Fronted NPs in a verb-initial language – clause-internal or external? Prosodic cues to the rescue!


This paper investigates prosodic features of fronted constituents in the verb-initial Oceanic language Gela (spoken by about 16.000 people in Solomon Islands). Although Gela’s basic constituent order is verb-(object-)subject/predicate-subject, constituents can appear in front of the verbal predicate. Fronted constituents in Gela can be interpreted as pre-clausal (i.e. external to the following clause, immediately preceding it) or clause-initial (i.e. clause-internal, at the very beginning of the clause), each of which can be associated with certain information structure categories of topics and focus. This paper discusses how prosody provides clues towards the interpretation of fronted constituents as pre-clausal or clause-initial, based on a quantitative study of their prosodic correlates. We argue for using prosodic criteria established on clear examples to help analyse ambiguous cases. The results are compatible with an approach that recognises the importance of prosody in syntactic analysis and contribute data from a little known language to the discussion to what degree prosodic and syntactic phrasing are aligned.

This article is part of the special collection: Prosody and Constituent Structure


prosody, information structure, word order, Oceanic languages, prosodic phrasing, syntactic phrasing

How to Cite

Simard, C. & Wegener, C., (2017) “Fronted NPs in a verb-initial language – clause-internal or external? Prosodic cues to the rescue!”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1), p.51. doi:







Candide Simard (SOAS, University of London, Russell Sq., London WC1H 0XG)
Claudia Wegener (University of Cologne, 50923 Köln)



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