2009. március 17., kedd

Inverted word order in declarative sentences

I've made another video (by the way; you can check out my drunken kjempebra video too, hehe) where I tried to speak Norwegian (check the link out if you're brave enough). Since every learners need some feedback, I asked some Norwegians about it. It turned out that I have problems with inverted word order. Let's see what I'm talking about. If I say "jeg leser ikke men bare snakker" (I don't read, just speak) the sequence of subject ("jeg", the personal pronoun) and the verb ("leser") form the "normal word order". This "jeg leser" would be "leser jeg?" in case of a question, and that's called "inverted order". However. I had already known that Norwegians sometimes use the inverted word order in declarative sentences too, but i hadn't got an idea why and when, and it seemed nobody knew the answer (it's quite natural, if someone speaks Norwegian as their mother language, it's more a habit to know it right than a rule which can be told to me). But since I want to learn this language I need some rules to understand the situation. I've said this in that video: "og igjen jeg leser ikke men bare snakker" (and again, I don't read just speak). Well, that was incorrect. I had some suspect, that this "inverted order" is caused because there is something at the beginning of the sentence, since it seems it would be correct without "og igjen" at the beginning.

So I've decided to use Google to find something about this. And it seems it was a good move (check this out, for example)! What I thought about the "something at the beginning" problem was quite correct as a basic explanation. Norwegian is a SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) language basically, which describes the basic word order in declarative sentences. However what I've found said that Norwegian is also something which is called "V2" language. It means, that verb should be the second part of the sentence. If I say "jeg leser" (it's SVO), it's true, since the subject of this sentence is "jeg" ("I") as a personal pronoun, and "leser" is the verb. However, since I've put something at the beginning of the sentence (it's called topicalization, it seems) the situation is a bit different, since the first part of the sentence will be "igjen" in this case, but the V2 rule says that I should put the verb as the second, so I can't say the subject there, but the verb! So in nutshell: this causes that the word order between the subject and the verb is inverted then: "og igjen leser jeg ikke men bare snakker". And another key feature can be seen here: I thought "ikke" (to negate the sentence) is almost always after the verb. As you can see this is not the case here. But I've also read, that "ikke" should be put after the subject-verb or verb-subject part, regardless of the SV/VS order!

Surprisingly, I've already had this web address (check it out, they're good examples) about the basic word order in Norwegian sentences, and this is mentioned there as some examples, but since it was not explained this way, I was not sure about this topic! Moreover, that link shows examples about inverted word order in case of dependent clauses, and placement of adverbs (like: "ikke") before the verb in some cases.

This story of mine shows well, that it's a good thing to have examples, but it's hard to see the rules behind the examples sometimes! But if you can find them, you can find it easy in the future. Or not :-)

UPDATE (thanks to wikipedia): there is an interesting fact about this V2 classification. Many German related languages has this of course, not only Norwegian. And long time ago, even English had this (English is also a Germanic language by its origins though it went quite far from them during the years)! The proof can be seen even now, there are some expressions used even today which still show the inverted word order! For example: "so am I". According to the rules of modern English it should be "so I am". Another example: "not once has he bothered to phone".