How common is it cross-linguistically for a language to have a different word order in various types of embedded clauses such as relative clauses?

WALS appears to collect information on word order in matrix clauses, but not specifically on various kinds of embedded clauses. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about from a fairly diverse group of languages.

The Hixkaryana language apparently has OVSX word order in matrix clauses. An example of one is in Laura Kalin's thesis on page 41, pdf page 49, example 58.

[bɨryekomo  komo  yonyetxkonɨ]               kamara [txetxa wawo] amnyehra
 child.COLL COLL  3s3o.eat-coll-distpst-cont jaguar  forest   in  long-ago
 The jaguar used to eat children in the forest long ago.

In nonmatrix clauses it is SOV. I don't know the order of the oblique in non-matrix clauses in Hixkaryana, but I suspect it is SXOV. I'm still combing through the thesis for relevant examples.

Also, some languages such as German have V2 word order in matrix clauses and SOV word order in embedded clauses. Although in other Germanic languages, the embedded clause word order is SVO.

This article on Luganda mentions that in passing that several other Bantu languages besides Luganda invert the subject and verb and use a dedicated attributive verb form indicated with prefixing to form relative clauses.

This is somewhat unusual – the more well-known pattern in Bantu is for the relative marker either to be an ‘independent word’ preceding the subject, or a prefix on the verb with subject-verb inversion (Demuth and Harford 1999).

  • 1
    Can you define what is it a matrix clause? Not everyone is familiar with generativist terminology.
    – amegnunsen
    Nov 18 '19 at 7:57
  • AFAIK, German and closely related languages are relatively unique in this regard, certainly within IE and also across language families. Nov 18 '19 at 12:10
  • @AdamBittlingmayer. Which "closely related" languages?
    – fdb
    Nov 18 '19 at 13:08
  • 2
    The term 'matrix clause' is best reserved for those clauses within which a subordinate clause is embedded.
    – BillJ
    Nov 19 '19 at 8:37
  • 1
    True. But that's the context they're asking about here.
    – jlawler
    Nov 19 '19 at 17:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.