of languages
SOV "She him loves." 45% 45
Proto-Indo-European, Sanskrit, Hindi, Ancient Greek, Latin, French, Japanese
SVO "She loves him." 42% 42
English, Hausa, Indonesian, Mandarin, Russian
VSO "Loves she him." 9% 9
Biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Irish, Filipino, Tuareg
VOS "Loves him she." 3% 3
Malagasy, Baure, Proto-Austronesian
OVS "Him loves she." 1% 1
Apalaí, Hixkaryana
OSV "Him she loves." 0% Warao

Frequency distribution of word order in languages
surveyed by Russell S. Tomlin in 1980s[1][2] (


In linguistic typology, object–subject–verb (OSV) or object–agent–verb (OAV) is a classification of languages according to whether this structure predominates in pragmatically neutral expressions. An example of OSV word order would be: Oranges Sam ate.

OSV as unmarked word order

This type of word order in unmarked sentences (i.e. sentences in which an unusual word order is not used for emphasis) is rare. Most languages that use OSV as their default word order come from the Amazon basin, such as Xavante, Jamamadi, Apurinã, Kayabí and Nadëb.[3]

An Apurinã example:[3]

I fetch a pineapple

British Sign Language (BSL) normally uses topic–comment structure. However its default word order when topic–comment structure is not used is OSV.

Fictitious languages

Star Wars franchise creator George Lucas attributed to his fictional character Yoda a native language featuring OSV grammatical order, as reflected in the character's instinctive application of the OSV template to Galactic Basic vocabulary in generating statements such as "Your father he is, but defeat him you must."

OSV as marked word order

Various languages allow OSV word order but only in marked sentences, i.e. in certain circumstances to draw special attention to the sentence or part of the sentence.

American Sign Language

American Sign Language uses topics to set up referent loci.

ASL has a specific word order that changes depending on the intended focus of the sentence or the context of the utterance. ASL uses OSV, most frequently when describing a scene or event, or when depicting verbs. The OSV order may also be used to emphasize the importance of the object in question. ASL also uses the SVO word order, usually for direct, brief, or non-descriptive utterances.


Arabic also allows OSV in marked sentences, for example:

إِيَّاك نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِين
Iyyāka naʿbudu wa iyyāka nastaʿīn
You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help.

English and German

This structure may on occasion be seen in English, usually in the future tense or used as a contrast with the conjunction "but", such as in the following examples: "Rome I shall see!", "I hate oranges, but apples I'll eat!"; and in relative clauses where the relative pronoun is the (direct or indirect) object, such as in "What I do is my own business." In English and German OSV also appears in relative clauses where the relative pronoun is the (direct or indirect) object, such as in "Was ich mache, ist meine Angelegenheit."


In Modern Hebrew, OSV is often used to emphasize the object. For example אני אוהב אותה (normal SVO) would mean "I love her", while "אותה אני אוהב" would mean "It is her that I love".


In Hungarian OSV is used to emphasize the subject:

A szócikket én szerkesztettem = The article/I/edited (meaning: It was I who edited the article - and not somebody else).


Korean has SOV order by default, but word order is relatively free as long as the verb is at the end. OSV is common when the object is topicalized.

Sentence 그 사과었어요.
Words 사과 어요
Romanization geu sagwa neun nae ga meog eoss eoyo.
Gloss the/that apple (topicalization marker) I (sub. marker) eat (past) (polite)
Parts Object Subject Verb
Translation It is I who ate that apple. (or) As for the apple, I ate it.


OSV is one of two permissible word orders in Malayalam, the other being SOV.


OSV is possible when the object is emphasized.[4]

Cah cihuah in niquintlazohtla
(indicative marker) women (topicalization marker) I-them-love
women I love them
It is the women whom I love.


In Turkish OSV is used to emphasize the subject:

Yemeği ben pişirdim = The meal/I/cooked (meaning: It was I who cooked the meal - not somebody else).


It can be used in Yiddish to emphasize the distinctive properties of the object. This syntax has been carried over into Yinglish, in such places as New York City where regional English was affected by Yiddish-speaking immigrants around the beginning of the 20th century, according to Leo Rosten. For example, the sentence "Sure, him she loves," carries over that emphasis into English as it would be expressed in Yiddish.[5]

See also


  1. Introducing English Linguistics International Student Edition by Charles F. Meyer
  2. Russell Tomlin, "Basic Word Order: Functional Principles", Croom Helm, London, 1986, page 22
  3. 1 2 O'Grady, W. et al Contemporary Linguistics (3rd edition, 1996) ISBN 0-582-24691-1
  4. Introduction to Classical Nahuatl
  5. {{ | author = Leo Rosten | url = https://www15.uta.fi/FAST/US1/REF/rosten.html | accessdate = 28 December 2015 }}
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/30/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.