In generative grammar, non-configurational languages are languages in which there is no verb phrase constituent (VP below). In configurational languages, the subject of a sentence is outside the VP (directly under S below) and the object is inside; in non-configurational languages, since there is no VP constituent, there is no structural difference between subject and object.
More generally, it has been proposed that non-configurational languages have the following characteristics:
- free (or more accurately, pragmatically determined) word order
- null anaphora
- syntactically discontinuous expressions
However, it is not clear that these properties all cluster together.
The analysis of non-configurational languages has been very controversial in theoretical syntax. On the one hand, much recent work on these languages in Principles and Parameters has attempted to show that they are in fact configurational. On the other hand, it has been argued in Lexical Functional Grammar that these attempts are flawed, and that truly non-configurational languages exist. From the perspective of syntactic theory, the existence of non-configurational languages bears on the question of whether grammatical functions like subject and object are independent of structure. If they are not, no language can be truly non-configurational.
W-type languages have the following (Jelinek 1984):
- predicate-AUX complex that constitutes a finite sentence
- optional, non-argumental NPs
- split case-marking (on clitics and NPs)
- independent pronouns used for contrastive emphasis
- zero 3rd person marking
- adjoined clauses with two interpretations:
- temporal reading
- relative reading
- Non-configurational language (Lexicon of Linguistics)
- Configurational language (Lexicon of Linguistics)
- Scrambling (Lexicon of Linguistics)
- Cartoon Theories of Linguistics: Non-Configurational Languages A simplification of the basic idea of non-configurational languages into a cartoon.
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