Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 581–634 | Cite as

Locality and variation in Finnish structural case

Article

Abstract

Finnish has both nominative and genitive objects. The two cases are normally in a complementary distribution based on the local syntactic context (Jahnsson’s Rule). The pattern breaks down in nonfinite clauses where the conditioning is non-local and the cases may occur in free variation. This puzzling pattern can be understood if we make the following assumptions: (i) structural case distinguishes the external argument from other arguments; (ii) structural case assignment is cyclic. In our optimality-theoretic analysis the choice of case is determined by the interaction of markedness constraints that apply cyclically and faithfulness constraints that protect case assigned on prior cycles. Non-locality arises because faithfulness is violable; free variation arises because constraint conflicts can be resolved in multiple ways. In addition to categorical well-formedness contrasts the analysis predicts degrees of well-formedness in cases of free variation.

Keywords

Case Locality Cyclicity Variation Intermediate well-formedness Optimality Theory 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper has benefited from presentations at the 12th Korea-Japan Workshop on Linguistics and Language Processing (Seoul, March 24, 2012), the Stanford Syntax and Morphology Circle (March 14, 2013), the Berkeley Syntax and Semantics Circle (April 10, 2013), the Structure of Finnish seminar at Stanford University (Winter Quarter 2014), the Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon (January 8, 2015), and the Workshop on the Formal Structure of OT Typologies, Rutgers University (May 29, 2015). We thank Mark Baker, Pauli Brattico, Joan Bresnan, Alex Djalali, Vivienne Fong, Vera Gribanova, Jane Grimshaw, Boris Harizanov, Heidi Harley, Tarja Heinonen, Cameron Jeffers, Peter Jenks, Elsi Kaiser, Lauri Karttunen, Paul Kiparsky, Victor Kuperman, Joan Maling, Line Mikkelsen, Ethan Poole, Alan Prince, Shigeo Tonoike, Anne Vainikka, Maria Vilkuna, the editors of NLLT, and three anonymous reviewers whose extremely helpful comments improved the paper significantly in both content and presentation. We are responsible for any errors. The first author gratefully acknowledges the financial support of Kyung Hee University during his term as an International Scholar (April 2011–March 2012). If not otherwise stated, the well-formedness judgments are those of the first author. We dedicate this paper to the memory of Osmo Ikola (1918–2016), a pioneer in Finnish syntax, whose work was an inspiration for us.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.School of EnglishKyung Hee UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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