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Word order preferences and the effect of phrasal length in SOV languages: evidence from sentence production in Persian

Abstract : Heaviness (or phrasal length) has been shown to trigger mirror-image constituent ordering preferences in head-initial and head-final languages (heavy-late vs. heavy-first). These preferences are commonly attributed to a general cognitive pressure for processing efficiency obtained by minimizing the overall head-dependents linear distance-measured as the distance between the verb and the head of its left/right-most complement (Hawkins's Minimizing Domains) or as the sum of the distances between the verb and its complements (Dependency Length Minimization). The alternative language-specific accessibility-based production account, that considers longer constituents to be conceptually more accessible and views heavy-first as a salient-first preference, is dismissed because it implies differential sentence production in SOV and SVO languages. This paper studies the effect of phrasal length in Persian, a flexible SOV language displaying mixed head direction and differential object marking. We investigated the effect of linear distance as well as the effect of conceptual enrichment in two sentence production experiments. Our results provide clear evidence that support DLM while undermining Hawkins's MiD. However, they also show that some length effects cannot be captured by a dependency-distance-minimizing model and the conceptual accessibility hypothesis also needs to be taken into account to explain ordering preferences in Persian. Importantly, our findings indicate that distance minimization has a less strong effect in Persian than previously shown for other SOV languages.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - 8:41:55 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - 11:14:09 AM

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Pegah Faghiri, Pollet Samvelian. Word order preferences and the effect of phrasal length in SOV languages: evidence from sentence production in Persian. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics (2016-2021), Ubiquity Press, 2020, 5 (1), pp.86. ⟨10.5334/gjgl.1078⟩. ⟨hal-02559840v2⟩

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