Linguistics Free Word Order, Scrambling Term Paper

Length: 20 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Communication - Language Type: Term Paper Paper: #69277399 Related Topics: Linguistics, Syntax, Minimalism, Second Language Acquisition
Excerpt from Term Paper :

" (Keller, nd) Hawkins uses syntactic weight in explaining word order frequencies and the relative acceptability of different orders in native speakers' judgments." (Keller, nd)

The work of Christiansen (2002) entitled: "Case, Word Order, and Language Learnability: Insights from Connectionist Modeling" it is related that children learn "most of their native language within the first five years of life." (2002) Christiansen further relates that the most difficult task in learning a language involves "mapping a sequence of words onto some sort of interpretation of what the sequence is supposed to mean." (2002) in other words if the child is able to understand a sentenced then the child "needs to determine the grammatical roles of the individual words so that she can work out who did what to whom."(Ibid) the work of Saffran, Aslin & Newport (199) acknowledges linguistic universals that are common "across radically different languages" and which indicate existing inherent learning constraints.

The two primary methods that signals within a language point to the syntactic relationships and grammatical roles are those of (1) word order (WO) and (2) case markings. English, which is strictly a word order language contains declarative sentences that are based on a Subject-Verb Object (SVO) patterns. In comparison, the Japanese language contains multiple word orders and depends on case markings to identify subjects from objects. Language acquisition theory has long held that an innate language acquisition device is to be credited however, Christensen states that "an alternative approach that is gaining ground is the adaptation of linguistic structures to the human brain rather than vice versa." (Christiansen, 1994, Kirby, 1998)

The work of Gertner, Fisher, and Eisengart (2006) entitled: "Learning Words and Rules: Abstract Knowledge of Word Order in Early Sentence Comprehension" states that while children are known to acquire basic grammatical facts in relation to their native language the question exists of whether "this early syntactic knowledge involves knowledge of 'words' or 'rules'? State is that: "According to lexical accounts of acquisition, abstract syntactic and semantic categories are not primitive to the language-acquisition system; thus early language comprehension and production are based on verb-specific knowledge." (Ibid)

The study of Gertner, Fisher and Eisengart (2006) examines the "abstractness of young children's knowledge of syntax through conducting tests as to whether children age 25 and 21 months are able to extend knowledge of the words order in English to new verbs. Four experiments were conducted in which children "used word order appropriately to interpret transitive sentences containing novel verbs. Findings state that while toddlers "have much to learn about their native languages, the represent language experience in terms of an abstract mental vocabulary." (Ibid) it is held in this work that is the "abstract representations" that provide the children the opportunity to detect "patterns of a general nature within their native language"(Ibid) as well as providing the opportunity to learn the rules and words in the start of their language acquisition.

The work of Harriet S. Wetstone and Bernard Z. Friedlander entitled: "The Effect of Word Order on Young Children's Responses to Simple Questions and Commands" states that the tendency in language acquisition in increasingly viewing the language learning of children as the "development of a system of communication rather than as the unfolding of a formal system of syntax." (Bloom, 1970; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1970; Lewis & Freedle, 1972; Macnamara, 1972; as cited by Wetstone and Friedlander, 1973) Wetstone and Friedlander write that: "One of the most puzzling aspects of language children's apparent ability to unravel the enormous complexity of language structure despite the garbled and fragmentary nature of the ordinary ongoing conversation that constitutes the corpus of their listening experience." (Ibid) it has been held that children simply "bypass some of the confusion of language simply by ruling out what does not communicate to them; the listen selectively to what has meaning and is familiar (Shipley, Smith & Gleitman, 1969) in the study of Wetstone and Friedlander 20 children ages 2 and years old were asked simple questions and given simple commands in the "context of an at-home play situation." The commands and questions were verbalized in variations of word order for


While the children who were 'nonfluent' provided appropriate responses to normal and scrambled sentences the 'fluent' children scored significantly, lower to the scrambled sentences than they scored on their responses to sentences that were scrambled. This indicates that the receptive language processing of nonfluent children has as its' focus the familiar semantic elements rather than focusing on syntactic framework.

Cho, et al. (2002) states that children in Korea:

typically manifest higher comprehension rates on the 'unmarked' SOV sentences of their language than on the 'scrambled' OSV patterns. However, scant attention has been paid to the ordering preferences of children in relation to direct and indirect objects." (Ibid)

In an experiment involving 40 children between the ages of 4 and 7 a strong preference for accusative-dative order. It is stated that despite evidence that the reverse order is more common in mother-to-child speech. In this work there are two considered hypotheses: (1) involving the relationship between word order and grammatical relations; and (2) involving the relationship between word order and the types of situations denoted by the sentences in question." (Cho, et al., 2002)

Inconsistent structures in language "are harder to learn than consistent structures by computational systems, whether inconsistencies are at the syntactic level or at the lexical level, in terms of grapheme to phoneme correspondences, or semantic ambiguities." (Monaghan, Gonitzke, Chater, nd) it is pointed out in the work of Monagham, Gnitzke, and Chater (nd) that it has been illustrated that the various frequencies of linguistic structures "have an impact on their ease of processing.. [making it] "extremely useful to have a representation of the relative frequencies of different structures in languages in order to make assertions about the ease of acquisition of inconsistencies that may occur within the language." (Ibid) Monahan nd Gonitzke state that two primary influences on the simple recurrent network's ability to learn sequential orders exist and the first of which is (1) predictability in word order; and (1) the impact of centre-embeddings in structures."

Frank Keller (nd) in the work entitled: "Evaluating Competition-based Models of Word Order" states that three different models have been used in the proposition of explaining word order preferences. These three models have as their basis: (a) Weighted constraints; (b) Optimality Theory; and - Syntactic weight." (Keller, nd) Grammatical competition is utilized in providing an explanation of the constraints to the world order while relying on "intuitive judgments or corpus studies..." (Ibid) Keller relates that there is a substantial differences in the degree of variation of word order across the broad spectrum of the differing world languages. The variation of manifested in the preference of world order, which is affected by factors that are: (1) Syntactic; (2) Pragmatic; and (3) Phonological. (Keller, nd)

The German language is a "verb-second language" that is a language described as one in which "all non-finite verb forms appear at the very end of the clause, so that finite verb in second position and the non-finite ones in final position together forms a sort of bracket around the main body of the clause." (Buring, 1999) Buring cites cf Lenerz (1977) and Uszkoreit (1987) as well as Muller (1998) and state that: "It has been observed that various factors determine the acceptability of a given word order in a particular case, among them case, definiteness, animacy, and focus." Homan writes that: "Languages such as Catalan, Czech, Finnish, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish Russian and Turkish..." languages are some of the languages that have a word order that is "much freer...than English." (nd) Homan states that upon attempting to translate English text into a language that is one of 'free' word order that a choice is presented "between many different word orders that are all syntactically grammatical but are not all felicitous of contextually appropriate." (nd)

V. Non-Configurationality in Languages

The work of Beockx (nd) states that Hale (1983) listed three primary properties which have been "tied to the notion of non-configurationality" in languages which are those of: (1) "Free word order; (2) the use of syntactically discontinuous expressions; and (3) Extensive use of null anaphora to capture these properties" (nd) More recently Kitahara (1999) has proposed an "alternative analysis of scrambling within the minimalist program." It is noted by Kitahara that "Case checking makes room for semantically vacuous overt movement..." And may lead to "what appear to be radical reconstruction effects since the element is interpreted upon case-checking and interpretation." Even more recently the work of Niinuma (2000) has used a variety of tests to demonstrate that long-distance scrambling is focus-driven" and makes the claim that "scrambling affects focus structure." This work builds…

Sources Used in Documents:


Keller, Frank Institute for Communicating and Collaborative systems, Division of Informatics, University of Edinburgh. UK. Gleitman, Lila R. And Joshi, Aravid K. eds, (2000) Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahawah, NJ; Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000.

Yama*****a, H. And Chang, F. (nd) Sentence Production in Japanese. Rochester Institute of Technology - Anthropology. Online available at

Rambow, O. And Joshi, a.K. (1995) a Processing Model for Free Word Order Languages" Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, IRCS Technical Reports Series. University of Pennsylvania, 1995. Online available at

Parker, Brian (2006) Word Order and Formalized Information Structure in Japanese Ohio University. Online available at

Cite this Document:

"Linguistics Free Word Order Scrambling" (2007, February 09) Retrieved October 17, 2021, from

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