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Rethinking Comparative Syntax (ReCoS)

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

Studying at Cambridge


Structure and Linearisation in Disharmonic Word Orders

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)