This feature is inspired by WALS feature 81 (Dryer 2011c) and concerns the ordering of subject, object and verb in non-contrastive, non-focussed transitive clauses without special topicalization, more specifically declarative clauses with both the subject and object realized as full noun phrases (not as pronouns). We use subject and object in a semantic sense, to refer to the agent-like and patient-like constituents in a monotransitive clause, as in e.g. French
As can be seen from this example, French has SVO order (subject-verb-object), because the subject les souris ‘the mice’ precedes the verb and the object le fromage ‘the cheese’ follows it. Since we only consider non-contrastive, non-focussed, non-topicalized clauses, cases like English It is the cheese that the mice eat (=OSV) are disregarded here.
Languages can have several word orders (e.g. German is SVO and VSO in main clauses and SOV in subordinate clauses), so several values can be true for this feature.
There are six possible orders of subject, object and verb, as shown in the value box, all of which are attested in the APiCS sample:
Value 1. SVO order is found in e.g. Fanakalo. This order is by far the most common order in the APiCS languages:
Value 2. The SOV order is illustrated by an example from Eskimo Pidgin:
Value 3. Example (4), from Cavite Chabacano, has VSO order:
Value 4. VOS is attested in Ternate Chabacano if the object is indefinite (otherwise the order is VSO):
Value 5. The majority of sentences in Yimas-Arafundi Pidgin is OSV:
Value 6. The OVS order is marginally attested in Chinese Pidgin Russian:
Feature 1 is a multiple choice feature and one language in our sample, the mixed language Michif, actually shows all six orders:
APiCS documents all possible neutral word orders in a language, regardless of their frequency, but the corresponding WALS feature 81 (Dryer 2011c) considers only the dominant one and disregards the rest, except when a language lacks a dominant word order (value 7, e.g. German). There is thus no exact match between WALS and APiCS for the order of subject, object and verb.
Numerical. SOV is the most frequent dominant order among the world’s languages (565 of 1377 languages = 41% in Dryer 2011c), followed by SVO (488/1377 = 35%). By contrast, 71 of 76 languages in the APiCS sample (93%) have SVO, with 63 languages (83%) relying on this word order as the exclusive or dominant pattern. Only 12 APiCS languages (16%) show SOV. Of these, Sri Lanka Portuguese is exclusively SOV and another five languages predominantly rely on this word order. Nine of these SOV languages also have SVO, which clearly establishes SVO as the dominant APiCS pattern. Note, however, that the APiCS sample with its heavy bias towards European lexifier contact languages is not typologically balanced and that the above figures may therefore not necessarily be representative of pidgins and creoles in general. The four other word orders (VSO, VOS, OSV, OVS) are marginal in that there is no APiCS language that exclusively relies on any of these orders alone. However, the three Chabacano varieties exhibit VSO as a dominant pattern (probably as a result of the influence of Philippine languages) and Yimas-Arafundi Pidgin is dominantly OSV.
By lexifier/substrate. As with a number of other word order features, word order in the APiCS languages seems to have been determined in most cases by that of the lexifier. For example, the 27 languages whose sole or predominant lexifier is English are all exclusively SVO. This is unsurprising in most cases since the substrates also have SVO: e.g. substratal input to many Atlantic English-lexicon contact varieties of the African Diaspora came from slaves who spoke SVO languages (mainly Bantu, Kwa, Atlantic). However, some important substrate languages from the Senegambia region and Sierra Leone are SOV, e.g. the Western Mande languages Mandinka, Susu, Mende and Vai. Nevertheless, this order did not find its way into e.g. Gullah or other creoles where these substrates are known to have provided a strong input. A similar case could be made for the French‑lexicon and the Portuguese-lexicon Atlantic varieties, which again are all exclusively SVO. Turning to the Pacific, languages on the Papua New Guinea mainland are predominantly SOV, yet Tok Pisin is exclusively SVO. This probably results from the word order of the lexifier English and the fact that plantation workers were imported from the Bismarck Archipelago, where the languages are SVO (cf. e.g. Tolai). In the Indian Ocean, the French-lexicon creoles of Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles (the latter indirectly through slaves from Mauritius and Reunion) received an early substratal input of VOS through slaves from Madagascar and of SOV from West Africa (Mandinka) and India. Yet, none of these orders were retained in the three creoles, all exclusively following French SVO.
However, there are also a few cases where substratal word order became the dominant pattern in the creole: for example, while 13 Portuguese-lexified creoles in APiCS show SVO only, Sri Lanka Portuguese and Korlai in the Indian Ocean adopted the SOV of the Indian adstrates (a recent development, see Bakker 2008: 140). Another exceptional case is Pidgin Hawaiian, which retained the Hawaiian lexifier VSO pattern only as a minority choice but relies heavily on the SVO order of the substrates English, Cantonese, Hakka and Portuguese. In the New World, Chinuk Wawa is exclusively SVO in spite of its major lexifier Chinook being VOS and the languages of the Pacific Northwest being mainly VSO. Again, the word order may well have been adopted from English and French, minor lexifiers of Chinuk Wawa.