Prediction in SVO and SOV languages: Processing and typological considerations

Engelhardt, Paul E., Filipovic, Luna and Hawkins, John A. (2024) Prediction in SVO and SOV languages: Processing and typological considerations. Linguistics, 62 (2). pp. 349-383. ISSN 1613-396X

[thumbnail of CROSSLINGUISTIC PREDICTION Engelhardt et al]
PDF (CROSSLINGUISTIC PREDICTION Engelhardt et al) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (458kB) | Preview


In this study, we tested the possibility that different word orders engender different processing preferences. Our key hypothesis was that a head-initial language like English (SVO) allows more prediction compared to a head-final language like Japanese (SOV). In Experiment 1, English and Japanese native speakers completed a cloze task in which they heard a sentence fragment (SV_ in English and SO_ in Japanese) and had to complete it with the word they thought best. We assessed cloze probability of the words produced and voice onset times. Experiment 2 examined written completions in English, in which we compared the cloze probabilities in SV_ fragments versus OS_ fragments. Following the central hypothesis, this experiment allowed us to determine (within language) whether there is more prediction from a noun and verb compared to two nouns. Finally, in Experiment 3, we compared written completions in English and Japanese, in which the stimuli given to participants were identical (SV_ in English and S_V in Japanese). Results across all three experiments were consistent with greater prediction in English. We argue that prediction is one important factor in processing, that it is relied on more in English than in Japanese, and that prediction will be especially favored in languages like English in which the verb regularly precedes its direct object.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data availability statement: Supplemental material and data underlying this analysis can be viewed at
Uncontrolled Keywords: cross-linguistic,prediction,language typology,cloze probability,voice onset time,crosslinguistic,language and linguistics,linguistics and language ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1200/1203
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > UEA Experimental Philosophy Group
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Area Studies
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Language and Communication Studies
Related URLs:
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2023 09:30
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2024 09:30
DOI: 10.1515/ling-2022-0055


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item