Punk’s review of Nova > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by springsnotfail (new)

springsnotfail Many cultures do/did put their verbs last! Latin puts its verb last, and German does.

message 2: by Punk (last edited Sep 13, 2012 02:48PM) (new)

Punk marginalia wrote: "Many cultures do/did put their verbs last! Latin puts its verb last, and German does."

In an independent clause, the verb always goes second in German; if it's a compound verb, then the second part of the verb phrase goes last. But I didn't know that about Latin. Is the verb always last in Latin?

message 3: by springsnotfail (new)

springsnotfail Ah, ok, re: German, thanks for the corrective. In a default Latin sentence, the verb is usually last in its own clause (so a verb will usually also serve a grammatical function by marking the end of a clause as well as the end of a sentence); if it's shifted around, it's to change emphasis in some way. So, 'puella Romam amat' (the girl loves Rome) would be a neutral expression, but 'puella amat Romam' would be something like 'the girl loves *Rome*', while 'amat puella Romam' might be, the girl *loves* Rome. The change in the usual order draws attention to the word that's out of place.

message 4: by Punk (new)

Punk Interesting! If you tried that in English, you'd end up with "The girl Rome loves," which unless you're from a past era and/or speaking in italics, is going to sound like the city's in love with a girl.

message 5: by Garett (new)

Garett Except that the case of the noun would clearly denote which noun held which part of speech, and there would be no confusion.

message 7: by Punk (new)

Punk Hi Garett, I meant there would be confusion if we tried that in English. Because our nouns don't decline to show case we'd have to depend solely on word order to get the emphasis across, and that's not always reliable.

message 8: by Individualfrog (new)

Individualfrog According to Wikipedia, verbs-last is the most common sentence structure! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subject...

message 9: by Punk (new)

Punk Okay! So apparently 75% of the world's languages put the verb after the subject and object. But I can't tell from this wikipedia article if that means the verb is always dead last in the sentence, as it is in this book. The example sentences only have subject, object, and verb; there aren't adjectives or any of the time–manner–place descriptors it mentions.

message 10: by Sineala (new)

Sineala No, the 75% datum is that the majority of the world's languages are either SVO (like English) or SOV (like Latin, German, etc). VSO is in third place, and the other three are practically nonexistent. (Greenberg's first universal is that the dominant word order, cross-linguistically, has S preceding O.)

*drive-by linguistic typology*

And, yeah, languages will often have a trade-off between fixed word order and the amount of morphology they have. Generally, the more you can, say, mark nouns for case, the freer a word order you can have.

You might enjoy the rest of Greenberg's universals about what kinds of word orders within sentences are more likely: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenber...

(There's stuff there about preferred orders for adjectives and other modifiers.)

message 11: by Punk (new)

Punk Whoops, read that 75% wrong.

German is SVO. Functionally, at least. That first wikipedia article says it's considered "SVO in conventional typology and SOV in generative grammar" whatever that second thing means. I'm, obviously, not a linguist. I just used to know German.

And thanks for the link to Greenberg's linguistic universals, it's interesting!

message 12: by Sineala (new)

Sineala Sorry, I misspoke about German. "SOV in generative grammar," which is what I was working from when I gave you the word order, basically means that some linguists posit an underlying SOV starting point when they're doing analyses and then move the words around to get them to be SVO for the actual spoken word order; I am not enough of a Germanic linguist to say what the evidence for this is (it probably involves separable verbs, because doesn't everything?), but I vaguely recall having seen it in grad school.

I just forgot that it didn't count that way for typology.

message 13: by Punk (new)

Punk The Germans do love a separable verb.

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