Object shift in Romance

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20 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses the properties of VOS sentences in Romance and their bearing on Case assignment, verb movement, parametric variation, and the structure of the vP periphery / low IP area. The literature on Romance VOS has argued that this order is derived either through object shift (Ordóñez 1997, 1998, 2000) or VP fronting (Belletti 2001, 2004; Zubizarreta 1998), providing empirical evidence in support of both derivations. In this paper, I focus on various aspects of VOS sentences in Romance languages. First, I argue that both object shift and VP-fronting strategies are actually available, but subject to a very specific parametric cut: Western Romance languages (Galician, European Portuguese, and Spanish) resort to object shift, whereas Central-Eastern varieties (Catalan and Italian) fail to do so, requiring the VP-fronting derivation instead (López 2009a). Second, I put forward a previously unnoticed generalization that reveals that only those varieties licensing object shift based VOS can generate VSO sentences, which I refer to as the VOS-VSO Generalization. Finally, I claim that object shift in VOS sentences of Western Romance languages displays a cluster of unnoticed properties that pattern with Scandinavian-style object shift (Bobaljik and Jonas 1996; Bobaljik and Thráinsson 1998; Collins and Thráinsson 1996; Holmberg 1986, 1999; Vikner 2006), thus obeying Holmberg's Generalization (Holmberg 1986, 1999). If on track, the present account not only reveals interesting syntactic similarities between Scandinavian and Romance object shift, but also reinforces a well-known micro-parameter that disentangles Western from Central-Eastern Romance languages. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-451
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


  • Holmberg's Generalization
  • Minimality
  • Object shift
  • Parametric variation
  • Romance
  • VP fronting
  • Verb movement


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