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Encyclopedia > Word order
Linguistic typology
Morphological
Analytic
Isolating
Synthetic
Fusional
Agglutinative
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Alignment
Accusative
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Theta role
Word Order
VO languages
Subject Verb Object
Verb Subject Object
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OV languages
Subject Object Verb
Object Subject Verb
Object Verb Subject
Time Manner Place
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In linguistic typology, word order, or more precisely constituent order refers to the permitted combinations of words or larger constituents. The basic word order of a given language is of particular interest, since several other properties of a language correlate with it, but it is not always easy to determine the basic word order. Linguistic typology is the typology that classifies languages by their features. ... Morphological typology was developed by brothers Friedrich and August von Schlegel. ... An analytic language is any language where syntax and meaning are shaped more by use of particles and word order than by inflection. ... An isolating language is any language where the vast majority of morphemes are free morphemes and are considered to be full-fledged words, rather than particles that are agglutinated. ... A synthetic language, in linguistic typology, is a language with a high morpheme-per-word ratio. ... A fusional language (also called inflecting language) is a type of synthetic language, distinguished from agglutinative languages by its tendency to squish together many morphemes in a way which can be difficult to segment. ... It has been suggested that Agglutination be merged into this article or section. ... Polysynthetic languages are highly synthetic languages, i. ... Oligosynthetic (from the Greek ολίγοι, meaning few) is a hypothetical designation for a language using an extremely small array of morphemes, perhaps numbering only in the hundreds, which combine synthetically to form statements. ... Morphology is a subdiscipline of linguistics that studies word structure. ... In linguistics, morphosyntactic alignment is the system used to distinguish between the arguments of transitive verbs and those of intransitive verbs. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... An ergative-absolutive language (or simply ergative) is one that treats the agent of transitive verbs distinctly from the subject of intransitive verbs and the object of transitive verbs. ... An active language is one where the only argument of an intransitive verb (that is, the subject) is marked sometimes in the same way as the subject of a transitive verb, and some other times in the same way as the direct object of a transitive verb. ... A tripartite language is one that marks the agent, experiencer, and patient verb arguments each in different ways. ... A direct-inverse language is a language where clauses with transitive verbs can be expressed either using a direct or an inverse construction. ... The syntactic pivot is the verb argument around which sentences revolve, in a given language. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Thematic role. ... In linguistics, a VO language is a language in which the verb typically comes before the object. ... In linguistic typology, subject-verb-object (SVO) is the sequence subject verb object in neutral expressions: Sam ate oranges. ... Verb Subject Object—commonly used in its abbreviated form VSO—is a term in linguistic typology. ... Verb Object Subject - commonly used in its abbreviated form VOS - is a term in Linguistic typology. ... In linguistics, an OV language is a language in which the object comes before the verb. ... In linguistic typology, Subject Object Verb (SOV) is the type of languages in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence appear (usually) in that order. ... Object Subject Verb (OSV) is one of the permutations of expression used in Linguistic typology. ... Object Verb Subject (OVS) or Object Verb Agent (OVA) is one of the permutations of expression used in linguistic typology. ... Time Manner Place is a term used in linguistic typology to state the general order of adpositional phrases in a languages sentences: yesterday by car to the store. It is common among SOV languages. ... Place Manner Time is a term used in linguistic typology to state the general order of adpositional phrases in a languages sentences: to the store by car yesterday. It would seem that it is common among SVO languages. ... Image File history File links Emblem-important. ... Linguistic typology is the typology that classifies languages by their features. ...


The basic word order of the English sentence is Subject-verb-object (SVO). The sentence She kisses him exemplifies that order, any other of the six logically possible combinations (SOV, VSO, VOS, OVS, OSV) is ruled out (barring very exceptional circumstances). In Japanese, this order would not be possible, the verb would have to take the final position. Other languages are more permissive. The Latin equivalent of the sentence above could be in any of the six possible orders without being ungrammatical.


Besides the order of subject, verb and object in the sentence, one can also analyze the order of elements in other constituents, like noun phrases. In English, the article precedes the noun in the noun phrase (the book), while in other languages it follows, e.g. Swedish. Again in English, the adjective precedes the noun (red book), while in languages like French, the inverse order is the norm.


Research on word order in the languages of the world was pioneered in 1963 by Joseph Greenberg with his seminal paper "Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements". Joseph Greenberg Joseph Harold Greenberg (May 28, 1915–May 7, 2001) was a prominent and controversial linguist, known for his work in both language classification and typology. ...

Contents

Finding the basic word order

It is not always easy to find the basic word order of S, O and V. First, not all languages make use of the categories of subject and object. It is difficult to determine the order of elements one cannot identify in the first place. If subject and object can be identified, the problem can arise that different orders prevail in different contexts. For instance, French has SVO for nouns, but SOV when pronouns are involved; German has verb-medial order in main clauses, but verb-final order in subordinate clauses. In other languages the word order of transitive and intransitive clauses may not correspond. Russian, for example, has SVO transitive clauses but free order (SV or VS) in intransitive clauses. In order to have a valid base for comparison, the basic word order is defined as A transitive verb is a verb that requires both a subject and one or more objects. ... In grammar, an intransitive verb is an action verb that takes no object. ...

  • declarative
  • main clause
  • A and O must both be nominal arguments
  • pragmatically neutral, i.e. no element has special emphasis

While the first two of these requirements are relatively easy to respect, the latter two are more difficult. In spoken language, there are hardly ever two full nouns in a clause, the norm is for the clause to have at most one noun, the other arguments being pronouns. In written language, this is somewhat different, but that is of no help when investigating oral languages. Finally, the notion of "pragmatically neutral" is difficult to test. While the English sentence The king, they killed has a heavy emphasis on king, in other languages, that order (OSV) might not carry a significantly higher emphasis than another order.


If all the requirements above are met, it still sometimes turns out that languages do not seem to prefer any particular word order. The last resort is text counts, but even then, some languages must be analyzed as having two (or even more) word orders.


Sentence word orders

These are all possible word orders for the subject, verb, and object in the order of most common to rarest:

  • SOV languages include the prototypical Japanese, Turkish, Korean, the Indo-Aryan languages and the Dravidian languages, as well as many others using this most common word order. Some, like Persian, have SOV normal word order but conform less to the general tendencies of other such languages.

Others, such as Latin and Finnish, have no fixed word order; rather, the sentence structure is flexible. (Nonetheless, there is often a preferred word order; in Latin, SOV is the most frequent outside of poetry, and in Finnish SVO is the most frequent. In linguistic typology, Subject Object Verb (SOV) is the type of languages in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence appear (usually) in that order. ... The Indo-Aryan languages form a subgroup of the Indo-Iranian languages, which belong to the Indo-European family of languages. ... For other uses, see Dravidian (disambiguation). ... Farsi redirects here. ... Verb-second (V2) word order, in syntax, is the effect that in some languages the second constituent of declarative main clauses is always a verb, while this is not necessarily the case in other types of clauses. ... In linguistic typology, subject-verb-object (SVO) is the sequence subject verb object in neutral expressions: Sam ate oranges. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... This article is about the language. ... Verb Subject Object—commonly used in its abbreviated form VSO—is a term in linguistic typology. ... Arabic redirects here. ... The Insular Celtic hypothesis concerns the origin of the Celtic languages. ... The Hawaiian language is an Austronesian language that takes its name from Hawaiʻi, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. ... Verb Object Subject - commonly used in its abbreviated form VOS - is a term in Linguistic typology. ... Object Subject Verb (OSV) is one of the permutations of expression used in Linguistic typology. ... The Xavante language is a Ge language spoken by the Xavante people in about 170 villages in the area surrounding Eastern Mato Grosso, Brazil. ... Object Verb Subject (OVS) or Object Verb Agent (OVA) is one of the permutations of expression used in linguistic typology. ... Hixkaryana is one of the Carib languages, spoken by just over 500 people on the Nhamundá river, a tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil. ... For other uses, see Latin (disambiguation). ...


Functions of sentence word order

Word order helps to identify the grammatical roles of the NPs in a clause. If we can identify the verb in a clause, and we know that the language is SOV, then we know that Joe hit Paul can only mean that Joe is the hitter and Paul the person hit. Languages with no fixed word order cannot use this device to identify the roles of the NPs. This is why they often (but not always) resort to other means, like case marking or verb agreement. Also see Head marking and Dependent marking.


Explanations of the frequency of the different orders

An overwhelming majority of languages have an order in which S precedes O. This has to do with the fact that topics typically precede comments, and that subjects norjmally refer to the acting persons, which often happen to be topic. The different positions of verb and subject develop as follows. Look up topic, topicality in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Look up comment in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


SOV and SVO orders are about equally common, with VSO lagging behind. This can also be explained by the topic-comment structure of human language. Topics are normally NPs, while comments are often verbs. Since the topic has a tendency to precede the comment, it is not surprising that at least one NP gravitates toward topic position, leaving the comment position to the verb.


Phrase word order

The order of constituents in a phrase can vary as much as the order of constituents in a clause. Normally, the noun phrase and the adpositional phrase are investigated. Within the noun phrase, one investigates whether the following modifiers occur before or after the head noun

  • adjective (red house vs house red)
  • determiner (the house vs house the)
  • numeral (two houses vs houses two)
  • possessor (my house vs house my)
  • relative clause (the by me built house vs the house built by me)

Within the adpositional clause, one investigates whether the languages makes use of prepositions (in London), postpositions (London in), or both (normally with different adpositions at both sides).


Phrase word orders and branching

There are several common correlations between sentence-level word order and phrase-level constituent order. For example, SOV languages generally put modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) before what they modify (nouns and verbs), and use postpositions. VSO languages tend to place modifiers after their heads, and use prepositions. For SVO languages, either order is common. In linguistics, branching is the general tendency towards a given order of words within sentences and smaller grammatical units within sentences (such as subordinate propositions, prepositional phrases, etc. ... The word modifier applies to either the adjective or the adverb in a sentence. ... In grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun (called the adjectives subject), giving more information about what the noun or pronoun refers to. ... Adverbs redirects here. ... A postposition is a type of adposition, a grammatical particle that expresses some sort of relationship between a noun phrase (its object) and another part of the sentence; an adpositional phrase functions as an adjective or adverb. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with adposition. ...


For example, French (SVO) uses prepositions (dans la voiture, à gauche), and places adjectives after (une voiture spacieuse). However, a small class of adjectives generally go before their heads (une grande voiture). On the other hand, in English (also SVO) adjectives always go before nouns (a big car), and adverbs can go either way, but initially is more common (greatly improved).


Free word order

Free word order is used to indicate discourse structure rather than to indicate who the doer is. Free word order languages include Russian, Czech, Latin, and Hungarian. Discourse is a term used in semantics as in discourse analysis, but it also refers to a social conception of discourse, often linked with the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and Jürgen Habermas The Theory of Communicative Action (1985). ... For other uses, see Latin (disambiguation). ...


Other issues

In many languages, changes in word order occur due to topicalization or in questions. However, most languages are generally assumed to have a basic word order, called the unmarked word order; other, marked word orders can then be used to emphasize a sentence element, to indicate modality (such as an interrogative modality), or for other purposes. For example, English is SVO (subject-verb-object), as in "I don't know this", but OSV is also possible: "This I don't know." This process is called topic-fronting (or topicalization) and is very common. In English, OSV is a marked word order because it emphasises the object. Markedness is a linguistic concept that developed out of the Prague School (also known as the Prague linguistic circle). ... A modal form is a provision of syntax that indicates the predication of an action, attitude, condition, or state other than that of a simple declaration of fact. ... In linguistics and grammar, the interrogative mood is a grammatical mood used for asking questions. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... According to a tradition that can be tracked back to Aristotle, every sentence can be divided in two main constituents, one being the subject of the sentence and the other being its predicate. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... An object in grammar is a sentence element and part of the sentence predicate. ... A topic-prominent language is one that organizes its syntax so that sentences have a topic-comment (or theme-rheme) structure, where the topic is the thing being talked about (predicated) and the comment is what is said about the topic. ...


An example of OSV being used for emphasis:

A: I can't see Alice. (SVO)
B: What about Bill?
A: Bill I can see. (OSV, rather than I can see Bill, SVO)

The last example would sound awkward to an English speaker. OSV word order is also found in poetry in English. This article is about the art form. ...


See also

Antisymmetry is A theory of syntactic linearization presentend in Richard Kaynes 1994 monograph The Antisymmetry of Syntax. ... In linguistics, branching is the general tendency towards a given order of words within sentences and smaller grammatical units within sentences (such as subordinate propositions, prepositional phrases, etc. ... For other persons named John Hawkins, see John Hawkins (disambiguation). ... The Head directionality parameter is a proposed parameter that provides a choice between: Heads follow phrases in forming larger phrases (head final) and Heads precede phrases in forming larger phrases (head initial). ...

Further reading

  • Order of Subject, Object, and Verb (PDF) A basic overview of word order variations across languages.
  • Syntactic and Paratactic Word Order Effects (PDF) Analysis of different types of word order variations across languages. Technical, but contains non-technical appendix.
  • The Language Instinct (ISBN 0-06-095833-2) - Good general introduction to linguistics.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Word order - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (523 words)
Word order, in linguistic typology, refers to the order in which words appear in sentences across different languages.
OSV in English is a marked word order because it emphasises the object.
However, speaking of a language having a given word order is generally understood as a reference to the basic, unmarked, non-emphatic word order for sentences with constituents expressed by full nouns or noun phrases.
V2 word order - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (664 words)
Verb-second (V2) word order, in syntax, is the effect that in some languages the second constituent of declarative main clauses is always a verb, while this is not necessarily the case in other types of clauses.
V2 word order is primarily associated with Germanic languages, English being a notable exception.
It has been argued that older English word order was of the SVO, IP-V2 sort, and it is easy to see how such an order can with little change develop into a simple SVO language as is Modern English today.
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