- Japanese: Inu ga neko (object) o oikaketa (verb)
- English: The dog chased (verb) the cat (object)
Winfred P. Lehmann is the first to propose the reduction of the six possible permutations of word order to just two main ones, VO and OV, in what he calls the Fundamental Principle of Placement (FPP), arguing that the subject is not a primary element of a sentence. VO languages are primarily right-branching, or head-initial: heads are generally found at the beginning of their phrases.
Some languages, such as Finnish, Hungarian, Russian, Turkish and Yiddish, use both VO and OV constructions, but in other instances, such as Early Middle English, some dialects may use VO and others OV. Languages that contain both OV and VO constructions may solidify into one or the other construction in the course of their historical development. A language that moves the verb or verb phrase more than the object will have surface VO word order, and a language that moves the object more than the verb or verb phrase will have surface OV word order.
- Trips, Carola (2002). From OV to VO in early Middle English: Volume 60 of Linguistik aktuell - Issue 60 of Linguistik Artuell/Linguistics Today Series. John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 90-272-2781-0.
- Tomlin, Russell (March 1988). "Basic Word Order: Functional Principles". Language. Linguistic Society of America. 64 (1): 196–197. doi:10.2307/414811. JSTOR 414811.
- "The World Atlas of Language Structures Online". Map 95A.
- Hróarsdóttir, Thorbjörg (2001). Word Order Change in Icelandic: From OV to VO. Philadelphia, PA, USA: John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 9789027299208.