Prosodic Movement in Slavic

Olga Arnaudova, University of Ottawa

In this paper I examine some cases of prosodic movement (in the sense of Zubizarreta 1998) in Slavic, on the basis of Russian and Bulgarian. Prosodic movement is a local leftward movement, which allows for the neutral intonation to reselect the proper focus of the sentence. It applies after a syntactically determined Nuclear Stress Rule (first defined in Chomsky and Halle 1968, later definitions given in Cinque 1993, Zubizarreta 1998), in conjunction with a principle of Focus-Prosody Correspondence has selected the focus structure of the sentence. There are instances when stress, assigned by the Nuclear Stress Rule contradicts focus assignment related to discourse and, as a result, two nodes in the tree are assigned prominence, which triggers the movement.

One variety of prosodic movement is found in OVS/VOS structures, shown for Russian in (1) and (2), and derived from a VSO order. The object moves out of the domain of focus and, as a result, the subject receives narrow focus.

Inna bought a/the dress.

The fact that the object is c-commanding the subject in (1) and (2), and not vice versa, can be determined by binding evidence (WCO effects), shown in the contrast between (3) and (4). This provides evidence that the subject is not right-adjoined, as previously argued (King 1994 a.o.). I propose a leftward adjunction of the object to vP for (2), or, to a higher projection (TP) in (1). In both cases, the subject remains in situ (Spec vP), where it checks its features and receives nuclear stress.

(3)Ètu knigu podarila [každomu rebenku]i ego i mat′.
This book gave each child-DAT his mother
(4)Ètu knigu podarila ego (* i ) mat′ [každomu rebenku] i.
This book gave his mother each child-DAT

Constructions with dative and accusative objects constitute another variety of prosodic movement. On the basis of binding evidence, I examine the order of complements inside the VP to determine which one is base-generated and which one is derived from prosodic movement. The proposal is that in both Russian and Bulgarian 1) the element that benefits from this process always receives narrow focus, e.g. the other elements in the sentence cannot constitute a focus domain by focus spreading, and 2) prosodic movement creates new binding possibilities.


Cinque. 1993. “A Null Theory of Phrase and Compound Stress.” Linguistic Inquiry 24:239–298.

Chomsky, N. and M. Halle. 1968. The Sound Pattern of English. New York: Harper and Row.

King, T. H. 1994. Configuring Topic and Focus in Russian. PhD. Diss., Stanford University.

Zubizarreta M.L. 1998. Prosody, Focus and Word Order. MIT Press.