Quoting Peter Bleackley <[log in to unmask]>:

> At 06:15 16/06/2003 -0500, you wrote:
> >Quoting Peter Bleackley <[log in to unmask]>:
> >
> > > I have an idea for a language that achieves free word order by
> > > inflecting the verb according to whether the subject or object
> > > occurs first. In the default form, the following word orders
> > > are possible:
> > > VSO
> > > SVO
> > > SOV
> >
> >Usually, there will be only *one* default order, if there is
> >any evidence for a basic order at all.  (Some languages have
> >no such basic order.)
> I meant a default form of the verb, not a default order. Any noun with a
> role other than subject or object must be marked. The default form of the
> verb indicates that the subject precedes the object, therefore those orders
> are possible.

Is this a nominative-accusative system of agreement? (= NP-1
of intransitives marked like NP-1 of transitives.)

> > > In the marked form, these are possible
> > >
> > > VOS
> > > OVS
> > > OSV
> > >
> > > If the verb is marked, and only one unmarked noun is present, the verb
> > > becomes passive.
> > >
> > > What would the terminology be for such an inflection?
> >
> >It sounds like what you have is a system that is sensitive to
> >discourse functions like topic and focus. The study of such
> >languages is always "fuzzy", since topic means little more than
> >"what the utterance is about", while the focus refers to new
> >information in the sentence.  Examples:
> >
> >   topicalized argument:  "_John_, I know."
> >   focused argument: "_Who_ did Mary see last night?"
> >
> >Many, many languages treat these discourse function differently
> >from one another in the syntax.  In your case, that would boil
> >down to verb agreement with what is presumably the topic (you
> >don't actually say here).
> It's not really a case of verb agreement-

Well, in all fairness it clearly is a case of verb agreement, since
the verb has two distinct forms depending on certain featural
properties of the two main arguments.  At least, that's how I'm
reading you.

 this is a language where nouns
> inflect for four levels of definiteness and a gender-dependent number
> system*.  However, these aren't involved in the marking of the verb to
> determine word order.

Wait -- I'm confused.  How does changing the inflection on the verb
free up the word order when you say the word order of the two actants
is fixed, as either OS or SO?  It really does sound like what you're
describing is a discourse function of the language. It sounds like
when objects are fronted before subjects, i.e. in some sense topicalized,
the verb must agree with that special change in syntax by a special

Thomas Wier            "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
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