[Lingtyp] Word order variation between matrix & subordinate clauses

Alexander Letuchiy alexander_letuchiy at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 21 10:32:48 UTC 2017

Dear Emily,

In Russian, we observe the following situation (which, I think, can also be found in some other languages). No strict border between word order variants in matrix vs. subordinate clauses is observed.

However, some subordinate clauses differ statistically from matrix ones in their word order choice. For instance, complement clauses with the complementizer "chto" seem to be similar to main clauses. By contrast, in complement clauses with "kak", as corpus figures show, the proportion of VS(O), compared to SV(O) is greater than in main clauses.

For example, in the main clause we normally say:

Mam-a                           Pet-i                            stare-et
mother-SG.NOM          Peter-SG.GEN           get.old-PRS.3SG

'Peter's mother is getting old.'

In the clause with "chto", the same SV order is normally chosen:

Petj-a                    chuvstvova-l-0              chto        ego       mam-a
Peter-SG.NOM     feel-PST-SG.M               that         his        mother-SG.NOM


'Petja felt that his mother was getting older.'

The VS order sounds strange here.

In the clause with "kak", the VS order is normal:

Petj-a                    chuvstvova-l-0              kak          stare-et
Peter-SG.NOM     feel-PST-SG.M               how       get.old-PRS.3SG

ego      mam-a

his        mother-SG.NOM

'Petja felt that (lit. how) his mother was getting older.'

Best regards,

Alexander Letuchiy, Moscow

From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Emily M. Bender <ebender at uw.edu>
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2017 11:59 PM
To: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Subject: [Lingtyp] Word order variation between matrix & subordinate clauses

Dear all,

Two students working with me are adding libraries to the Grammar Matrix
to handled two types of subordinate clauses: those that are modifiers of the
main clause and those that are clausal complements.

In our review of the literature, we have found that sometimes subordinate
clauses are marked (in part) by having a different word order from matrix clauses,
but we are only familiar with this from Germanic languages.  In particular
we know of two patterns:

(1) German: V2 in the matrix clause and V final in subordinate clauses.
(2) Swedish: Different position of adverbs in matrix v. subordinate clauses
with respect to the finite verb.

Do you know of any other languages that have different constraints on word
order between matrix and subordinate clauses, and in particular any that
display patterns other than the two above?

Many thanks,

Emily M. Bender
Professor, Department of Linguistics
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