2016_09_02_03 - XLinguae

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Subject salience in SOV and SVO word orders as a result of agent animacy
Manouchehr Kouhestani – Arsalan Golfam – Ferdows Aghagolzadeh – Aliyeh Kord-e Zafaranlu Kambuziya

DOI: 10.18355/XL.2016.09.02.37-46

The present paper presents a cognitive account of how animacy leads to the initial positioning of the subject (subject salience) in SOV and SVO word orders. Subject salience has been paid attention to in the literature from a semantic and functional viewpoint. In this paper, we argue that clauses with SOV and SVO word orders are diagrammatic icons in that they reflect how the prototypical transitive action scenario is conceptualized by the human mind. In such a scenario, the agent receives the most attention from the human viewer and is conceptualized more saliently than the other elements of the scenario. As a result, the linguistic counterpart of the agent, i.e. the subject is mentioned before the object and the verb to show its salient position. The reason for the more attention paid to the agent, we believe, is that in a prototypical transitive action scenario, the agent is animate and as research shows, animacy is evolutionarily of great importance to the human species.

Key Words
Subject Salience, SVO word order, SOV word Order, Attention, Animacy

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