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20 - SOV as the Canonical Word Order in Modern Chinese

from Part Four - Syntax-semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse Issues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2022

Chu-Ren Huang
Affiliation:
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Yen-Hwei Lin
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
I-Hsuan Chen
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
Yu-Yin Hsu
Affiliation:
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
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Summary

The debate on modern Chinese being SVO or SOV is facing a dilemma: the word order is SVO in an unmarked declarative sentence in Chinese, while Chinese exhibits many features shared by SOV languages. To tackle this difficult situation, researchers should focus on language types, but not the relative orders of subject, verb, and object. Based on the usage of modern Chinese, we have checked ten universals generalized in Greenberg (1963) which are relevant to this topic. It is shown that 90% of the universals support Chinese being a SOV language, and only one universal is on the SVO side. Modern Chinese is therefore argued to be located very close to the SOV end of a continuum.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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References

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