Directionality in word-order change in Austronesian languages

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This chapter proposes a diachronic account of VOS and SVO word-order variation in Austronesian languages. I argue that the ‘S’ argument in VOS languages is a topic which moves to an A'-position in the left periphery of the clause. Movement of the topic is followed by fronting of the remnant TP to a higher position in the CP layer. The change to SVO word order results from the loss of TP fronting. Subsequent to this, the clause-initial topic is reanalyzed as an A-position subject. I show that the ‘S’ arguments in SVO Austronesian languages have characteristics of both A-position subjects and A'-position topics, providing evidence for the direction of change from topic to subject.


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