Re: Basque, where did they come from?

Harlan Messinger (
10 Sep 1995 20:46:06 GMT

Kevin Daly ( wrote:
: 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
: another.

Moreover, the Romance languages for the most part are SOV when object
pronouns are used. And readers of English are comfortable with free word
order (I don't know how true this is in other languages).

Further, isn't German largely a topic-first language? No matter what a
declarative sentence begins with, the verb is always second. The answer
to "Was machtest du gestern?" (What did you do yesterday?") might be "Ich
besuchte meinen Bruder" (I visited my brother), while the answer to "Whom
did you visit yesterday?" or "Did you visit your sister yesterday?" or "I
heard you visited your mother yesterday" might be "Meinen Bruder besuchte
ich." In other words , WHEN the subject comes first, it's SVO, BUT the
subject commonly doesn't come first; the only real rule is that the verb
comes second. Another version of the above is "Gestern besuchte ich
meinen Bruder", VSO when an adverbial expression comes first.

And this is all within the rather closely related Romance and Germanic
branches of Indo-European. So it seems to me that word order is a rather
fluid feature, and not an extremely strong indicator of family membership.