Effect of Animacy on Word Order Processing in Kaqchikel Maya


This study investigated the processing load of transitive sentences in two different basic word orders (i.e., VOS and SVO) in Kaqchikel Maya, with a particular focus on the animacy of the object. The results of a sentence plausibility judgment task showed that VOS sentences were processed faster than SVO sentences regardless of the animacy of the object. This supports the traditional analysis in Mayan linguistics that, although SVO is the most frequently used word order, the syntactically determined basic word order is VOS in Kaqchikel, as in many other Mayan languages. More importantly, the results suggest that the processing load in Kaqchikel sentence comprehension is more strongly affected by syntactic canonicity than production frequency or object animacy.

Share and Cite:

Kiyama, S. , Tamaoka, K. , Kim, J. & Koizumi, M. (2013). Effect of Animacy on Word Order Processing in Kaqchikel Maya. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 3, 203-207. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2013.33027.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Ajsivinac Sian, J. E., García Mátzar, L. P. O., Cutzal, M. C., & Alonzo Guaján, I. E. (2004). Gramática descriptiva del idioma maya Ka qchikel: Rutzijoxik rucholik ri Kaqchikel ch’ab’al. Academia de las Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala, Comunidad Lingüística Kaqchikel.
[2] Aissen, J. L. (1992). Topic and focus in Mayan. Language, 68, 43-80.
[3] Baayen, R. H. (2008). Analyzing linguistic data: A practical introduc tion to statistics using R. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511801686
[4] Bader, M., & Meng, M. (1999). Subject-object ambiguities in German embedded clauses: An across-the-board comparison. Journal of Psy cholinguistic Research, 28, 121-143. doi:10.1023/A:1023206208142
[5] Bock, K., & Warren, K. R. (1985). Conceptual accessibility and syntac tic structure in sentence formulation. Cognition, 21, 47-67. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(85)90023-X
[6] Boersma, P. (2001). Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer. Glot International, 5, 341-345.
[7] Brown, R. M., Maxwell, J. M., & Little, W. E. (2006). La ütz awach?: Introduction to Kaqchikel Maya language. Austin: University of Te xas Press.
[8] Caplan, D., Chen, E., & Waters, G. (2008). Task-dependent and task independent neurovascular responses to syntactic processing. Cortex, 44, 257-275. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2006.06.005
[9] Coon, J. (2010). VOS as predicate fronting in Chol Mayan. Lingua, 120, 345-378. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.
[10] England, N. C. (1991). Changes in basic word order in Mayan lan guages. International Journal of American Linguistics, 57, 446-486.
[11] Erdocia, K., Laka, I., Mestres-Missé, A., & Rodriguez-Fornells, A. (2009). Syntactic complexity and ambiguity resolution in a free word order language: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidences from Basque. Brain and Language, 109, 1-17. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2008.12.003
[12] García Matzar, L. P., & Rodríguez Guaján, P. B’. J. O. (1997). Rukemik ri Kaqchikel chi’: Gramática kaqchikel. Guatemala City: Cholsamaj.
[13] Gennari, S., Mirkovic, J., & MacDonald, M. (2012). Animacy and com petition in relative clause production: A cross-linguistic investigation. Cognitive Psychology, 65, 141-176. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.
[14] Gibson, E. (2000). Dependency locality theory: A distance-based theory of linguistic complexity. In A. Marantz, Y. Miyashita, & W. O’Neil (Eds.), Image, language, brain: Papers from the first mind articulation project symposium (pp. 95-126). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[15] Kaiser, E., & Trueswell, J. C. (2004). The role of discourse context in the processing of a flexible word-order language. Cognition, 94, 113 147. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2004.01.002
[16] Koizumi, M., Yasugi, Y., Tamaoka, K., Kiyama, S., Kim, J., García Matzar, L. P. O., & Ajsivinac Sian, J. E. (under review). On the (non-)universality of the preference for subject-object word order in sentence comprehension: A sentence processing study in Kaqchikel Maya.
[17] Kubo, T., Ono, H., Tanaka, M., Koizumi, M., & Sakai, H. (2012). How does animacy affect word order in a VOS language? Poster present ed at the 25th Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Pro cessing, New York.
[18] Lewis, M. P. (2009). Ethnologue: Languages of the world (16th ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. http://www.ethnologue.com/
[19] Mazuka, R., Itoh, K., & Kondo, T. (2002). Costs of scrambling in Japa nese sentence processing. In M. Nakayama (Ed.), Sentence process ing in East Asian languages (pp. 131-166). Stanford, CA: CSLI Pub lications.
[20] Preminger, O. (2011). Agreement as a fallible operation. Doctoral dis sertation, MIT.
[21] Rodríguez Guaján, J. O. (1994). Rutz’ib’axik ri Kaqchikel: Manual de redacción Kaqchikel. Guatemala City: Editorial Cholsamaj.
[22] Sekerina, I. A. (1997). The syntax and processing of Russian scrambled constructions in Russian. Doctoral Dissertation, New York: City University of New York.
[23] Tamaoka, K., Sakai, H., Kawahara, J., Miyaoka, Y., Lim, H., & Koizu mi, M. (2005). Priority information used for the processing of Japa nese sentences: Thematic roles, case particles or grammatical functions? Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 34, 273-324. doi:10.1007/s10936-005-3641-6
[24] Tamaoka, K., Asano, M., Miyaoka, Y., & Yokosawa, K. (2013). Pre and post-head processing for single and double-scrambled sentences of a head-final language as measured by the eye tracking method. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research. doi:10.1007/s10936-013-9244-8
[25] Tanaka, M., Branigan, H. P., McLean, J. F., & Pickering, M. P. (2011). Conceptual influences on word order and voice in sentence produc tion: Evidence from Japanese. Journal of Memory and Language, 65, 318-330. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2011.04.009
[26] Tay Coyoy, A. (1996). Análisis de situación de la educación maya en Guatemala. Guatemala City: Cholsamaj.
[27] Tichoc Cumes, R., Ajsivinac Sian, J. E., García, L. P. O., Espantzay, I. C., Cutzal, C. M., & Alosno Guajan, E. (2000). Runuk’ul pa rub’eyal rutz’ib’axik ri Kaqchikel ch’ab’ al: Gramática normativa del idioma Maya Kaqchikel. Chimaltenango, Guatemala: Comunidad Lingüísti ca Kaqchikel de la Academia de las Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala.

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.