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In
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...

linguistics
, word order (also known as linear order) is the order of the syntactic constituents of a
language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and ...

language
. Word order typology studies it from a cross-linguistic perspective, and examines how different languages employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different
syntactic In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...

syntactic
sub-domains are also of interest. The primary word orders that are of interest are * the ''constituent order'' of a
clause In language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the ...
, namely the relative order of subject,
object Object may refer to: General meanings * Object (philosophy), a thing, being, or concept ** Entity, something that is tangible and within the grasp of the senses ** Object (abstract), an object which does not exist at any particular time or pl ...
, and
verb A verb () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...
; * the order of modifiers (
adjective In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s, numerals,
demonstrative Demonstratives (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) are words, such as ''this'' and ''that'', used to indicate which entities are being referred to and to distinguish those entities from others. They are typically deictic; their meaning ...
s,
possessive A possessive or ktetic form ( abbreviated ; from la, possessivus; grc, κτητικός ''ktētikós'') is a word or grammatical construction used to indicate a relationship of possession in a broad sense. This can include strict ownership, or ...
s, and adjuncts) in a
noun phrase A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In Linguistics#Analysis, linguistic analysis, a phrase i ...
; * the order of
adverbial In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as w ...
s. Some languages use relatively fixed word order, often relying on the order of constituents to convey grammatical information. Other languages—often those that convey grammatical information through
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
—allow more flexible word order, which can be used to encode
pragmatic Pragmatism Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that considers words and thought as tools and instruments for prediction, problem solving, and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror ...
information, such as
topicalisation In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
or focus. However, even languages with flexible word order have a preferred or basic word order, Comrie, Bernard. (1981). Language universals and linguistic typology: syntax and morphology (2nd ed). University of Chicago Press, Chicago with other word orders considered "
marked In linguistics and social sciences, markedness is the state of standing out as nontypical or divergent in comparison to a regular or more common form. In a marked–unmarked relation, one term of an opposition is the broader, dominant one. The ...
". Constituent word order is defined in terms of a
finite verb Traditionally, a finite verb A verb () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (lin ...
(V) in combination with two arguments, namely the subject (S), and object (O). Subject and object are here understood to be ''
noun A noun () is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...

noun
s'', since
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
s often tend to display different word order properties. Thus, a
transitive Transitivity or transitive may refer to: Grammar * Transitivity (grammar), a property of verbs that relates to whether a verb can take direct objects * Transitive verb, a verb which takes an object * Transitive case, a grammatical case to mark arg ...
sentence has six logically possible basic word orders: * about half of the world's languages deploy
subject–object–verb In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
order (SOV); * about one-third of the world's languages deploy
subject–verb–object In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for ...
order (SVO); * a smaller fraction of languages deploy
verb–subject–object In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for s ...
(VSO) order; * the remaining three arrangements are rarer:
verb–object–subject In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for st ...
(VOS) is slightly more common than
object–verb–subject In linguistic typology Linguistic typology (or language typology) is a field of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for s ...
(OVS), and
object–subject–verb In linguistic typology, object–subject–verb (OSV) or object–agent–verb (OAV) is a classification of languages, based on whether the structure predominates in pragmatically-neutral expressions. An example of this would be "''Oranges Sam at ...
(OSV) is the rarest by a significant margin.


Constituent word orders

These are all possible word orders for the subject, object, and verb in the order of most common to rarest (the examples use "she" as the subject, "loves" as the verb, and "him" as the object): * SOV is the order used by the largest number of distinct languages; languages using it include
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language **S ...
,
Mongolian Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia, a country in Asia * Mongolian people, or Mongols * Mongolia (1911–24), the government of Mongolia, 1911–1919 and 1921–1924 * Mongolian language * Mongolian alphabet * Mongo ...

Mongolian
,
Turkish Turkish may refer to: * of or about Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), offi ...

Turkish
, the
Indo-Aryan languages The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages form a major language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages h ...
and the
Dravidian languages Dravidian languages (or sometimes Dravidic languages) are a family of languages spoken by 220 million people, mainly in southern India and north-east Sri Lanka, with pockets elsewhere in South Asia. Since the colonial era, there have been smal ...
. Some, like
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

Latin
and
Quechua Quechua may refer to: *Quechua people, several indigenous ethnic groups in South America, especially in Peru *Quechuan languages, a Native South American language family spoken primarily in the Andes, derived from a common ancestral language **Sou ...
, have SOV normal word order but conform less to the general tendencies of other such languages. A sentence glossing as "She him loves" would be grammatically correct in these languages. * SVO languages include
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
,
Bulgarian Bulgarian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Bulgaria * Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group * Bulgarian language, a Slavic language * Bulgarian alphabet * A citizen of Bulgaria, see Demographics of Bulgaria * Bulg ...

Bulgarian
,
Macedonian Macedonian most often refers to someone or something from or related to Macedonia (disambiguation), Macedonia. Macedonian may specifically refer to: People Modern * Macedonians (ethnic group), the South Slavic ethnic group primarily associated w ...
,
Serbo-Croatian Serbo-Croatian () – also called Serbo-Croat (), Serbo-Croat-Bosnian (SCB), Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), and Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian (BCMS) – is a South Slavic language The South Slavic languages are one of three branches ...
, the Chinese languages and
Swahili Swahili may refer to: * Swahili language, a Bantu language official in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and widely spoken in the African Great Lakes * Swahili people, an ethnic group in East Africa * Swahili culture, the culture of the Swahili people * Sw ...
, among others. "She loves him." * VSO languages include
Classical Arabic Classical Arabic ( ar, links=no, ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ, al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of the Arabic language Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, ...

Classical Arabic
,
Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew ( ''Ivrit Miqra'it'' or ''Leshon ha-Miqra''), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew language, Hebrew, a language in the Canaanite languages, Canaanite branch of Semitic languages, Semitic languages, spoken b ...
, the
Insular Celtic languages Insular Celtic languages are the group of Celtic languages The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language fa ...
, and
Hawaiian Hawaiian may refer to: * Hawaii state residents, regardless of ancestry * Native Hawaiians, the current term for the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Islands or their descendants * Hawaiian language Historic uses * things and people of the Kingdo ...
. "Loves she him." * VOS languages include Fijian and
Malagasy Malagasy may refer to: *Someone or something from Madagascar *Malagasy people *Malagasy language *Malagasy Republic *Related to the culture of Madagascar See also

*Madagascar (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language and nationality disambi ...
. "Loves him she." * OVS languages include
Hixkaryana Hixkaryana Laurie Bauer, 2007, ''The Linguistics Student’s Handbook'', Edinburgh is one of the Cariban languages, spoken by just over 500 people on the Nhamundá River, a tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil. It may have been the first langua ...
. "Him loves she." * OSV languages include
Xavante The Xavante (also Shavante, Chavante, Akuen, A'uwe, Akwe, Awen, or Akwen) are an indigenous people Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic ...
and
Warao
Warao
. "Him she loves." Sometimes patterns are more complex: some
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian sub ...

Germanic languages
have SOV in subordinate clauses, but
V2 word order In syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word order. The t ...
in main clauses, SVO word order being the most common. Using the guidelines above, the unmarked word order is then SVO. Many
synthetic language A synthetic language uses inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy ...
s such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

Latin
,
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
,
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
,
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Euro ...
, Assyrian, Assamese,
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
,
Turkish Turkish may refer to: * of or about Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), offi ...

Turkish
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language **S ...
,
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
,
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
, and
Basque Basque may refer to: * Basques The Basques ( or ; eu, euskaldunak ; es, vascos ; french: basques ) are a Southern European ethnic group, characterised by the Basque language, a Basque culture, common culture and shared genetic ancestry to th ...
have no strict word order; rather, the
sentence structure
sentence structure
is highly flexible and reflects the
pragmatics In linguistics and related fields, pragmatics is the study of how context (language use), context contributes to meaning. The field of study evaluates how human language is utilized in social interactions, as well as the relationship between the ...
of the utterance. Topic-prominent languages organize sentences to emphasize their
topic–comment In linguistics, the topic, or theme, of a sentence is what is being talked about, and the comment (rheme or Focus (linguistics), focus) is what is being said about the topic. This division into old vs. new content is called information structure ...
structure. Nonetheless, there is often a preferred order; in Latin and Turkish, SOV is the most frequent outside of poetry, and in
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...
SVO is both the most frequent and obligatory when case marking fails to disambiguate argument roles. Just as languages may have different word orders in different contexts, so may they have both fixed and free word orders. For example, Russian has a relatively fixed SVO word order in transitive clauses, but a much freer SV / VS order in intransitive clauses. Cases like this can be addressed by encoding transitive and intransitive clauses separately, with the symbol "S" being restricted to the argument of an intransitive clause, and "A" for the actor/agent of a transitive clause. ("O" for object may be replaced with "P" for "patient" as well.) Thus, Russian is fixed AVO but flexible SV/VS. In such an approach, the description of word order extends more easily to languages that do not meet the criteria in the preceding section. For example,
Mayan languages The Mayan languagesIn linguistics, it is conventional to use ''Mayan'' when referring to the languages, or an aspect of a language. In other academic fields, ''Maya'' is the preferred usage, serving as both a singular and plural noun, and as ...
have been described with the rather uncommon VOS word order. However, they are ergative–absolutive languages, and the more specific word order is intransitive VS, transitive VOA, where the S and O
arguments In logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit=possessed of reason, intellectual, dialectical, argumentative, translit=logikḗ)Also related to (''logos''), "word, thought, idea, argument, ...
both trigger the same type of agreement on the verb. Indeed, many languages that some thought had a VOS word order turn out to be ergative like Mayan.


Distribution of word order types

Every language falls under one of the six word order types; the unfixed type is somewhat disputed in the community, as the languages where it occurs have one of the dominant word orders but every word order type is grammatically correct. The table below displays the word order surveyed by Dryer. The 2005 study surveyed 1228 languages, and the updated 2013 study investigated 1377 languages. Percentage was not reported in his studies. Hammarström (2016) calculated the constituent orders of 5252 languages in two ways. His first method, counting languages directly, yielded results similar to Dryer's studies, indicating both SOV and SVO have almost equal distribution. However, when stratified by
language families A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the original soun ...
, the distribution showed that the majority of the families had SOV structure, meaning that a small number of families contain SVO structure.


Functions of constituent word order

Fixed word order is one out of many ways to ease the processing of sentence semantics and reducing ambiguity. One method of making the speech stream less open to ambiguity (complete removal of ambiguity is probably impossible) is a fixed order of
argument In logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, lab ...
s and other sentence constituents. This works because speech is inherently linear. Another method is to label the constituents in some way, for example with
case marking Grammatical case is a linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguist ...
,
agreement Agreement may refer to: Agreements between people and organizations * Gentlemen's agreement, not enforceable by law * Trade agreement, between countries * Consensus, a decision-making process * Contract, enforceable in a court of law ** Meeting of ...
, or another
marker The term Marker may refer to: Common uses * Marker (linguistics), a morpheme that indicates some grammatical function * Marker (telecommunications), a special-purpose computer * Boundary marker, an object that identifies a land boundary * Marker o ...
. Fixed word order reduces expressiveness but added marking increases information load in the speech stream, and for these reasons strict word order seldom occurs together with strict morphological marking, one counter-example being
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...
. Observing discourse patterns, it is found that previously given information ( topic) tends to precede new information ( comment). Furthermore, acting participants (especially humans) are more likely to be talked about (to be topic) than things simply undergoing actions (like oranges being eaten). If acting participants are often topical, and topic tends to be expressed early in the sentence, this entails that acting participants have a tendency to be expressed early in the sentence. This tendency can then grammaticalize to a privileged position in the sentence, the subject. The mentioned functions of word order can be seen to affect the frequencies of the various word order patterns: The vast majority of languages have an order in which S precedes O and V. Whether V precedes O or O precedes V, however, has been shown to be a very telling difference with wide consequences on phrasal word orders.


Semantics of word order

In many languages, standard word order can be subverted in order to form questions or as a means of emphasis. In languages such as O'odham and Hungarian, which are discussed below, almost all possible permutations of a sentence are grammatical, but not all of them are used. In languages such as English and German, word order is used as a means of turning declarative into interrogative sentences: A: 'Wen liebt Kate?' / 'Kate liebt ''wen''?' hom does Kate love? / Kate loves ''whom''?(OVS/SVO) B: 'Sie liebt Mark' / 'Mark ist der, den sie liebt' he loves Mark / It is ''Mark'' whom she loves.(SVO/OSV) C: 'Liebt Kate Mark?' oes Kate love Mark?(VSO) In (A), the first sentence shows the word order used for wh-questions in English and German. The second sentence is an ; it would only be uttered after receiving an unsatisfactory or confusing answer to a question. One could replace the word ''wen'' (which indicates that this sentence is a question) with an identifier such as ''Mark'': 'Kate liebt ''Mark''?' ate loves ''Mark''? In that case, since no change in word order occurs, it is only by means of stress and
tone Tone may refer to: Color-related * Tone, mix of tint and shade, in painting and color theory * Tone, the lightness Lightness is a visual perception of the luminance (L) of an object. It is often judged relative to a similarly lit object. ...
that we are able to identify the sentence as a question. In (B), the first sentence is declarative and provides an answer to the first question in (A). The second sentence emphasises that Kate does indeed love ''Mark'', and not whomever else we might have assumed her to love. However, a sentence this verbose is unlikely to occur in everyday speech (or even in written language), be it in English or in German. Instead, one would most likely answer the echo question in (A) simply by restating: ''Mark!''. This is the same for both languages. In yes–no questions such as (C), English and German use subject-verb inversion. But, whereas English relies on
do-support ''Do''-support (or ''do''-insertion), in English grammar, is the use of the auxiliary verb ''do'', including its inflected forms ''does'' and ''did'', to form Negation (linguistics), negated clauses and questions as well as other constructions in w ...
to form questions from verbs other than auxiliaries, German has no such restriction and uses inversion to form questions, even from lexical verbs. Despite this, English, as opposed to German, has very strict word order. In German, word order can be used as a means to emphasize a constituent in an independent clause by moving it to the beginning of the sentence. This is a defining characteristic of German as a V2 (verb-second) language, where, in independent clauses, the finite verb always comes second and is preceded by one and only one constituent. In closed questions, V1 (verb-first) word order is used. And lastly, dependent clauses use verb-final word order. However, German cannot be called an SVO language since no actual constraints are imposed on the placement of the subject and object(s), even though a preference for a certain word-order over others can be observed (such as putting the subject after the finite verb in independent clauses unless it already precedes the verb). To say that German is an SVO language would be completely wrong. A sentence such as 'Cäsar besiegte Pompejus' aesar defeated Pompey / Pompey defeated Caesarwill always be ambiguous in German.


Phrase word orders and branching

The order of constituents in a
phrase In syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word order. The ter ...

phrase
can vary as much as the order of constituents in a
clause In language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed of glyphs to inscribe the ...
. Normally, the
noun phrase A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a phrase In everyday speech, a phrase is any group of words, often carrying a special idiomatic meaning; in this sense it is synonymous with expression. In Linguistics#Analysis, linguistic analysis, a phrase i ...
and the
adpositional phrase An adpositional phrase, in linguistics, is a syntactic category that includes ''prepositional phrases'', ''postpositional phrases'', and ''circumpositional phrases''. Adpositional phrases contain an adposition (preposition, postposition, or circu ...
are investigated. Within the noun phrase, one investigates whether the following modifiers occur before and/or after the
head noun In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
. * adjective (''red house'' vs ''house red'') * determiner (''this house'' vs ''house this'') * 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) either separately (''For whom?'' or ''Whom for?'') or at the same time (''from her away''; Dutch example: ''met hem mee'' meaning ''together with him''). There are several common correlations between sentence-level word order and phrase-level constituent order. For example, SOV languages generally put modifiers before heads and use postpositions. VSO languages tend to place modifiers after their heads, and use prepositions. For SVO languages, either order is common. 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 almost always go before nouns ''(a big car),'' and adverbs can go either way, but initially is more common ''(greatly improved).'' (English has a very small number of adjectives that go after the heads, such as ''wikt:extraordinaire, extraordinaire'', which kept its position when borrowed from French.) Russian places numerals after nouns to express approximation (шесть домов=''six houses'', домов шесть=''circa six houses'').


Pragmatic word order

Some languages have no fixed word order and often use a significant amount of morphological marking to disambiguate the roles of the arguments. However, some languages use a fixed word order even if they provide a degree of marking that would support free word order. Also, some languages with free word order, such as some varieties of Datooga language, Datooga, combine free word order with a lack of morphological distinction between arguments. Typologically, highly-animate actors are more likely topical than low-animate undergoers, a trend that would come through even in languages with free word order. That a statistical bias for SO order (or OS in the case of ergative systems, but ergative systems do not usually extend to the highest levels of animacy and usually give way to some form of nominative system, at least in the pronominal system). Most languages with a high degree of morphological marking have rather flexible word orders, such as Polish language, Polish, Hungarian language, Hungarian, Portuguese language, Portuguese,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

Latin
, Albanian language, Albanian, and O'odham. In some languages, a general word order can be identified, but this is much harder in others. When the word order is free, different choices of word order can be used to help identify the topic (linguistics), theme and the topic-comment, rheme.


Hungarian

Word order in Hungarian sentences is changed according to the speaker's communicative intentions. Hungarian word order is not free in the sense that it must reflect the information structure of the sentence, distinguishing the emphatic part that carries new information (rheme) from the rest of the sentence that carries little or no new information (theme). The position of focus in a Hungarian sentence is immediately before the verb, that is, nothing can separate the emphatic part of the sentence from the verb. For "Kate ate ''a piece of cake''", the possibilities are: # "Kati megevett ''egy szelet tortát''." (same word order as English) ["Kate ate ''a piece of cake.''"] # "''Egy szelet tortát'' Kati evett meg." (emphasis on agent [Kate]) ["''A piece of cake'' Kate ate."] (''One of the pieces of cake was eaten by Kate.'') # "Kati evett meg ''egy szelet tortát''." (also emphasis on agent [Kate]) ["Kate ate ''a piece of cake.''"] (''Kate was the one eating one piece of cake.'') # "Kati ''egy szelet tortát'' evett meg." (emphasis on object [cake]) ["Kate ''a piece of cake'' ate."] (''Kate ate a piece of cake '' – cf. not a piece of bread.) # "''Egy szelet tortát'' evett meg Kati." (emphasis on number [a piece, i.e. only one piece]) ["''A piece of cake'' ate Kate."] (''Only one piece of cake was eaten by Kate.'') # "Megevett ''egy szelet tortát'' Kati." (emphasis on completeness of action) ["Ate ''a piece of cake'' Kate."] (''A piece of cake had been finished by Kate.'') # "Megevett Kati ''egy szelet tortát''." (emphasis on completeness of action) ["Ate Kate ''a piece of cake.''"] (''Kate finished with a piece of cake.'') The only freedom in Hungarian word order is that the order of parts outside the focus position and the verb may be freely changed without any change to the communicative focus of the sentence, as seen in sentences 2 and 3 as well as in sentences 6 and 7 above. These pairs of sentences have the same information structure, expressing the same communicative intention of the speaker, because the part immediately preceding the verb is left unchanged. Note that the emphasis can be on the action (verb) itself, as seen in sentences 1, 6 and 7, or it can be on parts other than the action (verb), as seen in sentences 2, 3, 4 and 5. If the emphasis is not on the verb, and the verb has a co-verb (in the above example 'meg'), then the co-verb is separated from the verb, and always follows the verb. Also note that the enclitic ''-t'' marks the direct object: 'torta' (cake) + '-t' -> 'tortát'.


Hindi-Urdu

Hindi-Urdu (Hindustani language, Hindustani) is essentially a verb-final (SOV) language, with relatively free word order since in most cases postpositions mark quite explicitly the relationships of noun phrases with other constituents of the sentence. Word order in Hindustani usually does not signal grammatical functions. Constituents can be scrambled to express different information structural configurations, or for stylistic reasons. The first syntactic constituent in a sentence is usually the topic, which may under certain conditions be marked by the particle "''to''" (तो / تو), similar in some respects to Japanese topic marker は ''(wa).'' Some rules governing the position of words in a sentence are as follows: * An adjective comes before the noun it modifies in its unmarked position. However, the Possessive adjective, possessive and reflexive pronominal adjectives can occur either to the left or to the right of the noun it describes. * Negation (linguistics), Negation must come either to the left or to the right of the verb it negates. For compound verbs or verbal construction using auxiliaries the negation can occur either to the left of the first verb, in-between the verbs or to the right of the second verb (the default position being to the left of the main verb when used with auxiliary and in-between the primary and the secondary verb when forming a compound verb). * Adverbs usually precede the adjectives they qualify in their unmarked position, but when adverbs are constructed using the instrumental case postposition ''se'' (से /سے) (which qualifies verbs), their position in the sentence becomes free. However, since both the Instrumental case, instrumental and the Ablative case, ablative case are marked by the same postposition "''se''" (से /سے), when both are present in a sentence then the quantity they modify cannot appear adjacent to each other. * "''kyā'' " (क्या / کیا) "what" as the yes-no question marker occurs at the beginning or the end of a clause as its unmarked positions but it can be put anywhere in the sentence except the preverbal position, where instead it is interpreted as interrogative "what". Some of all the possible word order permutations of the sentence "The girl received a gift from the boy ''on her birthday''." are shown below.


Portuguese

In Portuguese, clitic pronouns and commas allow many different orders: * "Eu vou entregar a você amanhã." ["I will deliver to you tomorrow."] (same word order as English) *''"''Entregarei a você amanhã." [" will deliver to you tomorrow."] * "Eu lhe entregarei amanhã." ["I to you will deliver tomorrow."] * "Entregar-lhe-ei amanhã." ["Deliver to you will tomorrow."] (mesoclisis) * "A ti, eu entregarei amanhã." ["To you I will deliver tomorrow."] * "A ti, entregarei amanhã." ["To you deliver will tomorrow."] * "Amanhã, entregar-te-ei" ["Tomorrow will deliver to you"] * "Poderia entregar, eu, a você amanhã?" ["Could deliver I to you tomorrow?] Braces (') are used above to indicate omitted subject pronouns, which may be implicit in Portuguese. Because of Grammatical conjugation, conjugation, the grammatical person is recovered.


Latin

In Latin, the endings of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns allow for extremely flexible order in most situations. Latin lacks articles. The Subject, Verb, and Object can come in any order in a Latin sentence, although most often (especially in subordinate clauses) the verb comes last. Pragmatic factors, such as topic and focus, play a large part in determining the order. Thus the following sentences each answer a different question: *"Romulus Romam condidit." ["Romulus founded Rome"] (What did Romulus do?) *"Hanc urbem condidit Romulus." ["Romulus founded this city"] (Who founded this city?) *"Condidit Romam Romulus." ["Romulus founded Rome"] (What happened?) Latin prose often follows the word order "Subject, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Adverb, Verb", but this is more of a guideline than a rule. Adjectives in most cases go before the noun they modify, but some categories, such as those that determine or specify (e.g. ''Via Appia'' "Appian Way"), usually follow the noun. In Classical Latin poetry, lyricists followed word order very loosely to achieve a desired scansion.


Albanian

Due to the presence of grammatical cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, and in some cases or dialects vocative and locative) applied to nouns, pronouns and adjectives, the Albanian language permits a large number of positional combination of words. In spoken language a word order differing from the most common S-V-O helps the speaker putting emphasis on a word, thus changing partially the message delivered. Here is an example: * "Marku më dha një dhuratë (mua)." ["Mark (me) gave a present to me."] (neutral narrating sentence.) * "Marku (mua) më dha një dhuratë." ["Mark to me (me) gave a present."] (emphasis on the indirect object, probably to compare the result of the verb on different persons.) * "Marku një dhuratë më dha (mua)." ["Mark a present (me) gave to me"] (meaning that Mark gave her only a present, and not something else or more presents.) * "Marku një dhuratë (mua) më dha." ["Mark a present to me (me) gave"] (meaning that Mark gave a present only to her.) * "Më dha Marku një dhuratë (mua)." ["Gave Mark to me a present."] (neutral sentence, but puts less emphasis on the subject.) * "Më dha një dhuratë Marku (mua)." ["Gave a present to me Mark."] (probably is the cause of an event being introduced later.) * "Më dha (mua) Marku një dhurate." ["Gave to me Mark a present."] (same as above.) * "Më dha një dhuratë mua Marku" ["(Me) gave a present to me Mark."] (puts emphasis on the fact that the receiver is her and not someone else.) * "Një dhuratë më dha Marku (mua)" ["A present gave Mark to me."] (meaning it was a present and not something else.) * "Një dhuratë Marku më dha (mua)" ["A present Mark gave to me."] (puts emphasis on the fact that she got the present and someone else got something different.) * "Një dhuratë (mua) më dha Marku." ["A present to me gave Mark."] (no particular emphasis, but can be used to list different actions from different subjects.) * "Një dhuratë (mua) Marku më dha." ["A present to me Mark (me) gave"] (remembers that at least a present was given to her by Mark.) * "Mua më dha Marku një dhuratë." ["To me (me) gave Mark a present." (is used when Mark gave something else to others.) * "Mua një dhuratë më dha Marku." ["To me a present (me) gave Mark."] (emphasis on "to me" and the fact that it was a present, only one present or it was something different from usual.) * "Mua Marku një dhuratë më dha" ["To me Mark a present (me) gave."] (Mark gave her only one present.) * "Mua Marku më dha një dhuratë" ["To me Mark (me) gave a present."] (puts emphasis on Mark. Probably the others didn't give her present, they gave something else or the present wasn't expected at all.) In these examples, "(mua)" can be omitted when not in first position, causing a perceivable change in emphasis; the latter being of different intensity. "Më" is always followed by the verb. Thus, a sentence consisting of a subject, a verb and two objects (a direct and an indirect one), can be expressed in six different ways without "mua", and in twenty-four different ways with "mua", adding up to thirty possible combinations.


O'odham (Papago-Pima)

O'odham is a language that is spoken in southern Arizona and Northern Sonora, Mexico. It has free word order, with only V2 word order, the Auxiliary bound to one spot. Here is an example, in literal translation: * "Wakial 'o g wipsilo ha-cecposid." [Cowboy is the calves them branding.] (The cowboy is branding the calves.) *"Wipsilo 'o ha-cecposid g wakial." [Calves is them branding the cowboy.] *"Ha-cecposid 'o g wakial g wipsilo." [Them Branding is the cowboy the calves.] *"Wipsilo 'o g wakial ha-cecposid." [Calves is the cowboy them branding.] *"Ha-cecposid 'o g wipsilo g wakial." [Them branding is the calves the cowboy.] *"Wakial 'o ha-cecposid g wipsilo." [Cowboy is them branding the calves.] These examples are all grammatically-valid variations on the sentence, "The cowboy is branding the calves," though some are rarely found in natural speech. This is discussed in Grammaticality.


Other issues with word order


Language change

Languages change over time. When language change involves a shift in a language's syntax, this is called syntactic change. An example of this is found in Old English, which at one point had flexible word order, before losing it over the course of its evolution. In Old English, both of the following sentences would be considered grammatically correct: * "Martianus hæfde his sunu ær befæst." [Martianus had his son earlier established.] (Martianus had earlier established his son.) * "Se wolde gelytlian þone lyfigendan hælend." [He would diminish the living saviour.] This flexibility continues into early Middle English, where it seems to drop out of usage. Shakespeare's plays use OV word order frequently, as can be seen from these examples: * "It was our selfe thou didst abuse." * "Well then, go you into hell?" A modern speaker of English would possibly recognise these as grammatically acceptable sentences, but nonetheless archaic; that person would likely change the latter sentence to "are you going into hell?"—they would use the present continuous tense instead of the simple present. There are some verbs, however, that are acceptable in this format: * "Are they good?" This is acceptable to a modern English speaker and is not considered archaic. This is due to the verb "to be", which acts as both Auxiliary verb, auxiliary and main verb. Similarly, other auxiliary and modal verbs allow for VSO word order ("Must he perish?"). Non-auxiliary and non-modal verbs require insertion of an auxiliary to conform to modern usage ("Did he buy the book?"). Shakespeare's usage of word order is not indicative of English at the time, which had dropped OV order at least a century before. This variation between archaic and modern can also be shown in the change between VSO to SVO in Coptic language, Coptic, the language of the Christian Church in Egypt.


Dialectal Variation

There are some languages where certain word order is preferred by one or more dialects, while others use a different order. One such case is Andean Spanish, spoken in Peru. While Spanish is classified as an SVO language, the variation of Spanish spoken in Peru has been influenced by contact with Quechua and Aymara, both SOV languages. This has had the effect of introducing OV (object-verb) word order into the clauses of some L1 Spanish speakers (moreso than would usually be expected), with more L2 speakers using similar constructions.


Poetry

Poetry and stories can use different word orders to emphasize certain aspects of the sentence. In English, this is called anastrophe. Here is an example: "Kate loves Mark." "Mark, Kate loves." Here SVO is changed to OSV to emphasize the object.


Translation

Differences in word order complicate translation and language education – in addition to changing the individual words, the order must also be changed. The area in Linguistics that is concerned with translation and education is language acquisition. The reordering of words can run into problems, however, when transcribing stories. Rhyme scheme can change, as well as the meaning behind the words. This can be especially problematic when translating poetry.


See also

* Antisymmetry * Information flow *Language change


Notes


References


Further reading


A collection of papers on word order by a leading scholar, some downloadable
clearly illustrated with examples. *Bernard Comrie, ''Language universals, Language Universals and Linguistic Typology: Syntax and Morphology (linguistics), Morphology'' (1981) – this is the authoritative introduction to word order and related subjects.
Order of Subject, Object, and Verb
(PDF). A basic overview of word order variations across languages. *Haugan, Jens
''Old Norse Word Order and Information Structure''
Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 2001. * *Song, Jae Jung (2012), ''Word Order''. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. & {{DEFAULTSORT:Word Order Word order, Syntactic relationships Syntax