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Is Finnish topic prominent?

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  • Pauli Juhani Brattico

Finnish finite clause exhibits topic prominence in the sense that the preverbal subject position is occupied by the topic (for example, by the direct object topic), not necessarily by the grammatical subject. Three currently unexplained facts concerning the Finnish free word order phenomenon and topicalization are noted in this paper: subject-verb agreement interacts with word order; the preverbal "topic" position is not reserved exclusively for topics; and noun phrase (DP) arguments are also able to dislocate to the right edge of a (potentially very long) finite clause. A generalized morphosyntactic agreement mechanism that requires the presence of nominal phi-features inside the highest finite projection of a clause is posited to explain the link between agreement and word order. The problem with topicality is accounted for by assuming that the topic-focus mechanism operates outside of narrow syntax. Free word order and non-configurationality are argued to result from argument adjunction, not from movement. Finally, it is concluded that the Finnish EPP is connected neither to morphosyntax nor to discourse.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Linguistica Hungarica
Pages (from-to)299-330
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016

    Research areas

  • Agreement, Configurationality, EPP, Finnish, Information structure, Topic

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