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Cognitive Principles and Preverbal Position in Chinese

Anna Morbiato    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia; The University of Sydney, Australia ORCID iD    



In Chinese, word order is a powerful linguistic device indicating relations between constituents, on a semantic, syntactic and pragmatic level, and has been the focus of linguistic inquiry over the past decades. Particular attention has been given to the preverbal position, with heated debate on the notion of topic and other pragmatic-related phenomena. This study is a first step towards a better understanding of the order of preverbal NPs and verb modifiers, analyzing them in light of relevant cognition-based word order principles investigated within the cognitive-functional approach. Particular attention is given to the notion of ‘scope’, which pertains both to the discourse and the cognitive level (‘topic scope’ vs. ‘temporal, spatial and semantic scope’), and which seems to better explain the order and the pragmatic role of preverbal NPs. On this basis, this paper suggests a research path towards a deeper cognitive-functional comprehension of the preverbal position that takes into account the interplay of different word order related factors.