The Study of Word Order of a Specific Utterance
Syntactic knowledge is a rule-based system, which accounts
for ambiguity or multiple meanings in sentences. It also accounts
for sentence and phrase structure (Fromkin, Rodman & Hyams,
2003). When comparing English with Spanish, word order in
English (sentence or phrase) is far more predictable than
in Spanish. Kayser (1995) explains that in Spanish:
- Word order is more flexible than in some other languages,
- that the last member of an utterance has the greatest
The following example illustrates how one expression may
have different meanings and emphasis simply by changing the
La niña caminó hacia la oficina.
||The girl walked to the office.
Caminó la niña hacia la oficina.
||Walked the girl to the office.
|Version three: Hacia
la oficina la niña caminó.
||To the office the girl walked.
This same principle is applicable to the relative placement
of adjectives and nouns within noun phrases. According to
Câmara (1972), an adjective may be either pre-posed
or post-posed to the
noun it modifies, but in Spanish, the latter is the most common
pattern. In English, adjectives are consistently pre-posed
(“big house,” not “house big”).
Thus, text predictability of such syntactic characteristics
of the Spanish language needs to be considered by educators
when evaluating syntax-influenced miscues from speakers of