Conference article

Quantitative Word Order Typology with UD

Matías Guzmán Naranjo
Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, HHU, Department of Linguistics and Information Science, Germany

Laura Becker
Department of Romance Studies, University of Cologne, Germany

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Published in: Proceedings of the 17th International Workshop on Treebanks and Linguistic Theories (TLT 2018), December 13–14, 2018, Oslo University, Norway

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 155:10, p. 91-104

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Published: 2018-12-10

ISBN: 978-91-7685-137-1

ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


Cross-linguistic universals of word order correlations often based on the distinction basic VO and OV orders have received a lot of attention since the seminal work by Greenberg (1963), followed by e.g. Dryer (1991, 1989); Hawkins (1979, 1980, 1983); Lehmann (1973, 1974); Vennemann (1974, 1975). However, there have been quantitative studies (e.g. Chen and Gerdes, 2017; Dunn et al., 2011; Liu, 2010) focusing on a small number of languages (Celano, 2014), or insisting on canonical word order for every language. The aim usually is to find crosslinguistic word order correlations on the basis of this canonical order. How to determine the latter for any language is, however, highly problematic and potentially misleading for a number of languages, as was already argued convincingly in Mithun (1992): it means that stricter OV order languages such as Japanese are treated like flexible OV order languages such as German. Despite some strong crosslinguistic correlations based on canonical word order that could be confirmed in independent samples, it is still not clear whether these effects can reliably be modelled as categorical or whether we should rather treat them as gradient. This is what we propose in the present study: We explore the question of whether word order tendencies between the verb and its arguments may have some influence on the orders between nouns and their dependents, and whether these tendencies are cross-linguistic or language specific.


word order universals, word order correlations, gradient tendencies


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