Verb phrase word order

The basic word order of Gao verb phrases is SOV. If there is an aspect marker in the sentence, it shows up between the subject and the object. There are many different aspect markers, common ones being ga (imperfective aspect), na (perfective aspect), and goːma (progressive aspect).

(1) aɪ       na       hari               haŋ
1sg     PFV    water.INDEF  drink
‘I drank water.’
(2) haɪla             goːma  ncaŋo            ŋa
cat.DEF         PROG    mouse.DEF    eat
‘The cat is eating the mouse.’

A small number of verbs, like diː ‘see’, baː ‘like/want/love’, and ma ‘perceive’, always show an SVO word order.

(3) aɪ       diː        bari     beːri              bi
1sg     see      horse   big               yesterday
‘I saw a big horse yesterday.’
(4) sara    ga       baː    ibrahim
Sara    IMPF  like     Ibrahim
‘Sara likes Ibrahim.’

When there is no overt aspect marker, all verbs show an SVO word order. The zero aspect marker is perfective, like na, and the two correspond to SVO and SOV order, respectively. Compare (1) and (5).

(5) aɪ       haŋ     hari
1sg     drink   water.INDEF
‘I drank water.’
(6) aɪ       baː      ga
1sg     love    3sg
‘I loved her/him.’

However, some of these verbs have SOV homophones. For example, SVO diː ‘see’, has an SOV homophone in diː ‘catch’.

(7) aɪ       ga       bari     beːri              diː       suba
1sg     IMPF  horse   big.INDEF     catch   tomorrow
‘I will catch a big horse tomorrow.’

In ditransitive sentences, the indirect object takes the position between the aspect marker and the main verb. In simple transitives, this position is occupied by the direct object, which takes a post-verbal position in ditransitive sentences.

(8) aɪ       na      ni       cebe    tiːra
1sg     PERF  2sg     show   book.INDEF
‘I showed you a book.’

Indirect objects can also be seen in postpositional phrases following the verb, in which case the direct object takes its usual position between the aspect marker and the verb.

(9)  aɪ       na     tiːra              cebe   i       ɕe
1sg     PERF  book.INDEF  show  3pl   P
‘I showed a book to them.’

Temporal adverbials and locatives commonly appear at the end of a clause.

(10) ncirŋo          kaŋ     bi
rain.DEF       fall      yesterday
‘It was raining yesterday.’
(11) ncirŋo           ga    kaŋ     haŋ     kul
rain.DEF       IMPF  fall      day      all
‘It rains every day.’
(12) aɪ       na       tiɾaː     ɟiɕi      taːbalo       cire
1sg     IMPF  book   put      table.DEF      under
‘I put a book under the table.’
(13) hanso          goːma  dira     fondaː        ra
dog.DEF       PROG    walk   street.DEF   in
‘The dog is walking in the street.’

Any element of the sentence can be focused, in which case it is moved to the sentence-initial position and followed by the focus particle no. The word order of the remaining elements is unaffected by this.

(14) haŋ     kul      no      ncirŋo      ga      kaŋ
day     all       FOC   rain.DEF     PERF  fall
‘It rains EVERY DAY’
(15) haɪla             no      aɪ       diː       bi
cat.INDEF     FOC   1sg     see      yesterday
‘I saw A CAT          yesterday.’
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