Object–subject–verb

Unmarked word order

Natural languages

OSV is rarely used in unmarked sentences, those using a normal word order without emphasis. Most languages that use OSV as their default word order come from the Amazon basin, such as Xavante, Jamamadi, Apurinã, Kayabí and Nadëb.[3] Here is an example from Apurinã:[3]

anananotaapa
pineappleIfetch
I fetch a pineapple

British Sign Language (BSL) normally uses topic–comment structure, but its default word order when topic–comment structure is not used as OSV.

Marked word order

Various languages allow OSV word order but only in marked sentences, those that emphasise part or all of the sentence.

Arabic

Arabic also allows OSV in marked sentences:

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينَ.
Iyyāka naʿbudu wa-iyyāka nastaʿīn
You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help.

English and German

In English and German, OSV appears primarily in relative clauses if the relative pronoun is the (direct or indirect) object: "What I do is my own business."

In English, OSV appears in the future tense or as a contrast with the conjunction but.

  • Note: The inclusion of the word "But" may be optional.

Hebrew

In Modern Hebrew, OSV is often used instead of the normal SVO to emphasise the object: while אני אוהב אותה would mean "I love her", "אותה אני אוהב" would mean "It is she whom I love".[4] Possibly an influence of Germanic (via Yiddish), as Jewish English uses a similar construction ("You, I like, kid")—see above —much more than many other varieties of English, and often with the "but" left implicit.

Hungarian

In Hungarian, OSV emphasises the subject:

A szócikket én szerkesztettem = The article/I/edited (It was I, not somebody else, who edited the article).

Korean and Japanese

Korean and Japanese have SOV by default, but word order is relatively free if the verb is at the end, and OSV is common if the object is topicalised.

Sentence 그 사과었어요.
Words 사과
Romanization geusagwaneunjegameokeosseoyo.
Gloss the/thatapple(topic marker)I (polite)(sub. marker)eat(past)(declarative)(polite)
Parts Object Subject Verb
Translation It is I who ate that apple. (or) As for the apple, I ate it. (or) The apple was eaten by me.

An almost identical syntax is possible in Japanese:

Sentence そのりんご食べました。
Words そのりんご食べました。
Romanization sonoringowawatashigatabemashita.
Gloss the/thatapple(topic marker)I (polite)(sub. marker)eat(polite)(past/perfect)
Parts Object Subject Verb
Translation It is I who ate that apple.

Malayalam

OSV is one of two permissible word orders in Malayalam, the other being SOV.

Nahuatl

OSV emphasises the object in Nahuatl.[5]

Cah cihuah in niquintlazohtla
(indicative marker)women(topicalization marker)I-them-love
women I love them
It is the women whom I love.

Turkish

OSV is used in Turkish to emphasise the subject:

Yemeği ben pişirdim = The meal/I/cooked (It was I, not somebody else, who cooked the meal).

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. O'Grady, W. et al Contemporary Linguistics (3rd edition, 1996) ISBN 0-582-24691-1
  4. Friedmann, Naama; Shapiro, Lewis (April 2003). "Agrammatic comprehension of simple active sentence with moved constituents: Hebrew OSV and OVS structures". Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 46 (2): 288–97. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2003/023). PMID 14700372.
  5. Introduction to Classical Nahuatl
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