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In this Wikipedia article, French, Italian and Spanish are listed as SVO languages, along with English and Chinese. (However, Latin is listed as SOV.)

I am highly confused about such statement. In those languages, we say

Je te connais

(Yo) te conozco

(Io) ti conosco

(Eu) Ti-cunosc

In all above examples, the word order is SOV. It's the same for, say:

Tu l'aimerais

(Tú) me gustas

(Io) gli dicevo

And then I came up with the question in the title.


I have no problem agreeing that English has SVO order, say

Is lovev youo

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    Probably because when using explicit complements (rather than pronouns), the canonical word order is after the verb — that's the case at least for the Iberian languages but I imagine it holds for French. But canonical doesn't mean obligatory either. "A mi mejor amigo un regalo se lo compré yo" is perfectly fine Spanish and OVS but it'd only be used in very limited circumstances. The default is "(yo le) compré un regalo a mi amigo" which is basically SVO – user0721090601 Feb 6 '19 at 13:26
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    btw your first example in French makes no sense. "Je te sais" isn't something any Frenchie would say. You mean "Je te connais" (which is I know you. "Savoir" is for empirical knoweldge, not for knowing someone). – Patrice Feb 6 '19 at 19:39
  • @Patrice also "carnal knowledge", if we really want to go there – costrom Feb 6 '19 at 21:07
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    @Patrice "Je te sais amateur de linguistique" is perfectly fine (if of a formal register), even thought that's not what the OP meant. Anyway, there's an argument to be made that all the sentences in the question are just SV, or even just V in the case of French – Eau qui dort Feb 6 '19 at 21:37
  • @Eauquidort 100%. but "te conozco" is I know you. "Je te sais" isn't exactly the same there. And my point was just that the sentence "Je te sais" isn't something a Frenchie would say. If you add on to the sentence, sure! I was looking at it in isolation though. – Patrice Feb 6 '19 at 21:50
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French, Spanish and Italian use SVO in clauses with non-pronominal arguments. Many languages make use of more than one kind of word order; the "canonical" order used in simplistic categorizations of entire languages as "SVO" vs. "SOV" etc. has to be based on some particular subset of clauses in the language in cases like that. English isn't SVO in all circumstances either: "What do you want?" is either OSV or OVS, depending on whether "V" is interpreted as being the auxiliary or the lexical verb.

There are a few reasons for preferring to base categorizations on clauses with non-pronominal arguments:

a) pronominal arguments are often optional (in Romance, this is mainly the case with subjects, but I believe objects may be dropped in some other languages)

b) pronominal arguments are not uncommonly expressed as affixes (in fact, there are some arguments about whether French object, and even subject markers are more like prefixes than they are like separate words)

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  • Ha, we had almost the same answer but I accidentally typed it in the comment on my mobile =\ – user0721090601 Feb 6 '19 at 13:27
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    One could mention that positioning of pronouns in some Indoeuropean languages is subject to Wackernagel’s law, unrelated to their syntactic function. – Emil Jeřábek Feb 6 '19 at 18:22
  • "what do you want" <--> "Que veux-tu", same OVS – iBug Feb 7 '19 at 2:01
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French has all three patterns SVO if O is a noun, SOV if O is a pronoun or even OVS if O is a relative pronoun. ex: les émissions que regardent les gens, dont parlent les gens

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  • Does it count when there's a relative clause? – Quidam Nov 12 '19 at 0:16

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