I'm very uneducated in syntax, so I apologize if this question is something really basic that everyone already knows.

English is a subject-verb-object language, and it is known to follow that pattern rather rigidly. However, I have noticed something interesting that can happen when English speakers quote other people. A quotative statement might be phrased like this:

"Unicorns are questionable," he said.

Or, it might be phrased like this:

"Unicorns are questionable," said Mark.

It appears to me that option two stands as an exception to SVO word order. The subject, Mark, follows the verb, to say. However, the first sentence follows the order, so I feel like this could be analyzed as "English uses variable word order for a quotative statement that follows the quote." Interestingly, the second construction doesn't really work with a pronoun; "said he" sounds rather archaic and non-standard, perhaps because we find it weird to use nominative pronouns at the end of a sentence.

I am wondering two things. First, is it correct to call post-quote quotatives an exception to English word order? Second, do other languages have features like this?

  • I'd say 1) yes, they are an exception to our usual word order, and 2) I'm pretty sure most Romance languages do this (though I'm not completely sure). As for non-Romance or non-Indo-European languages, though, I have no idea. I'll do some research and give you an answer later, I guess. Apr 27 at 13:58
  • 2
    This is sometimes called "quotative inversion", and appears to be a relic of Germanic V2 order: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V2_word_order
    – TKR
    Apr 27 at 17:25
  • quoting someone not quotative statement. A sentence with a quotation is not a standard form written sentence. You can also write: Mark said "Unicorns are questionable". There's the SVO.
    – Lambie
    Apr 28 at 14:34


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.