Basic word order (S, V, O) (Hungarian)

SOV: The basic word order is SOV.

(1) a filatélistá-k bélyeg-et gyűjt-enek.

the filatelist-pl stamp-acc collect-3pl

‘Filatelists collect stamps. (Filatelists are the ones who collect stamps.)’

(2) a fiú könyv-et olvas.

the boy book-acc read.prs.3sg

‘The boy is reading a book.

(3) a fiú egy könyv-et olvas.

the boy a book-acc read.prs.3sg

‘The boy is reading a book.’

(4) a fiú olvas-sa a könyv-et.

the boy read-prs.obj.3sg the book-acc

‘The boy is reading the book.’

(5) a fiú a könyv-et olvas-sa.

the boy the book-acc read-prs.obj.3sg

‘It is the book (and not something else) that the boy is reading.’

(6) a könyv-et a fiú olvas-sa.

the book-acc the boy read-prs.obj.3sg

‘It is the boy (and not someone else) who is reading the book.’

In Hungarian, the neutral and the maximally unmarked (basic) word order corresponds to the construction in which the topical subject is the first element of the sentence, followed by the object (which can be generic (1) or indefinite (2), (3)), and finished by the verb. Thus the basic verb order is SOV. In these sentences, the verb is also maximally unmarked, meaning that it is conjugated according to the indeterminate paradigm. If the object is definite (e.g. stands with a definite article), the verb is also marked with the determinate (objective) conjugation. In this case, the neutral word order is SVO (4). If the verb form is determinate and the object is definite, all non-SVO word orders express focus (5), (6).


Ferenc Havas