Word Order Matters

Current Issues in Syntax and Morpho-Syntax

by Jacek Witkoś (Volume editor) Przemysław Tajsner (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 194 Pages


This book contains a selection of papers on issues of current interest in syntax and morpho-syntax. Most topics pertain to the question of the relation between word order and syntactic structure. The discussion starts with a proposal of extending the theory of relativization to reason clauses. It continues with the analysis of the realization of focus in Basque and the discussion of current views on the syntax of cleft constructions. Next, an inquiry into the rigidity of sentence left-periphery is offered in a cross-linguistic perspective. The two final contributions discuss feature-free derivations in syntax applied to a single morpho-syntactic problem, and the question of gradient acceptability of Polish sentences featuring possessive items in the context of the competition between their reflexive and pronominal forms.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Note from Editors
  • Anchoring and Word Order in Basque: Speaker-Oriented and Discourse-Oriented Foci (Matteo Fiorini)
  • An Externally Headed Relative Clause Analysis of Reason Clauses (Yoshio Endo & Bartosz Wiland)
  • Two Word Order Variations in German Cleft Sentences (Yoshiki Mori & Yuto Yamazaki)
  • Arguments Against the Rigid Order and Occurrence Restrictions Among Topic Elements: Evidence from Japanese, Hungarian, and English (Koichiro Nakamura)
  • Polish Existential Sentences, Genitive of Negation, and a Feature Free Derivation (Przemysław Tajsner)
  • Gradient Acceptability of Subject-Oriented Possessive Pronouns in Polish (Sylwiusz Żychliński)
  • Series Index

←6 | 7→

Note from Editors

The content of this volume grows out of a session addressing current issues in the study of morpho-syntax titled Word Order Matters, which was a part of the 2021 Poznań Linguistic Meeting Conference (16–19 September 2021), run in the online format. Most participants of the original session submitted their presentations in an extended chapter-size format, which were subsequently reviewed by two anonymous referees.

Matteo Fiorini’s paper discusses several issues related to the realization of focus in Basque. It starts with a survey of the patterns identified in Basque, a review of the earlier accounts and an overview of the literature on focus typology across languages. Examples of different word orders in Basque are provided, both marked and unmarked, and their correlation with specific focus interpretations such as contrastive, corrective, presentational (information), exhaustive, etc. is discussed. Thus, the unmarked SOV order of Basque is confronted with the properties of the focus cluster (focused item-V) and with the marked orders in which focused phrases appear in the left or right periphery of the clause. The author also discusses the correlation of prosody with focus, mainly with respect to the distribution of the focus accent and the formulation of the Nuclear Stress Rule. This part also includes the discussion of Mirativity as a grammatical category and its pragmatics, especially as regards the Mirative Implicature discussed in Bianchi, Bocci & Cruschina (2016).

The author then advances his own proposal by which the two varieties of (identification) focus, i.e. Corrective Focus and Mirative Focus should, on the one hand, be correlated with discourse- and speaker-oriented foci respectively, and with the specific structural positions. With respect to the latter, Fiorini proposes to identify the clause-internal, i.e. neither left- nor right-peripheral, position of focus to be the locus of speaker-oriented Mirative Focus, unlike the front position, which is argued to be reserved for the corrective one. For this, the author adopts Uriagereka’s (1995) Speaker Phrase, as a projection above the vP, whose specifier position is used by the focused phrase interpreted as mirative. He also subscribes to a view that different focus types could be considered as reference points on the scale of “contrastivity”, as recently proposed by Cruschina (2021). ←7 | 8→Different syntactic positions, peripheral, clause-internal or rear, could then be ascribed to different types of focus. The major type of empirical support for the author’s claims are the interpretive constraints on focus in different sentence positions. The chapter is a useful contribution to the discussion of the realization of focus in Basque and a helpful source of reference for understanding the syntax of focus in general.

Yoshio Endo and Bartosz Wiland carry out a detailed analysis of reason clauses. Their account is couched in terms of the double-headed analysis of relative clause constructions proposed in Cinque (2020). This analysis basically takes relative clauses to function as premodifiers to the NP (external head), whose extended projection is constructed in line with basic tenets of Kayne (1994), whereby the distinction between premodifiers and specifiers is levelled. Through a combination of movement steps and instances of deletion under identity, Cinque’s proposal reconciles the leading accounts of syntactic relativization relying either on the raising of the NP-head internal to the relative clause, or on matching and deletion of the clause internal head with the lexicalized clause external head. Based on data from a number of languages, including English, Japanese, Polish and others, Endo and Wiland find empirical support for the double-headed approach. Furthermore, they assume that the restrictive use of wh-phrases in relative constructions requires their introduction into the derivation as specifiers of abstract nouns, so for example the computation of the phrase ‘the restaurant that we met’ must include the phrase [where [PLACE]], with a silent generic PLACE. By the same token, the why in reason clauses appears in the following constituent: [dP d [NP why [NP REASON]]]. Interestingly, the authors argue at length that the initial pair of examples in the following triplet share a substantial part of their derivation, while the third example is the odd man out:


a. I know the reason why they left.

b. I know the reason they left.

c. I know why they left.

Endo and Wiland manage to show, conclusively, relying on selection and wh-extraction from within, that the first two examples constitute prima facie double-headed relative clause structures, while the third one ←8 | 9→deserves treatment of a regular embedded wh-clause. Not only do the authors successfully extend the application of Cinque’s (2020) theory of relativization to reason clauses, but they also improve on the original account and show why a novel single-headed analysis is in fact preferable in several cases they consider. Apart from constituting a good example of creative and frontier-breaking research, this chapter is also a perfect guide through the meandering ways of state-of-the-art generative views on relative clause formation.

Yoshiki Mori and Yuto Yamazaki address the question of the difference between two forms of cleft sentences in German:





der kommt.

[cleft pronoun] [copula]

[clefted constituent]

[cleft clause]




RelPron.m.3SG comes




ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2023 (January)
comparative syntax information structure topic and focus marking feature-driven movement relative clauses gradient acceptability
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 194 pp., 4 fig. b/w, 3 tables.

Biographical notes

Jacek Witkoś (Volume editor) Przemysław Tajsner (Volume editor)

Przemysław Tajsner is professor of linguistics at the Adam Mickiewicz University (AMU), Poznañ, Poland. His major research area is the interface of information structure and syntax, but his interests extend to comparative linguistics, minimalist syntax and biolinguistics. Jacek Witkoś is a professor of linguistics at AMU, with a record of research in English/Polish comparative morpho-syntax from the generative and minimalist perspective. He has published on a variety of topics, including wh-movement and its reconstruction, negation, control, reflexives and distribution and properties of pronouns.


Title: Word Order Matters
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196 pages