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Gevey and Greenberg's Word Order Universals

From:Rik Roots <rikroots@...>
Date:Sunday, September 17, 2000, 12:12
> Here are Greenberg's Word Order Universals from his book Universals of > Language. >
And here are the responses from the Gevey language (note: I may have misunderstood some of the statements)
> 1. In declarative sentences with nominal subject and object, the dominant > order is almost always one in which the subject precedes the object. >
Gevey employs a system of focus in order to emphasise words: VSO - verb in focus, with object in weak focus VOS - verb in focus, with subject in weak focus SVO - subject in clear focus OVS - object in clear focus SOV - subject in primary focus, with object in active focus OSV - object in primary focus, with subject in active focus The word order for phrases where no particular word is being emphasised is mainly a function of dialect - people will have their own preferred way of parsing an unemphasised sentence
> 2. In languages with prepositions, the genitive almost always follows the > governing noun, while in languages with postpositions it almost always > precedes. >
Gevey uses prepositions. Genetive nouns are usually placed before the noun they posess. With indirect objects, which always have a preposition, the genetive noun will often be placed between the preposition and the noun
> 5. If a language had dominant SOV order and the genitive follows the governing > noun, then the adjective likewise follows the noun. >
In Gevey, the adjective always follows the noun, and is attached to it with an apostrophe.
> 14. In conditional statements, the conditional clause precedes the conclusion > as the normal order in all languages. >
Is this "if... then..." constructions? In Gevey, the order of clauses would depend on whether the condition or the conclusion was being emphasised.
> 15. In expressions of volition and purpose, a subordinate verbal form always > follows the main verb as the normal order except in those languages in which > the nominal object always precedes the verb. >
Subordinate verbal forms generally follow the main verb in Gevey
> 16. In languages with dominant order VSO, an inflected auxiliary always > precedes the main verb. In language with dominant order SOV, an inflected > auxiliary always follows the main verb. >
For Gevey compound tenses, the general order is auxillary-participle
> 17. With overwhelmingly more than chance frequency, languages with dominant > order VSO have the adjective after the noun. >
Gevey adjectives always follow the noun
> 19. When the general rule is that the descriptive adjective follows, > there may be a minority of adjectives which usually precede, but > when the general rule is that descriptive adjective precede, there > are no exceptions. >
Gevey adjectives always follow the noun
> 30. If the verb has categories of person-number or if it has categories of > gender, it always has tense-mode categories. >
Gevey verbs agree with the subject's number and status. Demonstrating a noun's gender with the gender infixes is optional, and the verb takes no account of a subject's gender
> 31. If either the subject or object noun agrees with the verb in gender, then > the adjective always agrees with the noun in gender. >
Gevey adjectives will always agree with the status of the noun they posess
> 34. No language has a trial number unless is has a dual. No language has a > dual unless it has a plural. >
Agree. Gevey has singualr, pair plural and high plural.
> 40. When the adjective follows the noun, the adjective expresses all > the inflectional categories of the noun. In such cases the noun may > lack overt expression of one or all of these categories. >
> 42. All languages have pronominal categories involving at least > three persons and two numbers. >
Three persons and three numbers in Gevey
> 43. If a language has gender distinctions in the noun, it has gender > categories in the pronoun. >
Gender is optional in Gevey nouns and in pronouns
> 44. If a language has gender distinctions in the first person, it > always has gender distinctions in the second or third or in both. >
The gender infix can be added to Gevey first and second person pronouns, if desired. All pronouns are marked for status. How relevant are universals to conlangs, or to natlangs? It seems to me that languages are essentially chaotic, with complexity generated from a few basic rules underlying each language. But I see no reason for all languages to share universals that govern the choice of how their basic rules will operate. Just my opinion, of course. Rik -- The Gevey Language Resource.