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On the Offensive

By Karen Stollznow

On the Offensive " This book sheds light on the derogatory phrases, insults, slurs, stereotypes, tropes and more that make up linguistic discrimination. Each chapter addresses a different area of prejudice: race and ethnicity; gender identity; sexuality; religion; health and disability; physical appearance; and age."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Basque Word Order and Disorder: Principles, Variation, and Prospects Add Dissertation
Author: Jon Aske Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of California, Berkeley, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1997
Linguistic Subfield(s): Syntax;
Subject Language(s): Basque
Director(s): Charles Fillmore
William Jacobsen Jr.
Dan Slobin
Karl Zimmer

Abstract: Basque has been classified as a subject-object-verb language, with great freedom to rearrange its 'basic' order according to 'stylistic' considerations. I argue that Basque word order--and that of most other languages--should not be classified in terms of grammatical relations but, rather, in terms of the pragmatic relations topic and focus. Explaining constituent order, in this view, consists of ascertaining the conditions under which different elements of the clause are chosen to fill these roles and the different ways in which these roles are formally realized, and under which conditions, in different types of asserted clauses. A major coding device for these pragmatic relations is word order.

Basque, like all so-called object-verb (OV) languages, makes use primarily of preverbal position for focus elements, whereas so-called verb-object (VO) languages use postverbal position as their primary focus position, in addition to preverbal position for very salient foci. In addition, Basque, like all VO and most OV languages, makes use of an extraposed 'position', namely a position at the end of the clause or after the clause proper, intonationally clefted from the rest of the clause. The increasingly liberal use made of this latter focusing option by many speakers suggests that perhaps it is becoming relatively unmarked. I believe that this may be leading to a reanalysis of the extraposed position as postverbal for some speakers. This might explain the historical change from OV to VO as consisting of the acquisition of a new focus position, with the concomitant specialization of the positions. The opposite change from VO to OV order, on the other hand, would involve the loss of the postverbal focus position, a change which is quite rare in language.

If Basque is changing, as the amount of variation in focusing strategies found among speakers uncovered in this study suggests, it may be that intense contact with VO Romance languages is involved in this change. The change does not involve mere borrowing of foreign patterns, such as the borrowing of a postverbal focus position, but rather seems to proceed through 'convergence' of already existing constructions with those of the source language and reanalysis of the reinterpreted native constructions.