Successes and shortcomings of phonological accounts of Scandinavian object shift

Paulina Lyskawa, Jade Sandsted, Eline Visser, Nathan Young, Björn Lundquist


Object shift (OS) is a word order phenomenon in Scandinavian languages where under some circumstances the object appears before a sentential adverb. Despite the frequent assumptions that word order is determined in syntax, and despite the link of OS and syntactic phenomena like V2, there is no consensus that OS is a syntactic phenomenon. Particularly, it has been observed that OS targets specifically prosodically weak elements. This motivated recent analyses of OS as a prosodic phenomenon. We focus on two proposals that look for a synchronic motivation for OS in a correlation between its distribution and some prosodic property: (i) Erteschik-Shir et al. (2020) posit that OS is motivated and modulated by prosodic incorporation, and (ii) Hosono (2013) hypothesizes that shifted pronominal objects help facilitate downstep. We identify concrete predictions from both proposals (default prosodic incorporation, and no downstep in unshifted OS-context sentences, respectively) and test them using novel data. The results show that neither of the proposals can be maintained in its original form. In addition to the empirical shortcomings of the prosodic proposals, we explore a missed syntactic generalization regarding the role objecthood plays in OS.


word order; prosody; syntax-phonology interface; object shift; Mainland Scandinavian; prosodic incorporation; downstep

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Copyright (c) 2022 Paulina Lyskawa, Jade Sandsted, Eline Visser, Nathan Young, Björn Lundquist

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