Ordering biases in cross-linguistic perspective: The interaction of serial order and structural level

  • 1 Department of English, University of Hamburg, Überseering 35, Hamburg, Germany
Thomas Berg
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  • [to:mas bɛʁk], Department of English, University of Hamburg, Überseering 35, 22297, Hamburg, Germany
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Abstract

Capitalizing upon the typological fact that the same content may be coded in different positions and at different structural levels, this study examines whether the syntactic and the morphological levels exhibit different serial-order preferences. A large-scale comparison of word and morpheme order across six grammatical categories including definiteness and negation reveals that all six categories document the same interaction effect: the syntactic level shows a significantly higher preposing rate than the morphological level does. A morphological postposing bias is observed for five categories, a syntactic preposing bias for four and a syntactic postposing bias for two. This interaction effect is not affected by a genealogical or areal bias. The empirical patterns are mainly shaped by a predilection for lexical material to precede grammatical material. Early placement may also be brought about by ultra-high token frequency. The fact that the postposing bias does occur sporadically at the syntactic level casts some doubt on the well-known suffixing preference as the appropriate level of generalization.

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