Skip to main content Accesibility Help

The change from SOV to SVO in Ancient Greek

  • Ann Taylor (a1)

Although the order of major sentence constituents at all stages of Ancient Greek is quite free, the distribution of clause types is not random over time, but changes from predominantly verb-final to predominantly verb-medial, suggesting a change in progress. Using the paradigm of Kroch (1989), in which it is assumed that syntactic change involves competition between grammatical systems, two models are constructed, one for the verb-final grammar of the Homeric period (pre-800 B.C.) and one for the verb-medial grammar of the Hellenistic Koiné (c. 100 A.D.). The language of an intermediate stage (Herodotus, c. 450 B.C.) is shown to pattern in part like Homer and in part like the Koiné. More strikingly, the ratio of verb-final to verb-medial structure that best fits the distribution of clause types found in Herodotus is extremely close to an independent measure of this ratio obtained from the distribution of weak pronouns and clitics.

Hide All
Aland, K. et al. , (eds.). (1966). The Greek New Testament. New York: American Bible Society.
Allen, T. W., & Munro, D. B. (eds.). (1908). Homeri operi. Oxford: Clarendon.
Burnet, Ioannes (ed.). (1900). Platonis opera. Oxford: Clarendon.
Cervin, Richard. (1990). Word order in Ancient Greek: VSO, SVO, SOV, or all of the above. Doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Chomsky, Noam. (1981). Lectures on government and binding. Dordrecht: Foris.
Chomsky, Noam. (1986). Barriers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
den Besten, Hans, & Webelhuth, Gert. (1990). Stranding. In Grewendorf, Günther & Sternefeld, Wolfgang (eds.), Scrambling and barriers. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 7792.
Dover, K. J. (1968). Greek word order. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dunn, Graham. (1988). Syntactic word order in Herodotean Greek. Glotta 66:6379.
Ebeling, Herman Louis. (1902). Some statistics on word order in Greek. In Studies in honor of Basil L. Gildersleeve. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press. 229240.
Fischer, Paul. (1924). Zur stellung des verbums im griechischen. Glotta 13:111, 189205.
Friedrich, Paul. (1975). Proto-Indo-European syntax: The order of meaningful elements. Journal of Indo-European Studies. (Monograph No. 1.)
Frisk, Hjalmar. (1932). Studien zur Griechischen Wortstellung. Goteborg: Elanders Boktrycheri.
Fukui, Naoki, & Speas, Margaret. (1986). Specifiers and projection. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 8:128172.
Guy, Gregory. (1991). Explanation in variable phonology: An exponential model of morphological constraints. Language Variation and Change 3:122.
Kenneth, Hale. (1981). On the position of Warlpiri in a typology of the base. Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.
Hale, Kenneth. (1982). Preliminary remarks on configurationality. Proceedings of the North Eastern Linguistic Society 12:8696.
Hale, Kenneth. (1983). Warlpiri and the grammar of non-configurational languages. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 1:547.
Halpern, Aaron. (1992). Topics in the placement and morphology of clitics. Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.
Hude, Carolus (ed.). (1927). Herodoti historiae. Oxford: Clarendon.
Kayne, Richard. (1983). Connectedness and binary branching. Dordrecht: Foris.
Kieckers, Ernst. (1911). Die Stellung des Verbums im Griechischen und in den verwandten Sprachen. Strassburg: Karl J. Trübner Verlag.
Kitagawa, Yoshihisa. (1986). Subject in Japanese and English. Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Klavans, Judith L. (1982). Some problems in a theory of clitics. Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.
Klavans, Judith L. (1985). The independence of syntax and phonology in cliticization. Language 61:95120.
Kroch, Anthony S.. (1989). Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change. Language Variation and Change 1:199244.
Lapointe, Steven G. (1981). Free order phrase structure rules. University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguistics 6:121152.
Lightfoot, David. (1991). How to set parameters: Arguments from language change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Noble, Shawn. (1985). To have and have got. Paper presented at NWAVE-XIV, Georgetown University.
Oliveira, e Silva Giselle. (1982). Estudo da regularidade na varia cao dos possessivos no portugus do Rio de Janeiro. Doctoral dissertation, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.
O'Neill, E. G. Jr., (1942). The localization of metrical word-types in the Greek hexameter: Homer, Hesiod and the Alexandrians. Yale Classical Studies 8:105178.
Parry, Milman. (1971). The making of Homeric verse: The collected papers of Milman Parry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pintzuk, Susan. (1991). Phrase structures in competition: Variation and change in Old English word order. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.
Porter, H. N. (1951). The early Greek hexameter. Yale Classical Studies 12:163.
Pullum, Geoffrey K. (1982). Free word order and phrase structure rules. Proceedings of the North Eastern Linguistic Society 12:209220.
Saito, Mamoru. (1989). Scrambling as semantically vacuous A'-movement. In Baltin, Mark & Kroch, Anthony S. (eds.), Alternative conceptions of phrase structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 182200.
Santorini, Beatrice. (1989). The generalization of the verb-second constraint in the history of Yiddish. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.
Santorini, Beatrice.(1993). The rate of phrase structure change in the history of Yiddish. Language Variation and Change 5:257283.
Short, Charles. (1890). The order of words in Attic Greek prose: An essay. In Yonge, C. D. (ed.), English-Greek lexicon. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Speas, Margaret. (1990). Studies in natural language and linguistic theory: Vol. 21. Phrase structure in natural language. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.
Sportiche, Dominique. (1988). A theory of floating quantifiers. Linguistic Inquiry 19:425449.
Stowell, Timothy. (1981). Origins of phrase structure. Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Stucky, Susan. (1981). Free word order languages, free constituent order languages, and the gray area in between. Proceedings of the North Eastern Linguistic Society 11:364376.
Taylor, Ann. (1990). Clitics and configurationality in Ancient Greek. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.
Taylor, Ann. (1992). Second position clitics. Paper presented at the Linguistic Society of America winter meeting, Philadelphia.
Taylor, Ann. (1994). Some evidence for a prosodic analysis of second position clisis. Paper presented at the Linguistic Society of America winter meeting, Boston.
Taylor, Ann. (forthcoming). A prosodic analysis of second position clitics in Greek. In Halpern, Aaron & Zwicky, Arnold (eds.), Second position clitics and related phenomena. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information.
Webelhuth, Gert. (1989). Syntactic saturation phenomena and the modern Germanic languages. Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Zwicky, Arnold M. (1977). On clitics. Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.
Zwicky, Arnold M. (1986). Free word order in GPSG. Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics 32:125132.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language Variation and Change
  • ISSN: 0954-3945
  • EISSN: 1469-8021
  • URL: /core/journals/language-variation-and-change
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed