Vol. 7 No. 21 (2023): A broader perspective on "basic" word order: ditransitives in Middle Low German

Hannah Booth & Tianyi Zhao. The notion of “basic” word order, and in particular how to identify it, has been much discussed in the typological literature (e.g. Hawkins 1983, Dryer 1995, Croft 2003, Song 2010), but remains a contentious issue within and across syntactic theories. In this paper, we explore this tension via acase study of object order in ditransitive constructions in Middle Low German (c. 1200–1650). We show that the evidence on which previous claims of Accusative>Dative as the “basic” order have been made is in fact a product of crosslinguistically common mapping relations between case, thematic roles, animacy and definiteness, and as such should not be used as evidence for/against purely syntactic principles. We also show that standard typological criteria in fact point towards Dative>Accusative being more “basic”.Overall, our findings showcase the opportunities which a modular approach to grammar such as Lexical Functional Grammar (e.g. Bresnan, Asudeh, Toivonen & Wechsler 2016) can offer on matters of word order.
Published: 2023-11-13