After looking through some of the VSO languages, it seems that the "most VSO centric" one I could find (using Google Translate) is Hawai'ian.

The simplest example sentence is (1):

I went to the store.

Hele au i ka hale kūʻai.

(Hele: Go, au: I, i: i, ka: the, hale: house, kūʻai: purchase, ka hale kūʻai: the store)

Literally: Go I the store.

Now making it a little more complicated (2):

My friend and I went to the store.

Ua hele māua me kaʻu hoaaloha i ka hale kūʻai.

(Ua: Has been, hele: go, māua: us, me: along with, kaʻu: get on, hoaaloha: friend, ...)

Literally: [PAST] go my friends and I the store.

So now we still have <verb> <subject> <object>, but the verb is preceded by the PAST marker (or not sure what it's called. So already we are getting more complicated in scope than what Wikipedia has as examples.

To go more complicated than that, make the subject really complicated (3):

My really nice friend and I went to the store.

(ʻO koʻu hoaaloha maikaʻi loa: My best friend, ua hele au i ka hale kūʻai: and I went to the store).

Literally: My best friend [PAST] go I the store.

Now we are out of the realm of VSO for the most part, just barely seeing it in the go I the store at the end. But the adjectives added to my friend made it shift part of the structure to before the verb, so it is almost like SVO form.

This is the behavior I found for most of the other languages. For example, with Welsh:

I went to the store.

Es i i'r siop.

Literally: Went I the store.

My friend and I went to the store.

Aeth fy ffrind a minnau i'r siop.

Literally: Went my friend and I the store.

My really nice friend and I went to the store.

Fy ffrind neis iawn a minnau i fynd i'r siop.

Literally: My friend nice okay and me went the store.

Now we are totally in SVO territory.

Tagalog shows this for examples 1, 2, and 3:

Pumunta ako sa tindahan. (Literally: Go I the store).

Nagpunta kami sa tindahan ng kaibigan ko.

Ang ganda talaga kong kaibigan at nagpunta ako sa tindahan.

Same behavior here.

Maybe this is a Google Translate thing. But I'm wondering why they are calling these languages "VSO" languages when they are falling back to SVO in more complex examples.

As part of this I'm wondering if there are any examples on what a complex sentence (like example 3) would look like in VSO form, without falling back to SVO.

Finally, wondering if there are general rules or any documentation on VSO that describes rules for how you move things outside of the verbs.

Another Tagalog example is this:

Before I leave the house I eat.

Bago ako umalis sa bahay kumain ako.

Literally: Before I leave the house eat I.

So here there is mixed SVO (I leave house) and VSO (eat I). I would like to see an example where it is all VSO.

  • 2
    When you seriously interested in these things, you should learn a VSO language (at least to some degree). – jk - Reinstate Monica Sep 20 '18 at 9:36
  • As to your Welsh examples: i'r is a contraction of i yr, which, word-by-word, does mean to the. – OmarL Sep 20 '18 at 15:37
  • @jknappen "lol just learn the language" is not a really constructive response – ubadub Sep 20 '18 at 16:34
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    @ubadub: I didn't say "LOL". And many linguistics study programs require that you learn some languages, usually at least one of them being not an indogermanic one. – jk - Reinstate Monica Sep 20 '18 at 16:39
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    Sigh, and Google translate is not a valid method to create linguistic example sentences. – jk - Reinstate Monica Sep 20 '18 at 16:41

Word order is never an absolute phenomenon crosslinguistically. English may be generally considered an "SVO" language, but that doesn't stop us from forming rule-governed expressions which flout the word order, or using certain set expressions. Examples include questions which invert the order ("What did you do?") and OSV in "topic-fronting," usually done for emphasis ("I can't see Mary. But Bill I can see."). Many languages, e.g. Latin are even more flexible with word order because of elaborate grammatical systems (e.g. case) which make it possible to decipher the grammatical role of a word with little or no reference to where it is located in the sentence. On the other hand, some languages, like Mandarin, are even more strict about word order.

Thus classifying a language as strictly one word order type is fraught with complications. Judgements are made on balance and based on the prevailing pattern of word choice across the language, not just individual utterances.

EDIT: Also, you're using Google Translate, which has minimal to no validity here.

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  • Wondering if you could provide an example sentence like one of the ones Google Translate gets wrong. Or I guess where I go about learning how to construct one myself. – Lance Pollard Sep 20 '18 at 16:48
  • I don't speak any of those languages in your post, so no, I can't. But if you actually want to construct a sentence in a language, you either need to learn it, or at least go through a good grammar of the language. – ubadub Sep 20 '18 at 16:50
  • Or if you're just looking for example sentences in various languages, there are examples on the wikipedia page for word order: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_order and there are often also examples on the individual pages for a given language, e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaiian_language#Grammar or also on the "Grammar" articles for different articles, e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaiian_grammar – ubadub Sep 20 '18 at 16:53

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