“consistency is neither a goal nor a function of language” “the main function […] communication” – Dayley’s Why all languages aren’t SOV or VOS
The Basic Word Order is a very simplified version of a sentence only consisting in the verb, an object and a subject.
The capybara ate the corn. (SVO) See also: The corn was eaten by the capybara. (OVS, passive) Das Capybara aß den Mais. (SVO)
There are six possible combinations:
- SVO (Europe, Africa (middle/south), Indonesia)
- OSV (0,5%)
But most languages use only two to three word orders which are considered grammatical by its speakers. However, some languages are fully fluid.
The most common word order is SOV (43%), followed by SVO (40%). Notice the subject being in first position in both cases.
The least common three are so rare that they were thought to not exist by many European linguists.
It has been theorised for the longest time that the verb and the object are usually stuck together, with some linguists even saying that this is how children learn language or that SOV is the way our brain works… but that doesn’t make much sense to me.
Perhaps it’s too simplistic and somewhat arrogant to reduce languages to their supposed word order without looking at cognition as well as (colonial and situational) context.
OSV isn’t so rare when you look at the third or fourth level of word orders used in a language. Both Korean and Maya use it. The important thing here is that both of them tend to put the topic of the coming sentence first before commenting on it.
See Amazon languages… Researchers might have gone the wrong way here, calculating the most common word order in the least common sentences.
- Keywords: linguistics