Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session

Article Title

Object initial languages




From the introduction: "The purpose of the present paper is to present some facts that have come to our attention recently concerning a number of Amerindian languages which we believe do exhibit object-initial basic orders. The languages we shall discuss belong to South American Indian groups which are known to have suffered more or less catatrophic decline in numbers due to the onslaught of European settlement in the New World over the past five hundred years (see Hemming 1978). Since the historical accident of European colonial expansionism has had such a devastating effect in this case, linguists might be well advised to reduce henceforth the extent of the trust they place in alleged universals of constituent ordering, and should also be sceptical of the linguistic relevance of claims that certain basic orders are rare or 'marked'. The geographically widespread character of the SVO order shared by English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch, for example, may be more directly relatable to the widespread expansion by speakers of those languages through colonization on every habitable continent of the globe than to anything about the naturalness of SVO order."

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