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Thread: Word order

  1. #1
    JanieChiu is offline Newbie
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    Default Word order

    Why is word order less reliable in Spanish and Italian than in English?

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Word order

    Hello JC, welcome to Using English!

    That's an interesting question. Did you mean "Why is word order a less reliable guide to meaning in Italian and Spanish than in English"?

    All the best,

    MrP

  3. #3
    JanieChiu is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Word order

    probably. that's the question my linguistic teacher gives me. can you help me?

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    Default Re: Word order

    What do you mean by the question? I don't understand the phrase " a less reliable guide to meaning ...."

  5. #5
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Word order

    Hello JC,

    I think your teacher wants you to consider the influence of inflection on word order.

    In English, there is very little inflection. For instance, with the verb "to eat", there are only two forms in the simple present tense ("eat" and "eats"), and one form in the simple past tense ("ate").

    In other languages, however, there are forms for each person and number –e.g. the simple present tense of "eat" in Italian is:

    1st person singular: mangio
    2nd person singular: mangi
    3rd person singular: mangia
    1st person plural: mangiamo
    2nd person plural: mangiate
    3rd person plural: mangiano

    In a language with little inflection (e.g. English), word order often determines meaning, e.g.

    1. The girl loves the boy.

    In the above sentence, position alone tells us that "the girl" is the subject and "the boy" is the object of the verb.

    In a highly inflected language (e.g. Latin), on the other hand, position does not necessarily determine meaning, e.g.

    2. Puella amat puerum.
    3. Puerum amat puella.
    4. Amat puerum puella.
    5. Amat puella puerum.

    Sentences 2 to 5 all have exactly the same meaning as #1: the ending of each word determines the word's function in the sentence, and so word order is not important.

    All the best,

    MrP

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    Default Re: Word order

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Hello JC,

    I think your teacher wants you to consider the influence of inflection on word order.

    In English, there is very little inflection. For instance, with the verb "to eat", there are only two forms in the simple present tense ("eat" and "eats"), and one form in the simple past tense ("ate").

    In other languages, however, there are forms for each person and number –e.g. the simple present tense of "eat" in Italian is:

    1st person singular: mangio
    2nd person singular: mangi
    3rd person singular: mangia
    1st person plural: mangiamo
    2nd person plural: mangiate
    3rd person plural: mangiano

    In a language with little inflection (e.g. English), word order often determines meaning, e.g.

    1. The girl loves the boy.

    In the above sentence, position alone tells us that "the girl" is the subject and "the boy" is the object of the verb.

    In a highly inflected language (e.g. Latin), on the other hand, position does not necessarily determine meaning, e.g.

    2. Puella amat puerum.
    3. Puerum amat puella.
    4. Amat puerum puella.
    5. Amat puella puerum.

    Sentences 2 to 5 all have exactly the same meaning as #1: the ending of each word determines the word's function in the sentence, and so word order is not important.

    All the best,

    MrP
    But surely Latin is a case apart? I mean, Italian surely doesn't work that way.

  7. #7
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Word order

    Yes, I agree that Italian and Spanish aren't ideal choices, in this context. Subject/object differentiation in nouns seems to be the key to flexible word order, rather than inflection in verbs.

    Perhaps German would have provided a better contrast. Or perhaps I've misinterpreted the question!

    MrP

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Word order

    Hello everyone!

    There is only one way to translate this sentence in Spanish "Puella amat puerum." --> "La niña ama al niño" but if you change the time of the verb, you can have the same meaning.:D

    In Latin there were cases(?) for each word:
    -Nominative
    -Vocative
    -Acusative
    -Genitive
    -Dative
    -Ablative

    ..which disappeared in Spain. (Maybe that's why there is an order for the words)

    P.S: MrP, it's great to see you here!:D

  9. #9
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Word order

    Hello, Carpe! Welcome to Using English! It's good to see you too.

    Have a cheery Sunday,

    MrP

  10. #10
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Word order

    Quote Originally Posted by JanieChiu View Post
    Why is word order less reliable in Spanish and Italian than in English?
    When English lost part of its Germanic character ie case endings its word order was frozen to avoid confusion. Even in questions that are start with do you don't change the SPO.

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