Word order and inversion



In linguistics word order typology refers to the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language and how different languages can employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic subdomains are also of interest.

Some languages have relatively restrictive word orders often relying on the order of constituents to convey important grammatical information. Others often those that convey grammatical information through inflection allow more flexibility which can be used to encode pragmatic information such as topicalisation or focus. Most languages however have some preferred word order which is used most frequently.

For most languages basic word order can be defined in terms of the finite verb (V) and its arguments the subject (S) and object (O). The latter are typically noun phrases although some languages do not have a major word class of nouns.

There are six theoretically possible basic word orders for the transitive sentence: subject verb object (SVO) subject object verb (SOV) verb subject object (VSO) verb object subject (VOS) object subject verb (OSV) and object verb subject (OVS). The overwhelming majority of the world's languages are either SVO or SOV with a much smaller but still significant portion using VSO word order. The remaining three arrangements are exceptionally rare with VOS being slightly more common than OVS and OSV being significantly more rare than two preceding ones.

English language is characterized by a rigid word order in accordance with which the subject of declarative sentences as a rule precedes the predicate. This is the so-called DIRECT word order e.g. The assistant greeted the professor.

Any deviation from the rigid word order is termed inversion e.g. Often has he recollected the glorious days of the Civil War.

The direct object is usually placed after the verb unless the indirect object precedes it e.g. He offered me his help. Sometimes the object is pushed to the front of the sentence it occurs when:

1.  The direct object is an interrogative word which is naturally placed at the head of the sentence to form a special question e.g. What did you do?

2.  The object is separated from its verb by some other parts of the sentence – adverbial complements prepositional objects – when it is intentionally placed at the end of the sentence for the sake of emphasis logical stress e.g. And unexpectedly he saw against the background of the forest two approaching figures.

The indirect object cannot be used in the sentence without the direct object. The indirect object is regularly put before the direct object. The prepositional objects can be put at the head of the sentence for the sake of emphasis.

Occasionally the prepositional object is placed before the direct object (in to-phrases).

Adverbial modifiers-the position of AM in the sentence is known to be comparatively more free that that of other parts.

Those which are most closely linked with the part of the sentence they modify are the ones that denote the frequency or the property of an action. They come between the subject and the predicate or even inside the predicate if it consists of two words-an auxiliary and a notional verb or two elements of a compound predicate.

The more usual position of the adverbial modifiers of time and place is however outside the group “subject+predicate+object” that is either before or after it. If it contains the main new things to be conveyed this adverbial modifier will have to come at the end of the sentence. The adverbial modifier of time can go at the beginning of the sentence.

An adverbial modifier can also come in between two components of the predicate.

Attributes- the position of an attribute before or after it’s head word largely depends on it’s morphological type. An attribute consisting of a prepositional phrase can only come after it’s head word. As to adjectival attributes their usual position is before their headword but in some case they follow it. An attribute expressed by an adverb may come before its headword.

Direct address and parentheses- the position of these parts of the sentence is probably more free that that of all other parts. A direct address can come in almost anywhere in the sentence.

Much the same may be said about parentheses. Some types of P usually come in between two constituent parts of the predicate. P.may also refer to one part of the sentence only and is then bound to come before that part.

Particles-if a P belongs to a noun connected to a noun connected with a preposition the P will come between the preposition and the noun. Sometimes a P refers to the word of phrase immediately preceding it. This can only happen if the P stands at the end of the sentence or at least at the end of a section of the sentence marked by a pause in oral speech and by a comma or other punctuation mark in writing. This usage seems to be restricted to more or less official style.

Sometimes a particle comes before the predicate or between two elements of the predicate while it refers to some secondary part of the sentence standing further ahead. In these cases then the position of the particle is determined not by it’s semantic ties but by the structure of the sentence.

On the whole the problem of WO proves to be a highly complex one requiring great care and subtlety in the handling. Different factors have something to do with determining the place of one part of a sentence or another.

Inversion which was briefly mentioned in the definition of chiasmus is very often used as an independent SD in which the direct word order is changed either completely so that the predicate (predicative) precedes the subject or partially so that the object precedes the subject-predicate pair. Correspondingly we differentiate between a partial and a complete inversion. The stylistic device of inversion should not be confused with. grammatical inversion which is a norm in interrogative constructions. Stylistic inversion deals with. the rearrangement of the normative word order. Questions may also be rearranged: "Your mother is at home?" asks one of the characters of J. Baldwin's novel. The inverted 'question presupposes the answer with. more certainty than the normative one. It is the assuredness of the speaker of the positive answer that constitutes additional information which is brought into the question by the inverted word order. Interrogative constructions with. the direct word order may be viewed as cases of two-step (double) inversion: direct w / o ---> grammatical inversion ---> direct w / o.

Basic Word Order

English word order is strict and rather inflexible. As there are few endings in English that show person number case or tense English relies on word order to show the relationships between the words in the sentence.

In Russian we rely on the endings to tell us how the words interact in the sentence. You probably remember the phrase made up by Academician L.V. Scherba to demonstrate the work of the endings and suffixes in Russian. (No English translation for this phrase.) Everything we need to know about the interaction of the characters in this sentence we learn from the endings and suffixes.

English nouns do not have any case endings (only personal pronouns have some case endings) so it is mostly the word order that tells you where things are in the sentence and how they interact. Compare these sentences:

The cat sees the dog.

The dog sees the cat.

The subject and the object in these sentences are completely the same in form. How do you know who sees whom? The rules of English word order tell you that.

Finding the basic word order

It is not always easy to find the basic word order of S O and V. First not all languages make use of the categories of subject and object. It is difficult to determine the order of elements one cannot identify in the first place. If subject and object can be identified the problem can arise that different orders prevail in different contexts. For instance French has SVO for nouns but SOV when pronouns are involved; German has verb-medial order in main clauses but verb-final order in subordinate clauses. In other languages the word order of transitive and intransitive clauses may not correspond. Russian for example has SVO transitive clauses but free order (SV or VS) in intransitive clauses.[dubious – discuss] To have a valid base for comparison the basic word order is defined[by whom?] as

·  declarative

·  main clause

·  S and O must both be nominal arguments

·  pragmatically neutral i.e. no element has special emphasis

While the first two of these requirements are relatively easy to respect the latter two are more difficult. In spoken language there are hardly ever two full nouns in a clause; the norm is for the clause to have at most one noun the other arguments being pronouns. In written language this is somewhat different[citation needed] but that is of no help when investigating oral languages. Finally the notion of "pragmatically neutral" is difficult to test. While the English sentence "The king they killed." has a heavy emphasis on king in other languages that order (OSV) might not carry a significantly higher emphasis than another order.

If all the requirements above are met it still sometimes turns out that languages do not seem to prefer any particular word order. The last resort is text counts but even then some languages must be analyzed as having two (or even more) word orders.

Word order patterns

A sentence is a group of words containing a subject and a predicate and expressing a complete thought.

Word order arranges separate words into sentences in a certain way and indicates where to find the subject the predicate and the other parts of the sentence. Word order and context help to identify the meanings of individual words.

The main pattern of basic word order in English declarative sentences is SUBJECT + PREDICATE + OBJECT often called SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT (for example: Tom writes stories). It means that if these three parts of the sentence are present in a statement (a declarative sentence) the subject is placed before the predicate the predicate (the main verb) follows the subject and the object is placed after the main verb. Adverbial modifiers are placed after the object and adjectives are placed before their nouns.

Of course some sentences may have just one word (Write!) or only the subject and predicate (Tom writes) or have an adverbial modifier and no object (Tom writes well) and there are peculiarities exceptions and preferences in word order but the pattern SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT (Tom writes stories) is the most typical and the most common pattern of standard word order in English that serves as a basis for word order in different types of sentences.

Sentence word orders

These are all possible word orders for the subject verb and object in the order of most common to rarest:

·  SOV is the order used by the largest number of distinct languages; languages using it include the prototypical Japanese Mongolian Basque Turkish Korean the Indo-Aryan languages and the Dravidian languages. Some like Persian and Latin have SOV normal word order but conform less to the general tendencies of other such languages.

·  SVO languages include English the Romance languages Bulgarian Chinese and Swahili among others.

·  VSO languages include Classical Arabic the Insular Celtic languages and Hawaiian.

·  VOS languages include Fijian and Malagasy.

·  OVS languages include Hixkaryana.

·  OSV languages include Xavante and Warao.

Sometimes patterns are more complex: German Dutch and Frisian have SOV in subordinates but V2 word order in main clauses SVO word order being the most common. Using the guidelines above the unmarked word order is then SVO.

Others such as Latin and Finnish have no strict word order; rather the sentence structure is highly flexible. Nonetheless there is often a preferred order; in Latin SOV is the most frequent outside of poetry and in Finnish SVO is the most frequent and obligatory when case marking fails to disambiguate argument roles for example Puun kaatoi mies (tree-acc fell-perf man.NOM) ~ A/the man felled the tree but puut kaatoivat miehet (tree-pl.nom/acc fell-perf-3p.pl man-pl.nom/acc) ~ The trees felled the men. Just as languages may have different word orders in different contexts so may they have both fixed and free word orders. For example Russian has a relatively fixed SVO word order in transitive clauses but a much freer SV / VS order in intransitive clauses.

Word order in different sentences

English sentences are divided into statements questions commands and exclamatory sentences. Word order in different types of sentences has certain peculiarities.

Statements (Declarative sentences)

Statements are the most common type of sentences. A standard statement uses the basic word order pattern i.e. SUBJECT + VERB (+ object + adverbial modifier). Adverbial modifiers are placed at the end of the sentence after the object (or after the verb if there is no object). Attributes (adjectives numerals etc.) are placed before their nouns and attributes in the form of nouns with prepositions are placed after their nouns.

Maria works.

Tom writes stories.

He talked to Anna yesterday.

My son bought three history books.

Tom writes short stories for children.

Questions (Interrogative sentences)

General questions

Auxiliary verb + subject + main verb (+ object + adverbial modifier):

Does he know English well?

Is he writing a report now?

Have you seen this film?

Special questions

Question word + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb (+ object + adverbial modifier) for example:

Where does he live?

What are you writing now?

When did they visit Mexico?

Alternative questions

Alternative questions have the same word order as general questions:

Does he live in Paris or Rome?

Are you writing a report or a letter?

Tag questions

Tag questions consist of two parts. The first part has the same word order as statements and the second part is a short general question (the tag):

He lives here doesn’t he?

They haven’t seen this film have they?

Commands (Imperative sentences)

Commands have the same word order as statements but the subject (you) is usually omitted:

Go to your room.

Listen to the story.

Exclamatory sentences

Exclamatory sentences have the same word order as statements (i.e. the subject is before the predicate):

She is a great singer!

It is an excellent opportunity!

How well he knows history!

What a beautiful town this is!

How strange it is!

In some types of exclamatory sentences the subject (it this that) and the linking verb are often omitted for example:

What a pity!

What a beautiful present!

How strange!

Simple compound and complex sentences

English sentences are also divided into simple sentences compound sentences and complex sentences.

A simple sentence also called an independent clause has a subject and predicate and other necessary parts of the sentence for example:

Life goes on.

She lives in Moscow.

He wrote a letter to the manager.

A compound sentence has two SUBJECT + VERB pairs and two independent clauses connected by the conjunctions “and but or” for example:

Maria lives in Moscow and her friend Elizabeth lives in New York.

He wrote a letter to the manager but the manager didn’t answer.

A complex sentence has one SUBJECT + VERB pair in the main clause and one SUBJECT + VERB pair in the subordinate clause (dependent clause). The clauses are connected by subordinating conjunctions (e.g. that after when since because if though etc.) for example:

I told him that I didn’t know anything about their plans.

Betty has worked as a secretary since she moved to California.

If he comes back early ask him to call me please.

It’s very important to learn basic word order rules and patterns by heart and follow them rigorously and precisely. The files of this section describe standard word order and its peculiarities in different types of English sentences.

Functions of sentence word order

A fixed or prototypical word order is one out of many ways to ease the processing of sentence semantics and reducing ambiguity. One method of making the speech stream less open to ambiguity (complete removal of ambiguity is probably impossible) is a fixed order of arguments and other sentence constituents. This works because speech is inherently linear. Another method is to label the constituents in some way for example with case marking agreement or another marker. Fixed word order reduces expressiveness but added marking increases information load in the speech stream and for these reasons strict word order seldom occurs together with strict morphological marking one counter-example being Persian.

Observing discourse patterns it is found that previously given information (topic) tends to precede new information (comment). Furthermore acting participants (especially humans) are more likely to be talked about (to be topic) than things simply undergoing actions (like oranges being eaten). If acting participants are often topical and topic tends to be expressed early in the sentence this entails that acting participants have a tendency to be expressed early in the sentence. This tendency can then grammaticalize to a privileged position in the sentence the subject.

The mentioned functions of word order can be seen to affect the frequencies of the various word order patterns: An overwhelming majority of languages have an order in which S precedes O and V. Whether V precedes O or O precedes V however has been shown to be a very telling difference with wide consequences on phrasal word orders.

Knowledge of word order on the other hand can be applied to identify the thematic relations of the NPs in a clause of an unfamiliar language. If we can identify the verb in a clause and we know that the language is strict accusative SVO then we know that Grob smock Blug probably means that Grob is the smocker and Blug the entity smocked. However since very strict word order is rare in practice such applications of word order studies are rarely effective.[citation needed]

Phrase word orders and branching

Main articles: Branching (linguistics) and Head directionality parameter

The order of constituents in a phrase can vary as much as the order of constituents in a clause. Normally the noun phrase and the adpositional phrase are investigated. Within the noun phrase one investigates whether the following modifiers occur before or after the head noun

·  adjective (red house vs house red)

·  determiner (this house vs house this)

·  numeral (two houses vs houses two)

·  possessor (my house vs house my)

·  relative clause (the by me built house vs the house built by me)

Within the adpositional clause one investigates whether the languages makes use of prepositions (in London) postpositions (London in) or both (normally with different adpositions at both sides).

There are several common correlations between sentence-level word order and phrase-level constituent order. For example SOV languages generally put modifiers before heads and use postpositions. VSO languages tend to place modifiers after their heads and use prepositions. For SVO languages either order is common.

For example French (SVO) uses prepositions (dans la voiture à gauche) and places adjectives after (une voiture spacieuse). However a small class of adjectives generally go before their heads (une grande voiture). On the other hand in English (also SVO) adjectives almost always go before nouns (a big car) and adverbs can go either way but initially is more common (greatly improved). (English has a very small number of adjectives that go after their heads such as "extraordinaire" which kept its position when it was borrowed from French.)

Free word order

Some languages do not have a fixed word order. In these languages there is often a significant amount of morphological marking to disambiguate the roles of the arguments; however there are also languages in which word order is fixed even though the degree of marking would enable free word order and languages with free word order such as some varieties of Datooga which have free word order combined with a lack of morphological distinction between arguments. Typologically there is a trend that highly animate actors are more likely to be topical than low-animate undergoers this trend would come through even in free-word-order languages giving a statistical bias for SO order (or OS in the case of ergative systems however ergative systems do not usually extend to the highest levels of animacy usually giving way to some form of nominative system at least in the pronominal system)[8]. Most languages with a high degree of morphological marking have rather flexible word orders such as Latin Hungarian Russian (in intransitive clauses) and Finnish. In some of those a canonical order can still be identified but in others this is not possible.[citation needed]


Other issues

In many languages changes in word order occur due to topicalization or in questions. However most languages are generally assumed to have a basic word order called the unmarked word order; other marked word orders can then be used to emphasize a sentence element to indicate modality (such as an interrogative modality) or for other purposes.

For example English is SVO (subject-verb-object) as in "I don't know this" but OSV is also possible: "This I don't know." This process is called topic-fronting (or topicalization) and is common. In English OSV is a marked word order because it emphasises the object and is often accompanied by a change in intonation.

An example of OSV being used for emphasis:

A: I can't see Alice. (SVO)

B: What about Bill?

A: Bill I can see. (OSV rather than I can see Bill SVO)

Non-standard word orders are also found in poetry in English as well as in many other languages.

Inversion (meteorology)

In meteorology an inversion is a deviation from the normal change of an atmospheric property with altitude. It almost always refers to a temperature inversion i.e. an increase in temperature with height or to the layer (inversion layer) within which such an increase occurs.

An inversion can lead to pollution such as smog being trapped close to the ground with possible adverse effects on health. An inversion can also suppress convection by acting as a "cap". If this cap is broken for any of several reasons convection of any moisture present can then erupt into violent thunderstorms. Temperature inversion can notoriously result in freezing rain in cold climates.

Normal atmospheric conditions

Usually within the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) the air near the surface of the Earth is warmer than the air above it largely because the atmosphere is heated from below as solar radiation warms the Earth's surface which in turn then warms the layer of the atmosphere directly above it e.g. by thermals (convective heat transfer).

How and why inversions occur

Under certain conditions the normal vertical temperature gradient is inverted such that the air is colder near the surface of the Earth. This can occur when for example a warmer less dense air mass moves over a cooler denser air mass. This type of inversion occurs in the vicinity of warm fronts and also in areas of oceanic upwelling such as along the California coast. With sufficient humidity in the cooler layer fog is typically present below the inversion cap. An inversion is also produced whenever radiation from the surface of the earth exceeds the amount of radiation received from the sun which commonly occurs at night or during the winter when the angle of the sun is very low in the sky. This effect is virtually confined to land regions as the ocean retains heat far longer. In the polar regions during winter inversions are nearly always present over land.

A warmer air mass moving over a cooler one can "shut off" any convection which may be present in the cooler air mass. This is known as a capping inversion. However if this cap is broken either by extreme convection overcoming the cap or by the lifting effect of a front or a mountain range the sudden release of bottled-up convective energy — like the bursting of a balloon — can result in severe thunderstorms. Such capping inversions typically precede the development of tornadoes in the midwestern United States. In this instance the "cooler" layer is actually quite warm but is still denser and usually cooler than the lower part of the inversion layer capping it.

Subsidence inversion

An inversion can develop aloft as a result of air gradually sinking over a wide area and being warmed by adiabatic compression usually associated with subtropical high pressure areas. A stable marine layer may then develop over the ocean as a result. As this layer moves over progressively warmer waters however turbulence within the marine layer can gradually lift the inversion layer to higher altitudes and eventually even pierce it producing thunderstorms and under the right circumstances leading to tropical cyclones. The accumulated smog and dust under the inversion quickly taints the sky reddish easily seen on sunny days.

Consequences of a thermal inversion

With the ceasing of convection which is normally present in the atmosphere a number of phenomena are associated with a temperature inversion. The air becomes stiller hence the air becomes murky because dust and pollutants are no longer lifted from the surface.

This can become a problem in cities where many pollutants exist. Inversion effects occur frequently in big cities such as Mumbai India; Los Angeles California; Mexico City ; Sao Paulo Brazil; Santiago Chile; and Tehran Iran but also in smaller cities like Oslo Norway Salt Lake City Utah and Boise Idaho which are closely surrounded by hills and mountains that together with the inversion effect bottle-caps the air in the city. During a severe inversion trapped air pollutants form a brownish haze that can cause respiratory problems. The Great Smog one of the most serious examples of such an inversion occurred in London in 1952 and was blamed for thousands of deaths.

Sometimes the inversion layer is higher so that the cumulus clouds can condense but then they spread out under the inversion layer. This cuts out sunlight to the ground and prevents new thermals from forming. A period of cloudiness is followed by sunny weather as the clouds disperse. This cycle can occur more than once in a day.

The index of refraction of air decreases as the air temperature increases a side effect of hotter air being less dense. Normally this results in distant objects being shortened vertically an effect that is easy to see at sunset (where the sun is "squished" into an oval). In an inversion the normal pattern is reversed and distant objects are instead stretched out or appear to be above the horizon. This leads to the interesting optical effects of Fata Morgana or mirage.

Similarly very-high frequency (VHF - 30 to 300 MHz) radio waves (being part of the electromagnetic spectrum like light) can be refracted by such inversions. This is why it is possible to sometimes hear FM radio (or watch VHF-LO band TV) broadcasts from otherwise impossible distances as far as a few hundred miles distant on foggy nights. The signal still powerful enough to be received even at hundreds or rarely thousands of miles would normally be refracted up and away from the ground-based antenna is instead refracted down towards the earth by the temperature-inversion boundary layer. This phenomenon is called tropospheric ducting. It is also referred to as skip by small radio operators and Ham operators. Along coast lines during Autumn and Spring many FM radio stations are plagued by severe signal degradation causing them to sound like "scrambled eggs".

Inversions can magnify the so called "green flash": a phenomenon occurring at sunrise/sunset usually visible for a few seconds in which the sun's green light is isolated due to dispersion - the shorter wavelength is refracted most so it is the first/last light from the upper rim of the solar disc to be seen.

In addition when an inversion layer is present (for example early in the morning when ground-level air temperatures are cool and high-level air temperatures are warmer) if a sound or explosion occurs at ground level the sound wave can get totally reflected from the warmer upper layer (in which the sound travel faster i.e. the air has lower acoustic refractive index so the sound can undergo total internal reflection) and return back to ground level; the sound is therefore heard much further than normal.

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