VO language

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In linguistics, a VO language is a language in which the verb typically comes before the object.[1] VO languages compose approximately fifty-three percent of documented languages.[2]

For example, Japanese would be considered an OV language whereas English would be considered to be VO. A basic sentence demonstrating this would be as follows.

Japanese: Inu ga neko (object) o oikaketa (verb)
English: The dog chased (verb) the cat (object)

Winfred P. Lehmann first proposed to reduce the six possible permutations of word order to just two main ones, VO and OV, in what he calls the Fundamental Principle of Placement (FPP), arguing that the subject is not a primary element of a sentence. VO languages are primarily right-branching, or head-initial; that is, heads are generally found at the beginning of their phrases. VO languages, as opposed to OV languages, have a tendency to favor the use of prepositions instead of postpositions with only 42 using postpositions of the documented 498 VO languages.[3]

Some languages, such as Finnish, Hungarian, Russian, and Yiddish, use both VO and OV constructions,[4] though in other instances, such as Early Middle English, some dialects may use VO and others OV.[1] Languages that contain both OV and VO construction may solidify into one or the other construction. A language that moves the verb or verb phrase more than the object will have surface VO word order, whereas a language that moves the object more than the verb or verb phrase will have surface OV word order.[4]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Trips, Carola (2002). From OV to VO in early Middle English: Volume 60 of Linguistik aktuell - Issue 60 of Linguistik Artuell/Linguistics Today Series. John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 90-272-2781-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Tomlin, Russell (March 1988). "Basic Word Order: Functional Principles". Language. Linguistic Society of America. 64 (1): 196–197. doi:10.2307/414811.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The World Atlas of Language Structures Online". Map 95A.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hróarsdóttir, Thorbjörg (2001). Word Order Change in Icelandic: From OV to VO. Philadelphia, PA, USA: John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 9789027299208.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>