Word Order and Incremental Update

In Proceedings from CLS 39-1. CLS (2003)
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The central claim of this paper is that surface-faithful word-by-word update is feasible and desirable, even in languages where word order is supposedly free. As a first step, in sections 1 and 2, I review an argument from Bittner 2001a that semantic composition is not a static process, as in PTQ, but rather a species of anaphoric bridging. But in that case the context-setting role of word order should extend from cross-sentential discourse anaphora to sentence-internal anaphoric composition. This can be spelled out as a two-part hypothesis. First, in all languages anaphoric composition derives incremental updates based on the topological order rather than the syntactic hierarchy. And secondly, rigid vs. free word order is simply rigid vs. free mapping from syntax to topology. To formalize this hypothesis, I first present, in section 3, Sevensorted Logic of Change with Centering. This makes it possible, in section 4, to articulate a system of constraints on basic meanings in Kalaallisut — a polysynthetic language with free word order, ideally suited to test the hypothesis of incremental update. The key assumptions about topology as the input to anaphoric composition are spelled out in section 5, which concludes the development of a general formal framework. This formal framework then serves, in sections 6 through 8, t o explicate topologically based incremental updates for increasingly more complex samples of an actual Kalaallisut text. This reveals ubiquitous patterns of prominence-guided anaphora, in all semantic domains, t o increasingly more complex types of discourse referents. These anaphoric patterns show that the context-setting role of word order indeed does extend from discourse to word-to-word anaphora. And this, in turn, strongly supports the hypothesis of topologically based anaphoric composition. Finally, in section 9 I adduce evidence from English that this hypothesis also holds for languages with rigid word order, albeit the fixed mapping keeps the topology close to the syntax. I conclude that both free and rigid word orders receive a natural account if semantic composition is viewed as topologically based anaphoric bridging..
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