When thinking about word order, we can (among many different things) also think about phrases like “big hot breakfast” and “hot big breakfast” and ask ourselves why one sounds much more natural than the other. Chances are that not only English speakers will get that feeling, but that translating the two phrases into your own individual languages will lead to similar results. We can approach this observation from many different angles – in this course we will approach it from the cartographic perspective.
Cartography is a research program that has emerged within generative grammar in the nineties and that focuses on exploring and drawing “maps as precise and detailed as possible of syntactic configurations” (Cinque & Rizzi 2008: 42). Stemming from the observation that in many syntactic configurations (e.g., a noun phrase) we can observe a hierarchical structure with lexical material (a noun) at the bottom and a functional structure on top (in the case of a noun phrase this would include a determiner, numeral… and even adjectives), much of the work within the approach is intended to explore the hierarchy of the projections that host functional material. Here the strongest position is that languages universally have the same number, types and relative order of functional projections, but that languages might also seem different because not all languages only have phonologically overt functional material and because of
movement of this material. Nonetheless, the initial questions that need to be addressed are (i) how many and (ii) what kind of functional projections we can find, but also (iii) what are their properties and (iv) what is the source of the hierarchy of functional projections. To answer these questions, much of the cartographic work focuses on comparing data from different languages and varieties, concentrating primarily on the relative word (or morpheme) order of functional material.
In this course we will consider the motivation for the cartographic program and use existing studies to learn about the methodology used in cartographic work and some major insights that cartography has gained. We will also consider the interactions between cartography and other projects and frameworks that have emerged within generative grammar and discuss some criticism that the approach faces.
Cinque, Guglielmo and Luigi Rizzi. 2008. The cartography of syntactic structures. Studies in Linguistics 2, 43–95. http://www.ciscl.unisi.it/doc/doc_pub/STiL-2008-vol2.pdf#page=43