Word Order - Phrase Word Orders and Branching

Phrase Word Orders and Branching

The order of constituents in a phrase can vary as much as the order of constituents in a clause. Normally, the noun phrase and the adpositional phrase are investigated. Within the noun phrase, one investigates whether the following modifiers occur before or after the head noun.

  • adjective (red house vs house red)
  • determiner (this house vs house this)
  • numeral (two houses vs houses two)
  • possessor (my house vs house my)
  • relative clause (the by me built house vs the house built by me)

Within the adpositional clause, one investigates whether the languages makes use of prepositions (in London), postpositions (London in), or both (normally with different adpositions at both sides).

There are several common correlations between sentence-level word order and phrase-level constituent order. For example, SOV languages generally put modifiers before heads and use postpositions. VSO languages tend to place modifiers after their heads, and use prepositions. For SVO languages, either order is common.

For example, French (SVO) uses prepositions (dans la voiture, à gauche), and places adjectives after (une voiture spacieuse). However, a small class of adjectives generally go before their heads (une grande voiture). On the other hand, in English (also SVO) adjectives almost always go before nouns (a big car), and adverbs can go either way, but initially is more common (greatly improved). (English has a very small number of adjectives that go after their heads, such as "extraordinaire", which kept its position when it was borrowed from French.)

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Famous quotes containing the words phrase, word, orders and/or branching:

    Rude am I in my speech,
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    Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion city of our God!
    He, whose word cannot be broken, Form’d for thee his own abode:
    On the rock of ages founded, What can shake thy sure repose?
    With salvation’s walls surrounded Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.
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    Punishment may make us obey the orders we are given, but at best it will only teach an obedience to authority, not a self-control which enhances our self-respect.
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    The moose will, perhaps, one day become extinct; but how naturally then, when it exists only as a fossil relic, and unseen as that, may the poet or sculptor invent a fabulous animal with similar branching and leafy horns ... to be the inhabitant of such a forest as this!
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)