Priority Information Determining the Canonical Word Order of Written Sinhalese Sentences


The present study investigated the priority of information among case particles, thematic roles or grammatical functions in determining the canonical SOV word order of written Sinhalese. Four types of sentences were given to native Sinhalese speakers to perform sentence correctness decisions. The active sentences with transitive verbs in Experiment 1 and with ditransitive verbs in Experiment 2 revealed that canonical sentences (i.e., SOV or SOOV) were processed more quickly and accurately than the scrambled sentences (i.e., OSV or OSOV), which supported the existence of scrambling effects. However, since thematic roles, case particles and grammatical functions provide the same information for the SOV canonical order, two further experiments were conducted to single out the priority of information. In Experiment 3, native Sinhalese speakers processed passive sentences with canonical word order defined by case particles (i.e., SOV) more quickly and accurately than those defined by thematic roles (i.e., OSV). In Experiment 4, native speakers processed potential sentences defined by grammatical functions (i.e., SOV) more quickly and accurately than the information provided by case markers (i.e., OSV). Therefore, the present study concluded that grammatical functions play a crucial role to determine SOV canonical order.

Share and Cite:

Kanduboda, A. & Tamaoka, K. (2012). Priority Information Determining the Canonical Word Order of Written Sinhalese Sentences. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 2, 26-33. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2012.21004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Dissanayaka, J. B. (2007). Say it in Sinhala. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Stamford Lake Publication.
[2] Englebretson, R., & Genetti, C. (Eds.) (2005). Santa Barbara papers in linguistics: Proceeding from the workshop on Sinhala linguistics. Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara.
[3] Gair, W. J. (1998). Syntax: Configuration, order, and grammatical function. In L. C. Barbara (Ed.), Studies in South Asian linguistics: Sinhala and other South Asian languages (pp. 47-110). New York: Oxford University Press.
[4] Herath, A., Hyodo, Y., Kawada, Y., Ikeda, T., & Herath, S. (1994). A practical machine translation system from Japanese to modern Sinhalese. Gifu University, Gifu, 153-162.
[5] Koizumi, M., & Tamaoka, K. (2004). Cognitive processing of Japanese sentences with ditransitive verbs. Gengo Kenkyu (Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan), 125, 173-190.
[6] Koizumi, M., & Tamaoka, K. (2010). Psycholinguistic evidence for the VP-internal subject position in Japanese. Linguistic Inquiry, 41, 663680. doi:10.1162/LING_a_00016
[7] Mazuka, R., Itoh, K., & Kondo, T. (2002). Cost of scrambling in Japanese sentence processing. In M. Nakayama (Ed.), Sentence processing in East-Asian languages (pp. 131-166). Stanford, CA: CSLI (Center for the Study of Language and Information).
[8] Miyamoto, E. T., & Takahashi, S. (2004). Filler-gap dependencies in the processing of scrambling in Japanese. Language and Linguistics, 5, 153-166.
[9] Miyagawa, S. (2003). A movement scrambling and options without optionality. In S. Karimi, (Ed.), Word order and scrambling. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. doi:10.1002/9780470758403.ch8
[10] Miyagishi, T. (2003). Relationship between ablative/instrumental case nouns. Yasuda Women’s University Bulletin, 31, 1-26.
[11] Miyagishi, T. (2005). Accusative subject of subordinate clause in Sinhalese. Yasuda Women’s University Bulletin, 33, 15-26.
[12] Pallatthara, S., & Weihene, P. (1966). Sinhala grammar in linguistic perspective. Colombo: S. Godage & Brothers.
[13] Ross, J. R. (1967). Constraints on variables in syntax. Ph.D. Thesis, Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
[14] Tamaoka, K., Sakai, H., Kawahara, J., Miyaoka, Y., Lim, H., & Koizumi, M. (2005). Priority information used for the processing of Japanese sentences: Thematic roles, case particles or grammatical functions. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 34, 273-324. doi:10.1007/s10936-005-3641-6
[15] Tamaoka, K., Kanduboda, A. B. P., & Sakai, H. (2011). Effects of word order alternation on the sentence processing of Sinhalese written and spoken forms. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 1, 24-32. doi:10.4236/ojml.2011.12004

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.