Basic ditransitive word order (Hungarian)

TR: The basic ditransitive word order is TR, whether either of both items appear as nouns or pronouns.

TR+Tr+tR+rt: When at least one of T and R appears as a noun, their relative order requires the theme to be the first, if both appear as pronouns, then their relative basic word order is rt.

(1a) az asszony vacsorá-t főz.

the woman dinner-acc cook.prs.3sg

‘The woman is cooking dinner.’

(1b) az asszony vacsorá-t főz a férj-é-nek.

the woman dinner-acc cook.prs.3sg the husband-3sg-dat

‘The woman is cooking dinner for her husband.’

(2) az asszony ajándék-ot ad a férj-é-nek.

the woman present-acc give.prs.3sg the férj-3sg-dat

‘The woman is giving a present to her husband.’

(3a) az asszony ad valami-t a férj-é-nek.

the woman give.prs.3sg     something-acc the husband-3sg-dat

‘The woman gives something to her husband.’

(3b) az asszony a férj-é-nek ad valami-t.

the woman the husband-3sg-dat give.prs.3sg something-acc

1. ‘It is (just) her husband that the wife gives a present to.’

2. ‘What the woman does for her husband is giving him a present.’

3. (*)‘The woman gives something to her husband.’

(4) az asszony oda-ad-ja az-t a férj-é-nek.

the woman there-give-prs.obj.3sg det-acc the husband-3sg-dat

‘The woman is giving her husband that.’

(5) az asszony ajándék-ot ad neki.

the woman present-acc give.prs.3sg (s)he.dat

‘The woman is giving a present to him/her.’

(6) az asszony ad neki valami-t.

the woman give.prs.3sg (s)he.dat something-acc

‘The woman is giving him/her something.’

(7) az asszony ad valami-t neki.

the woman give.prs.3sg something-acc (s)he.dat

‘The woman is giving him/her something.’

If either the theme or the recipient is expressed by a noun, the recipient is put at the end of the sentence in the basic Hungarian ditransitive construction (just like as the corresponding complement of monotransitive verbs (1b)). The TR parameter is exemplified by the sentence (2), tR is shown in (3a), and Tr can be seen in (5). In sentence (4), the demonstrative pronoun requires the verb form to be marked as determinate, thus we have to do with a non-basic word order, but even in this case the relative tR word order is preserved. Nominal themes and recipients can be swapped but as a result, the sentences are no longer neutral (and thus, do not help us with stating the basic word order). Either some constituent happens to be focussed in them, or they fail to meet the requirement for the basic word order to only display the agent as a topic and everything else as part of the new information (comment). Thus the natural interpretation of (3b) is either that the recipient is a contrastive topic or the sentence answers the question “What does the woman do for her husband?” which means that only the segment ”gives something” serves as comment. Some invers sentences can also be interpreted as neutral ones (e.g. this very (3b), allowing for a third interpretation), if they are said by a neutral intonation or if the context allows it, but this is rather a case of re-neutralization which is different from the real, non-inverse neutral construction (3a). In contrast to all variants exemplified above, if both the theme and the recipient are expressed by pronouns, the most frequent version is the rt word order, although the tr word order also satisfies the criteria of the basic word order (6)–(7). In summary, the theme–recipient relative word order in Hungarian can always be observable, with the caveat that if both roles are expressed by pronominal elements the invers word order is not just possible but it is also more neutral. Nevertheless, the question requires further research (cf. Kenesei et al. 1998: 197‒198, Komlósy 1992: 345‒346).


Havas Ferenc