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Word order. Part of knowing what a possible sentence is knowing the right order of words/morphemes Word order differences between English and Witsuwit’en 1. In English, the verb can be followed by a prepositional phrase . In Witsuwit’en, the verb is normally the last word in the sentence.

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word order
Word order
  • Part of knowing what a possible sentence is knowing the right order of words/morphemes
  • Word order differences between English and Witsuwit’en

1. In English, the verb can be followed by a prepositional phrase. In Witsuwit’en, the verb is normally the last word in the sentence.

    • English: count for me
    • Witsuwit’en:

spe c’otw

for me you (sg.) count

word order1
Word order

2. In English, adjectives precede nouns.

narrowrope

In Witsuwit'en, an adjective follows a noun:

t'otet‘fine babiche’

rope narrow

slide4
Witsuwit’en
    • PP  NP P
      • [lethAn t’Ats] st’E

skewer by it cooked

word order2
Word order

3. In English, the possessor noun normally precedes the possessed noun. 

my friend's house

but can follow the possessed noun:

the house of my friend

In Witsuwit'en, the possessor noun always precedes the possessed noun:

sq'aqhE pyX ‘my friend’s house’

my friend his/her house

word order3
Word order

4. Subject of sentence: instigates action (transitive verbs), undergoes action or state (intransitive verbs)

In both Witsuwit'en and English, subjects precede verbs:

Driftwoodis floating around.

tznt

driftwood it is floating around

word order4
Word order
  • (Direct) (undergoes action of verb) object only in sentences with transitive verbs.
  • In English, the direct object follows the verb.
  • We bought food.
  • In Witsuwit'en, the direct object precedes the verb:
  • t'anets'ottqht
  • food we bought
attested word order patterns
Attested word order patterns

(S = Subject, O = Object, V = Verb):

frequency of each type
Frequency of each type

< Sample of 402 languages.