Deriving inverse order

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This paper explores word order in Niuean, a Polynesian language with VSO word order, within the context of theories that attempt to constrain the range and limits of possible word orders across languages (in particular Kayne 1994, Cinque 1999, 2005). First it is argued that V-initial order in Niuean is derived via verbal movement, through maximal predicate fronting. Following the predicate in Niuean are a sequence of inversely-ordered particles (Rackowski and Travis 2000). Various analyses are reviewed which attempt to account for the inverse ordering and to tie the V-initial word order to the inverse order of particles. Finally, the position of arguments is discussed. Their non-inverse ordering presents problems for inverse order derivations, assuming traditional theories of theta role assignment. It is proposed that we continue the trend towards separating arguments from their traditional theta role assigners and merge object arguments directly into specifiers of functional projections (as in, for example, Borer 2005). This allows for a comprehensive analysis of word order in Niuean.


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