Subject-object-verb
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Subject%E2%80%93object%E2%80%93verb

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".

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

Incidence

Word
order
English
equivalent
Proportion
of languages
Example
languages
SOV "She him loves." 45% 45
 
Sanskrit, Hindi, Ancient Greek, Latin, Japanese, Korean, Persian
SVO "She loves him." 42% 42
 
Chinese, English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Hausa, Thai, Malay
VSO "Loves she him." 9% 9
 
Biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Irish, Filipino, Tuareg-Berber, Welsh
VOS "Loves him she." 3% 3
 
Malagasy, Baure, Car
OVS "Him loves she." 1% 1
 
Apalaí, Hixkaryana, Klingon
OSV "Him she loves." 0% Warao
Frequency distribution of word order in languages surveyed by Russell S. Tomlin in 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 75% of natural languages with a preferred order).[3]

Languages that have SOV structure include Ainu, Akkadian, Amharic, Armenian, Assamese, Assyrian, Aymara, Azerbaijani, Basque, Bengali, Burmese, Burushaski, Cherokee, Dakota, Dogon languages, Elamite, Ancient Greek, Gujarati, Hajong, Hindi, Hittite, Hopi, Ijoid languages, Itelmen, Japanese, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Korean, Kurdish, Classical Latin, Lakota, Manchu, Mande languages, Marathi, Mongolian, Navajo, Nepali, Newari, Nivkh, Nobiin, P?li, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Quechua, Senufo languages, Seri, Sicilian, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Sunuwar and most other Indo-Iranian languages, Somali and virtually all other Cushitic languages, Sumerian, Tibetan and nearly all other Tibeto-Burman languages, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and all other Dravidian languages, Tigrinya, Turkish and other Turkic languages, Urdu, almost all Uto-Aztecan languages, Uzbek, Yukaghir, and virtually all Caucasian languages.

Standard Mandarin is SVO, but for simple sentences with a clear context, word order is flexible enough to allow for 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. Because adjectives in this type are much more verb-like than in dependent-marking SOV languages, 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 the original SOV retain (at least to an extent) the properties, for example the Finnish language (high usage of postpositions etc.)

Examples

Albanian

Sentence Agimi librin e mori.
Words Agimi librin e mori
Gloss Agimi the book took
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Agimi took the book. (It was Agimi who took the book)
  • This sequence (SOV) occurs only in the poetic language.

Azerbaijani

Sentence Ümid a?ac ?k?c?k.
Words Ümid a?ac ?k?c?k
Gloss Umid tree will plant
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Umid will plant a tree.

Armenian

Sentence
Words ?
Romanization Im anun? ?u?anik ?
Gloss My name Shushanik is
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation My name is Shushanik.

Basque

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

Sentence Enekok sagarra ekarri du.
Words Enekok sagarra ekarri du
Gloss Eneko (+ERGative) the apple brought (to bring) AUX has
Parts Agent Object Verb
Translation Eneko has brought the apple
Sentence Eneritzek eskatu du inork irakurri nahi ez zuen liburua
Words Eneritzek eskatu du + + +
Gloss Eneritz (+ERGative) asked for AUX has + + +
Parts Agent Verb Objects
Translation Eneritz requested the book nobody wanted to read

Bengali

Sentence
Words
IPA ami
ami
b?at
bhat
k?ai
khai
Gloss I (subj) rice (obj) eat (pres)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I eat rice.

Burmese

Burmese is an analytic language.

Sentence ? ?
Words ?
IPA
nga
?a?
ga.
se?kù bú
se'ku bu:

gou
p?wì?
hpwin.

de
Gloss I (subj) box (obj) open (pres)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I open the box.

Chinese

Generally, Chinese varieties all feature SVO word order. However, especially in Standard Mandarin, SOV is tolerated as well. There is even a special structure to form an SOV sentence.[]

SOV structure is also widely used in railway contact in order to clarify the objective of the order.[5]

The following example that uses ? is controversially labelled as SOV. ? 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 mentally, and then another verb is acted on the object.[]

Sentence .
Words ? ? .
Transliteration W? b? pínggu? ch?le
Gloss I sign for moving object before the verb apple ate
Parts Subject Sign Object Verb
Translation I ate the apple. (The apple we were talking about earlier)

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:

Sentence Ik wil je helpen.
Parts Ik wil je helpen
Gloss I want to you help
Parts subject fin.verb object nonfin.verb
Translation I want to help you.

Pure SOV order is found in subordinate clauses:

Sentence Ik zei dat ik je wil helpen.
Parts Ik zei dat ik je wil helpen
Gloss I said that I you want to help
Parts subject fin.verb subord. conj. subject object fin.verb nonfin.verb
Translation I said that I want to help you.

French

The French language usually uses a subject-verb-object structure but places proclitics before the verb when using most pronouns, which is sometimes mistaken for SOV word order.

Sentence Nous les avons.
Parts Nous les-avons.
Gloss We them/those-have
Parts Subject Object-Verb
Translation We have those/them

Georgian

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

Sentence .
Transliteration me kartveli var
Parts .
Gloss I Georgian [I] am
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I am (a) Georgian.

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:

Sentence Er hat einen Apfel gegessen.
Words Er hat einen Apfel gegessen.
Gloss He has an apple eaten.
Parts Subject Auxiliary Object Verb
Translation 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):

Subordinate Clause Weil Horst einen Apfel gegessen hat.
Words Weil Horst einen Apfel gegessen hat.
Gloss Because Horst an apple eaten has.
Parts Conjunction Subject Object Verb Auxiliary
Translation Because Horst has eaten an apple.

Greek (Classical)

Sentence ? ? ?ò? .
Words ? ? (ho an?r) ?ò? (tòn paîda) (phileî).
Gloss The man the child loves.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation The man loves the child.

Hajong

Sentence Moi hugre'mre' khasei.
Words Moi hugre'm re' kha sei.
Gloss I guava (accusative) eat (past tense, indicative)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation 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

Sentence ? ?
Words ?
Romanization main seb khaataa hun
Gloss I an apple eat (simple present. m.)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I eat an apple.

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.

Sentence Pista kenyeret szeletel.
Words Pista kenyeret szeletel
Gloss Pista bread slices
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation  Pista slices bread.

Italian

The Italian language usually uses a subject-verb-object structure, but when an enclitic pronoun is used, this comes before the verb and the auxiliary.

Sentence Io la sto mangiando
Parts Io la sto mangiando
Gloss I it am eating
Parts Subject Object Auxiliary Verb
Translation I am eating it

Japanese

Sentence ????
Words ? ? ? ?
Romanization watashi ga hako (w)o akemasu.
Gloss I (sub) box (obj) open(polite)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I (am the one who) open(s) the box.

The markers ? (ga) and ? ((w)o) are, respectively, subject and object markers for the words that precede them. Technically, the sentence could be translated a number of ways ("I open a box", "It is I who open the boxes", etc.), but this does not affect the SOV analysis.

Japanese has some flexibility in word order, so an OSV is also possible. (????)

Kannada

Sentence ? .
Words ?
Transliteration Naanu mane kaTTidenu
Gloss I the house built
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I built the house.

Kashmiri

Like German and Dutch the Indo-Aryan language Kashmiri is SOV combined with V2 word order. 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:

Sentence
Transcription kuur chhi tsh khyevaan
Gloss girl is apples eating
Parts Subject Auxiliary Object Verb
Translation The girl is eating apples.

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

The word order changes also 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
Transcription => mye eny swa kuur => ywas tsh 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.

Kazakh

Sentence .
Words
Transliteration Dastan kitap oq?d?
Gloss Dastan a book read
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Dastan read a book.

Like in Japanese, OSV is possible too. (? .)

Korean

Sentence ?? ? ??.
Words ? ? ? ?(?) ? ?.
Romanization nae ga sangja reul yeo(l) n da.
Gloss I (subject) box (object) open (present) (indicative)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I open the box.

'? (Ga)/? (i)' is a particle that indicates the subject. '? (Reul)/? (eul)' is a particle that indicates the object. The consonant '? (l)' in the verb stem (?-) is dropped before the suffix.

? Here, '? (na, I (pronoun))' is changed to '? (nae)' before '? (ga)'.

Kyrgyz

Sentence ?
Words ?
Transliteration Biz alma jedik
Gloss We an apple ate
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation We ate an apple

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.

Sentence Servus puellam amat
Words Servus puellam amat
Gloss Slave (nom) girl (acc) loves
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation The slave loves the girl.

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

Malayalam

Sentence ? ?.
Words ? ? ?
Transliteration ñ?n pustakam? (-e) (accusative)* e?uttu
Gloss I (the) book took
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I took the book.
  • Pustakam? + -e = pustakatte (?)

Manchu

Sentence ?
Words ?
Transliteration bi buda be jembi
Gloss I meal (accusative) eat
Parts Subject Object Grammatical marker Verb
Translation I eat a meal.

Marathi

Sentence .
Words
Transliteration T? biy p?rat?
Gloss he seeds sows
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation He sows seeds.

Mongolian

Sentence .
Words
Transliteration Bi nom unshiv
Gloss I a book read
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I read a book.

Nepali

Sentence ? ?
Words ?
Transliteration Ma vidyalaya j?nchhu
Gloss I school go (simple present)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I go to school.

Ossetian

Sentence ? ?æ.
Words ?
Transliteration Alan ?inyg kæsy
Gloss Alan book reads
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Alan reads a book.

Pashto

Sentence .
Words
Gloss (Subject Pronoun) (Noun) (verb)
Transliteration Z? kaar kaw?m
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I do the work.

Persian

Sentence . ?
Words ?
Gloss I apple eat (first person present tense)
Transliteration man seeb mikhoram
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I am eating an apple.

Portuguese

Portuguese is an SVO language, but it has some SOV constructs.

In case of proclisis:

Sentence Todos aqui te amam.
Word Todos aqui te amam
Gloss Everybody here you (proclitic) love
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Everybody here loves you.
Sentence Aquilo me entristeceu.
Word Aquilo me entristeceu
Gloss It/that me (proclitic) saddened
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation It saddened me.

When using a temporal adverb, optionally with the negative:

Sentence Nós já [não] os temos.
Word Nós já [não] os temos
Gloss We already [not] them (masc.) have
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation (Positive) We already have them.
(Negative) We do not have them anymore.
Sentence Nós ainda [não] os temos.
Word Nós ainda [não] os temos
Gloss We still [not] them (masc.) have
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation (Positive) We still have them.
(Negative) We have do not them yet.

There is an infix construction for the future and conditional tenses:

Sentence Eu fá-lo-ei amanhã.
Word Eu fá-lo-ei amanhã
Gloss I do-it-will tomorrow
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I will do it tomorrow.

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

Punjabi

Sentence
Words
Romanization mainu ikk seb chaahida hai
Gloss I(dative) an apple want
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I want an apple.

Russian

Russian is an inflected language and very flexible in word order; it allows all possible word combinations. However, it is generally considered a SVO language.

Sentence
Words
Transliteration aná yevó lyúbit
Gloss she (nom) him (acc) loves
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation She loves him

for example: , o, o , and virtually all re-orderings of Russian sentence order are correct although this is often used in different situations to emphasize particular constituents of a sentence. Who loves him? 'she' is the one who loves him (emphatic meaning). In this way any part of the sentence can be emphasized without changing basic meaning (a convenience created by Russian's noun case system)

Sanskrit

Sanskrit, like its predecessor, Vedic, is an inflected language and very flexible in word order; it allows all possible word combinations. However, it is generally considered a SOV language.

Sentence tát t(ú)vam ási
Words tát t(ú)vam ási
Gloss that you are
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation That you are.

Somali

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

Sentence Aniga baa albaabka furay
Words Aniga baa albaab(ka) furay
Gloss I Focus (the) door opened
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I opened the door

Spanish

The Spanish language usually uses a subject-verb-object structure, but when an enclitic pronoun is used, this comes before the verb and the auxiliary. Sometimes, in dual-verb constructions involving the infinitive and the gerund, the enclitic pronoun can be put before both verbs, or attached to the end of the second verb.

Sentence Yo lo como
Parts Yo lo como
Gloss I it eat
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I eat it

Talysh

Sentence Merd kitob handed?.
Words Merd kitob handed?
Gloss Man book reading
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation The man is reading a book.

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.

Sentence ? .
Words ? .
Romanization N?n pei-yai ti?a-pp-?n.
Gloss I-Nom. box-Acc. open-Fut.-1P.Sing.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I will open the box.

Telugu

Sentence ? .
Words ? .
Transliteration N?nu p?rt?ki ve?tunn?nu.
Gloss I to party am going.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I am going to the party.

Tigrinya

The Tigrinya language usually uses a subject-verb-object structure.

Sentence ?
Words ?
Gloss Daniel ball kicked
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Daniel kicked the ball.

Turkish

Sentence Yusuf elmay? yedi.
Words Yusuf elmay? yedi
Gloss Joseph the apple ate
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Joseph ate the apple.

Like all other Turkic languages, Turkish has flexibility in word order, so any order is possible. For example, in addition to the SOV order above, this sentence could also be constructed as OSV (Elmay? Yusuf yedi.), OVS (Elmay? yedi Yusuf.), VSO (Yedi Yusuf elmay?.), VOS (Yedi elmay? Yusuf.), or SVO (Yusuf yedi elmay?.), but these other orders carry a connotation of emphasis of importance on either the subject, object, or the verb. The SOV order is the "default" one that does not connote particular emphasis on any part of the sentence.

Udmurt

Sentence ?o? ?a ?co.
Words ?o? ?a ?co.
Romanization mon kniga lyjis'ko
Gloss I a book to read
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I am reading a book.

Urdu

Sentence .
Words
Romanization main ne use dekha
Gloss I(ergative) him/her saw
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I saw him/her.

Uzbek

Sentence Anvar Xivaga ketdi.
Words Anvar Xivaga ketdi.
Gloss Anvar (nom) to Khiva (dat) went
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Anvar went to Khiva.

The marker "ga" is a dative case marker for the object that precedes it. Due to flexibility in word order in Uzbek, it is possible to transform the sentence into OSV as well ("Xivaga Anvar ketdi" / "It was Anvar who went to Khiva").

Yi

Sentence ?.
Words ? ? .
Romaniz. nga syp-hni zze.
Gloss I (an) apple (to) eat.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I eat an apple.

Zarma

Sentence Hama na mo ?wa .
Words Hama na mo ?wa
Gloss Hama (completed aspect) rice eat
Parts Subject Grammatical marker Object Verb
Translation Hama ate rice.

See also

References

  1. ^ Meyer, Charles F. (2010). Introducing English Linguistics International (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. ^ ----"?" (Thesis) (in Chinese).

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