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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 2017, Vol. 48, No. 3, Pages 427-457
(doi: 10.1162/ling_a_00249)
© 2017 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Canonical Order of Russian Objects
Article PDF (169.68 KB)
Abstract

According to the principles of economy, scrambled orders require an interpretive license. Removal of such a license should result in canonical orders, that is, orders I hypothesize to be determined by a thematic hierarchy. It is traditionally assumed that the interpretive license for scrambling is provided by information-structural interpretations such as focus and background. However, either direct object–indirect object or indirect object–direct object order is possible in Russian all-focus constructions, complicating the choice of order analyzed as canonical. I argue that Russian scrambling can be licensed by a variety of interpretations, focus/background encoding being but one of them. When the construal of objects is neutralized on the basis of all of the relevant interpretations, the direct object–indirect object order surfaces, strongly suggesting that this is the canonical order of Russian objects.