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Clitic Order in Hittite

Brian Agbayani & Chris Golston

The ordering of second-position clitics in Hittite (Hoffner & Melchert 2008: 410) has yet to be explained:

Clitic Order in Hittite Brian Agbayani & Chris Golston The ordering of second-position clitics in Hittite

Especially problematic are slots 2-4, which house the pronominal clitics. Syntax cannot order these slots correctly because they contain heterogeneous syntactic classes:




dat/acc 1pl

nom 3sg

dat/acc 1sg

dat/acc 2pl

nom 3pl

dat/acc 2sg

dat 3pl

acc 3sg

dat 3sg

acc 3pl

Thus, the featural composition of slots 2-4 cannot predict their left-right order: dat and acc occur both before and after nom; 1 st and 2 nd person occur in two slots and 3 rd occurs in all; plurals occur in slots 2 and 3, singulars in 3 and 4. Thus if the subject-object order of -aš-mu below makes sense syntactically,






‘And she said “He died on me”.’ (DS fr. 28Aiv5)

the reverse object-subject order -nnaš-aš below (from Craig Melchert p.c.) does not:



karuu GIM-an ARAD-DUM


kulawnieš e[ešta]


and us


earlier as


‘And as he was earlier a k. servant to us


(KUB 19.55+ Vo 43-44; Milwata Letterr)

Agbayani & Golston


The clitics in slots 2-4 do, however, fall into coherent prosodic groups: clitics in slot 2 have onsets and codas, those in 3 have no onsets, those in 4 have no codas. We use this fact to make sense of the clitic ordering in phonological terms. Specifically, the consonant-final clitics in slot 2 provide onsets for the vowel-initial clitcs in slot 3, […nna.sas] rather than *[…as.nnas]. Similarly, ordering the vowel-initial clitics in 3 before the vowel-final clitcs in 4 […as.mu] avoids the hiatus that would result from the opposite order *[…mu.as]. Thus the phonological constraint ONSET (Prince & Smolensky 1993) explains both why slot 2 clitics precede slot 3 clitics and why slot 4 clitics follow them. Clitic conjunctions (in the ‘Host’ slot) are taken to be in situ (Agbayani & Golston 2010); we also propose this for quotative –wa(r), both occupying head-positions in the syntax. For clitic conjunctions, this is a conjunctive head which takes the second conjunct clause as its complement; for the quotative clitic, we propose that it is the highest functional head in the clause, marking its complement as quoted material. The late placement of the reflexive (slot 5) and verb-particles (slot 6) suggest that they are in fixed syntactic positions lower than the pronominal group (slots 2-4). We treat the reflexive za and the verb particles as syntactic heads immediately dominating the verb’s projection.

References Agbayani, Brian and Chris Golston. 2010. Second-position is first-position: Wackernagel’s Law and the role of clausal conjunction. Indogermanische Forschungen 115, 1-21. Hoffner, Harry A., Jr. and H. Craig Melchert. 2008. A Grammar of the Hittite Language. Part 1:

Reference Grammar. Languages of the Ancient Near East; 1.

Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Prince, Alan and Paul Smolensky. 1993. Optimality Theory: Constraint interaction in generative

grammar. Ms., Rutgers University and University of Colorado at Boulder.