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Word order

From Academic Kids

Word order, in linguistic typology, refers to the order in which words appear in sentences across different languages. In many languages, changes in word order occur due to topicalization or in questions. However, all languages are generally assumed to have a basic word order. That word order is unmarked. That is, it contains no extra information to the listener. For example, English is SVO, as in "I don't know this," but OSV is possible: "This I don't know." This process is called topic-fronting (also topicalization or focus fronting) and is extremely common. The OSV is a marked word order because it emphasises the object.

An example of OSV being used for emphasis:

A: I can't see Jill.
B: What about Bill?
A: Bill I can see. (rather than I can see Bill)

Sentence word orders

These are all possible word orders for the subject, verb, and object:

It is not understood why word orders with the subject before the object are much more common than word orders with the object before the subject.

Some languages can be said to have more than one basic word order. French is SVO, but it incorporates or cliticizes objective pronouns before the verb. This makes French SOV in some sentences.

Phrase Word Orders

Main Article: Branching

There are additional trends in word order. SOV languages generally put modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) before what they modify, and use postpositions. VSO languages put modifiers after, and use prepositions. For SVO languages, either order is possible.

For example: French is SVO. It uses prepositions (preposition-object), and places adjectives after (head-modifier). However, a small class of adjectives generally go before their heads.

On the other hand, English adjectives always go first (modifier-head). Adverbs can go either way, but initially is more common. English uses prepositions.

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