This book examines the frequencies of the six possible basic word (or constituent) orders (SOV, SVO, VSO, VOS, OSV, OVS) provides a typologically grounded explanation for those frequencies in terms of three independent, functional principles of linguistic organization.
From a database of nearly 1,000 languages and their basic constituent orders, a sample of 400 languages was produced that is statistically representative of both the genetic and areal distributions of the world’s languages. This sample reveals the following relative frequencies (in order from high to low) of basic constituent order types: (1) SOV and SVO, (2) VSO, (3) VOS and OVS, (4) OSV.
It is argued that these relative frequencies can be explained to be the result of the possible interactions of three fundamental functional principles of linguistic organization. Principle 1, the thematic information principle, specifies that initial position is the cross-linguistically favoured position for clause-level thematic information. Principle 2, the verb-object bonding principle, describes the cross-linguistic tendency for a transitive verb and its object to form a more tightly integrated unit, syntactically and semantically, than does a transitive verb and its subject. Principle 3, the animated principle, describes the cross-linguistic tendency for semantic arguments which are either more animate or more agentive to occur earlier in the clause. Each principle is motivated independently of the others, drawing on cross-linguistic data from more than 80 genetically and typologically diverse languages.
Given these three independently motivated functional principles, it is argued that the relative frequency of basic constituent order types is due to the tendency for the three principles to be maximally realized in the world’s languages. SOV and SVO languages are typologically most frequent because such basic orders reflect all three principles. The remaining orders occur less frequently because they reflect fewer of the principles.
The 1,000-language database and the genetic and areal classification frames are published as appendices to the volume.
1. Introduction 1.1. The Problem and an Outline of the Explanation 1.2. Complicating Factors in Typological Explanation 1.3. Other Explanations of Basic Constituent Order 1.4. Analytical Categories and Terminology 1.5. Evidence and Argumentation 1.6. Direct and Symptomatic Evidence 1.7. Argumentation 2. The Frequency of Basic Constituent Orders 2.1. Introduction 2.2. The Problem 2.3. Results and Data 2.4. Results 2.5. Limits on Interpretation 2.6. The Data 2.7. Methodology 2.8. Rationale 2.9. Goodness-of-Fit 2.10. Determining the Theoretical Distribution 2.11. Production of the Final Sample 2.12. Discussion 2.13. Problem 1: The Comparability of Linguistic Claims 2.14. Problem 2: The Determination of Basic Constituent Order 2.15. Problem 3: The Dialect-Language Problem 2.16 Conclusions 3. The Theme First Principle 3.1. Introduction 3.2. Thematic Information in Discourse and Text 3.3. Thematic Information and Shared Information 3.4. The Identification of Thematic Information 3.5. Previous Research into Thematic Information 3.6. Argumentation for the TFP 3.7. Evidence for the TFP 3.8. Direct Evidence for the TFP 3.9. Symptomatic Evidence for the TFP 3.10. Constraints on Movement Rules 3.11. The Position of Independent Pronominal Elements 3.12. Discourse-Conditioned Syntax 3.13. Limits on the TFP 4. Verb-Object Bonding 4.1. Introduction 4.2. The Principle and Its Interpretation 4.3. Characterization of the Parts of the Principle 4.4. Transitive 4.5. Bonding 4.6. Prior Discussions of Verb-Object Bonding 4.7. Argumentation for VOB 4.8. Data for VOB 4.9. Noun Incorporation 4.10. Sentence Qualifier Placement 4.11. Sentence Adverbial Placement 4.12. Modal Placement 4.13. Proverbal Replacements 4.14. Movement Constraints 4.15. Idioms 4.16. Paraphrases, Compounds, and Cognate Objects 4.17. Borrowing 4.18. Conjunction Reduction 4.19 Phonological Arguments 4.20. Miscellaneous Evidence 4.21. Limitations on VOB 5. The Animated First Principle 5.1. Introduction 5.2. The Principle and Its Interpretation 5.3. ‘Animatedness’ and the Animatedness Hierarchy 5.4. Other Discussions of a Principle like the AFP 5.5. The Form of Argumentation for the AFP 5.6. The Data for the AFP 5.7. Unmarked Case Roles in Japanese 5.8. Marked Word Orders in K’ekchi 5.9. Benefactive-Patient Order in Sesotho 5.10. Subject-Object Inversion in Navajo 5.11. The Order of Agent Chomeurs in Cebuano 5.12. Klamath 5.13. Limits on the AFP 6. The Explanation and Concluding Discussion 6.1.Introduction 6.2. The Explanation 6.3. Requirements on the Explanation 6.4. The Explanation 6.5. The First Perspective: Considering Verb Position 6.6. The Second Perspective: Considering Only Relative Frequencies 6.7. Conclusions 6.8. Language-Specific Data as Counterevidence for the Principles 6.9. Goals of Typological Research 6.10. The Cognitive Basis for Functional Principles 6.11. Alternative Principles Rejected 6.12. Functional Principles in Typological Research. References. Appendix A: Languages. Appendix A: References. Appendix B. Appendix C