The Spray/Load and Dative Alternations: Aligning VP Structure and Contextual Effects.
The theoretical and experimental work presented in this thesis investigates the spray/load and dative alternations. The purpose is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the alternations in terms of their syntactic structures and to account for how contextual information drives differences in the linear order of their VP arguments. This analysis shows that the syntactic structures of the spray/load and dative alternations are identical; each variant in an alternation is characterised by one of two available structures proposed in Janke and Neeleman (2012). Each structure is shown to respect a novel thematic hierarchy that is based on the value of binary feature clusters (Reinhart, 2000) rather than by direct reference to semantic labels. The choice of a particular structure is demonstrated to be affected by the non-semantic context in which the spray/load or dative sentence is generated. This is a consequence of the limited processing capacity of Working Memory and the allocation of attentional resources to a stimulus. Experimental data from an as yet untested variable of the visual context – the egocentric perception of distance – is found to interact with word order preferences of the alternations. I conclude that non-semantic contextual information interacts with the encoding of an event which ultimately has consequences for syntactic choices