Research on Language and Computation

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 107–129 | Cite as

The Combinatorics of Cases and Word Order



The flexibility of word order varies from one language to another. In discussions of language complexity and word-order complexity in particular, it is important to find how many word orders the given grammatical structure can theoretically permit without creating syntactic ambiguity, even though not all of these orders are necessarily used in practice. Another question is what these orders are and how to determine them. The case system has to be taken into consideration because it is possible to make word-order freer if there are more cases available. These combinatorial questions are formalized for simple sentences using a model based on Dik’s Functional Grammar. Some special cases are completely solved, i.e. formulas are proved for the maximum number of word orders and their construction is given. The theoretical results are confirmed by several examples. Other cases and the general complexity of the problem are illustrated by additional examples.


case combinatorics flexibility of word order Functional Grammar word order 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bunt, H.Horck, A. eds. 1996Discontinuous ConstituencyMouton de GruyterBerlinGoogle Scholar
  2. Connolly, J.H. 1991Constituent Order in Functional Grammar: Synchronic and Diachronic PerspectivesForisBerlinGoogle Scholar
  3. Dik, S.C. 1978Functional GrammarNorth HollandAmsterdam(3rd printing 1981, Foris, Dordrecht)Google Scholar
  4. Dik, S.C. 1980Studies in Functional GrammarAcademic PressLondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Dik, S.C. 1997The Theory of Functional Grammar, Part 1: The Structure of the Main ClauseMouton de GruyterBerlin(2nd, revised edition, Hengeveld K. (ed.))Google Scholar
  6. Dik, S.C., Kahrel, P. 1996Generating Sentences Using ProfGlotAdorni, G.Zock, M. eds. Trends in Natural Language Generation: An Artificial Intelligence Perspective.SpringerBerlin314330Google Scholar
  7. Gensler, O.D. 2003Object Ordering in Verbs Marking Two Pronominal Objects: Non-explanation and explanationLinguistic Typology.7187231Google Scholar
  8. Gil, D. 2001CreolesComplexity, and Riau Indonesian Linguistic Typology.5325371Google Scholar
  9. Hawkins, J.A. 1983Word Order UniversalsAcademic PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Junker, M.-O. 2003East Cree Relational VerbsIJAL.69307291Google Scholar
  11. Kracht, M. 2003The combinatorics of CasesResearch on Language and Computation.15997CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kooij, J.G. 1971Ambiguity in Natural LanguageAdam HilgerBristolGoogle Scholar
  13. Mithun, M. 1987Is Basic Word Order Universal?Tomlin, R eds. Coherence and Grounding in Discourse.John BenjaminsAmsterdam281328Google Scholar
  14. Newmeyer, F.J. 2003Grammar is Grammar and Usage is UsageLanguage.79682707Google Scholar
  15. Rambow, O., Joshi, A. 1994A Processing Model for Free Word-order LanguagesClifton, C.,Jr.Frazier, L.Rayner, K. eds. Perspectives on Sentence Processing.Lawrence Erlbaum AssociatesHillsdale, NJ267301Google Scholar
  16. Rambow, O., Joshi, A. 1997A Formal Look at Dependency Grammars and Phrase-Structure Grammars, with Special Consideration of Word-order PhenomenaWanner, L. eds. Recent Trends in Meaning-Text Theory.John BenjaminsAmsterdam167190Google Scholar
  17. Russel, K. 1996Does Obviation Mark Point of View? Nikotwâsik iskwâhtêm, pâskihtêpayihAlgonquian and Iroquoian Memoir.13367382(cited in (Junker, 2003))Google Scholar
  18. Siewierska, A. 1988Word Order RulesCroom HelmLondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Siewierska, A. 1991Functional GrammarRoutledgeLondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Uszkoreit, H. 1987Word Order and Constituent Structure in German (CSLI Lecture Notes, 8)StanfordCSLIGoogle Scholar
  21. Vulanović, R. 1989An Analytic Model of Regularity and Ambiguity of Simple SentencesLinguistic Analysis.21176201Google Scholar
  22. Vulanović, R. 1993Word Order and Grammar Efficiency Theoretical Linguistics.19201222Google Scholar
  23. Vulanović, R. 1999Grammar Efficiency and the Historical Development of Word Order in FrenchMartín-Vide, C. eds. Issues in Mathematical Linguistics.John BenjaminsAmsterdam193206Google Scholar
  24. Vulanović, R. 2003Grammar Efficiency and Complexity Grammars.6127144Google Scholar
  25. Wolfart, H.C., Carroll, J.F. 1981Meet Cree: A Guide to the Cree LanguageUniversity of Nebraska PressLincolnGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematical SciencesKent State University Stark CampusCanton, OhioUSA

Personalised recommendations