An asymmetry between VO and OV languages

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The <i>World Atlas of Language Structures</i> has established an interesting asymmetry between head-initial (VO) and head-final (OV) languages with respect to the ordering of oblique phrases, i.e., phrases corresponding to <i>with the key</i> and <i>on the table in opened</i> [<i>the door</i>] [<i>with the key</i>] and <i>put</i> [<i>the book</i>] [<i>on the table</i>]. Head-initial grammars have a consistent and almost exceptionless preference for VOX order. Head-final grammars have variable basic orders: all of XOV, OXV and OVX are productively attested, and there are fewer clear basic orders than in VO languages. In this paper I offer a multi-factor explanation for this grammatical asymmetry in terms of processing efficiency, developing principles proposed in Hawkins (1994, 2004).


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