Object–subject–verb

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Word
order
English
equivalent
Proportion
of languages
Example
languages
SOV "She him loves." 45% 45
 
Proto-Indo-European, Sanskrit, Hindi, Ancient Greek, Latin, Japanese, Korean
SVO "She loves him." 42% 42
 
Cantonese, English, French, Hausa, Italian, Malay, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish
VSO "Loves she him." 9% 9
 
Biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Irish, Filipino, Tuareg-Berber, Welsh
VOS "Loves him she." 3% 3
 
Malagasy, Baure, Proto-Austronesian
OVS "Him loves she." 1% 1
 
Apalaí, Hixkaryana
OSV "Him she loves." 0% Warao
S-V1-O-V2 "She can him love." German, Afrikaans
Frequency distribution of word order in languages surveyed by Russell S. Tomlin in 1980s[1][2]
()

In linguistic typology, object–subject–verb (OSV) or object–agent–verb (OAV) is a classification of languages, based on whether the structure predominates in pragmatically-neutral expressions. It is occasionally used in English: "Him I know."

Unmarked word order[edit]

Natural languages[edit]

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]

anana nota apa
pineapple I fetch
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 is OSV.

Marked word order[edit]

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

American Sign Language[edit]

American Sign Language uses topics to set up referent loci.

ASL has a specific word order that changes, depending on the intended focus of the sentence or the context of the utterance. OSV is used most frequently when describing a scene or event, or when depicting verbs. It may also emphasise the importance of the object in question. SVO is also used, usually for direct, brief, or non-descriptive utterances.

Arabic[edit]

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[edit]

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" and "Was ich mache, ist meine Angelegenheit."

In English, OSV appears in the future tense or as a contrast with the conjunction but: "Rome I shall see!" and "I hate oranges but apples I'll eat!"[citation needed]

Hebrew[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 어요
Romanization geu sagwa neun je ga meog eoss eoyo.
Gloss the/that apple (topicalization marker) I (polite) (sub. marker) eat (past) (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.

Malayalam[edit]

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

Nahuatl[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ a b 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: 288–97. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2003/023). 
  5. ^ Introduction to Classical Nahuatl[vague]