Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 15, 2020

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

Thomas Berg
From the journal Linguistic Typology

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.

Acknowledgements

On this occasion I would like to pay my respect and appreciation to the compilers of the World Atlas of Language Structures. Without their excellent database, a project like this one would have taken ages to complete. I am grateful to André Geisler, Tamara Nehls, Britta Zemke, Sebastian Anderßen and Marlene Sagebiel for helping me access the huge body of literature, to Robert Fuchs for his support in matters statistical and to Charlotte Lehr for being the perfect research assistant. A special word of thanks goes to the reviewers for their thoroughgoing and exacting comments and, even more so, to the editorial team for endorsing this project.

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Received: 2018-05-01
Revised: 2019-01-30
Published Online: 2020-01-15
Published in Print: 2020-08-27

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