Stavros Skopeteas, Elisabeth Verhoeven
September 25, 2009
This paper presents experimental data on postverbal argument order in Yucatec Maya. Yucatec Maya is a verb initial language which according to previous analyses displays verb-agent-patient as its canonical order. The data presented in this paper were obtained in an experiment on interpreting ambiguous sentences. The experiment evaluated hypotheses about the impact of animacy, definiteness, verbal aspect and pragmatic preferences on Yucatec Mayan postverbal orders. The participants of the experiment showed considerable instability in role choice for postverbal arguments, sometimes preferring the agent-patient and sometimes the patient-agent order. The role choice is predominantly determined by pragmatic inferences which are supported by inherent properties of the postverbal NPs like animacy and definiteness.