In linguistic typology, a subject–object–verb (SOV) language is one in which the subject, object, and verb of a sentence appear or usually appear in that order. If English were SOV, then "Sam oranges ate" would be an ordinary sentence, as opposed to the actual standard English "Sam ate oranges". The label is often used for ergative languages such as Adyghe and Basque that do not have subjects but have an agent–object–verb order.
- 1 Incidence
- 2 Properties
- 3 Examples
- 4 See also
- 5 References
|SOV||"She him loves."||45%||Japanese, Latin, Turkish|
|SVO||"She loves him."||42%||English, Mandarin, Russian|
|VSO||"Loves she him."||9%||Hebrew, Irish, Zapotec|
|VOS||"Loves him she."||3%||Malagasy, Baure|
|OVS||"Him loves she."||1%||Apalaí?, Hixkaryana?|
|OSV||"Him she loves."||0%||Warao|
Among natural languages with a word order preference, 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). Languages that have SOV structure include Afrikaans, 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, Tibetan and 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.
Standard Mandarin is SVO, but for simple sentences with a clear context, word order is flexible enough to allow for SOV or OSV. German and Dutch are considered SVO in conventional typology and SOV in generative grammar. For example, in German, a basic sentence such as "Ich sage etwas über Karl" ("I say something about Karl") is in SVO word order. When a noun clause marker like "dass" or "wer" (in English, "that" or "who" respectively) is used, the verb appears at the end of the sentence for the word order SOV. A possible example in SOV word order would be "Ich sage, dass Karl einen Gürtel gekauft hat." (A literal English translation would be "I say that Karl a belt bought has.") This is V2 word order.
A rare example of SOV word order in English is "I (subject) thee (object) wed (verb)" in the wedding vow "With this ring, I thee wed."
SOV languages have a strong tendency to use postpositions rather than prepositions, to place auxiliary verbs after the action verb, to place genitive noun phrases before the possessed noun, to place a name before a title or honorific ("James Uncle" and "Johnson Doctor" rather than "Uncle James" and "Doctor Johnson"), and to have subordinators appear at the end of subordinate clauses. They have a weaker but significant tendency to place demonstrative adjectives before the nouns they modify. Relative clauses preceding the nouns to which they refer usually signals SOV word order, but the reverse does not hold: SOV languages feature prenominal and postnominal relative clauses roughly equally. SOV languages also seem to exhibit a tendency towards using a time–manner–place ordering of adpositional phrases.
In linguistic typology one can usefully distinguish two types of SOV language in terms of their type of marking:
- dependent-marking has case markers to distinguish the subject and the object, which allows it to use the variant OSV word order without ambiguity. This type usually places adjectives and numerals before the nouns they modify and is exclusively suffixing without prefixes. SOV languages of this first type include Japanese and Tamil.
- head-marking distinguishes subject and object by affixes on the verb rather than markers on the nouns. It also differs from the dependent-marking SOV language in using prefixes as well as suffixes, usually for tense and possession. Because adjectives in this type are much more verb-like than in dependent-marking SOV languages, they usually follow the nouns. In most SOV languages with a significant level of head-marking or verb-like adjectives, numerals and related quantifiers (like "all", "every") also follow the nouns they modify. Languages of this type include Navajo and Seri.
In practice, of course, the distinction between these two types is far from sharp. Many SOV languages are substantially double-marking and tend to exhibit properties intermediate between the two idealised types above.
|Sentence||Agimi librin e mori.|
|Translation||Agimi took the book. (It was Agimi who took the book)|
|Sentence||Yusuf almanı yedi .|
|Translation||Joseph ate the apple.|
Basque does not have subjects, but has an agent–object–verb order in transitive clauses:
|Sentence||Enekok sagarra ekarri du.|
|Gloss||Eneko (+ERGative)||the apple||brought (to bring)||AUX has|
|Translation||Eneko has brought the apple|
Burmese is an analytic language.
|Sentence||ငါက စက္ကူဘူးကို ဖွင့်တယ်။|
|Translation||I open the box.|
|Gloss||I||sign for moving object before the verb||apple||ate|
|Translation||I ate the apple.|
Dutch is SOV combined with V2 word order. The non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) remains in final position, but the finite (ie. inflected) verb is moved to the second position. Simple verbs look like SVO, compound verbs follow this pattern:
|Sentence||Wij hebben je geholpen.|
|Translation||We have helped you|
The French language usually uses a subject–verb–object structure, but when using most pronouns, it places enclitics before the verb. That is sometimes mistaken for SOV word order.
|Sentence||Nous les avons.|
|Translation||We have those/them|
German is partially SOV. For simple verbs, it is SVO, but for compound verb structures, the auxiliary, which is a finite (ie. inflected) verb, appears in second position while the non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) appears at the end of the clause.
|Translation||He ate an apple.|
|Words||Weil||Horst||einen Apfel||gegessen||hat, ...|
|Gloss||Because||Horst||an apple||eaten||has, ...|
|Translation||Because Horst ate an apple, ...|
Hungarian word order is free, although the meaning slightly changes. All six permutations of the following sample are valid, but with stress on different parts of the meaning.
|Sentence||Pista kenyeret szel.|
|Translation||Pista slices bread.|
|Sentence||Дастан кітап оқыды.|
|Translation||Dastan read the book.|
The Italian language usually uses a subject–verb–object structure, but when an enclitic pronoun is used, this comes before the verb and the auxiliary.
|Sentence||Io la sto mangiando|
|Translation||I am eating it|
|Translation||I (am the one who) open(s) the box.|
The markers が (ga) and を (o) are, respectively, subject and object markers for the words that precede them. Technically, the sentence could be translated a number of ways ("I open a box", "It is I who open the boxes", etc.), but this does not affect the SOV analysis.
Japanese has some flexibility in word order, so an OSV is also possible. (箱を私が開けます。)
|Sentence||내가 상자를 연다.|
|Translation||I open the box.|
'가 (ga)/이 (i)' is a particle that indicates the nominative case. '를 (reul)/을 (eul)' is a particle that indicates the accusative case. '다 (da)' indicates the declarative.
※ Here, '나 (na, I (pronoun))' is changed to '내 (nae)' before '가 (ga)'.
|Sentence||Servus puellam amat|
|Gloss||Slave (nom)||girl (acc)||loves|
|Translation||The slave loves the girl.|
Again, there are multiple valid translations (such as "a slave") that do not affect the overall analysis.
|Sentence||.زه کار کوم|
|Gloss||زه (Subject Pronoun)||کار (Noun)||کوم (verb)|
|Translation||I do the work.|
|Sentence||.من سیب میخورم|
|Gloss||I||apple||eat (first person present tense)|
|Translation||I am eating an apple.|
Russian is an inflected language and very flexible in word order; it allows all possible word combinations.
|Sentence||Она его любит|
|Gloss||Она (nom)||его (acc)||любит|
|Translation||She loves him|
|Sentence||రాముడు బడికి వెళ్తాడు.|
|Translation||Ramu goes to school.|
|Sentence||நான் தான் பெட்டியை திறப்பேன்.|
|Translation||I (am the one who) open(s) the box.|
The தான் (tān) and யை (yai) are, respectively, nominative and accusative markers for the subject and object that respectively precede them. The தான் (tān) is optional in the Tamil language. The sentence may literally be translated as 'I [who am] the box [which] open shall.'
The sentence may also be translated, although less frequently, as பெட்டியை நான் தான் திறப்பேன் (Peṭṭiyai nāṉ tāṉ tiṟappēn), or simply, பெட்டியை திறப்பேன் (Peṭṭiyai tiṟappēn) as Tamil is a null-subject language because the indicative verb at the end of the word indicates the 1st person subject. This follows the object-subject-verb (OSV) pattern.
|Sentence||Yusuf elmayı yedi.|
|Translation||Yusuf ate the apple.|
|Sentence||мoн книгa лыӟӥcькo.|
|Gloss||I||a book||to read|
|Translation||I am reading a book.|
|Gloss||I||(an) apple||(to) eat.|
|Translation||I eat an apple.|
- Topic-prominent language
- Category:Subject–object–verb languages
- Introducing English Linguistics International Student Edition by Charles F. Meyer
- Russell Tomlin, "Basic Word Order: Functional Principles", Croom Helm, London, 1986, page 22
- Crystal, David (1997). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd edition ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55967-7.
- Andreas Fischer, “‘With this ring I thee wed’: The verbs to wed and to marry in the history of English.” Language History and Linguistic Modelling: A Festschrift for Jacek Fisiak on his 60th Birthday. Ed. Raymond Hickey and Stanislaw Puppel. Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 101 (Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997), pp.467-81