The syntax of OVS word order in Hixkaryana

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In this paper I propose and motivate a novel syntactic analysis of Hixkaryana, a Carib language spoken in the Amazon in Brazil (Derbyshire 1977, 1979, 1985, i.a.). Hixkaryana displays basic/unmarked Object Verb Subject (OVS) word order, which is found in very few languages of the world (Dryer 2008). I argue that the syntax of Hixkaryana involves (i) head-finality in the A domain, but head-initiality in the A′ domain, and (ii) raising of vP into the A′ domain. My analysis accounts for a constellation of properties in Hixkaryana, including the surface order of constituents (OVS), surface constituency (the object and verb form a constituent that excludes the subject), agreement (prefixal portmanteau morphology marking the person of both the subject and the object), and the position of clause-level particles (which are in syntactic second position except for invariantly post-verbal ha).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1104
Number of pages16
JournalNatural Language and Linguistic Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 11 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Agreement
  • Carib
  • OVS word order
  • Syntactic theory


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