What are some subject-verb-object languages

Popular and wrong: subject – verb – object

There are probably popular falsehoods in every discipline that persist. The belief that you can get a cold from cold itself (and not just from viruses or bacteria) is probably one such case. And recently a (generally educated) acquaintance said to me that light is probably twice the speed of light mustif it were emitted in the direction of flight by an aircraft that is as fast as light. The fact that speeds add up can be counted on five everyday fingers ... All wrong! Scientists can certainly be wrong in the long term, but some results are very well supported theoretically and empirically. The question of how words line up in a German sentence has a little less impact than epidemics and the speed of light. But wrong is wrong here too.

1. SVO - Is anyone claiming that at all?

As a German grammarian or linguist, one particularly reluctantly hears that German is a sentence position or Word order of type Subject – verb – object (short: SVO) or (often meant synonymously)Subject Predicate Object have. Insist that it will be held here anyway sentence position or Word order actually Constituent position should mean, because neither sentences nor words, but certain groups of words (constituents) are put, I'll go into another time. This is only about the SVO idea.

A more elaborate version of the statement that German has an SVO basic position is currently available e.g. here: Wikipedia, German grammar (May 1, 2015) on the topic of sentence structure. I'll quote, although you have to note that this is supposed to be the general order in main clauses (and before subordinate clauses [Huh?]):

1st sentence structure - main clause

The 1st sentence structure has the order

Subject - final predicate - indirect object - direct object - adverbs - predicate remainder
The sentence negation comes before the predicate remainder.

Example: "the seller - had - given - the book - to his customer - yesterday - in his shop - (not)."

Frequent deviations:

  • The adverb of time comes before the direct object.
  • Switching between the indirect and direct object results in a slight emphasis on the indirect object.

The first sentence structure is in main clauses and before subordinate clauses.

2. Simple and not simple sentences

What's wrong with it? After all, it is true that simple sentences show SVO, e.g. (1) and (2). Everything else can then certainly be described as a deviation from it.

(1) I am having an ice cream.
(2) The woman reads the interesting book.

I and the woman are verb-dependent nominatives and thus subjects [EGBD: 401–404]. Also are eat and read finite verbs (vulgo the sentence predicates) [EGBD: 273-278, 398-399]. Finally are an ice cream and the interesting book Accusatives dependent on the verb and thus (direct) objects [EGBD: 414–415]. Great, German has a very typical SVO position in simple sentences. Finished! Proven! Dessert!

Well According to some definition (but which one?) These are simple sentences. But who actually tells us that it is the simple sentences par excellence? Sentences (3) - (5) are just as simple. Or not?

(3) Michelle will buy a Corvette tomorrow.
(4) Two cars are enough for me.
(5) Everyone can ride a horse.

In (3) is the adverbial tomorrow before the finite verb, in (4) the (indirect) object me and in (5) what the Wikipedia author Predicate remainder called, namely the infinite verb horse riding. With easy or not easy none of this has anything to do with it. The criteria that (1) and (2) are considered easy define, but (3) - (5) asnot easy, I would like to see first.

3. "Frequent deviations"

The Wikipedia author then points out that there are two (!) Frequent deviations. These two alleged deviations are obviously chosen completely arbitrarily. And what does that mean here anyway often? Intuitive statements about frequencies can be left complete because you are working with the common case mostly simply means the one that comes to mind first or that one thinks is typical. Since almost all of us had grammar lessons in school, many of us may have learned wrongly early on that main clauses are SVO. Then it's no wonder that this is believed to be the common occurrence.

When I look at the first paragraph of this article, the following phrases come before the finite verb:

  1. probably
  2. that you can get a cold from the cold itself (and not just from viruses or bacteria)
  3. and recently
  4. that speeds add up
  5. certainly
  6. slightly less serious than epidemics and the speed of light
  7. but wrong

I don't see a single nominative, and the subject sentence [EGBD: 385–387, 401–404] goes through 2 and 4. So two out of seven sentences begin with the subject. Adverbials (1, 3, 5) are more common. In 6 we are dealing with an object, and in 7 there is a copular structure in which an adjective comes before the finite verb. Even if this paragraph is not a particularly large and reliable sample, it probably does not sound as if it contains almost all syntax deviations from the typical and simple case.

4. Adverbs and the negation

Why the adverbs (better actually: adverbials) should always come after the objects is completely a mystery. Is (6) also a special change?

(6) The seller gave the book to his customer in his shop yesterday.

The negation (better actually: negation particle) does not always go where the Wikipedia author would like.

(7) The seller did not give the book to his customer.
(8) The seller did not give the book to his customer.

Indeed, sentences (7) and (8) may not represent the most typical or common case. But aren't they also noteworthy variants, especially because they go hand in hand with an interesting meaning effect? The point here is that the negation particle is the constituent to the right of it - e.g.the book in 7 - focused. What exactly that means, we cannot beat here. But you can literally hear a continuation in your head with these sentences rather. In the case of (7) you can do something like but the magazine complement and in (8) something like but his girlfriend. In both cases, it is implicitly said that the seller has given someone something, which in the position before the infinite verb (i.e.not given) is not the case. This is only triggered by the word order (in the spoken language perhaps by special accentuation)! In view of this, the quoted works1. Sentence structure for main clauses and before subordinate clauses not only wrong, but also a little pathetic.

5. What is right now?

For example, German is often described as the underlying verb-last language with verb-second effects in the independent main clause. Yes ... now is a good time to read chapter 12 of EGBD. Above all, I will not go into the underlying verb-last position (as in introduced subordinate clauses). There are also approaches where this is not even considered to be the underlying.

In the so-called main clause, however, the matter is fairly clear. First some sentence or any constituent comes, then the finite verb. At the end of the main clause are the infinite verbs (9) and (10) and / or the verb particles [EGBD: 203–204, 208, 376] (11). The finite verb and the infinite verbs form the so-called Sentence bracket. There are complicated semantic and pragmatic conditions for the order of the phrases in the sentence brackets, but as a starting point you can actually say that almost anything works under the right conditions. In (9) - (11) the sentence brackets are marked in bold.

(9) Yesterday Has Michelle's friend a Corvette at her dealership Bought.
(10) Yesterday Has at her dealer Michelle the friend a Corvette Bought.
(11) Compared to 2014 fell Ronnie O’Sullivan's performance is clear from.

It's actually a shame that the Wikipedia article is so bad. The stuff for inversionthat comes after that is just hair-raising. I might invest a little time there. It also makes no sense to always complain about Wikipedia from your university offices instead of recognizing and improving where possible the actual primary source for information of all kinds in bulk and in detail.

For follow-up: It is particularly instructive to simply examine newspaper articles, books or dialogues (e.g. any talk show on YouTube) to see what exactly is ahead. This is generally a good test of how things are actually about your own grammatical analysis skills.