ERIC Number: ED184372
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1977-Feb
Reference Count: 0
Definiteness, Animacy, and NP Ordering.
Ransom, Evelyn N.
The constraints in English on the definiteness, specificity, humaness and animacy of noun phrases (NP's) undergoing passive and dative movement are examined. Evidence presented shows that these constraints occur in other languages in marked and unmarked constructions as absolute constraints on acceptability or as tendencies. This suggests a universal tencency in NP ordering. The Definiteness-Specificity Hierarchy (DSH) reflects the degree of referential information present in the noun phrase and constrains the advancement of the dative. If the advanced NP's are indefinite and the demoted NP is indefinite, the resulting sentence is acceptable. If the demoted NP is definite, it is less acceptable. The Humaness-Animacy Hierarchy (HAH) constrains passive movement. When the advanced NP's are non-human animate, the demoted NP must be also in order for the sentence to be acceptable. These hierarchies interact in a counterbalance in the Empathy Hierarchy. This reflects a tendency to give prominence to that with which the speaker empathizes. Since it is easier to empathize with whatever one has more referential information about and with humans more than animals, there is a tendency for NP's higher on the hierarchies to be given prominence over those lower. (PMJ)
Descriptors: Classification, Deep Structure, Grammar, Language Universals, Nouns, Sentence Structure, Structural Analysis (Linguistics), Syntax, Word Order
Berkeley Linguistics Society, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 ($8.20 for Entire Proceedings)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Constraints; Passives; Relational Grammar
Note: Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (3rd, Berkeley, CA, February 19-21, 1977).