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Rethinking Comparative Syntax (ReCoS)

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

Structure and Linearisation in Disharmonic Word Orders (Newcastle University and University of Cambridge)

This project investigates the ramifications of a generalization hypothesized to have universal validity: A head-final phrase cannot immediately dominate a head-initial phrase (the Final-over-Final Constraint: FOFC). In Greenbergian typology and in Principles-and-Parameters (P&P) theory the existence of grammars mixing head-final and head-initial orders poses a problem, as they are exceptions to the Greenbergian word order universals and to the directionality parameters of P&P theory. FOFC, however, is a generalization about mixed or ‘disharmonic’ systems, which, when properly formulated, makes predictions about disharmonic orders, allowing some, excluding others. Thereby it also makes predictions about language change.

Key publications

Biberauer, T and Sheehan, M. 2013. Theoretical Approaches to Disharmonic Word Orders. Oxford University Press. (link)

Biberauer, T, Holmberg, A and Roberts I. to appear. A syntactic universal and its consequences. To appear in Linguistic Inquiry. (article: pdf, appendix: pdf)

Biberauer, T, Holmberg, A, Roberts, I and Sheehan, M. in progress. The
Final-over-Final Constraint. MIT Press.

Sheehan, M. 2013. Some implications of a copy theory of labelling. Syntax 16
(4): 362-394. (link)