Word order and inversion (43393)

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Introduction


In linguistics, word order typology refers to the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages can employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic subdomains are also of interest.

Some languages have relatively restrictive word orders, often relying on the order of constituents to convey important grammatical information. Others, often those that convey grammatical information through inflection, allow more flexibility which can be used to encode pragmatic information such as topicalisation or focus. Most languages however have some preferred word order which is used most frequently.

For most languages, basic word order can be defined in terms of the finite verb (V) and its arguments, the subject (S) and object (O). The latter are typically noun phrases, although some languages do not have a major word class of nouns.

There are six theoretically possible basic word orders for the transitive sentence: subject verb object (SVO), subject object verb (SOV), verb subject object (VSO), verb object subject (VOS), object subject verb (OSV) and object verb subject (OVS). The overwhelming majority of the world's languages are either SVO or SOV, with a much smaller but still significant portion using VSO word order. The remaining three arrangements are exceptionally rare, with VOS being slightly more common than OVS, and OSV being significantly more rare than two preceding ones.

English language is characterized by a rigid word order in accordance with which the subject of declarative sentences, as a rule, precedes the predicate. This is the so-called DIRECT word order, e.g. The assistant greeted the professor.

Any deviation from the rigid word order is termed inversion, e.g. Often has he recollected the glorious days of the Civil War.

The direct object is usually placed after the verb unless the indirect object precedes it, e.g. He offered me his help. Sometimes the object is pushed to the front of the sentence, it occurs when:

  1. The direct object is an interrogative word, which is naturally placed at the head of the sentence to form a special question, e.g. What did you do?

  2. The object is separated from its verb by some other parts of the sentence – adverbial complements, prepositional objects – when it is intentionally placed at the end of the sentence for the sake of emphasis, logical stress, e.g. And unexpectedly he saw against the background of the forest two approaching figures.

The indirect object cannot be used in the sentence without the direct object. The indirect object is regularly put before the direct object. The prepositional objects can be put at the head of the sentence for the sake of emphasis.

Occasionally the prepositional object is placed before the direct object (in to-phrases).

Adverbial modifiers-the position of AM in the sentence is known to be comparatively more free that that of other parts.

Those which are most closely linked with the part of the sentence they modify are the ones that denote the frequency or the property of an action. They come between the subject and the predicate, or even inside the predicate if it consists of two words-an auxiliary and a notional verb, or two elements of a compound predicate.

The more usual position of the adverbial modifiers of time and place is, however, outside the group “subject+predicate+object”, that is, either before or after it. If it contains the main new things to be conveyed, this adverbial modifier will have to come at the end of the sentence. The adverbial modifier of time can go at the beginning of the sentence.

An adverbial modifier can also come in between two components of the predicate.

Attributes- the position of an attribute before or after it’s head word largely depends on it’s morphological type. An attribute consisting of a prepositional phrase can only come after it’s head word. As to adjectival attributes, their usual position is before their headword, but in some case they follow it. An attribute expressed by an adverb may come before its headword.

Direct address and parentheses- the position of these parts of the sentence is probably more free that that of all other parts. A direct address can come in almost anywhere in the sentence.

Much the same may be said about parentheses. Some types of P usually come in between two constituent parts of the predicate. P.may also refer to one part of the sentence only, and is then bound to come before that part.

Particles-if a P belongs to a noun connected to a noun connected with a preposition, the P will come between the preposition and the noun. Sometimes a P refers to the word of phrase immediately preceding it. This can only happen if the P stands at the end of the sentence or at least at the end of a section of the sentence marked by a pause in oral speech and by a comma or other punctuation mark in writing. This usage seems to be restricted to more or less official style.

Sometimes a particle comes before the predicate or between two elements of the predicate, while it refers to some secondary part of the sentence standing further ahead. In these cases, then, the position of the particle is determined, not by it’s semantic ties, but by the structure of the sentence.

On the whole, the problem of WO proves to be a highly complex one, requiring great care and subtlety in the handling. Different factors have something to do with determining the place of one part of a sentence or another.

Inversion which was briefly mentioned in the definition of chiasmus is very often used as an independent SD in which the direct word order is changed either completely so that the predicate (predicative) precedes the subject, or partially so that the object precedes the subject-predicate pair. Correspondingly, we differentiate between a partial and a complete inversion. The stylistic device of inversion should not be confused with. grammatical inversion which is a norm in interrogative constructions. Stylistic inversion deals with. the rearrangement of the normative word order. Questions may also be rearranged: "Your mother is at home?" asks one of the characters of J. Baldwin's novel. The inverted 'question presupposes the answer with. more certainty than the normative one. It is the assuredness of the speaker of the positive answer that constitutes additional information which is brought into the question by the inverted word order. Interrogative constructions with. the direct word order may be viewed as cases of two-step (double) inversion: direct w / o ---> grammatical inversion ---> direct w / o.


Basic Word Order


English word order is strict and rather inflexible. As there are few endings in English that show person, number, case or tense, English relies on word order to show the relationships between the words in the sentence.

In Russian, we rely on the endings to tell us how the words interact in the sentence. You probably remember the phrase made up by Academician L.V. Scherba to demonstrate the work of the endings and suffixes in Russian. (No English translation for this phrase.) Everything we need to know about the interaction of the characters in this sentence, we learn from the endings and suffixes.

English nouns do not have any case endings (only personal pronouns have some case endings), so it is mostly the word order that tells you where things are in the sentence and how they interact. Compare these sentences:

The cat sees the dog.

The dog sees the cat.

The subject and the object in these sentences are completely the same in form. How do you know who sees whom? The rules of English word order tell you that.

Finding the basic word order

It is not always easy to find the basic word order of S, O and V. First, not all languages make use of the categories of subject and object. It is difficult to determine the order of elements one cannot identify in the first place. If subject and object can be identified, the problem can arise that different orders prevail in different contexts. For instance, French has SVO for nouns, but SOV when pronouns are involved; German has verb-medial order in main clauses, but verb-final order in subordinate clauses. In other languages the word order of transitive and intransitive clauses may not correspond. Russian, for example, has SVO transitive clauses but free order (SV or VS) in intransitive clauses.[dubious discuss] To have a valid base for comparison, the basic word order is defined[by whom?] as

  • declarative

  • main clause

  • S and O must both be nominal arguments

  • pragmatically neutral, i.e. no element has special emphasis

While the first two of these requirements are relatively easy to respect, the latter two are more difficult. In spoken language, there are hardly ever two full nouns in a clause; the norm is for the clause to have at most one noun, the other arguments being pronouns. In written language, this is somewhat different[citation needed], but that is of no help when investigating oral languages. Finally, the notion of "pragmatically neutral" is difficult to test. While the English sentence "The king, they killed." has a heavy emphasis on king, in other languages, that order (OSV) might not carry a significantly higher emphasis than another order.

If all the requirements above are met, it still sometimes turns out that languages do not seem to prefer any particular word order. The last resort is text counts, but even then, some languages must be analyzed as having two (or even more) word orders.

Word order patterns

A sentence is a group of words containing a subject and a predicate and expressing a complete thought.


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