Gert-Jan Schoenmakers will defend his thesis on Thursday 17 March

15 March 2022
Cover Gert Jan
On Thursday 17 March 2022, at 10.30 (CET), Gert-Jan Schoenmakers will defend his thesis entitled ‘Definite objects in the wild: A converging evidence approach to scrambling in the Dutch middle-field’. Due to the restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, and the corresponding limitations regarding number of guests allowed in the Academiezaal, the event will be accessible via live-stream. As with all defenses, it is a public event and everybody is welcome to join online.

Link to live-stream

Dutch allows definite direct objects to appear on the right or left side of adverbs, without a clear effect on the meaning of the sentence: Jan heeft de auto waarschijnlijk gewassen and Jan heeft waarschijnlijk de auto gewassen are both acceptable sentences that mean “Jan probably washed the car”. The theoretical linguistic literature claims that this type of word order variation, called scrambling, is motivated by discourse conditions. Direct objects must appear on the left side of an adverb if they express information that has already been given in the discourse, and on the right side of the adverb if they express new information.

This dissertation demonstrates on the basis of experimental data that the variation is not as categorical as assumed in most literature: Dutch scrambling may be influenced, but is not determined, by the discourse packaging conditions. Further, the type of adverb plays a crucial role in the placement preferences of definite direct objects. These facts would not have come to light without an experimental approach, based purely on the intuitions of researchers.

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