query: left-right asymmetry in order variation

bingfu bingfu at SCF-FS.USC.EDU
Thu Mar 5 20:49:10 UTC 1998

Dear Netters,
        I am doing some investigation on left-right asymmetries
of word order variation and need your help with data.
        The question is that head-final and -initial
languages/constructions often behave very differently in
 word order variations. For example,
verb-initial languages have two basic orders: VSO and VOS,
and some verb-initial languages are just indeterminate in this
aspect; whereas almost all verb-final languages consistently
have SOV as the basic order.
This left-right asymmetry is also displayed in NP
internal order:

"When any or all of the modifiers (demonstrative, numeral,
and descriptive adjective) precede the noun, they (i.e.,
those that do precede) are always found in that order.
For those that follow, no predictions are made,
though the most frequent order is the mirror-image of the order
for preceding modifiers. In no case does the adjective
precede the head when the demonstrative or numeral follow."
( Hawkins' "Word Order Universals,1983: 117-120).

Further, the phenomenon is also shown in language-internal
word order variation, as shown below.

        a.      el primer buen capitulo
                the first   good chapter
                'the first good chapter'

        b.      * el buen primer capitulo
                 the good first chapter

        c.      el capitulo primero bueno
                the chapter first   good

        d.      el capitulo bueno primero
                the chapter good first

When both modifiers primer(o) 'first and buen(o) 'good' precede the head
noun capitulo 'chapter', only order (a), but not (b), is allowed.
However, when both follow, both (c) and (d) are allowed.

>From these observations, we are likely tempted
to generalize that head-initial constructions always allow more
word order varieties than head-final constructions do. However,
further investigation reveals that the things may go the
other way round. For example, the verb-initial
construction that are composed of V, DO (Direct Object) and Ad
(adverbial) dominantly use [V DO Ad]. In English,
this order is very strict and has therefore been viewed as a
syntactic principle termed as the 'adjacency condition on case
In contrast, if verb-final, the bias in ordering is not
obvious. Prof. Dryer told me that there are some
verb-final languages in which [Adv DO V] is preferred, e.g. Bhojpuri;
and others in which [DO Adv V] is prefered, e.g. Kanuri, Harar Oromo,
Kannada, Balti, Siane, Wambon, Suena, Amele. Furthermore,
in many SOV languages, both [O Adv V] and [Adv O V] are common
and it may be difficult to say which is more basic.

Though the directions of bias differ, however, both ways indicate
some left-right asymmetries in word order variation.

Now, what I need your help with are:

Is there any recent discussion on the topic in the literature.
I already know Tomlin's book. "Basic Word Order", I need to know
something newer.  Do you know any other left-right asymmetry of
word order variation?

Are there any languages that behave like English, which
rigorously permit only V DO Ad but not V Ad DO, unless
clearly motivated by processing ease (in heavy NP shift)?

In your native languages, what is the basic order
for V, DO, Ad?  Specifically, please translate the following sentences
into your native language. If a translation allows various
word orders, please list them in order from more to less
neutral, natural, unmarked ones.
Please also provide the word-for-word or
morpheme-for-morpheme gloss.

(1) a. He drove his car slowly.
      b. He drives his car slowly.
      c. He is driving his car slowly.

(2) He made fun of me three times.

(3)  He gave me gifts three times.

(4) He walked slowly with a stick in the garden for three hours yesterday.

        Any reply will be most welcome and I will make a summary
of all replies.
                                Bingfu Lu

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