Historical Changes to Basic Word Order in Greek

While constituent order was quite flexible in both Classical and Koine Greek, sound arguments can be made for considering certain orders as more basic than others. In “How Does a Basic Word Order Become Ungrammatical? SOV from Classical to Koine Greek,” N. Lavadas argues that the Hellenistic Koine was pivotal in the eventual disappearance of SOV as a grammatical order. (That order is ungrammatical in Modern Greek.)

  • How Does a Basic Word Order Become Ungrammatical? SOV from Classical to Koine Greek, Studies in Greek Linguistics 35 (2015) pp. 323-335.

You can read the article online at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. I have added it to the bibliography here at Greek-Language.com.

The Change from SOV to SVO in Ancient Greek

I have added the following article by Ann Taylor to the bibliography at Greek-Language.com:

The change from SOV to SVO in Ancient Greek.” Language Variation and Change. 6.1 (1994) 1-37.

While the order of major sentence constituents is quite free at every stage in the development of Ancient Greek, the distribution of those constituents is not random at any stage, and one particular constituent order can be shown to be dominant at each stage. Taylor argues that the dominant constituent order was verb-final (SOV) in Homer, but changed to verb-medial (SVO) by the Hellenistic period.

Using the paradigm of Kroch (1989), Taylor constructs two models—one for the verb-final grammar of the Homeric period (before 800 B.C.) and one for the verb-medial grammar of the Hellenistic Koiné (c. 100 A.D.). She describes the intervening period (Herodotus, c. 450 B.C.) as in part like Homer and in part like the Koiné. She shows further that the ratio of these two constituent orders in Herodotus is also supported by an independent measure of the distribution of weak pronouns and clitics.