word order

Taruven is what is commonly known as a free word order language (though Trask (1996) would probably prefer calling it a blend of that and free phrase order language,) which means that the words in a sentence can come in just about any order, though the words in different clauses can't intermingle freely.

Word order within a clause

First, some sample sentences[1] whose phrases are simple, with 1. intransitive, 2. transitive, 3. ditransitive and 4. complemented verbs respectively:

  1. ī heal
    you are sleeping[2]
  2. ī kru gavaþ
    you are killing the dog
  3. ī rī tšiið gavaþ
    you are giving the friend a dog
  4. īel ār tši kru gavaþ
    you are thinking that the friend is killing the dog

A simple sentence like 3 above therefore has twenty-four possible equally valid permutations, which will not be listed here.

Example 4) however has an complemented verb. An alternative overview of example 4) would be as in example 5):

    1. īel ār CLAUSE
      you are thinking that CLAUSE
    2. īel ār RECIPIENT
      you are thinking about RECIPIENT

The complemented verbs, apart from marking their subjects with -el and demanding that the same be animate, have an implicit complementizer.

The pieces in 5 can not be freely permutated, only the following variants are possible:


Thus, the complemented verb with it's subject functions like an axis, the elements that is on one side of the axis cannot intermingle with the things on the other side, or even be on the same side of the axis.

Word order within a phrase

Word order within a phrase is free, unless it contains axis-words like te. Adjectives or adjectival phrases not marked with the case of its head noun must directly precede that noun, and is often prefixed to it.

    1. linnar gav te tšimaes geál brenru
      linnar gav te  tši    -ma   -es  geál bren -ru
      yellow dog CON friend -good -LOC big  car  -LOC.g
      yellow dog's good friend has big car
      [[[linnar gav]NP te [tšimaes]NP]NP [geál brenru]NP]NP
    2. linnargav te tšimaes geálbrenru
    3. tšimaes te linnar gav geál brenru
    4. tšimaes te linnargav geálbrenru
    5. geál brenru linnar gav te tšimaes
    6. geálbrenru linnargav te tšimaes
    7. geál brenru tšimaes te linnar gav
    8. geálbrenru tšimaes te linnargav
    9. brenru geáles tšimaes te gav linnar

If the adjective/adverb agrees with its head as in example 6i), it can go anywhere (except cross an axis-border, as usual), but cannot be merged into its head. Incidentally, example 6) also shows the equivalent of to have in Taruven, using -es on haver and -ru on havee.

Our next example has a complemented verb, tšah.

  1. duaþel tšah mirrōruið brenruiðes saìes
    duaþ -el  tšah mirrō -ru    -ið  bren -ru    -ið  -es  saì   -es
    man  -EXP see  cat   -LOC.g -BEN car  -LOC. -BEN -LOC river -LOC
    man sees cat in car by river (the man sees the cat, the cat is in the car, the car is by the river)

Zooming in on the recipient-part of example 7):

    1. mirrōruið brenruiðes saìes
    2. mirrōruið saìes brenruiðes
    3. saìes mirrōruið brenruiðes
    4. brenruiðes mirrōruið saìes
    5. brenruiðes saìes mirrōruið
    6. saìes brenruiðes mirrōruið

Since the verb of example 7) is an complemented verb, the recipient-part cannot intermingle with the rest of the clause. Had the verb been an ordinary transitive, there would have been 5! possible grammatical orderings.

If the man (duaþ) is explicitly located (using -ru), and the verb transitive, there are close to 6! possible orderings, as some are avoided due to ambiguity. Example 9) shows this:

    1. duaþru tires kru mirrōruaþ brenruaþes saìes
      man on boat kills cat in car by river
      [duaþru tires] kru [mirrōruaþ [brenruaþes saìes]]
    2. brenruaþes saìes duaþru tires mirrōruaþ kru
      [brenruaþes saìes] [duaþru tires] mirrōruaþ kru
    3. brenruaþes saìes tires duaþru mirrōruaþ kru
      [brenruaþes saìes] [tires duaþru] mirrōruaþ kru
    4. saìes brenruaþes tires duaþru mirrōruaþ kru
      [saìes brenruaþes] [tires duaþru] mirrōruaþ kru
    5. *brenruaþes duaþru tires mirrōruaþ saìes kru

mirrōruaþ is the object, duaþru tires kru mirrōaþ is a valid sentence. brenruaþes is the location of the object, and agrees in case with the object, duaþru tires kru mirrōruaþ brenaþes is a valid sentence. Finally, saìes is the location of brenruaþes, and in cases a) to d) no other overt agreement is necessary.

The placement of the car vs. the man is usually not ambiguous, because the -ru connects to the closest -es or other locative, unless in cases as in 9e): tires can be the location of duaþru, but where does that leave saìes? If tires instead is the location of brenruaþes, saìes is still pointing nowhere.

By marking saìes for patient as well, saìaþes, one gets the true 6! possible orders, as the implicit information that the cat is located relative to both the river and the car is made explicit.

    1. duaþru tires kru mirrōruaþ brenruaþes saìaþes
      man on boat kills cat in car by river
    2. mirrōruaþ duaþru kru tires saìaþes brenruaþes
    3. etc. etc.


Words and parts of phrases and clauses may not cross an axis-word, though what's on the left may freely switch places with what's on the right provided everything connected with the axis-word changes place.

Within a phrase

    1. ī te gav
      your dog
    2. gav te ī
      your dog

Within a clause

    1. fenel uleìnera margalið
      they sang of great joy
    2. margalið uleìnera fenel
      they sang of great joy

Connecting phrases and clauses

    1. gav a tav
      dog and wolf
    2. tav a gav
      wolf and dog
    1. tav vaì a gav saha
      the wolf is running and the dog is dancing
    2. gav saha a tav vaì
      the dog is dancing and the wolf is running

Some axis-words, like te and a can carry suffixable information that is common to the constituents they separate.

    1. gavvun a tavvun
      the little dog and the little wolf
    2. gav avun tav
      the little dog and the little wolf
    3. gav sahara a tav vaìra
      the dog was dancing and the wolf was running
    4. gav saha ara tav vaì
      the dog was dancing and the wolf was running

If both noun-suffixes and verb-suffixes are common to the constituents, all the noun suffixes comes before all the verb suffixes.

    1. gavvun sahara a tavvun vaìra
      the little dog was dancing and the little wolf was running
    2. gav saha avunra tav vaì
      the little dog was dancing and the little wolf was running

Stylistically, suffixing the common suffixes on the axis-word as in example 15b) is preferred to being redundant as in example 15a).


The author's L1 has a fixed word order of SVO, so the shown order also tend to be SVO more often than is realistic.
The default verb-form of Taruven is here translated as a progressive present, which is closer to its actual use and meaning than the simple present.


Trask, R. L. 1996. A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics. London: Routledge.