Colloquium: Slavic Clitic Systems and Word Order Typology

November 4, 3:30-5pm, Cobb 201
Anton Zimmerling, Moscow State University for Humanities

The talk discusses interactions of clitic typology and word order typology, with focus on the Slavic languages. Slavic word order systems with clitics will be compared with typologically similar systems attested in other areas. The general aim is to classify Slavic word order systems with clitics on the basis of syntactic constraints without sticking to hypotheses about language-specific properties of prosodically deficient elements and to provide a viable typological classification, which can be verified by data from other world’s languages.

A salient characteristics of South Slavic, West Slavic and Old East Slavic languages are constraints on the placement of the so called clusterizing clitics. Clusterizing clitics make up strings arranged in a rigid order according to a principle called Clitic Template, the permutations are excluded as ungrammatical. Cf. Old Russian Čto=ti=s’a=jesm’=byl otstupil bratu svoemu ‘That you indeed had given up these in favour of your brother’. In Slavic languages, only clause-level clitics have clusterizing properties. Slavic clusterizing clause-level clitics are represented by the following categories of elements: 1) short forms of argument and reflexive pronouns 2) auxiliaries 3) particles. Strings of clusterizing clitics have a fixed position in Slavic main and subordinate clauses and tend to take clausal-second position (2P).

There is an important research line basing on the hypothesis that prosodically deficient elements, proclitics and enclitics, are also syntactically deficient and constitute a natural class definable in UG (Zwicky 1977). Recent studies of the syntax-prosody interface show a gradual increase of the emphasis made on the prosodic component at the expense of syntax. However, some constraints on the placement of clitics directly or indirectly entail constraints on the placement on non-clitic sentence categories. If constraints of the latter type are straightforwardly explained as an outcome of the allegedly purely prosodic or merely morphological ordering of clitics, there is a risk to overlook syntactic mechanisms of linearization.

I am arguing that most Slavic languages lack grammaticalized constraints on the placement of (non-clitic) verbal forms in sentences with the basic word order, but such constraints tend to arise in sentences with derived word order, producing non-initial sequences [Verb - Clitic] and [Clitic – Verb] in main clause declaratives.