|SOV||"He him loves."||45%||Proto-Indo-European, Sanskrit, Hindi, Ancient Greek, Latin, Japanese|
|SVO||"He loves him."||42%||English, French, Hausa, Indonesian, Malay, Mandarin, Russian|
|VSO||"Loves he him."||9%||Biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Irish, Filipino, Tuareg, Welsh|
|VOS||"Loves him he."||3%||Malagasy, Baure, Proto-Austronesian|
|OVS||"Him loves he."||1%||Apalaí, Hixkaryana|
|OSV||"Him he loves."||0%||Warao|
surveyed by Russell S. Tomlin in 1980s ( )
In linguistic typology, a verb–subject–object (VSO) language is one in which the most typical sentences arrange their elements in that order, as in Ate Sam oranges (Sam ate oranges). VSO is the third-most common word order among the world's languages, after SVO (as in English and Mandarin) and SOV (as in Latin and Japanese).
Families where all or many of the languages are VSO include the following:
- the Celtic languages (including Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton)
- the Semitic languages (including Arabic, Classical Hebrew, and Ge'ez (Classical Ethiopic))
- the Afroasiatic languages (including the Berber languages, Arabic and Egyptian)
- the Austronesian languages (including Tagalog, Visayan, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Kadazan Dusun, Hawaiian, Māori and Tongan).
- the Mayan languages (including Classic Maya)
- the Oto-Manguean languages (including Zapotec languages and Mixtecan languages)
- the Salishan languages
- many Mesoamerican languages
Both Spanish and Greek resemble Semitic languages such as Arabic in allowing for both VSO and SVO structures: "Jesús vino el jueves"/"Vino Jesús el jueves, "Tu madre dice que no vayas"/"Dice tu madre que no vayas".
Formal Arabic is an example of a language that uses VSO. For example:
|Sentence||يقرأ المدرس الكتاب|
|Transliteration||yaqraʼu l-mudarrisu l-kitāba|
|Gloss||reads||the teacher||the book|
|Translation||The teacher reads the book|
|Sentence||...וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה|
|Romanization of Hebrew||Vayidaber YHWH el-Moshe...|
|Translation||And YHWH spoke to Moses...|
^* Words in Hebrew, as in Arabic, are written from right to left.
Word order is extremely flexible in Spanish and VSO word order is allowed in practically all situations, but it is particularly common where some element other than the subject or direct object functions as the subject of predication. Examples include:
- Todos los días compra Juan el diario. Every day buys Juan the newspaper, “Juan buys the newspaper every day”
- Ayer presentó María su renuncia. Yesterday handed-in Maria her resignation, Maria handed in her resignation yesterday.
- A María le regaló su abuelo un caballo de pura raza. To María dat.cl. gave her grandfather a horse of pure breed, Her grandfather gave María a purebred horse.
- Me devolvió María el libro que le presté. Returned María the book that to-her (I) lent, “María returned to me the book that I lent her.”
- Se comieron los niños todo el pastel. Ate up the boys all the cake, “The boys ate up all the cake.”
In Welsh, some tenses use simple verbs, which are found at the beginning of the sentence followed by the subject and any objects. An example of this is the preterite:
|Sentence||Siaradodd Aled y Gymraeg.|
|Translation||Aled spoke Welsh.|
Other tenses may use compound verbs, where the conjugated form of, usually, bod (to be) precedes the subject and other verb-nouns come after the subject. Any objects then follow the final verb-noun. This is the usual method of forming the present tense:
|Sentence||Mae Aled yn siarad y Gymraeg.|
|Words||Mae||Aled||yn siarad||y Gymraeg|
|Translation||Aled speaks Welsh.|
In Irish, phrases also use VSO:
|Sentence||Labhraíonn Seán Gaeilge.|
|Translation||John speaks Irish.|
In Irish, when forming a question the following would be true:
|Sentence||An labhraíonn tú Gaeilge?|
|Translation||Do you speak Irish?.|
Inversion into VSO
There are many languages that switch from SVO (subject–verb–object) order to VSO order with different constructions, usually for emphasis. For example, sentences in English poetry can sometimes be found to have a VSO order, and Early Modern English explicitly reflects the VSO order that in modern English has been made implicit by the suppression of the imperative's (now merely understood) subject (for example, contrast "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" with modern "Gather rosebuds while you may").
Arabic sentences use an SVO order or a VSO order depending on whether the subject or the verb is more important. In Biblical Hebrew a sentence can be in SVO order if it is in the past perfect tense, since Biblical Hebrew has no helper verbs. Also, Arabic sentences use a VOS order, the construction of the word changing depending on whether it is a subject or an object.
The North Germanic languages invert word order to VSO in questions as well, (ex: Spiste du maten? - Ate you the food?) but there are also many circumstances, such as an expression preceding the subject and verb, and in subclauses (ex: I går leste (V) jeg (S) boka (O) - Yesterday read I the book) in which the order is also VSO in V2 word order.
- Category:Verb–subject–object languages
Notes and references
- Introducing English Linguistics International Student Edition by Charles F. Meyer
- Russell Tomlin, "Basic Word Order: Functional Principles", Croom Helm, London, 1986, page 22
- WALS Chapter 81