Structure Of Word Order In English English Language Essay

Published:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

In this essay I will study about the structure of word order in English; I will use some sections. In the first section , word order in other languages will be analysed. In the second how, the word order was in Old English, and the changes that have happened in order to become contemporary English word order; taking into account the word order in other languages (in this case compared to Spanish). This paper will discuss the different processes that change word order in English and some examples of how it happens. Word order in English is SVO [Subject-Verb-Object] but it is not the only possible combination. As Biber states, "English word order has often been described as fixed. It is certainly true that the placement of the core elements of the clause is strictly regulated. Yet there is variation, even in the core of the clause"(Biber, 898) The objectives of this essay are to examine the word order in English and other languages, in case to compare the word order in English and in Spanish. The prototypical order of SVO will also be considered; it can vary through some processes that are shown later

The method that is used in this essay, consists in bibliographical research, specifically, it considers general reference grammars. Then, for the experimental part, it uses a parallel corpus tool (described below). In these, it is necessary to mention systematic grammar like Randolph Quirk, Douglass Biber; it will also include some generative grammar like Adrian Akmaijan and Frank W.Heny and systemic-functional grammar like Michael Alexander Kirkwood Halliday. All of these references help to discuss the limitations and restrictions that word order in English suffer and also to solve the problem of these constraints. In this paper I also will make a comparison, using "linguee" between English and Spanish in a simple sentence, which will be chosen according to word order differences between both languages. This information will be in "Data", where shows how different they are and their similarities. Finally at the end of the essay I will summarise and conclude with the results to the problem that this essay shows.

Background

2.1 Word order in the other languages

Languages around the world are not the same. They do not follow the same rules, nor the same word order. Languages are divided into different types, including VO (verb before object)- the category under which English falls.

Examples of the VO word order in practice are given below:

(1) She plays piano

(2) *She piano plays

The second sentence is generally grammatically incorrect in English, whilst in other languages, including Japanese and Turkish. It is in fact possible to use the reverse word-order (OV) (Aitchison, 30). Aitchison points out that languages are rarely made up of one ´type´, and instead are composed of a mixture of linguistic characteristics, one of which is the predominating (rather than the sole) type. Whilst languages have their own unique characteristics, they also share aspects with other languages. Joanna Nichols who "its pioneer, a linguist from the University of California at Berkeley" notes that vocabulary is borrowed and exchanged between different languages, but the word construction is not shared between them. For example, Spanish, like English has the SVO word-order but it is more flexible because of its verbal system. Old languages, like Latin, do not follow either and so are completely free in their syntax. (Aitchison, 31)

2.2 Word order in contemporary English

It is important firstly to think about the meaning of "word order". According to Douglass Biber, "the term word order is most often used to refer to the order of the elements in the clause" and in the case of word order in English "English word order has often been described as fixed. It is certainly true that the placement of the core elements of the clause is strictly regulated". (Biber, 898) Some other grammarians like Randolph Quirk also make some allusion to this theme, "word order in languages tends to revolve around the ordering of phrases which are clause elements, and it is notable, for instance, that in English the positions of subject, verb, and object are relatively fixed" (Quirk, 50)

It is also important to know what a clause is and the elements that it is made up of: "English does indeed have strict limitations on the ordering of clause elements, but that the more peripheral an element is, the more freedom of position it has." (Quirk, 51) In terms of the elements of the clause, some of them are more central than others: the most central is the predicator, without which a clause is not a clause at all; it is the only element realized by a verb phrase. The second most important element is the subject, which is always placed at the beginning of the clause and agrees in number with the verb. The verb is followed by some complements that are fairly central elements in the clause and some of them are required for some verbs; there are many types of complements but the most relevant are the direct and indirect complements. The most peripheral aspects of clauses are adverbials phrases, which are less integrated in the clause. All of this information can be summarised as: Predicator>Subject>complement>adverbials.

The canonical structure of SVO in English is shown in this example:

(3)I gave you a book

Word order in Old English

In this section it is important to look at the development of Old English towards Modern English. Historically, English belongs to a group of languages called "Proto-Indo-European" According to Jean Aitchison "it is the presumed parent language from which a number of present-day languages such as Greek, German, English, Welsh, Hindi, etc… That means that all of the languages that belong to this group have the same root, the same origin."(Aitchison, 24). In Old English the word order "may be different from ModE; see especially subordinate clauses […] in which the verb appears at the end"(Gramley, 29). It can be said that it was mostly "free"; it did not matter where the subject or verb were placed in the clause, and word order did not affect the meaning. In this way, Old English is similar to Latin and German; below are examples in these languages that show they do not necessarily have to follow a VO or OV structure:

(4)Ich mag Bananen, weil sie suess sindI like bananas because they are good.

As we can see in the example, modern German shows different word order patterns for main and subordinate clauses. These patterns are classified according to the position of the verb in the clause. There are three different possibilities but the most common one is where the verb occurs in second position. Therefore this type is called verb second (V2) and it is usually true of main clauses. The verb can be the main verb or an auxiliary and if there is an auxiliary and a verb the auxiliary is in second position and the verb appears at the end of the clause.

Both Latin sentences are grammatically correct: one follows the standard OV rule, whereas the second does not follow a fixed rule. It is in this way that Latin is a 'free' language. Old English was not uniform: it changed over time. Written in an alphabet which is comparable to the modern English alphabet but with a few differences in spelling, little by little Old English developed into the language it is nowadays, because the meaning of the clauses were "free" the function of the words were the most important and they used inflections which indicates possession. One example of the challenging of regular word order is taken from Beowulf: "For example, you can see below the original passage and a literal translation of lines 1020-27 where Beowulf is being honored with gifts -- a sword, a golden banner, and a helmet and armor -- after he has killed Grendel. The gifts are highlighted in corresponding colors." (Poulakis)

Forgeaf þa Beowulfe   brand Healfdenes


segen gyldenne   sigores to leane;


hroden hildecumbor,    helm ond byrnan,


mære maðþumsweord    manige gesawon


beforan beorn beran. 

And its translation to Modern English reads:

He gave then Beowulf   the sword of
Healfdane,


golden standard [banner] 

   victory to reward;
embroidered war-banner,  helmet and armor,


famous treasure-sword     many saw
before the warrior borne.(Pulakis,)

In this example we can observe that Old English did not follow a strict word order; the inflections used helped readers to know which function it played in the sentence. In other words "the major difference lies in the fact that the ancient languages allowed the order of ideas to be shown by word order and the syntactic relations to be shown by "terminations"; while the modern languages use word order to show both the order of ideas and the syntactic relations" (Bean, 18-19)

Word-order in Contemporary English

There are many studies about word order throughout the history of grammar that agree about word order in English that follow the SVO construction; like general grammars DouglassBiber, RandolphQuirk …However there are some other frameworks like Generative Transformational grammars, such as Adrian Akmaikjan and Frank Heny and also Systemic functional grammars like Michael Halliday which according to him, "In English, as in many other languages, the clause is organized as a message by having a distinct status assigned to one part of it. One part of the clause is enunciated as the theme; this then combines with the remainder so that the two parts together constitute a message." (Halliday, 64) The Theme is the element, which serves as the point of departure of the message; it is that which locates and orients the clause within its context. Theme accompanied by a Rheme; and the structure is expressed by the order - whatever is chosen as the Theme is put first.(Halliday, 64-65)

In the following lines, I will show how word order in English can vary in different types of sentences: declarative, interrogative.

First of all, in interrogative sentences the order can change. In English there are two types of interrogatives:

Yes/No questions: where one auxiliary verb (be, have, would, should, etc.) is placed between the subject and the main verb. An example of this is given:

(5)<The girls> [played] football every week.

(6)[Did<the girls> play] football every week?

In this question the word order is VSVO Another example of this follows:

(7) I play football on Mondays

(8) Do you play football on Mondays?

WH-questions, where the object is moved to the beginning of the clause; these can be direct object or indirect object:

(9)I bought an ice-cream

(10)What did you buy?

(11)I saw him yesterday

(12)Who did you see yesterday?

We can see that these four examples are similar in form to Yes/No questions and that the object of the statement is replaced with a W-H question.

Secondly, in declarative sentences there also some transformations where its examples show an alteration in word order to OVS. Below there are some types of transformations where a sentence can be exposed, some of them are:

Fronting, according to Biber, "refers to the initial placement of core elements which are normally found in post-verbal position" (Biber, 900)

There are many types of fronting, which include predicative, nominal, complement, and object fronting. Below is an example of a demonstrative pronoun acting as a fronted object:

(13)She does not eat any meat. That, I could not do.

(14)Strange feeling I felt!

This change of order alters the normal (SVO) and in (13) the word is (OSP). Fronting can often be used to emphasize something like in the example (14).

Dislocation "has to do with the distribution of information, but it is not a simple word-order option. There are two major types of dislocation: prefaces and noun phrases tags"(Biber, 956). In preface dislocation, the preface refers back to the subject pronoun, while the second type refers back to the subject of the preceding clause. Examples of both are given:

-Preface: the most important element is placed at the beginning of the phrase:

(15)That dog, this morning it made a mess

-Noun phrase tags: the key element is separated with a comma at the end of the phrase:

(16)Where did [they] go, the police?

Inversion: is similar to fronting. We can distinguish the two types of inversion:

- Subject-operator inversion is when the subject goes before the operator rather than the main verb or a full verb phrase.For example:

-Subject-verb-inversion: when the verb or group of verbs (in case of auxiliaries) is before the subject. For example:

Clefting "is similar to dislocation in the sense that information that could be given in a single clause is broken up, in this case two clauses, each with its own verb."(Biber, 958)

For example:

(17) My mother found me in the bar it was my mother who found me in the bar.

Furthermore, there are two types of clefting:

-It-clefts: consist of a clause has been separated in two parts each with its verb.

-Wh-clefts: consist of a clause introduced by wh-word usually what with its own point of focus typically at its end.(Quirk, 959) Similar to this type of clefting is the pseudo clefting.

Passive: In passive sentences, "the passive agent is often the agent of the verbal action in the semantic sense though it may fufil other semantics roles such as experiencer"(Biber, 935) There are two kinds of passive:

-The long passive where the agent is expressed in a by-phrase.

-The short passive where the agent is left unexpressed.

(18)I build the house the house was built by me

The main characteristics of the passive voice are that the object in (18) changes to the subject and the subject becomes object preceded by "by".

Another type of passive is the "Passive voice impersonal" as his name suggests it does not have a person a subject

(19) It is raining

(20) It is said that was raining

Existential there: Biber talks about the existential where as " a formal device used, together with a intransitive verb, to predicate the existence or occurrence of something (including the non-existence or non-occurrence of something) (Biber, 943) An example of the existential there is:

There are so many accidents in Portland

"Extraposition" is different to the other processes. It consists in placed elements of the clause that normally do no have end position, like subject, at the end of the clause. It can be possible using the "empty-it" at the beginning of the clause. According to Randolph Quirk:

"The opposite device of postponing a normally non-final element to final position is shown by the extraposition of a subject clause.)" (Quirk, 89) One example of extraposition is given:

(22)It is important to do this well

Extraposition is closed to the end-weigh principle for this reason it is important to mention here. "Principle of end-weight" which serves the function of avoiding being top-heavy or unevenly unbalanced. It is the principle by which longer structures are postponed to appear later in the sentence than shorter structures. This is because when the subject is much longer than the predicate, a sentence becomes more difficult to understand. By moving the longer structure to the end, we can fix this problem. Also, the longest section of the units that follow the verb should be placed at the end. End-weight helps to justify the choice of a particular word order when we are presented with a choice of possible orders which are all grammatically correct. The order of object and particle can be varied, for example, depending on the length of the object. For example we can look at the phrases, 'They put it off' and 'We'll have to put the meeting off'. Because the object in the second sentence is longer, the order can be changed to: 'We'll have to put off the meeting.' The longer the object the more unacceptable it is to separate the object and particle.

Data (375)

In this section, I will analyse extracts from "linguee" to see how sentences like "I play sports with my friend" and "Yo práctico deportes con mi amiga" are related.

Recientemente le comenté a mi hijo sobre la aparente destreza de una persona muy atractiva (mujer, por mera coincidencia) que parecía estar haciendo una pirueta con su tabla de surf; quedé impresionado, aunque no practico ese deporte. businesschile.cl

I recently commented to my son about the apparent prowess of a very attractive person (female, by coincidence) who seemed to be making quite a splash with her surfboard; I was impressed, but then I don't surf. businesschile.cl

In this example it is clear that in English it is obligatory the use of pronouns at the beginning of the clause, however in Spanish it is not necessary because of the verb. It can also be observed also that the indirect object in Spanish can be before the verb or the contrary in English is always after the verb.

With other sentence like:

Dáselo todo a un amigo, menos tu coche, tu mujer y tu pistola. controlarms.org

Give everything to your friend, except your car, your wife, and your gun. controlarms.org

In Spanish if there are OD and OI, el OI, it change to "se" while in English it cannot exist.

Esta carta le permitirá obtener gratuitamente una copia de su informe de crédito para ver si en él existe algún error o problema que usted desconoce. cryo-cell.com

This letter will entitle you to a free copy of your credit report so you can check and see if there are any errors or problems that you are not aware of. cryo-cell.com

One other main difference between the two languages is the order of the complements: in Spanish it is SVODOI, but in English it is SVIOOD. Furthermore, the order of the adjectives is different, as is the importance of the subject. In Spanish the subject is not necessary, however in English it is obligatory.

Conclusion (375)

To sum up, word order in English is related to the morphology of the language: languages that are highly inflected could not have a fixed word order. The inflection of each element of the clause in languages like Latin, allow for the words to be rearranged without altering the meaning of overall the sentence. Instead, the meaning in these languages is given by the individual word endings. However, languages like English, which are less inflected, rely on a particular resource to maintain the function of the word: in this case, the resource is the word's position in the clause.

Writing Services

Essay Writing
Service

Find out how the very best essay writing service can help you accomplish more and achieve higher marks today.

Assignment Writing Service

From complicated assignments to tricky tasks, our experts can tackle virtually any question thrown at them.

Dissertation Writing Service

A dissertation (also known as a thesis or research project) is probably the most important piece of work for any student! From full dissertations to individual chapters, we’re on hand to support you.

Coursework Writing Service

Our expert qualified writers can help you get your coursework right first time, every time.

Dissertation Proposal Service

The first step to completing a dissertation is to create a proposal that talks about what you wish to do. Our experts can design suitable methodologies - perfect to help you get started with a dissertation.

Report Writing
Service

Reports for any audience. Perfectly structured, professionally written, and tailored to suit your exact requirements.

Essay Skeleton Answer Service

If you’re just looking for some help to get started on an essay, our outline service provides you with a perfect essay plan.

Marking & Proofreading Service

Not sure if your work is hitting the mark? Struggling to get feedback from your lecturer? Our premium marking service was created just for you - get the feedback you deserve now.

Exam Revision
Service

Exams can be one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever have! Revision is key, and we’re here to help. With custom created revision notes and exam answers, you’ll never feel underprepared again.