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Colloquium with Adrian Stegovec of UConn

Title:  "Short scrambling as smuggling: The argument from Slovenian ditransitives"


Languages differ in how they realize ditransitive clauses: some, like English, have more than one option: a double object construction or a prepositional dative construction, others, like Japanese, Korean and most Slavic languages, only seem to allow the double object construction. In addition, languages of the latter type often allow a seemingly free alternation with respect to the order of the two objects. In the past, this free object order alternation was analyzed either as: optional movement of one object over the other (the scrambling analysis), or two distinct underlying ditransitive constructions (the dual base analysis). In this talk I will argue for a third type of analysis: one object moves over the other smuggled inside the VP (cf. Collins 2005a,b).


I will use Slovenian (Slavic) as the main case study, and show that neither the scrambling analysis nor the dual base analysis are fully satisfactory. The former faces problems with contexts where object order is restricted (causative and benefactive readings, verb sensitivity, and idiomatic readings), while the latter faces issues with explaining quantifier scope asymmetries while also introducing a lot of redundancy into the analysis that is not reflected in the cross-linguistically attested ditransitive case patterns. The proposed solution builds on the approach to projection of Chomsky (2013, 2015). The key is that when second object merges with a VP, it creates an ambiguous labeling scenario ({NP,VP}), which I argue has two equivalent resolutions: (i) movement of the VP with the first object inside (Kayne 2005; Collins 2021), or (ii) movement of the second object. This crucially derives both free object order in the general case and the restrictions on object order in select contexts, as due to the specifics of the VP-movement analysis it is possible for selectional restrictions to filter out either derivation (i) or (ii). Time permitting, I will show that the proposed analysis can be extended to the English dative alternation and Romance ditransitives, specifically the issue of “disguised” double object constructions: ditransitive constructions that look like prepositional dative constructions on the surface, but syntactically and semantically pattern with double object constructions.