(Syntax and word order (b

 
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Sentences, obviously,
have many more parts. And that means we can have many different
possible ways of ordering them. If I would not just have 3 cakes here,
but 15, there would be many, many,
many different ways of ordering 15 cakes. Now, again what's
interesting is that we find a lot of variation also in real languages,
so many of these different possible orders are actually also attested
in real languages. But what's even more exciting is that
there is some structure to this. It's not all completely random. That's the topic for typologists. Typologists are linguists
who study many languages and compare them in certain dimensions. A famous typologist,
maybe the most famous typologist ever, was the 20th century American
linguist Joseph Greenberg. And he studied correlations
between different word orders, the kinds of word orders
we have just seen. So he discovered that whenever we find a language in which the verb comes before
the object, we can make a prediction about where the adjective will
be with respect to the noun. The prediction will be that
it will be like French, that the adjective will follow the noun. You can see it here. So blanche is the adjective white,
maison is the noun house, and you say maison blanche, or
you say house white in French. And French also has
the verb before the object. So that's very nice. Okay. It's very nice but
it doesn't always work, it's a tendency. English doesn't have it like that. English is therefore, typologically
kind of strange in this respect. French is a language
like many other languages are. Some other languages have it
the other way around, but then they have everything
the other way around. Japanese for instance, Japanese is the mirror image
of French in many different respects. So it has the object before the verb,
as you can see. And it also has the adjective before
the noun, as you can see again. So that's the other possibility. So you put everything
in the opposite order. And even the third factor we mentioned,
prepositions, postpositions, correlates. So French type languages,
which have VO and adjectives after the noun, also tend to have prepositions, again,
not all of them do, but most of them do. And Japanese type languages
tend to have postpositions. Again, they are the mirror image. It's almost like you take a French
sentence, you write every word in the opposite order, and
you get a Japanese sentence. It's not completely like that, but almost. There's one last factor I want to
mention which influences word order. And this is that in some languages,
question words, words like what or who or
how, behave a bit funny. English is actually such a language,
so it's easy to demonstrate. I say, John eats rice, we've seen that. So the object typically
comes after the verb. But there's an exception. If I ask about an object, if I ask "what
does John eat", "what" is no longer there. It's the object, but it's no longer
there at the end of the sentence, it now is there at
the beginning of the sentence. And all question words in English
have this tendency of occurring right there at the beginning
of the sentence. "What does John eat?" "Who eats?" "How does John eat?" "Where does John eat?" Et cetera. And English is not alone in this, there's
many languages all around the world which do this, which put question words just
at the beginning of the sentence. But not all languages do. So some languages just keep
those question words in the place where they're supposed to be. So if it's an object, it's in the place
that it's supposed to be as an object. "What does John eat" is an English sentence. If we translate it now into Japanese for
instance, well we have seen that in Japanese
the object comes before the verb, and the subject actually
comes before the object. So we have an SOV word order. That doesn't change if
you make it a question. So, in Japanese,
you say the equivalent of John rice eats, and the equivalent of John what eats? In summary,
we have seen that words are like cakes, we can order them in many different ways. And languages explore the possibilities
this gives to them and we find many different kinds of
orders in many different languages. But we have also seen that typologists
have discovered that there are certain correlations between word
orders at different levels. So if we have a language where
the verb comes before the object, that implies something for
the order of adjective and noun. In the next video, I'm going to discuss these issues of word
order more with Marten and Inge and they are going to force me to say that things
are actually really more subtle than this.

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