A Minimalist Account of Scrambling and Word Order in Tagalog Testing its Grammaticality

Maria Khristina S. Manueli


Tagalog, a free word order language, is typologized as a VSO language. Debates whether Tagalog follows an ABS-ERG or NOM-ACC pattern still hold. In the advent of the Minimalist Program (MP), Tagalog’s non-canonical word order will be discussed based on the following assumptions: that Tagalog’s free word order is an instance of A-bar movement scrambling; that the said movement is not caused by morphology or syntax; that the movement is optional and (following Aldridge, 2004) for antipassives, is a TP-fronting; and that only adjuncts such as PPs and DP[abs] can be moved in the initial position (or topicalized). The paper will discuss in brief the basic word order of Tagalog following an ergative analysis as done by Aldridge (2004) among others, although the said approach is not being advocated as the best analysis. This is to establish the analysis on scrambling in Tagalog. The data is based on informant work. Informants were asked to judge scrambled sentences through a grammaticality judgment test. Based on the data and results collected, it was found that sentences judged as the most grammatical follow the [V-DP[agent]-DPx] pattern, whether the DP[agent] is an absolutive or ergative. This verifies the basic or canonical word order of Tagalog. Sentences judged less grammatical show ambiguity in its LF interpretation, while others need the morpheme ay to fix its ambiguity. Thus, in support of the assumptions claimed, scrambling in Tagalog is an optional movement.


word order, tagalog

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