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Word order in Finno-Ugric languages. A typological approach Part 1. Introduction. the aim of this work is to analyze a linguistic phenomenon in different Finno-Ugric language from a typologic point of view

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word order in finno ugric languages

Word order in Finno-Ugric languages

A typological approach

Part 1

  • the aim of this work is to analyze a linguistic phenomenon in different Finno-Ugric language from a typologic point of view
  • the cross-linguistic analyses and generalization about word order structures doesn’t contain numerous data from Finno-Ugric languages (except from Finnish and Hungarian in general)
  • for instance: the World Atlas of Language Structures contains ca. 120 features about Hungarian, ca. 130 features about Finnish but only 35 about Komi-Zyrian and 34 about Udmurt language
  • I had two goals in this study:
  • to analyze the validity or applicability of one particular word order principle referring to Finno-Ugric languages
  • to get more data about word order properties of these languages
  • I was interested in the possibility of typological generalization focusing on one language family
  • the theory I used at the analyses is Th. Venemann’s PNS
  • What are the main parameters of the PNS?
  • Th. Vennemann states that the subject has no importance in the notion of basic bord order, thus he uses the categories: OV and VO
  • his aim is to make a general explanation about Greenberg’s universal statements
  • Vennemann’s theory is the Principle of Natural Serialization (PNS) which can be seen as a generalization on greenbergian universals
  • the basis of the explanation is categorial analogy
  • Vennemann: Principle of Natural Serialization
  • relation between basic word order and the order of different constituents
  • statistic universals – if the features are placed into one direction in more than the half of the analyzed languages, then the PNS could be held applicable for generalization
  • i.e. Vennemann’s principle shows tendencies only
some features of the pns
Some features of the PNS
  • The PNS states that: the order of operators (i.e. modifiers or dependent parts) and operands (i.e. modified or head parts) tends to be serialized in one direction
  • in practice: operators before operands OR operands before operators
features used in the pns
Features used in the PNS


object verb

adverbial verb

main verb auxiliary

adjective noun

relative clause noun

genitive noun

numeral noun

determiner noun

adjective comparison marker

standard of comparison comparative adjective

noun phrase adposition

(Vennemann 1974)

examples for the features
Examples for the features
  • Excercise: Search for possible examples about the different features from English!
  • Is English a VO or an OV type of a language?
  • English is an SVO language. (cf.The farmer killed the duckling.) The order of object and verb is: VO
  • auxiliary – main verb

e.g. I can go. You will come. He must leave. – AuxV

  • noun – genitive

e.g. the book of the boy, the leg of the table, BUT: Vennemann’s theory – NG (GN)

3. noun-numeral

e.g. three hours, a lot of lizards, some people NumN

  • noun-determiner

e.g. this girl, that excercise, (determiner as definite article: the cow, the students, the wall) DetN

  • adposition-noun phrase

e.g. in this book, from the school, to the boy, after the lecture PrNP (Pr=preposition)

basis of the analyses
Basis of the analyses
  • a small sample based on five Finno-Ugric languages: Hungarian, Finnish, Komi (Zyrian), Udmurt, Erzya (Mordvin)
  • Do you remember to which branch of the Finno-Ugric language family these languages belong?
  • Hungarian: U, FU, Ugric
  • Finnish: U, FU, FP, Finnic
  • Komi: U, FU, FP, Permic
  • Udmurt: U, FU, FP, Permic
  • Erzya: U, FU, FV
  • Can one get significant data from the above mentioned languages? (pros and contras)
  • Yes, because:
  • 15 languages constitute the whole FU language family
  • 4 different branches of the family are analyzed
  • Finnish and Hungarian represent two different „side” of the family (they are vary far from each other, the represent different developement, ect.)
  • No, because:
  • these five languages are less then the half of the whole family
  • Saami (Saamic) and Obi-Ugric branches are not mentioned in this study
the sample
The sample
  • Where can one get valid data about word order types in Finno-Ugric languages?
  • this study contains originally ca. 200 examples
  • data from:
  • reference grammars
  • chrestomathies
  • native speakers (own knowledge in the case of Hungarian)
  • databases (where it was possible)
  • some questions about the data: reference grammars vary from one to another in the description of the particular language – sometimes it is quite difficult to compare data when different terminology is used
inception of the analyses
Inception of the analyses
  • first one has to define the basic word order in the languages in question
  • reliable cases:
  • Udmurt – SOV
  • Finnish – SVO
  • Erzya – SVO
  • questionable cases:
  • Hungarian – referring to WALS and Kiefer, Hungarian has no dominant order; in this study SOV
  • Komi – referring to WALS in this study SVO, in some other grammars: SOV/SVO – no dominant order
basic word order in hungarian
Basic word order in Hungarian
  • defining the basic word order is not easy
  • Different cases:

A fiú sajtot eszik.

‘The boy is eating cheese.’

A fiú a sajtot eszi.

‘The boy is eating the the cheese.’

A fiú egy sajtot eszik.

‘The boy is eating a cheese.’

A fiú megeszi a sajtot.

‘The boy eats the cheese.’

basic word order in hungarian1
Basic word order in Hungarian
  • The dominant order in Hungarian is in connection with the topic-focus (theme-rheme) system of the language.
  • Pragmatic neutrality, finiteness-indefiniteness of the object
  • After all, in this study Hungarian is considered an SOV language
  • NB! If Hungarian is considered a language without any dominant word order it only means in the system of the PNS that no data exist referring to the firs feature of the PNS
  • the order of object and verb is just one operator-operand pattern
word order from the viewpoint of the pns
Word order from the viewpoint of the PNS
  • What is the order of O and V in these languages?
  • Hungarian: SOV
  • OV (or no dominant order)
  • Udmurt: SOV
  • OV
  • Komi: SVO
  • VO
  • Erzya: SVO
  • VO
  • Finnish: SVO
  • VO
the parameters
The parameters
  • in the second part of this study we try to analyze together the parameters of the PNS
  • first I demonstrate the data from some FU languages, and then we can think it over what is the order of the parameter in Hungarian, in Finnish, in Italian, or in other language you can speak
order of numeral num and noun n
Order of numeral (Num) and noun (N)
  • PNS: OV&NumN – VO&NumN
  • Hungarian:

(1) három alma

three apple ‘three apples’

(2) sok kép

many picture ‘many pictures’

(3) ötödik nap

fifth day ‘fifth day’

  • OV&NumN = PNS+ (+ means that the data is the one that is expected following the PNS)
order of numeral num and noun n1
Order of numeral (Num) and noun (N)
  • Udmurt (Csúcs 1987: 44.):

(4) t’amis kion

eight wolf ‘eight wolves’

(5) vit’ vorgoron-jos

five man-Pl ‘five men’

(6) odig ar no ¥’yny

one year and half

‘one and a half year’

(7) odig no ¥’yny ar

one and half year

‘one and a half year’ (no semantic difference)

  • OV&NumN = PNS+
order of numeral num and noun n2
Order of numeral (Num) and noun (N)
  • Komi (Rédei 1978: 95.):

(8) vit mort

five man ‘five people’

(9) mort s’iz’im

man seven’about seven people’ (semantic difference)

  • VO&NumN = PNS– (where – means that the data is not the one that is expected following the PNS)
order of numeral num and noun n3
Order of numeral (Num) and noun (N)
  • Erzya (Keresztes 1990: 75, Mészáros 1998: 68.):

(10) kolmo t’ejt’er-t’

threegirl-PL ‘three girls’

(11) lamo ved

much water ‘much water’

  • VO&NumN = PNS–
order of numeral num and noun n4
Order of numeral (Num) and noun (N)
  • Finnish (Kenttälä 2001: 231.):

(12) viisi ihmis-tä

five man-PART ‘five men’

(13) mon-ta bussi-a

many-PART bus-PART ’many busses’

  • VO&NumN = PNS–
  • What is the ordering of adposition and noun in your native language?
  • What could be the reason that VO languages do not behave the way which is expexted from the PNS?
  • AN (adjective-noun) ordering is a basic rule in all FU languages – in some langueges (like in Udmurt or in Komi) the ordering of adjective and noun is crucial
  • cf. Ud. umoj nyl ‘a good girl’ – nyl umoj ‘The girl is good’ (Num is special type of A)
  • Do you know such a phenomenon from any language?