Prosodic Noun Incorporation and Verb-Initial Syntax

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Prosodic Noun Incorporation and Verb-Initial Syntax

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Title: Prosodic Noun Incorporation and Verb-Initial Syntax
Author: Clemens, Lauren Eby
Citation: Clemens, Lauren Eby. 2014. Prosodic Noun Incorporation and Verb-Initial Syntax. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: To date, no real consensus has emerged among syntacticians about how to derive verb-initial order (V1); but the two main approaches, \(V^0\)-raising and VP-raising, receive particularly widespread support in the literature. The syntax of Niuean pseudo noun incorporation (PNI) has played an important role in the propagation of the VP-raising analysis (Massam 2001), especially for VSO languages and languages with a VSO option.
In this thesis, I present an analysis of the prosody of Niuean PNI and show that the PNI verb and incorporated argument form a prosodic constituent. While this result is consistent with the syntactic analysis of Massam (2001), it is also consistent with a prosodic restructuring analysis that explains the VOS order of PNI by appealing to prosodic well-formedness. I take the second approach. Specifically, the principle behind Selkirk's (1984) Sense Unit Condition requires that the verb and its internal argument(s) form a unique phonological phrase. In order to satisfy this requirement, the incorporated argument moves into a position adjacent to the verb at PF. Positionally motivated categorical feature sharing (Adger and Svenonius 2011; Pesetsky and Torrego 2007) allows PF to reference the head-argument relationship between the verb and its internal argument, even though they are not sent to PF in structurally adjacent positions.
The main result for the syntactic analysis of Niuean is that \(V^0\)-raising replaces VP-raising. The benefits of the \(V^0\)-raising approach include i) less phonologically vacuous structure in places where Niuean has overt morphology, e.g., a perpetually null \(T^0\) in the face of overt tense markers; and ii) observance of the idea that thematic roles are correlated to structural positions. Thus, the prosodic analysis of Niuean PNI has a number of positive outcomes for Niuean syntax, as well as the potential to simplify the derivation of VSO cross-linguistically.
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