More subordinate?

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Finnish main and subordinate clauses are generally speaking similar in terms of constituent order: both typically obey the default (S)VO (more generally, VX) order. However, the order is flexible so that other, marked orders can be used to express discourse-related meaning, such as topic/focus relations. In addition, verb-final (XV) order typically accompanies clause-initial focusing in utterances that can be called reactive. Although the ordering options may be the same, main and subordinate clauses do not make equal use of them. The present article investigates this issue from the perspective of XV order, which is an option in subordinate clauses particularly in Western Finnish; it is also made use of in Standard Finnish texts, but more marginally. The starting point comes from an article by the Finnish linguist Eeva Lindén (Linden 1959). Lindén’s analysis offers a generalization on the role of subordinate XV order and relates it to clausal order in general, suggesting that XV order it signals subordination. The present article addresses this question by consulting dialectal material just as Lindén did, but by relying on larger corpora and more context. It will be demonstrated that XV ordered clauses are generally backgrounded, their profile overridden by that of another clause, while the default VX ordered clauses are more open and varied in their interpretation, extending to uses that can hardly be claimed to be subordinate by any account. The backgrounded character of XV subordinate clauses consists of factors that ultimately involve reliance on old information. These factors include providing a setting, identifying referents and states of affairs, and being in the scope of the main clause.


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