Author Topic: Head final language  (Read 228 times)

Offline binumal

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Head final language
« on: May 22, 2018, 10:03:22 PM »
I have come across a claim  that there doesn't exist any head -final language which is consistently head  final ( means all the phrases in the language  is head-final). Is this true ? I wonder whether all the head-initial languages exhibit consistent  head-initiality ?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Head final language
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2018, 11:19:04 PM »
Those phrases are generalizations, and allow exceptions. Furthermore, they're not defined based on any set list of phrases, so I don't know how we'd test it. There certainly are many very strongly head-final languages out there-- heavily suffixing, verb-final order, postpositions, etc. (I can name dozens off off the top of my head.) I'd even guess there are some languages without exceptions, at least for major categories. But it depends on how you define this. And if you care about defaults or possible alternative word orders due to pragmatics, etc.

In short, this particular claim needs to be examined in detail for what it is saying. In general I would say it is completely incorrect for normal generalizations about languages-- some languages are strongly and consistently head-final. Depends on what an "exception" can be though, I suppose.

Completely head-initial languages are rarer. That would mean VO order, and perhaps specifically VSO order, which is quite rare (something like 12% of languages have VSO as their default, but fewer are not flexible in that). And more importantly, around the world there is a strong suffixing preference, so in that sense even many head-initial languages have suffixes (sometimes as well as prefixes). In short, whatever claim you found about head-finality would probably also apply with more exceptions to head-initiality.
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