Borrowed word order in phrases

Randy John LaPolla (Prof) RandyLaPolla at NTU.EDU.SG
Sat Dec 14 13:16:23 UTC 2013

Similar to Nick's examples, in Chinese you find things translated directly from English or other languages, keeping the same order, such as 后现代化 hou-xiandai-hua [after modern change] or 后现代主义 hou-xiandai-zhuyi [after-modern-ism] 'postmodernism', where the bit meaning 'after' follows the English order, not the Chinese order, which should be as in 博士后 boshi-hou [doctor-after] 'post-doc'. Another one is the Chinese translation of the name of the newspaper South China Morning Post, which should be 华南早报 hua-nan-zao-bao [China-south-morning-newspaper], but is in fact called 南华早报 nan-hua-zao-bao to match the English.

In the Bai language, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in Yunnan in China, and one heavily influenced by Chinese, native auxiliary verbs follow the main verb, but if the auxiliary is borrowed from Chinese, it follows the Chinese word order and precedes the verb.

Prof. Randy J. LaPolla, PhD FAHA (罗仁地)| Head, Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies | Nanyang Technological University
HSS-03-80, 14 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637332 | Tel: (65) 6592-1825 GMT+8h | Fax: (65) 6795-6525 |

On Dec 14, 2013, at 3:11 PM, Nick Enfield wrote:

There are many examples in Thai when proper names of businesses and other
organisations involve English words. Thai noun-modifier NPs are
head-initial. In this example, the head ŒGas¹ is final, and note that the
modifier ŒGulf of Thailand¹ is a head-modifier phrase with the normal
head-initial order (tones omitted from example):

Aaw thai kaet
Gulf-Thai gas
³Thai Gulf Gas² (gas company name)

Here¹s another case - here the head Œbox vehicle¹ (I.e., van) is final,
and note that its internal structure is the normal head-initial:

Raachaa rot tuu
R. vehicle-box
³Raja Vans² (van company name)

These constructions are very widespread, but I wouldn¹t say they are
permeating the normal grammar.


On 14/12/13 07:09, "Eduardo Ribeiro" <kariri at GMAIL.COM<mailto:kariri at GMAIL.COM>> wrote:

[apologies for cross-posting]

Dear colleagues,

I'm looking for examples of languages where certain (types of) phrases
present a different, borrowed word order when compared to a more
common, inherited type.  Well-known examples are, in English, legal
terms in which the adjective follows the noun, preserving the original
Norman French order: "attorney general", "court martial", etc.
(Jespersen 1912:87-88).

Are you aware of similar examples from other languages? And of cases
in which the borrowed order, originally limited to borrowed lexemes,
ended up becoming the default usage?

I would appreciate any insights and bibliographic references on this



Eduardo Rivail Ribeiro, lingüista


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