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Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage$
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Brian MacWhinney, Andrej Malchukov, and Edith Moravcsik

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198709848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198709848.001.0001

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Animate object fronting in Dutch: A production study

Animate object fronting in Dutch: A production study

(p.42) 3 Animate object fronting in Dutch: A production study
Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage

Monique J. A. Lamers

Helen de Hoop

Oxford University Press

In Dutch, there is a preference for starting a sentence with an animate noun phrase. At the same time, as in many other languages, there is a strong tendency to start a sentence with the grammatical subject. These two tendencies coincide when the subject is animate, as is usually the case. If, however, the subject is inanimate while the object is animate, they compete, with the latter tendency being stronger than the first one. In this chapter, a sentence production study is presented with two classes of psych verbs which require their object to be animate. It is found that object fronting is relatively frequent for unaccusative psych verbs, but not for causative psych verbs. It is argued that this pattern results from the grammatical differences between the verbs (i.e. the possibility of passivization), which in turn provide the speaker with the possibility to satisfy word order preferences.

Keywords:   animacy, object fronting, psych verbs, unaccusative psych verbs, causative psych verbs, passivization, Optimality Theory

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