ease of accessing to the constituents (Bock & Levelt 1994): heavy constituent and new referent are more difficult to access, thus postponed in the sentence. However, this fails to explain the decreasing weight effect in OV languages. That is why Yamashita et al. (2001) proposed that heavy constituents are more accessible in conceptual terms, and that OV languages are more sensitive to conceptual accessibility. Faghiri et al. (2014) carried out a (semi-guided) sentence production experiment (via a web-based questionnaire) to study the effect of relative length and givenness on the relative order of the direct and indirect objects in Persian and found a clear “long-before-short” preference, but didn’t find the expected effect of givenness. Here, we provide comparable data from French in order to contrast weight and givenness effects in VO and OV languages. Moreover, we seek to test whether length and complexity effectively affect order independently in sentence production. To this end, we replicate their experiment, with an additional manipulation to include complexity vs. length. We expect a DO-IO preference (Thuilier 2012), so the issue is to what extent heaviness and newness can shift (or reinforce) this order. References: Arnold, Losongco, Wasow, & Ginstrom, (2000). “Heaviness vs. newness: The effects of structural complexity and discourse status on constituent ordering”. Language, 76(1), 28-55. Bock & Levelt (1994) “Language production: Grammatical encoding”. In Gernsbacher (Ed.), Handbook of Psycholinguistics (945-984). London: Academic Press. Faghiri, Samvelian & Hemforth (2014) “Accessibility and Word Order: The case of Ditransitive Constructions”. In Müller (Ed.), Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on HPSG (217–237). Stanford, CA : CSLI Publications. Faghiri (2016) La variation de l’ordre des constituants dans le domaine préverbal en persan : approche empirique. Phd Thesis, Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle. Prince (1981). “Towards a taxonomy of given-new information”. In Cole (Ed.), Radical pragmatics. New York: Academic Press. Hawkins (1994) A Performance Theory of Order and Constituency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Thuilier (2012) Contraintes préférentielles et ordre des mots en français. Phd Thesis, Paris Diderot. Wasow (2002) Postverbal Behavior. CSLI Publications. Yamashita & Chang (2001) “"Long before short" preference in the production of a head-final language”. Cognition, 81(2). Wasow & Arnold (2005) “Intuitions in Linguistic Argumentation”. Lingua 115(11): 1481-1496.
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Poster communications
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Contributor : Pegah Faghiri <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 10:51:12 AM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-02605180, version 1


Pegah Faghiri, Juliette Thuilier. Relative weight and givenness in constituent ordering of typologically different languages: Evidence from French and Persian. The 31st Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, Mar 2018, Davis, CA, United States. ⟨halshs-02605180⟩



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