Effects of Focus Type and Argument Length on the Dative Alternation

Mary Byram, Maria Luisa Zubizarreta


The arguments of English double object verbs appear in the dative form (ex: Give the sailor the cup.) or the PP-frame (ex: Give the cup to the sailor.). We conducted a production study to test (i) whether information focus or contrastive focus drives this word order variation, and (ii) whether focus interacts with weight. The study found that heavy themes and information focused constituents appear sentence finally, but contrastive focus does not effect the word order. Furthermore, information focus was a stronger motivator than weight. This suggests that at least two types of focus need to be considered in any theory of word in addition to weight.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/exabs.v0i0.493