Table of Contents

Lesson 14
Word Order

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D'ni is an SVO language

A number of the D'ni constructions we have met so far rely on a strict ordering of words. We learned, for example, that the sentence with subject complement always occurs in the set pattern subject + coupla + complement. The rigor of this pattern is essential for us to identify the various parts of the sentence and the way they fit into a meaning.

This kind of rigorous word order is an important and far-reaching feature of D'ni. In fact, the sentence with subject complement technically comes from a more general construction that governs all D'ni sentences: subject + verb + object. Linguists use patterns like this one to classify languages; D'ni is thus an SVO (subject-verb-object) language just like English. If we pull apart a simple sentence, we'll see what this classification means.

Example: The machine makes tweezers.

We should be able to easily identify the subject, verb, and object of this sentence: the machine, makes, and tweezers respectively. If we write this sentence in D'ni, we see that the same word order is maintained:

Example: .reDOha barelen DantE

The subject, reDOha, comes first, followed by the verb, barelen, and after that the object, DantE. This standard subject-verb-object word order applies to all D'ni sentences. When the subject is a personal pronoun and implied by the verb, it obviously doesn't appear, but SVO word order is still upheld: the verb then comes first and is followed by any objects. Similarly, when the verb has no object, the subject (as long as it is not implied) comes first followed by the verb.

Modifiers and word order

But if we could only make D'ni sentences out of subjects, verbs, and objects, they would be very boring, simple sentences indeed. Modifiers — adjectives, adverbs, and phrases serving the function of adjectives or adverbs — help make sentences interesting and complex by qualifying, characterizing, or describing the main words making up the sentence's framework. As we've learned already, adjectives and adverbs follow the word(s) they modify, except for temporal adverbs, which come before. Phrases function like adjectives or adverbs and also follow the word(s) they modify. We'll learn more about them later on.

When a word has a bunch of modifiers, the closer a modifier is to that word, the greater its significance. Single-word modifiers always come before modifying phrases. This is different from the ordering of modifiers in English, where they can be distributed on either side of the word. Here's a phrase that demonstrates these differences, adapted from Aitrus' map From D'ni to the Surface:

DOhatE pråDtEgal tor garo b'riS tregan D'nE
noun adjective number adjective adverb phrase

four very mighty rock-working machines in the D'ni empire
number adverb adjective adjective noun phrase

You can see how different the D'ni and English ordering of modifiers is. While English has them scattered on both sides of the noun, D'ni arranges them all afterwards in descending order of significance, single-word adjectives first, then adjectival phrases.

The bond between verb and object is very strong and can never be broken. Thus, when adverbs are introduced into a sentence that has both verb and object, they don't come directly after the verb as would be expected but rather are placed after the object. A slightly modified excerpt from From D'ni to the Surface provides us with an example of this as well:

rEsloen erTmarg gixaS mrepråD
verb direct object adverb phrase

(it) safely dissolves a layer from the rock
impl. subj. adverb verb direct object phrase

We might expect the two adverbial elements of this sentence, gixaS and mrepråD, to come directly after the verb  rEsloen, but because a direct object,  erTmarg, is present, it takes precedence and comes first. Note too that, as with adjectives, single-word adverbs always come before adverbial phrases.

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