A quick look over the early primer lessons, as well
as the grammar, will show that the standard Vaior word order is
VSO. That is, the verb is usually first, followed by the
subject, after which comes everything else: direct and indirect
objects, as well as prepositional phrases. That same cursory glance
will also show, however, that the word order often deviates from this
strict VSO pattern, sometimes quite drastically. What's going on?
It is very important to keep in mind at all times
that statements about normal Vaior word order refer only to strong
tendencies, not to rules. There are competing
tendencies for Vaior word order, and often the one that says "use VSO"
Some learners of Vaior, especially ones who know
only modern Germanic or Romance languages, will find this great
flexibility in word order a little alarming. If you keep in mind at
all times that the role words play in sentences are encoded in their
endings, not in word order, then you shouldn't go wrong
often. A statement like van au rhon tuarai shouldn't cause
much too much distress, though its word order is quite deviant. The
meaning is perfectly clear from the case endings. Your job at this
point is to try to figure out why this peculiar word order was used,
and what information that communicates. I will explore that question
in the rest of this document.
In the next few paragraphs I'll give examples of
situations where the word order of "least energy", VSO, is ignored in
favor of some other order, and the reasons for that. Then I'll
discuss a few of the examples of true hard-and-fast rules, and end the
discussion with a quick list of the tendencies of Vaior word order in
In the discussions below I will use the word
"deviant" and "deviance" to describe non-VSO word orders. I use these
only to indicate that the order differs from the main VSO tendency.
Do not take the word "deviant" to mean "dispreferred." Indeed, the
deviant word order may be the preferred order in some situations.
Before starting in on the changes, here is the
default word order in all its glory:
Verb Subject DirectObject IndirectObject Manner Time Place
Now, the changes...
The only truly strict rule of Vaior word order is
that if some element of a clause is most salient, if it is the focus
of the statement being made, then it will if at all possible shift to
the head of the clause:
- Tuarai a rhon van This man saw me.
- A rhon tuarai van This man saw me.
- Van tuarai a rhon This man saw me.
Related to this shifting to the front of the
sentence is the additional tendency to further indicate the focus by
using the enclitic particle ta. This may in some ways be
considered a mere stylistic variant of the versions without ta,
since it is extremely common in this situation:
- A ta rhon tuarai van This man saw me.
- Van ta tuarai a rhon This man saw me.
The use of ta within a phrase not at
the head of a clause also indicates that preceding word or phrase-head
is particularly salient:
- Tuarai a ta rhon van This man saw me.
- Tuarai a rhon van ta This man saw me.
However, this usage almost always occurs only when a
preceding sentence or clause contains uri in the same
position. So, both of the sentences above, standing as they do
without previous context, are a little odd.
The other major cause of word order adjustments is
ambiguity avoidance. Especially in complex sentences and participle
phrases, serious ambiguities can arise if you hold too closely to the
VSO tendency. In general, there are two approaches to solving this
problem. In the first approach, the heavy (wordy or ambiguous) phrase
is shifted to the head of the sentence. In some ways this is related
to the issue of salience: if you're going to the effort to precisely
describe something, then it's probably fairly salient.
The other approach is to encapsulate the phrases
causing ambiguity. This is most common with descriptive clauses, that
is, relative clauses and participle phrases. When a non-subject noun
is modified with a relative clause or participle ambiguities are less
- Lu lairho va nan rhonan thían tuaro sa an enass
I don't know the man whom you see in the restaurant.
It's fairly clear that the phrase an enass
enthiarasse goes with tuaro not lairho, not least
because of the meaning. However, it is very easy to construct
- Pentho na rhon thían tuaro sa an enass enthiarasse.
The man whom you see sleeps in the restaurant or
The man whom you see in the restaurant is sleeping?
In this case, from the strict VSO standpoint, the
phrase an enass enthiarasse could go with either verb. Without
some clarifying punctuation or vocal inflection it isn't clear. Most
would probably assume it goes with the second verb.
Finally, certain alterations of word order are
common in certain uses of language. Poetry has its own preferred
diction and word order is a servant to meter. There are other common
stylistic practices, some idiomatic, which will prefer a certain word
order, possibly quite far from the VSO order.
One very common trick is encapsulation. In
this, an entire clause is bracketed between a noun phrase that would
normally be unsplit. For example, I made a large
change would normally be isai va hemsian
vaman. One could of course focus on the large change part,
and say hemsian (ta) vaman isai va. A more stylish way
of doing the same thing though, is to front only the most relevant
part of the large change, either hemsian isai va
vaman, which emphasizes the change, or vaman isai
va hemsian, which emphasizes the type of change.
Now that we've looked at the main cases of sometimes
quite deviant word order, I turn to a discussion of some of the word
order tendencies of Vaior which most regularly take precedence. In
all of these there are of course exceptions, most of which ultimately
have to do with the unique properties of enclitics.
One of the strongest tendencies on Vaior is for a
subject pronoun to follow the verb it goes with immediately if it
follows at all. That is, if the subject pronoun has been lifted
out to the front of a clause then it may well be separated from the
verb. When the subject pronoun follows, then there is a very strong
aversion to separating it from the verb. The only exception: an
enclitic may stand between a verb and the subject pronoun. By
far the most common enclitic to stand between is ta. Others
can be used, but are often avoided, especially if they are
- Tuarai va nan alailu. I saw her last night.
- Acceptable: Va alailu tuarai nan.
- Acceptable: Nan tuarai va alailu.
- Not acceptable: *Tuarai alailu va nan because va
must follow immediately.
- Acceptable: Tuarai ta va nan. because ta, an
enclitic, is allowed to separate the verb and subject pronoun
- Acceptable: Nan ta tuarai va alailu
Please keep in mind that this aversion to separating
the verb and a subject pronoun does not extend to subject
nouns. Something like tuarai alailu a rhon nan this man
saw her last night is bit odd, but still acceptable.
- Default word order tendency: VSO.
- But the focus of a statement shifts to the first position in
the clause, often with ta or some other particle.
- When the subject pronoun follows the verb, it must follow
immediately, except for intervening enclitics.