On indefinite subjects of pivot verbs in Malay
Indefinite subjects of so-called pivot verbs in Malay can appear on either side of the verb. This paper discusses the following two tendencies concerning their behaviour: (i) the longer the subject is, the more likely it is to occur after the verb; (ii) in adverbial clauses the preferred word order is VS rather than SV. Both of these points are supported by quantitative evidence from a corpus of front-page articles of the daily newspaper Utusan Malaysia. The paper also proposes an explanation for these tendencies by using the functional notion of ‘topic’ and the mechanism of competition. Specifically, tendencies (i) and (ii) above are claimed to result from the competition between the topicality and heaviness of the subject NP, and from the Constraint on ‘Topic-over-Topic’ Configuration (COTC) respectively. The proposed model with competition and COTC is applicable to other phenomena in Malay (apparent violations of the Definiteness Restriction) and other languages (restricted occurrence of the topic marker in some subordinate clauses in Japanese) as well.
Keywords: unaccusative verbs, word order, heaviness, topicality, Malay, adverbial clauses
Published online: 11 June 2009
Cited by 1 other publications
Soh, Hooi Ling & Hiroki Nomoto
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