The relative order of prepositional phrases in English:
Going beyond Manner–Place–Time
John A. Hawkins a1 a1 University of Southern California
This article argues against Manner–Place–Time
and other proposed grammatical principles of ordering for
prepositional phrases (PPs) in postverbal position in English.
Instead, greater empirical adequacy can be achieved by
a theory of processing efficiency that defines a preference
for minimal domains in the recognition of syntactic phrase
structure and in the processing of lexical–semantic
dependencies between verbs and prepositions. Some new entailment
tests are proposed on the basis of which these dependencies
can be defined. The data come from 500 pages of written
English. For 300 pages, an additional analysis is given
in terms of structural ambiguity avoidance and pragmatic
information status. Syntactic complexity is the biggest
single predictor of PP sequences, whereas lexical–semantic
factors predominate when syntactic preferences are weak.
Manner–Place–Time is not the correct semantic
generalization, however. Ambiguity avoidance had no clear
impact on these orderings. Pragmatic effects were not visible
when syntactic weight made no predictions and were correlated
with weight when it did but were less strongly supported.