Re: Basque, where did they come from?

Kevin Daly (
10 Sep 1995 06:46:43 GMT

In article <42n4b3$>, (Harlan Messinger) wrote:
>The logic at work here is this: I speak English. English is SVO.
>Therefore, SVO is normal. Therefore, SOV is a surprising deviation from
>the norm. Basque, Japanese, Korean, etc., are SOV languages. It would be
>an amazing coincidence for all of these languages to have undergone the
>same unusual deviation from SVO independently. Therefore, it is much more
>likely that they can be traced back to one predecessor language that
>uniquely underwent this deviation.
>It doesn't work that way. SVO is a workable structure for a language. SOV
>is a workable structure for a language. If a set of selected languages
>developed independently, some will develop SVO, and some will develop SOV.
>(And there are other possibilities, of course.) SOV is not a deviation
>_from_ SVO. They are just alternate outcomes.
>This is why linguistics is a complex field and why conclusions and
>tentative conclusions of linguistic origin are not based on individual,
>simplistic, superficial resemblances.

In support of all the above, I'd like to point out that Latin had a certain
preference for SOV but was fairly free, and all the surviving Celtic languages
are VSO. Comparing those two with Modern English and its SVO pattern gives a
good example of how even within Indo-European every combination has been
acceptable to somebody at sometime (probably precisely because PIE was free).
So word order certainly doesn't seem to be a good indicator of relationship
between apparent isolates which, if related to one another , would have to
have been separated by many thousands of years' separate evolution -
considering the variation between languages we _know_ are related to one

Kevin Daly