The effect of givenness and referring expression on dative alternation in Norwegian: A reaction time study

This study investigates how givenness and pronominality affect the dative alternation in Norwegian. Previous studies have found givenness to influence the Double Object Dative (DOD) but not the Prepositional Dative (PD). Thirty-one Norwegian native speakers completed a speeded acceptability judgment task, in which given objects were expressed by definite DPs or pronouns, and either preceded or followed the new referent. DODs were found to be highly sensitive to givenness. Surprisingly, PDs also showed contextual dependency. Referring expressions affected the two structures differently: reaction times were faster with pronouns in DODs and slower in PDs. This suggests that the alternates have different processing biases, with the former preferring pronouns and the latter DPs. The results are further considered in relation to the notion of harmonic alignment, as PDs, in which the typically animate recipient is always the second object, and will thus consistently represent a suboptimal and non-harmonious order when givenness is adhered to.