Native American Indian languages
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Free Word Order
The occasional "Sam I am" or "Quoth the raven" aside, English uses the same
word order for nearly every
sentence: the subject comes first, then the verb, and finally the object. If someone says "The dog bit John," you can be
sure that the one who has been bitten is John, not the dog.
In other languages, word order is much more flexible. In Spanish, for example, you can say "El perro mordió a Juan,"
"Mordió el perro a Juan," or "A Juan mordió el perro," and regardless of the word order, it is still clear from the grammar
of the sentence that Juan is the injured party. Spanish is still generally considered an SVO language, because the SVO
word order (subject-verb-object, the same one used in English) is used the majority of the time. But in other languages,
such as Latin, the word order was so variable that no one sentence structure can be said to be dominant.
Usually free word order occurs in one of two situations: either the language has enough grammatical markers to eliminate
any ambiguity in meaning (as in the case of Latin, which has noun declensions and verb conjugations on every word,)
or the language has easily identifiable verbs and fluctuates between only two compatible word orders (for example,
SOV and SVO; the subject always comes first, so there is no confusing it with the object.)
We don't know of any Native American languages that have truly free word order the way Latin does, but there are several
of them that use two or three different word orders freely. Here is a partial list of such languages:
Tohono O'odham (VSO/SOV)
Word Order Typology
Wikipedia: Word order
Basic Language Structures
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