Know : What is Your Language’s Word Order?

In linguistic typology, subject–verb–object (SVO) is a sentence structure where the subject comes first, the verb second, and the object third.  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). 

Word Order

Source : Frequency distribution of word order in languages surveyed by Russell S. Tomlin in 1980s.

Languages that have SOV structure:

Ainu,  Akkadian,  Amharic,  Armenian,  Assamese,  Aymara, Azerbaijani, Basque, Bengali, Burmese, Burushaski, Dogon languages,  Elamite,  Ancient Greek,  Hindi, Hittite,  Hopi, Hungarian, Ijoid languages, Itelmen, Japanese, Kazakh, Korean,Kurdish, Classical Latin, Manchu, Mande languages,  Marathi, Mongolian,  Navajo, Nepali,  Newari,  Nivkh,  Nobiin,  Pāli,  Pashto,  Persian, Punjabi, Quechua,  Sanskrit, Senufo languages,  Seri,  Sicilian,  Sindhi,  Sinhalese  and  most  other  Indo-Iranian languages,  Somali and  virtually all other Cushitic languages, Sumerian, Tagalog, Tibetanand nearly all other Tibeto-Burman languages, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and all other Dravidian languages, Tigrinya, Turkic languages, Turkish, Urdu, Yukaghir, and virtually all Caucasian languages.

Languages that have SVO structure:

Albanian, Arabic, Assyrian (VSO and VOS are also followed, depending on the person), Berber, Bulgarian, Chinese, English, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Ganda, Greek, Hausa, Hebrew, Italian, Javanese, Kashmiri, Khmer, Latvian, Macedonian, Polish, Portuguese, Quiche, Romanian, Rotuman, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swahili, Thai, Vietnamese, Yoruba and Zulu are examples of languages that can follow an SVO pattern

Languages that have VSO structure:

Semitic languages (including Arabic, Classical Hebrew, and Ge’ez (Classical Ethiopic) (dead language)), and Celtic languages (including Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, and Breton).

Other families where all or many of languages are VSO include the following

  • the Afroasiatic languages (including the Berber languages and the Egyptian language)
  • the Mayan languages (including Classic Maya)
  • the Otomanguean languages (including Zapotec languages and Mixtecan languages)
  • the Salishan languages
  • the Austronesian languages (including Tagalog, Cebuano, Hawaiian, Pangasinan, Māori, Malagasy, and Tongan).

Both the Spanish and Greek language resemble Semitic languages such as Arabic in allowing for both VSO and SVO structures: e.g. “Jesús vino el jueves” / Vino Jesús el jueves, “Tu madre dice que no vayas”/”dice tu madre que no vayas”. In Spanish, the only restriction on the VSO form is for the object to require a definite or indefinite article in the sentence

Languages that have VOS structure:

 Austronesian languages (such as Malagasy, Old Javanese, Toba Batak and Fijian) andMayan languages (such as Tzotzil). However, these have either (mixed) ergative or Austronesian alignment, and as such do not have a subject as it has been traditionally defined. Among languages with true subjects, in Hadza the word order VOS is extremely common, but is not the default, which is VSO

Languages that have OVS / OSV structure:

Object–verb–subject (OVS) or object–verb–agent (OVA) is a rare permutation of word order. OVS denotes the sequence object–verb–subject in unmarked expressions: Oranges ate SamThorns have roses. While the passive voice in English may appear to be in the OVS order, this is not an accurate description. In an active voice sentence, for example Sam ate the oranges, the grammatical subject, Sam, is the ‘agent’, who is acting on the ‘patient,’the oranges, which are the object of the verb ate. In the passive voice, The oranges were eaten by Sam, the order is reversed so that patient is followed by verb, followed by agent. However, the oranges become the subject of the verbwere eaten which is modified by the prepositional phrase by Sam which expresses the agent, maintaining the usual subject–verb–(object) order.

Star Wars franchise creator George Lucas attributed to his fictional character Yoda a native language featuring OSV grammatical order, as reflected in the character’s instinctive application of the OSV template to English vocabulary in generating statements such as “Your father he is, but defeat him you must.”

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