[quote="eldin raigmore" post_id=287717 time=1547766209 user_id=99]
[quote=LinguistCat post_id=287715 time=1547761667 user_id=3650]
cross-posted from the ZBB
How realistic would it be for a language to go from SOV to VSO, possibly by fronting the verb for some kind of emphasis? What other parts of grammar would be likely to change early on?
My guess is, not unlikely.
The change would probably happen faster for [b]main[/b] clauses than for [b]subordinate[/b] clauses.
It might be less usual to go from SOV to VSO, than from SVO to VSO. That’s just a guess.
SV languages and OV languages presumably favor suffixes over prefixes. (That includes SVO languages.)
VS languages are supposed to be about equally as suffixing as prefixing.
OV languages are supposed to put noun-modifiers before nouns and put verb-modifiers after verbs. (I don’t know how true that is of SV languages.)
VO languages are supposed to put verb-modifiers before verbs and put noun-modifiers after nouns. (I don’t know how true that is of VS languages.)
I don’t know how rapid or thorough those word-order changes would be for a language that goes from SOV to VSO. I would imagine prefixes would grow to equality with suffixes slowly, if at all.
WALS.info can help you a lot.
So can the Language Universals Archive.
Also, do a Google Books search for books with the phase “Word-Order Change” in the title.
Or something like that v
I don't know how suffixing vs. prefixing tendencies are relevant here, because if anything it's the other way around - one way to shift to VSO word order might be if pronouns in the original SOV order start to glomp onto the verb as prefixes, freeing up word order for nouns, which then later resets as VSO with prefixing polypersonal marking.
Alternatively, you could try a Germanic road - innovate a verb-second word order on the original SOV (afaict this can happen just because quite easily, it's happened in Germanic, Dardic and Piman among others). From there you could then have the first position later fix as a position for adverbial expressions which later grammaticalise as tense prefixes, forcing other constituents to follow the verb, and then move the rest of the verb complex to the main verb position à la English, and bingo VSO word order from SOV again.
It's not helpful to just talk about prefixing vs. suffixing in the abstract, because those prefixes and suffixes have to come from somewhere, and most of the time (perhaps even all of the time) the relative prominence of prefixes vs. suffixes in a language reflects its word-order history. So if many verb-initial languages are prefixing, then you can explain both their prefixing and their verb-initial nature through these kinds of mechanisms.
[quote=Ælfwine post_id=287758 time=1547867447 user_id=3311]
How likely is it that a language could borrow vowel harmony? I am aware of Cappadochian Greek, although that language is odd as it is more or less a strongly mixed language.
Depends how you define "borrowing". In a mixed-language like that, if there's morphology being borrowed along with lexical material, then I think it's easy to see how such a system present at first only in foreign material could be extended. But even without that I still think it could be developed entirely natively by a process of convergence, and in fact under certain circumstances might be somewhat inevitable. For example I can easily see how a language starting off with a simple four or five vowel system under contact from a language something like Turkish, could undergo some umlaut-based vowel shifts, which then later becomes effectively repurposed as true vowel harmony.
For example, let's assume an original five-vowel system /i e a o u/, and some nonce roots /kita/, /boke/, /tomu/, /pilu/, /dime/, /pane/. Then we have some sound changes, with both rounding and fronting spreading bidirectionally, giving the following forms: /kɨta/, /bøkø/, /tomu/, /pyly/, /dime/, /panə/. Then we have a plural suffix /-ler/, which in the original language is regular giving the following: /kitaler/, /bokeler/, /tomuler/, /piluler/, /dimeler/, /paneler/. After the sound changes these give the following: /kɨtalər/, /bøkølør/, /tømylør/, /pylylør/, /dimeler/, /panələr/. See how most of these forms appear to be following a harmony pattern, except /tømylør/ where the root undergoes umlaut? So by analogy the speakers could regularize this to /tomulor/, and then we merge /a ə/, giving the following forms: /kɨtalar/, /bøkølør/, /tomulor/, /pylylør/, /dimeler/, /panalar/. And hey presto, a vowel harmony system!