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Subject: Re: German and Japanese
From: TAKASUGI Shinji (tssf.airnet.ne.jp)
Date: Tue, 29 Jul 2003 04:01:22 GMT
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

> I think German word order is easy for native English speakers due to the "helping verb" (e.g. Ich habe ...)

The similarity of word order between German and English is superficial.

LanguageVerb and ObjectVerb and Auxiliary Verb
GermanJapanisch sprechen (OV)schwimmen können (V-Aux)
Japanesenihongo o hanas-u (OV)oyog-e-ru (V-Aux)
Englishspeak Japanese (VO)can swim (Aux-V)
Mandarinshuō Rìyŭ (VO)huì yóuyŏng (Aux-V)

In general, V-Aux is related to OV, and Aux-V is related to VO. This chart shows German and Japanese are close from a viewpoint of word order.

Once you admit the German word order is SOV, not SVO like English, everything will be clear. The following sentences seem to English speakers to have twisted word orders, but they actually don't.

= I write a letter.

= I have written a letter.

= I will have written a letter.

= I write a letter today.

= that I write a letter

= that I have written a letter

= to write a letter

Since German is OV, the d-structures of these sentences are as follows:

1a. ich einen Brief schreiben + nonpast + 1st-person singular
2a. ich einen Brief geschrieben haben + nonpast + 1st-person singular
3a. ich einen Brief geschrieben haben werden + nonpast + 1st-person singular
4a. ich heute einen Brief schreiben + nonpast + 1st-person singular
5a. dass ich einen Brief schreiben + nonpast + 1st-person singular
6a. dass ich einen Brief geschrieben haben + nonpast + 1st-person singular
7a. einen Brief schreiben + zu infinitive

To get actual sentences, you need two movements.

Rule 1: Move tense to the beginning of the sentence.

1b. schreibe ich einen Brief
2b. habe ich einen Brief geschrieben
3b. werde ich einen Brief geschrieben haben
4b. schreibe ich heute einen Brief
5. dass ich einen Brief schreibe
6. dass ich einen Brief geschrieben habe
7. einen Brief zu schreiben

5 and 6 are clauses, and 7 is an infinitive. They are not sentences.

Rule 2: Move an important phrase (a focus, a topic, or a subject) to the beginning, except in yes-no questions.

1. Ich schreibe einen Brief.
2. Ich habe einen Brief geschrieben.
3. Ich werde einen Brief geschrieben haben.
4. Heute schreibe ich einen Brief.

Separable verbs are easy to understand too. Let's think about ankommen (to arrive) here.

8. Ich komme gut zu Hause an.
9. Ich will gut zu Hause ankommen.
10. Ich bin gut zu Hause angekommen.
11. gut zu Hause anzukommen

These come from the d-structures shown below:

8a. ich gut zu Hause an kommen + nonpast + 1st-person singular
9a. ich gut zu Hause an kommen wollen + nonpast + 1st-person singular
10a. ich gut zu Hause an gekommen sein + nonpast + 1st-person singular
11a. gut zu Hause an kommen + zu infinitive

Apply rule 1 and you'll get:

8b. komme ich gut zu Hause an
9b. will ich gut zu Hause an kommen
10b. bin ich gut zu Hause an gekommen
11b. gut zu Hause an zu kommen

Apply rule 2 and combine an and kommen when they are adjacent, and you'll get 8 through 11. Separable verbs are not actually separated; they are combined.

I have written above that both English and Mandarin are VO, but Mandarin is also close to Japanese when adverbs are used.

German:Ich habe gestern mit meiner Frau in Ginza einen Film gesehen.

Japanese:Watashi wa kinô tsuma to Ginza de eiga o mita.

Mandarin: zuótiān gēn qīzi zài Yínzuò kàn diànyĭng.

English:I saw a movie with my wife in Ginza yesterday.

As you see, English is different from the others.

Source: Yoshida-HP (written in Japanese)

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