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Subject–object–verb word order

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In linguistic typology, a subject–object–verb (SOV) language is one in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence always or usually appear in that order. If English were SOV, "Sam oranges ate" would be an ordinary sentence, as opposed to the actual Standard English "Sam ate oranges" which is subject–verb–object (SVO).

The term is often loosely used for ergative languages like Adyghe and Basque that really have agents instead of subjects.

Incidence

Order Example Usage Languages
SOV "Cows grass eat." 45% 45
 
Bengali, Burmese, Hindustani, Japanese, Korean, Oromo, Persian, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Turkish
SVO "Cows eat grass." 42% 42
 
German, English, Swedish, Dutch, French, Romanian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Hungarian, Greek
VSO "Eat cows grass." 9% 9
 
Filipino, Geʽez, Irish, Māori, Tuareg-Berber, Welsh
VOS "Eat grass cows." 3% 3
 
Car, Fijian, Malagasy, Qʼeqchiʼ, Terêna
OVS "Grass eat cows." 1% 1
 
Hixkaryana, Urarina
OSV "Grass cows eat." 0% Tobati, Warao
Frequency distribution of word order in languages surveyed by Russell S. Tomlin in the 1980s[1][2] ()

Among natural languages with a word order preference, SOV is the most common type (followed by subject–verb–object; the two types account for more than 87% of natural languages with a preferred order).[3]

Languages that have SOV structure include

Standard Mandarin is generally SVO but common constructions with verbal complements require SOV or OSV. Some Romance languages are SVO, but when the object is an enclitic pronoun, word order allows for SOV (see the examples below). German and Dutch are considered SVO in conventional typology and SOV in generative grammar. They can be considered SOV but with V2 word order as an overriding rule for the finite verb in main clauses, which results in SVO in some cases and SOV in others. For example, in German, a basic sentence such as "Ich sage etwas über Karl" ("I say something about Karl") is in SVO word order. Non-finite verbs are placed at the end, however, since V2 only applies to the finite verb: "Ich will etwas über Karl sagen" ("I want to say something about Karl"). In a subordinate clause, the finite verb is not affected by V2, and also appears at the end of the sentence, resulting in full SOV order: "Ich sage, dass Karl einen Gürtel gekauft hat." (Word-for-word: "I say that Karl a belt bought has.")

A rare example of SOV word order in English is "I (subject) thee (object) wed (verb)" in the wedding vow "With this ring, I thee wed."[4]

Properties

SOV languages have a strong tendency to use postpositions rather than prepositions, to place auxiliary verbs after the action verb, to place genitive noun phrases before the possessed noun, to place a name before a title or honorific ("James Uncle" and "Johnson Doctor" rather than "Uncle James" and "Doctor Johnson") and to have subordinators appear at the end of subordinate clauses. They have a weaker but significant tendency to place demonstrative adjectives before the nouns they modify. Relative clauses preceding the nouns to which they refer usually signals SOV word order, but the reverse does not hold: SOV languages feature prenominal and postnominal relative clauses roughly equally. SOV languages also seem to exhibit a tendency towards using a time–manner–place ordering of adpositional phrases.

In linguistic typology, one can usefully distinguish two types of SOV languages in terms of their type of marking:

  1. dependent-marking has case markers to distinguish the subject and the object, which allows it to use the variant OSV word order without ambiguity. This type usually places adjectives and numerals before the nouns they modify, and is exclusively suffixing without prefixes. SOV languages of this first type include Japanese and Tamil.
  2. head-marking distinguishes subject and object by affixes on the verb rather than markers on the nouns. It also differs from the dependent-marking SOV language in using prefixes as well as suffixes, usually for tense and possession. Adjectives in this type are much more verb-like than in dependent-marking SOV languages, and hence they usually follow the nouns. In most SOV languages with a significant level of head-marking or verb-like adjectives, numerals and related quantifiers (like "all", "every") also follow the nouns they modify. Languages of this type include Navajo and Seri.

In practice, of course, the distinction between these two types is far from sharp. Many SOV languages are substantially double-marking and tend to exhibit properties intermediate between the two idealised types above.

Many languages that have shifted to SVO word order from earlier SOV retain (at least to an extent) the properties: for example, the Finnish language (high usage of postpositions etc.)

Examples

Afroasiatic languages

Amharic

ተስፋዬ በሩን ዘጋው።

ተስፋዬ

Täsəfayē

Tesfaye

Subject

በሩን

bärun

the door

Object

ዘጋው

zägaw

closed

Verb

ተስፋዬ በሩን ዘጋው

Täsəfayē bärun zägaw

Tesfaye {the door} closed

Subject Object Verb

Tesfaye closed the door.

Oromo

Ayyantu buna dhugti.

Ayyantu

Ayantu

Subject

buna

coffee

Object

dhugti

drinks

Verb

Ayyantu buna dhugti

Ayantu coffee drinks

Subject Object Verb

Ayantu drinks coffee.

Somali

Somali generally uses the subject–object–verb structure when speaking formally.

Anaa albaabka furay

Anaa

I

Subject

albaab(ka)

(the) door

Object

furay

opened

Verb

Anaa albaab(ka) furay

I {(the) door} opened

Subject Object Verb

I opened the door

Tigre

ኑረዲን ኣስመራ ፈግራ።

ኑረዲን

Nurädin

Nureddin

Subject

ኣስመራ

ʼAsmära

Asmara

Object

ፈግራ

fägra

he went up

Verb

ኑረዲን ኣስመራ ፈግራ

Nurädin ʼAsmära fägra

Nureddin Asmara {he went up}

Subject Object Verb

Nureddin went up to Asmara.

Tigrinya

ዳኒኤል ኩዑሶ ቀሊዑ።

ዳኒኤል

Daniʼēl

Daniel

Subject

ኩዑሶ

kuʻuso

ball

Object

ቀሊዑ

qäliʻu

he kicked

Verb

ዳኒኤል ኩዑሶ ቀሊዑ

Daniʼēl kuʻuso qäliʻu

Daniel ball {he kicked}

Subject Object Verb

Daniel kicked the ball.

Basque

Basque in short sentences, usually, subject or agent–object–verb; in long sentences, usually, subject or agent-verb-objects):

Enekok sagarra ekarri du.

Enekok

Eneko (+ERG)

Agent

sagarra

the apple

Object

ekarri

brought (to bring)

Verb

du

AUX has

 

Enekok sagarra ekarri du

{Eneko (+ERG)} {the apple} {brought (to bring)} {AUX has}

Agent Object Verb {}

Eneko has brought the apple

Eneritzek eskatu du inork irakurri nahi ez zuen liburua

Eneritzek

Eneritz (+ERG)

Parts

eskatu

asked for

Agent

du

AUX has

Verb

+ + +

+ + +

Objects

Eneritzek eskatu du {+ + +}

{Eneritz (+ERG)} {asked for} {AUX has} {+ + +}

Parts Agent Verb Objects

Eneritz requested the book nobody wanted to read

Dravidian languages

The Dravidian languages commonly exhibit or prefer SVO order.

Kannada

ನಾನು ಮನೆ ಕಟ್ಟಿದೆನು.

ನಾನು

Naanu

I

Subject

ಮನೆ

mane

the house

Object

ಕಟ್ಟಿದೆನು

kaTTidenu

built

Verb

ನಾನು ಮನೆ ಕಟ್ಟಿದೆನು

Naanu mane kaTTidenu

I {the house} built

Subject Object Verb

I built the house.

Malayalam

ഞാൻ പുസ്തകം എടുത്തു.

ഞാൻ

ñān

I

Subject

പുസ്തകം

pustakam̥

(the) book

Object

(-e)

ACC

 

എടുത്തു

eṭuttu

took

Verb

ഞാൻ പുസ്തകം എ എടുത്തു

ñān pustakam̥ (-e) eṭuttu

I {(the) book} ACC took

Subject Object {} Verb

I took the book.

  • Pustakam̥ + -e = pustakatte (പുസ്തകത്തെ)

Tamil

Tamil being a strongly head-final language, the basic word-order is SOV. However, since it is highly inflected, word order is flexible and is used for pragmatic purposes. That is, fronting a word in a sentence adds emphasis on it; for instance, a VSO order would indicate greater emphasis on the verb, the action, than on the subject or the object. However, such word-orders are highly marked, and the basic order remains SOV.

நான் பெட்டியை திறப்பேன்.

நான்

Nān

I-NOM

Subject

பெட்டியைத்

peṭṭi-yai

box-ACC

Object

திறப்பேன்.

tiṟa-pp-ēn.

open-FUT-1SG

Verb

நான் பெட்டியைத் திறப்பேன்.

Nān peṭṭi-yai tiṟa-pp-ēn.

I-NOM box-ACC open-FUT-1SG

Subject Object Verb

I will open the box.

Telugu

నేను ఇంటికి వెళ్తున్నాను.

నేను

Nēnu

I-NOM

Subject

ఇంటికి

iṇṭi-ki

home-DAT

Object

వెళ్తున్నాను

veḷ-tunnā-nu

go-PRES-1SG

Verb

నేను ఇంటికి వెళ్తున్నాను

Nēnu iṇṭi-ki veḷ-tunnā-nu

{I-NOM} {home-DAT} {go-PRES-1SG}

Subject Object Verb

I am going home.

Evenki

Бэе бэеткэнмэ ичэрэн.

Бэе

Beje

man

Subject

бэеткэнмэ

bejetkenme

boy-ACC

Object

ичэрэн.

ičeren

see-NFUT-3SG

Verb

Бэе бэеткэнмэ ичэрэн.

Beje bejetkenme ičeren

man boy-ACC see-NFUT-3SG

Subject Object Verb

The man saw the boy.

Georgian

The Georgian language is not extremely rigid with regards to word order, but is typically either SOV or SVO.

მე ლექსი დავწერე.

მე

me

I

Subject

ლექსი

leksi

poem

Object

დავწერე.

davc'ere

[I]wrote

Verb

მე ლექსი დავწერე.

me leksi davc'ere

I poem {[I]wrote}

Subject Object Verb

I wrote (a) poem.


Indo-European languages

SOV word order is quite common among Indo-European languages, leading to a common hypothesis that this reflects the original preferred word order of the ancestral Proto-Indo-European language. However, the question remains unsettled.

Albanian

Albanian has free word order, but generally prefers SVO. SOV occurs only in poetic language.

Agimi librin e mori.

Agimi

Agimi

Subject

librin

the book

Object

e mori

took

Verb

Agimi librin {e mori}

Agimi {the book} took

Subject Object Verb

Agimi took the book. (It was Agimi who took the book)

Armenian

Armenian generally prefers SOV.

Իմ անունը Շուշանիկ է։

Իմ

Im

my

 

անունը

anunə

name

Subject

Շուշանիկ

Šušanik

Shushanik

Object

է

ē

is

Verb

Իմ անունը Շուշանիկ է

Im anunə Šušanik ē

my name Shushanik is

{} Subject Object Verb

My name is Shushanik.

Germanic languages

Linguistic consensus holds that the Proto-Germanic language had free word order but preferred SOV. While some Germanic languages (including English and most North Germanic languages) have transitioned to SVO, SOV remains a feature of some major modern Germanic languages, including German and Dutch. However, these modern SOV Germanic languages also exhibit V2 word order, which supersedes the "default" SOV such that many sentences are rendered subject-verb-object.

Dutch

Dutch is SOV combined with V2 word order. The non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) remains in final position, but the finite (i.e. inflected) verb is moved to the second position. Simple verbs look like SVO, non-finite verbs (participles, infinitives) and compound verbs follow this pattern:

Ik wil je helpen.

Ik

I

subject

wil

want to

FIN.verb

je

you

object

helpen

help

NFIN.verb

Ik wil je helpen

I {want to} you help

subject FIN.verb object NFIN.verb

I want to help you.

Pure SOV order is found in subordinate clauses:

Ik zei dat ik je wil helpen.

Ik

I

subject

zei

said

FIN.verb

dat

that

SUBORD.CONJ

ik

I

subject

je

you

object

wil

want

FIN.verb

helpen

to help

NFIN.verb

Ik zei dat ik je wil helpen

I said that I you want {to help}

subject FIN.verb SUBORD.CONJ subject object FIN.verb NFIN.verb

I said that I want to help you.

German

German is SOV combined with V2 word order. The non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) remains in final position, but the finite (i.e. inflected) verb is moved to the second position. Simple verbs look like SVO, compound verbs follow this pattern:

Er hat einen Apfel gegessen.

Er

He

Subject

hat

has

Auxiliary

einen

an

 

Apfel

apple

Object

gegessen.

eaten.

Verb

Er hat einen Apfel gegessen.

He has an apple eaten.

Subject Auxiliary {} Object Verb

He has eaten an apple.

The word order changes also depending on whether the phrase is a main clause or a dependent clause. In dependent clauses, the word order is always entirely SOV (cf. also Inversion):

Weil Horst einen Apfel gegessen hat.

Weil

Because

Conjunction

Horst

Horst

Subject

einen

an

 

Apfel

apple

Object

gegessen

eaten

Verb

hat.

has.

Auxiliary

Weil Horst einen Apfel gegessen hat.

Because Horst an apple eaten has.

Conjunction Subject {} Object Verb Auxiliary

Because Horst has eaten an apple.

Gothic

The Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language, had free word order, but SOV constructions were common.

𐌲𐌿𐌼𐌰 𐌵𐌹𐌽𐍉𐌽 𐍆𐍂𐌹𐌾𐍉𐌸.

𐌲𐌿𐌼𐌰

Guma

man

Subject

𐌵𐌹𐌽𐍉𐌽

qinon

woman

Object

𐍆𐍂𐌹𐌾𐍉𐌸.

frijoþ.

loves.

Verb

𐌲𐌿𐌼𐌰 𐌵𐌹𐌽𐍉𐌽 𐍆𐍂𐌹𐌾𐍉𐌸.

Guma qinon frijoþ.

man woman loves.

Subject Object Verb

The man loves the woman.

Greek (Classical)

Ancient Greek had free word order but generally preferred SOV sentences:

ὁ ἀνὴρ τὸν παĩδα φιλεῖ.

ho

The

 

ανήρ

anḗr

man

Subject

τὸν

tòn

the

 

παĩδα

paîda

child

Object

φιλεῖ.

phileî

loves.

Verb

ὁ ανήρ τὸν παĩδα φιλεῖ.

ho anḗr tòn paîda phileî

The man the child loves.

{} Subject {} Object Verb

The man loves the child.

This is distinct from Modern Greek, where SVO is preferred.

Indo-Aryan languages

Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest known of the Indo-Aryan languages, was an inflected language and very flexible in word order, allowing all possible word combinations. Its descendant, Classical Sanskrit, shared this feature but generally preferred SOV sentences.

तत्त्

tát

that

Subject

(त्)वम

t(ú)vam

you

Object

सि

ási

are

Verb

तत्त् (त्)वम सि

tát t(ú)vam ási

that you are

Subject Object Verb

That you are.

Most later Indo-Aryan languages continue to prefer SOV word order, for example:

Bengali:

আমি ভাত খাই

আমি

ami

ami

I.SUBJ

Subject

ভাত

bʰat

bhat

rice.OBJ

Object

খাই

kʰai

khai

eat.PRES

Verb

আমি ভাত খাই

ami bʰat kʰai

ami bhat khai

I.SUBJ rice.OBJ eat.PRES

Subject Object Verb

I eat rice.

Hajong:

Moi hugre'mre' khasei.

Moi

I

Subject

hugre'm

guava

 

re'

ACC

Object

kha

eat

 

sei.

PAST.IND

Verb

Moi hugre'm re' kha sei.

I guava ACC eat PAST.IND

Subject {} Object {} Verb

I ate the guava.

re is a particle that indicates the accusative case and 'sei' indicates past tense declarative. Here, e is pronounced as the 'i' in 'girl' and 'ei' is pronounced as the 'ay' in 'say'.

Hindi:

मैं सेब खाता हूँ।

मैं

main

I

Subject

सेब

seb

apple

Object

खाता हूँ

khaataa hun

eat.PRES.M

Verb

मैं सेब {खाता हूँ}

main seb {khaataa hun}

I apple eat.PRES.M

Subject Object Verb

I eat apples.

Marathi:

तो बियाणे पेरतो.

तो

he

Subject

बियाणे

biyāṇē

seeds

Object

पेरतो

pēratō

sows

Verb

तो बियाणे पेरतो

Tō biyāṇē pēratō

he seeds sows

Subject Object Verb

He sows seeds.

Nepali:

म किताब पढ्छु ।

ma

I

Subject

किताब

kitāb

book

Object

पढ्छु

paḍhchhu

read.PRES

Verb

म किताब पढ्छु

ma kitāb paḍhchhu

I book read.PRES

Subject Object Verb

I read a book.

Odia:

ମୁଁ ଏକ ସେଓ ଖାଏ ।

ମୁଁ

mun

I

Subject

ଏକ

eka

an

 

ସେଓ

seo

apple

Object

ଖାଏ

khaae

eat.PRES.M

Verb

ମୁଁ ଏକ ସେଓ {ଖାଏ}

mun eka seo {khaae}

I an apple eat.PRES.M

Subject {} Object Verb

I eat an apple.

Urdu:

میں نے اسے دیکھا۔

میں

main

I

Subject

نے

ne

ERG

 

اسے

use

him/her

Object

دیکھا

dekha

saw

Verb

میں نے اسے دیکھا

main ne use dekha

I ERG him/her saw

Subject {} Object Verb

I saw him/her.

This preference is not fixed in all Indo-Aryan languages. Punjabi, for instance, may be characterised as following a Subject—Object—Verb typology overall, but some flexibility is permitted, and this tendency does not follow in sentences involving personal pronouns. Examples are shown here in both Shahmukhi (top, right-to-left) and Gurmukhi (bottom, left-to-right). The word forms used reflect those typical of spoken language. For Shahmukhi, vocalised forms with vowel diacritics have been used to explicitly indicate the forms used; in typical writing these are omitted in most words where regular patterns allow this information to be inferred contextually.

The following sentence exhibits the typical SOV word order tendency. The verb phrase is in retrospective perfect participle form, indicating completion of the action, and takes on the feminine plural suffixes in agreement with the gender and number of the object. The subject here is a masculine plural form; in this context it does not require agreement from the verb.

چاچے جپھّیاں دِتِّیاں گِیاں۔ / ਚਾਚੇ ਜੱਫੀਆਂ ਦਿੱਤੀਆਂ ਗੀਆਂ।

چاچے

ਚਾਚੇ

cāce

Paternal uncles

Subject

چپھّیاں

ਜੱਫੀਆਂ

japphīā̃

hugs

Object

دِتِّیاں گِیاں

ਦਿੱਤੀਆਂ ਗੀਆਂ

dittīā̃ gīā̃

given gone

Verb Phrase

چاچے چپھّیاں دِتِّیاں گِیاں

ਚਾਚੇ ਜੱਫੀਆਂ {ਦਿੱਤੀਆਂ ਗੀਆਂ}

cāce japphīā̃ {dittīā̃ gīā̃}

{Paternal uncles} hugs {given gone}

Subject Object {Verb Phrase}

The paternal uncles have given hugs.

By contrast, in the following sentence the person involved, referred to by a first-person pronoun, is the object rather than the subject. The significance of people as a semantic category takes precedent over the SOV word order tendency, and the person is typically first even in sentences where that person is the object. The pronoun "mainū̃" has the postposition "nū̃" agglutinated to it, approximately meaning "to." Abstract concepts like desires and emotions typically come "to" people as agentive subjects.

مینُوں سیب چاہِیدا اے۔ / ਮੈਨੂੰ ਸੇਬ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਏ।

مینُوں

ਮੈਨੂੰ

mainū̃

Me-to

Object

سیب

ਸੇਬ

seb

apple

Subject

چاہِیدا

ਚਾਹੀਦਾ

cāhīda

desiring

Verb

اے

ae

exists

Copula

مینُوں سیب چاہِیدا اے

ਮੈਨੂੰ ਸੇਬ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਏ

mainū̃ seb {cāhīda} ae

Me-to {apple} desiring exists

Object Subject Verb Copula

I want an apple.

The copula in Punjabi is extraverbal in function. While it can constitute the predicate of a sentence on its own, it does not enter the verb phrase when used alongside a full lexical verb. Instead, it acts as a marker of existence remote to or near to the situation. Some western dialects such as Pothohari have forms of the copula to indicate occurrence of a situation in the future.[5]

However, some Indo-Aryan languages exhibit V2 word order in combination with SOV, most prominently Kashmiri. The non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) remains in final position, but the finite (i.e. inflected) part of the verb appears in second position. Simple verbs look like SVO, whereas auxiliated verbs are discontinuous and adhere to this pattern:

کور چہے ثونٹہ کہیوان

کور

kuur

girl

Subject

چہے

chhi

is

Auxiliary

ثونٹہ

tsũũţh

apples

Object

کہیوان

khyevaan

eating

Verb

کور چہے ثونٹہ کہیوان

kuur chhi tsũũţh khyevaan

girl is apples eating

Subject Auxiliary Object Verb

The girl is eating apples.

Given that Kashmiri is a V2 language, if the word tsũũţh 'apple' comes first then the subject kuur 'girl' must follow the auxiliary chhi 'is': tsũũţh chhi kuur khyevaan [Lit. "Apples is girl eating."]

Also, the word order changes depending on whether the phrase is in a main clause or in certain kinds of dependent clause. For instance, in relative clauses, the word order is SOVAux:

Main clause + Subordinate Clause میے ان سوہ کور یوس ثونٹہ کہیوان چہے
Transcription => mye eny swa kuur => ywas tsũũţh khyevaan chhi
Gloss => I brought that girl => who apples eating is
Parts Main clause => Subject Verb Object Relative clause => Subject Object Verb Auxiliary
Translation I brought the girl who is eating apples.

Iranian languages

The Iranian languages almost uniformly exhibit SOV word order:

Kurdish (Kurmanji):

Ez xwarin dixwim.

Ez

I

Subject

xwarin

food

Object

dixwim

eat

Verb

Ez xwarin dixwim

I food eat

Subject Object Verb

I eat food.

Kurdish (Sorani):

.من خواردن دەخۆم

من

I

Subject

خواردن

food

Object

دەخۆم

eat

Verb

من خواردن دەخۆم

I food eat

Subject Object Verb

I eat food.

Ossetian:

Алан чиныг кæсы.

Алан

Alan

Alan

Subject

чиныг

činyg

book

Object

кæсы

kæsy

reads

Verb

Алан чиныг кæсы

Alan činyg kæsy

Alan book reads

Subject Object Verb

Alan reads a book.

Pashto:

زۀ کار کوم.

زۀ

Subject

کار

kaar

Object

کوم

kawəm

Verb

زۀ کار کوم

Zə kaar kawəm

Subject Object Verb

I do the work.

Persian:

من سیب می‌خورم.

من

man

I

Subject

سیب

sib

apple

Object

می‌خورم

mikhoram

eat.1.PRES

Verb

من سیب می‌خورم

man sib mikhoram

I apple eat.1.PRES

Subject Object Verb

I am eating an apple.

Talysh:

Merd kitob handedə.

Merd

Man

Subject

kitob

book

Object

handedə

reading

Verb

Merd kitob handedə

Man book reading

Subject Object Verb

The man is reading a book.

The Zaza language usually uses a subject–object-verb structure,[6] but it sometimes uses subject-verb-object too.

O ey kırışeno.

O

He

Subject

ey

it

Object

kırışeno

carries

Verb

O ey kırışeno

He it carries

Subject Object Verb

He carries it.

Italic languages

Latin

Classical Latin was an inflected language and had a very flexible word order and sentence structure, but the most usual word order in formal prose was SOV.

Servus puellam amat

Servus

Slave.NOM

Subject

puellam

girl.ACC

Object

amat

loves

Verb

Servus puellam amat

Slave.NOM girl.ACC loves

Subject Object Verb

The slave loves the girl.

Again, there are multiple valid translations (such as "a slave") that do not affect the overall analysis.

Romance languages

Although their common ancestor Latin had free word order and preferred SOV, the modern Romance languages lost the Latin declension that enabled free word order and in general require subject-verb-object structures. However, remnants of SOV remain, particularly the clitic object pronouns common in Romance grammar. For instance, in French:

Nous les avons.

Nous

We

Subject

les-avons.

them/those-have

Object-Verb

Nous les-avons.

We them/those-have

Subject Object-Verb

We have those/them

And Portuguese:

Todos aqui te amam.

Todos

Everybody

Subject

aqui

here

 

te

you.PRCL

Object

amam

love

Verb

Todos aqui te amam

Everybody here you.PRCL love

Subject {} Object Verb

Everybody here loves you.

Aquilo me entristeceu.

Aquilo

It/that

Subject

me

me.PRCL

Object

entristeceu

saddened

Verb

Aquilo me entristeceu

It/that me.PRCL saddened

Subject Object Verb

It saddened me.

And in Spanish:

Yo lo como

Yo

I

Subject

lo

it

Object

como

eat

Verb

Yo lo como

I it eat

Subject Object Verb

I eat it

Contrast this with the SVO structure of a sentence with an explicit object (again in Spanish):

Yo como tortillas

Yo

I

Subject

como

eat

Verb

tortillas

tortillas

Object

Yo como tortillas

I eat tortillas

Subject Verb Object

I eat tortillas

The SOV tendency can also be seen when using auxiliary verbs, e.g. in Italian:

Io lo sto mangiando

Io

I

Subject

lo

it

Object

sto

am

Auxiliary

mangiando

eating

Verb

Io lo sto mangiando

I it am eating

Subject Object Auxiliary Verb

I am eating it

However, some languages depart from "strict" SOV in auxiliary-verb sentences, allowing the clitic pronoun to come between the auxiliary and the main verb. For instance, both of the below are considered correct in Spanish:

Yo lo estoy comiendo

Yo

I

Subject

lo

it

Object

estoy

am

Auxiliary

comiendo

eating

Verb

Yo lo estoy comiendo

I it am eating

Subject Object Auxiliary Verb

I am eating it

(This construction is the same as the Italian above)

Yo estoy lo comiendo

Yo

I

Subject

estoy

am

Auxiliary

lo

it

Object

comiendo

eating

Verb

Yo estoy lo comiendo

I am it eating

Subject Auxiliary Object Verb

I am eating it

In all cases, however, the placement of the clitic pronoun differs from sentences where the object is explicit:

Yo estoy comiendo frijoles

Yo

I

Subject

estoy

am

Auxiliary

comiendo

eating

Verb

frijoles

beans

Object

Yo estoy comiendo frijoles

I am eating beans

Subject Auxiliary Verb Object

I am eating beans

SOV also appears in Portuguese using a temporal adverb, optionally with the negative:

Nós já [não] os temos.

Nós

We

Subject

already

 

[não]

[not]

 

os

them.MASC

Object

temos

have

Verb

Nós já [não] os temos

We already [not] them.MASC have

Subject {} {} Object Verb

(Positive) We already have them.
(Negative) We do not have them anymore.

Nós ainda [não] os temos.

Nós

We

Subject

ainda

still

 

[não]

[not]

 

os

them.MASC

Object

temos

have

Verb

Nós ainda [não] os temos

We still [not] them.MASC have

Subject {} {} Object Verb

(Positive) We still have them.
(Negative) We do not have them yet.

And in a suffix construction for the future and conditional tenses:

Eu fá-lo-ei amanhã.

Eu

I

Subject

fá-lo-ei

do-it-will

Object

amanhã

tomorrow

Verb

Eu fá-lo-ei amanhã

I do-it-will tomorrow

Subject Object Verb

I will do it tomorrow.

SVO form: Eu hei-de fazê-lo amanhã or eu farei o mesmo amanhã

Japanese

The basic principle in Japanese word order is that modifiers come before what they modify. For example, in the sentence "こんな夢を見た。" (Konna yume o mita),[7] the direct object "こんな" (this sort of dream) modifies the verb "見た" (saw, or in this case had). Beyond this, the order of the elements in a sentence is relatively free. However, because the topic/subject is typically found in sentence-initial position and the verb is typically in sentence-final position, Japanese is considered an SOV language.[8]

ジョンは台所で本を読みました。[9]

ジョン

Jon

John

Subject

wa

TOP

 

台所

daidokoro

kitchen

 

de

LOC

 

hon

book

Object

o

ACC

 

読み

yomi

read

Verb

ました。

mashita

PAST

 

ジョン 台所 読み ました。

Jon wa daidokoro de hon o yomi mashita

John TOP kitchen LOC book ACC read PAST

Subject {} {} {} Object {} Verb {}

John read a book in the kitchen.

A closely related quality of the language is that it is broadly head-final.[10]

Korean

내가 상자를 연다.

Nae-ga

I-SBJ

Subject

상자

sangja-reul

box-OBJ

Object

다.

yeonda.

open-PRES-IND

Verb

상자 다.

Nae-ga sangja-reul yeonda.

I-SBJ box-OBJ open-PRES-IND

Subject Object Verb

I open the box.

/– -ga/-i is a particle that indicates the subject. –/– -(r)eul is a particle that indicates the object. na "I" is changed to nae- before – -ga, and the verb stem yeol- is changed to yeo- before –ㄴ다 -nda.

Manchu

Sentence ᠪᡳ ᠪᡠᡩᠠ ᠪᡝ ᠵᡝᠮᠪᡳ
Gloss

ᠪᡳ

bi

I

Subject

ᠪᡠᡩᠠ

buda

meal

Object

ᠪᡝ

be

ACC

 

ᠵᡝᠮᠪᡳ

jembi

eat

Verb

ᠪᡳ ᠪᡠᡩᠠ ᠪᡝ ᠵᡝᠮᠪᡳ

bi buda be jembi

I meal ACC eat

Subject Object {} Verb

I eat a meal.

Mongolian

ᠪᠢ ᠨᠣᠮᠤᠩᠰᠢᠪᠠ

Би ном уншив.

Би

Bi

I

Subject

 

ном

nom

a book

Object

 

уншив

unshiv

read

Verb

{Би ном уншив.} {} {}

Би ном уншив

Bi nom unshiv

I {a book} read

Subject Object Verb

I read a book.

Quechua

Quechuan languages have standard SOV word order. The following example is from Bolivian Quechua.

Ñuqaqa papata mikhurqani.

Ñuqa-qa

I-TOP

Subject

papa-ta

potato-ACC

Object

mikhu-rqa-ni

eat-PAST-1SG

Verb

Ñuqa-qa papa-ta mikhu-rqa-ni

I-TOP potato-ACC eat-PAST-1SG

Subject Object Verb

I ate potatoes.

Sino-Tibetan languages

SOV is believed to have been the "default" order of the protolanguage of the Sino-Tibetan family. Most Sino-Tibetan languages exhibit SOV order; however, the largest sub-branch of the family, the Sinitic or Chinese languages, are uniformly SVO, with some SOV-derived features.

Burmese

Burmese is an analytic language.

ငါကရေသန့်ဘူးကိုဖွင့်တယ်။

ငါ

ŋà

nga

I

Subject

က

ɡa̰

ga.

SUBJ

 

ရေသန့်ဘူး

seʔkù bú

se'ku bu:

water bottle

Object

ကို

ɡò

gou

OBJ

 

ဖွင့်

pʰwìɴ

hpwin.

open

Verb

တယ်

de

PRES

 

ငါ က ရေသန့်ဘူး ကို ဖွင့် တယ်

ŋà ɡa̰ {seʔkù bú} ɡò pʰwìɴ dè

nga ga. {se'ku bu:} gou hpwin. de

I SUBJ {water bottle} OBJ open PRES

Subject {} Object {} Verb {}

I open the water bottle.

Chinese

Generally, Chinese varieties all feature SVO word order. However, especially in Standard Mandarin, SOV is tolerated as well. There is even a special particle 把 (bǎ) used to form an SOV sentence.[11]

The following example that uses 把 is controversially labelled as SOV. 把 may be interpreted as a verb, meaning "to hold". However, it does not mean to hold something literally or physically. Rather, the object is held figuratively, and then another verb is acted on the object.[citation needed]

SOV structure is widely used in railway contact in order to clarify the objective of the order.[12]

我把蘋果吃了.

I

Subject

sign for moving object before the verb

Sign

蘋果

píngguǒ

apple

Object

吃了.

chīle.

ate

Verb

我 把 蘋果 吃了.

Wǒ bǎ píngguǒ chīle.

I {sign for moving object before the verb} apple ate

Subject Sign Object Verb

I ate the apple. (The apple we were talking about earlier)

Meitei

ꯑꯩ ꯐꯨꯠꯕꯣꯜ ꯁꯥꯅꯩ꯫

ꯑꯩ

Ei

I

Subject

ꯐꯨꯠꯕꯣꯜ

football

football

Object

ꯁꯥꯅꯩ

sanei

play

Verb

ꯑꯩ ꯐꯨꯠꯕꯣꯜ ꯁꯥꯅꯩ

Ei football sanei

I football play

Subject Object Verb

I play football.

Yi

ꉢꌧꅪꋠ.

nga

I

Subject

ꌧꅪ

syp-hni

(an) apple

Object

zze.

(to) eat

Verb

ꉢ ꌧꅪ ꋠ

nga syp-hni zze.

I {(an) apple} {(to) eat}

Subject Object Verb

I eat an apple.

Turkic languages

The Turkic languages all exhibit flexibility in word order, so any order is possible. However, the SOV order is the "default" one that does not connote particular emphasis on any part of the sentence; alternate orders are possible, but are used for emphasis. For instance, in Turkish, the following is the "default" way of saying "Murat ate the apple":

Murat elmayı yedi.

Murat

Murat

Subject

elmayı

apple

Object

yedi

ate

Verb

Murat elmayı yedi

Murat apple ate

Subject Object Verb

Murat ate the apple.

However, this sentence could also be constructed as OSV (Elmayı Murat yedi.), OVS (Elmayı yedi Murat.), VSO (Yedi Murat elmayı.), VOS (Yedi elmayı Murat.), or SVO (Murat yedi elmayı.), to indicate the relative importance of the subject, object, or the verb.

Similarly, in Uzbek this SOV sentence is neutral:

Anvar Xivaga ketdi.

Anvar

Anvar.NOM

Subject

Xivaga

to Khiva.DAT

Object

ketdi.

went

Verb

Anvar Xivaga ketdi.

Anvar.NOM {to Khiva.DAT} went

Subject Object Verb

Anvar went to Khiva.

(The marker "ga" is a dative case marker for the object that precedes it.)

But the sentence can be changed into OSV as well ("Xivaga Anvar ketdi") to change the emphasis ("It was Anvar who went to Khiva").

The same holds in Kazakh, where the below is neutral:

Дастан кітап оқыды.

Дастан

Dastan

Dastan

Subject

кітап

kitap

a book

Object

оқыды

oqıdı

read

Verb

Дастан кітап оқыды

Dastan kitap oqıdı

Dastan {a book} read

Subject Object Verb

Dastan read a book.

But an OSV sentence (Кітапті Дастан оқыды) can be used to change the emphasis.

Other examples of OSV sentences in Turkic:

Azerbaijani:

Ümid ağac əkəcək.

Ümid

Umid

Subject

ağac

tree

Object

əkəcək

will plant

Verb

Ümid ağac əkəcək

Umid tree {will plant}

Subject Object Verb

Umid will plant a tree.

Kyrgyz:

Биз алма жедик

Биз

Biz

We

Subject

алма

alma

apple

Object

жедик

jedik

ate

Verb

Биз алма жедик

Biz alma jedik

We apple ate

Subject Object Verb

We ate an apple

Uralic languages

The "idealized" profile of the Uralic languages has subject-verb-object word order. However, some Uralic languages, including the most widely spoken (Hungarian) prefer SOV.

Hungarian

Hungarian word order is free, although the meaning slightly changes. Almost all permutations of the following sample are valid, but with stress on different parts of the meaning.

Pista kenyeret szeletel.

Pista

Pista

Subject

kenyeret

bread

Object

szeletel

slices

Verb

Pista kenyeret szeletel

Pista bread slices

Subject Object Verb

Pista slices bread.

Udmurt

Мoн книгa лыӟӥcькo.

Мoн

Mon

I

Subject

книгa

kńiga

a book

Object

лыӟӥськo.

lydźiśko.

to read

Verb

Мoн книгa лыӟӥськo.

Mon kńiga lydźiśko.

I {a book} {to read}

Subject Object Verb

I am reading a book.

Zarma

Hama na mo ŋwa.

Hama

Hama

Subject

na

COMP

 

mo

rice

Object

ŋwa

eat

Verb

Hama na mo ŋwa

Hama COMP rice eat

Subject {} Object Verb

Hama ate rice.

See also

References

  1. ^ Meyer, Charles F. (2010). Introducing English Linguistics (Student ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ Tomlin, Russell S. (1986). Basic Word Order: Functional Principles. London: Croom Helm. p. 22. ISBN 9780709924999. OCLC 13423631.
  3. ^ Crystal, David (1997). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55967-7.
  4. ^ Andreas Fischer, "'With this ring I thee wed': The verbs to wed and to marry in the history of English". Language History and Linguistic Modelling: A Festschrift for Jacek Fisiak on his 60th Birthday. Ed. Raymond Hickey and Stanislaw Puppel. Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 101 (Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997), pp.467-81
  5. ^ Mangat Rai Bhardwaj (2016). Panjabi: A Comprehensive Grammar. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-79385-9. LCCN 2015042069. OCLC 948602857. OL 35828315M. Wikidata Q23831241.
  6. ^ Ahmadi, S. (2020, December). Building a Corpus for the Zaza–Gorani Language Family. In Proceedings of the 7th Workshop on NLP for Similar Languages, Varieties and Dialects (pp. 70-78).
  7. ^ Sōseki, Natsume (July 26, 1988) [First published July 25, 1908]. 夢十夜 [Ten Nights of Dreams] (in Japanese). Chikuma Shobō. ISBN 4-480-02170-1 – via Aozora Bunko.
  8. ^ Makino, Seiichi; Tsutsui, Michio (March 1999) [First published March 1986]. A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar. The Japan Times, Ltd. p. 16. ISBN 4-7890-0454-6.
  9. ^ Futagi, Yoko (October 2004). Japanese Focus Particles at the Syntax-Semantics Interface (PDF) (PhD). Rutgers University–New Brunswick. p. 23. OCLC 60853899. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  10. ^ Siegel, Melanie; Bender, Emily M. (2004). "Head-Initial Constructions in Japanese" (PDF). In Müller, Stefan (ed.). Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Center for Computational Linguistics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications. pp. 244–260.
  11. ^ "Understanding 把 (bǎ) in ten minutes". ChineseBoost.com. 28 February 2015. Archived from the original on 2022-01-21.
  12. ^ 车机联控语言——铁路行车领域"共同语言"的研究 (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2020-12-18 – via Baidu.
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Subject–object–verb word order
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