Linguists generally pay relatively little attention to the order of adverbial elements in the clause. One reason for this is that adverbial elements occur less frequently than subjects, verbs and objects, and another reason is that their position tends to be more variable: Even languages with fairly rigid order of subject, verb and object often show flexible ordering of adverbial elements, especially temporal adverbials. English seems to be typical in allowing both initial and final temporal adverbs:
Perhaps the most important reason for the neglect of adverbial elements in word order studies is their heterogeneity. While noun phrase arguments and verbs are homogeneous classes that are quite readily comparable across languages, adverbial adjuncts are a class with great internal diversity, perhaps even best defined in negative terms (“an adverbial is everything that is not an argument or a verb”).
To get a reasonably homogeneous class of items for this chapter, we decided to focus on the position of frequency adverbs such as ‘always’ or ‘often’, or their phrasal equivalents. In many creoles, expressions like ‘all the time’ are used, replacing the English word often and the French word souvent. Moreover, ‘often’ and ‘always’ are often not distinguished.
That such adverbial elements vary interestingly in their position across languages is well-known from Pollock (1989), who noted that French allows postverbal pre-object order of such adverbs, while English does not, and instead allows preverbal post-subject order, which French disallows:
DeGraff connects this with the absence of inflectional morphology on Haitian verbs, and proposes the following explanation: Underlying word order is uniformly subject–adverb–verb, but when a language has inflected verbs, the verb must raise to a higher, pre-adverb position. This happens in French, but not in English with its poorer verb inflection, and Haitian Creole, too, has lost the verb movement, so that the adverb now appears preverbally.
Let us now look at the order of frequency adverb, verb and object in the APiCS languages. There are six logically possible orders, all of which occur in at least one language:
|Verb – adverb – object||1||16||17|
|Adverb – verb – object||12||36||48|
|Verb – object – adverb||12||39||51|
|Object – adverb – verb||0||7||7|
|Adverb – object – verb||0||7||7|
|Object – verb – adverb||0||1||1|
We see that two thirds of our languages have multiple ordering possibilities.
Adverbial position between the verb and the object (value 1), as seen in (2a) for French, is not very common in SVO languages, but most of the West African Portuguese-based creoles allow this order:
If one wanted to preserve DeGraff’s generalization, one could try to argue that the West African Portuguese-based creoles have more verbal inflection than Haitian Creole. This might be argued for Cape Verdean and the varieties on the adjacent mainland, but it is certainly not true for the Gulf of Guinea creoles.
In addition, the verb-initial Chabacano languages allow pre-object adverbials, which follow not only the verb, but also the subject:
The preverbal order of adverbials is found in the majority of languages with verb – object order (value 2), in accordance with the expectation that initial and final order should generally be possible for temporal adverbials.
As in the case of verb – adverb – object order, the position of the subject is not considered here, so this value subsumes both subject – adverb – verb order (as in 7) and adverb – subject – verb order (as in 8).
Post-object order of frequency adverbs (value 3) is even more common in our languages. Again, most of the languages with this order also allow other orders.
When the object precedes the verb, so does the adverb in most cases. This reflects a more general pattern across languages: OV languages are much more often verb-final than VO languages are verb-initial (Dryer 1991). Object – adverb – verb order (value 4), as in (10), is about as common as adverb – object – verb order (value 5), as in (11). Most languages that use one of them also allow the other.
Object – verb – adverb order (value 6) is attested only in the mixed language Michif, which has very flexible order, and actually allows all six orderings.
So far we pretended that word order among frequency adverbials is homogeneous. But even though we limited ourselves to a small subclass of adverbials, we do of course find languages where different adverbs condition different orders. In Berbice Dutch, for instance, the native adverbial idri titi ‘every time, always’ precedes the subject, while the adverb alwes, borrowed from Creolese, occurs between the subject and the verb.
In Diu Indo-Portuguese, the adverb sẽp ‘always, often’ always occurs preverbally (cf. ex. 7), while the order of longer expressions such as bastãt vez ‘many times’ or tud di (or tudi) ‘everyday’ is much more flexible.