Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2010 Jun;60(4):291-318.
doi: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2010.01.004. Epub 2010 Mar 1.

Cognitive Systems Struggling for Word Order


Cognitive Systems Struggling for Word Order

Alan Langus et al. Cogn Psychol. .

Erratum in

  • Cogn Psychol. 2011 May;62(3):223-4


We argue that the grammatical diversity observed among the world's languages emerges from the struggle between individual cognitive systems trying to impose their preferred structure on human language. We investigate the cognitive bases of the two most common word orders in the world's languages: SOV (Subject-Object-Verb) and SVO. Evidence from language change, grammaticalization, stability of order, and theoretical arguments, indicates a syntactic preference for SVO. The reason for the prominence of SOV languages is not as clear. In two gesture-production experiments and one gesture comprehension experiment, we show that SOV emerges as the preferred constituent configuration in participants whose native languages (Italian and Turkish) have different word orders. We propose that improvised communication does not rely on the computational system of grammar. The results of a fourth experiment, where participants comprehended strings of prosodically flat words in their native language, shows that the computational system of grammar prefers the orthogonal Verb-Object orders.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 19 articles

  • The grammar of emoji? Constraints on communicative pictorial sequencing.
    Cohn N, Engelen J, Schilperoord J. Cohn N, et al. Cogn Res Princ Implic. 2019 Aug 30;4(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s41235-019-0177-0. Cogn Res Princ Implic. 2019. PMID: 31471857 Free PMC article.
  • Language Emergence.
    Brentari D, Goldin-Meadow S. Brentari D, et al. Annu Rev Linguist. 2017;3:363-388. doi: 10.1146/annurev-linguistics-011415-040743. Annu Rev Linguist. 2017. PMID: 29034268 Free PMC article.
  • Production and Comprehension of Pantomimes Used to Depict Objects.
    van Nispen K, van de Sandt-Koenderman WME, Krahmer E. van Nispen K, et al. Front Psychol. 2017 Jul 11;8:1095. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01095. eCollection 2017. Front Psychol. 2017. PMID: 28744232 Free PMC article.
  • Rhythm on Your Lips.
    Peña M, Langus A, Gutiérrez C, Huepe-Artigas D, Nespor M. Peña M, et al. Front Psychol. 2016 Nov 8;7:1708. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01708. eCollection 2016. Front Psychol. 2016. PMID: 27877144 Free PMC article.
  • Does language shape silent gesture?
    Özçalışkan Ş, Lucero C, Goldin-Meadow S. Özçalışkan Ş, et al. Cognition. 2016 Mar;148:10-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.12.001. Epub 2015 Dec 18. Cognition. 2016. PMID: 26707427 Free PMC article.
See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources