3

With x V y structure, you divide the (potentially) long nouns/adjective phrases into parts separated by the verb, so mentally you can group everything pretty quickly. But if it is V x y, or even x y V, then it seems like it would be more difficult to mentally keep track of all the adjectives.

For example, in English you might have a sentence like:

The icy-cold, free-flowing, crystal clear river with lots of fish
and few plants was wider than the warmer river that had all the 
trees growing right next to the edge, where we saw that bird that 
one time early in the morning.

In VSO it might look like this:

Was wider than
the icy-cold, free-flowing, crystal clear river with lots of fish and few plants
...(something)...
the warmer river that had all the trees growing right next to the edge, where we was that bird that one time early in the morning
...(something)...

In SOV it would be:

The icy-cold, free-flowing, crystal clear river with lots of fish and few plants
...(something)...
the warmer river that had all the trees growing right next to the edge, where we was that bird that one time early in the morning
...(something)...
was wider than

It's almost as if VSO, VOS, SOV, OSV are more "computational" structures than the SVO or OVS forms, since you have to essentially place a delimiter in there somewhere to distinguish between the two things (at least it seems). In that sense maybe it is even easier to comprehend than SVO/OVS.

At the same time, it seems more like a stack, which would require more memory resources to handle, since you collect the data and finally plug them into the verb (in the OSV / SOV forms).

Finally, without having grown up in alternative-to-SVO-as-the-base forms of language, I can't tell if it's harder to keep track of the current context in the alternative forms. So basically, when we introduce the first noun-adjective group, we then introduce the verb, so we know we are about to do something with it. But if the object comes next instead, then it seems like it could be misinterpreted as a list temporarily, until finally the verb arrives.

Wondering what your thoughts are or if there is any advantage conceptually between the different forms. Plus, how these complex chains of adjectives and such are handled in non-SVO languages.

6

There are two main ways that such languages deal with this problem. I'll be focusing specifically on SOV languages, since they're more common and I know more of them.

The first solution is what Latin uses: mark noun case explicitly. In other words, in the sentence dominus bonus servum ferit, the adjective attaches to the subject, and in dominus bonum servum ferit, it attaches to the object. More generally, explicit case makes it clear what's the subject and what's the object when the verb doesn't fall between to separate them.

The second solution is what Japanese uses (in addition to case-marking particles, which fall under the previous point): fix the order of words in a noun phrase. Japanese is strongly head-final in its syntax, and as the head of the noun phrase, the noun itself always comes at the end; adjectives always precede the nouns they modify.

However, I don't know of any language which is SOV without any sort of case marking at all, which is telling. The second solution is used alongside the first one, not instead of it.

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