Philippine "topic-third" languages sought

Wolfgang Sperlich wsperlich at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon May 19 00:47:46 UTC 2014

Hi Norvin


according to my Philippino colleague who speaks Cebuano, the verb-intial sentence structure is also unmarked in Cebuano, hence your sample sentence would be something like


Gihatog sa  doktor ang tambal    sa bata.

gave       by doctor  of   medicine to child


My area of speciality, the language of Niue, is also verb-intial.




Wolfgang Sperlich
wsperlich at


From: norvin at
To: an-lang at
Date: Sun, 18 May 2014 21:11:51 +0000
Subject: [An-lang] Philippine "topic-third" languages sought

Hello, everybody-- 

I've read descriptions of the word order of Kalagan, a language of the Philippines, which claim that its word order is 'topic-third'; its clauses are verb-initial, with what Schachter called the 'actor' in second position, and then the 'topic' (or 'trigger', or 'subject', or 'absolutive nominal', or whatever--the argument that's picked out by the verbal morphology that's sometimes called "Philippine-type voice").  In other words, Kalagan is described as a language in which the Tagalog word order in (1) would be acceptable, but any other order of the post-verbal nominals would be out:

(1)  Ibinigay ng doktor ang gamot sa bata
      gave          doctor       medicine  child
 'The doctor gave the medicine to the child'

Does anybody know of other languages of the Philippines with this property?  Happy to post a summary, if it's warranted and of interest.

--Norvin Richards
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