Formal and functional constraints on constituent order and their universality

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This paper addresses the competition between syntactic relations and the structural encoding of discourse semantic functions, and, more specifically, the question of how much the distributional restriction of syntactic linearisation can be constrained by the inventory of functional features of Generative Syntax. The variation between typologically distinct languages is explained by the potential of a generative syntactic system to fix constituent order by means of functional phrases, something not implemented to the same degree in all languages. Moreover, the various information structural properties a sentence topic can have imply that notions like topic and comment are not primitives as such, but that it is more primitive features of perspectivation which determine the choice of constituents to act as sentence topics.


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