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Word Order of Hixkaryana

From:Chris Bates <chris.maths_student@...>
Date:Friday, May 19, 2006, 7:51
Joseph B. wrote:

>>Is there really a human language somewhere on the planet >>that's OVS? Where? How widely spoken? >> >> > >Hixkaryana, a Carib language language spoken by about 500 people in Brasil. > >
Hixkaryana may be a bad example. It's true that a good proportion of the transitive clauses with two explicit arguments exhibit order OVS, but not appreciably more than a couple of other orders (since Hixkaryana is fairly free word order wise). Transitive clauses with two explicit arguments also tend to be pretty rare, making it even more difficult to ascertain the basic word order. IIRC, the argument that Hixkaryana is OVS comes not from the fact that OVS is by far the most common order, but rather that the people studying the language argue that OVS is the least pragmatically marked (just like Basque, while having free word order based on topicality and focus, has SOV as the least marked order). The difficulty with this though is that, since clauses with two arguments are rare, *all* such clauses are fairly marked. I think the debate about whether Hixkaryana and related languages are truly OVS is still out. I suspect that a better principle for their word order is the (amazingly common in diverse unrelated languages): new or unpredictable information first old or predictable information last Since transitive subjects tend to be highly topical and recently mentioned, and transitive objects tend to be new or non-topical, this would produce OVS as a fairly unmarked order. However, since Hixkaryana allows dropping of topical arguments, and transitive subjects are generally topical, this would also mean that when transitive subjects are mentioned they are generally marked and fronted, producing SOV or SVO fairly commonly in transitive clauses with two arguments. And this is, IIRC, what is found in Hixkaryana. I read a PDF a while ago comparing frequencies of different orders in Hixkaryana texts but I can't find it now...