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I'm copy-pasting this from the linguistics board because someone recommended that and I'm not getting any replies there. I'm not expecting much given the luck I've been having on here, but w/e.

I've taken a liking to verb-final word order. It helps with parsing since the ending of every clause is marked by an inflected verb. However, I normally prefer head-first languages. This got me thinking; are there things that languages often use to end a sentence other than verbs? The conlang Laadan using evidentiality markers, but of course that's a conlang that's known for breaking some linguistic universals (such as completely lacking voiceless plosives among other things).

Point is, is it really necessary to have a verb-final order to get the parsing advantages that come with such an order? Even a verb-initial order doesn't work, because that would require you to place relative clauses before nouns (a feature seen in no VO language) and place a relativizer at the end of the clause, a feature I also can't find any evidence for.

Is a verb-final word order the only way languages can consistently mark the end of clauses using words?

edit: The reason I'm looking into this is so my orthography can get away without punctuation. It would be simpler yes to just use punctuation, but its my conlang and I would like to know if there's another way to do this.

2 Answers 2

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You could put what syntacticians call a T at the end of your clauses instead of a V. What this looks like varies by language but you could use it as a general-purpose end-of-clause marking.

Some languages have obligatory start-of-clause markers, like Hittite. That accomplishes something pretty similar to an end-of-clause marker.

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  • Can you elaborate on what this 't' is? A single letter isn't exactly specific enough for me to look this up myself.
    – user6046
    Mar 14 at 4:05
  • @user8600 In syntax it stands for Tense, but it encompasses things like the English modal verbs (can, will, etc) as well.
    – Draconis
    Mar 14 at 4:07
  • Honestly, I've never heard of a language putting its tense markers anywhere other than next to the verb (most often they manifest as suffixes either on the main verb or an auxiliary, or sometimes even on subject pronouns). The only language I know of that uses unbound morphemes to mark tense is Haitian Creole, which is places before verbs. Again, I know of no natlang that does something like Haitian but places its tense markers, or any other mandatory form of marking, anywhere other than next to the verb. I was wanting to know if I absolutely needed an SOV order for this to work.
    – user6046
    Mar 14 at 4:12
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If you are specifically looking for end-of-sentence marking, then some Slovak dialects overuse the particle "či" as an interrogative sentence ending (kind of reverse of the Polish sentence-initial "czy").

But if sentence-initial is enough, then the Eastern Slovak uses "ta" as a start-of-sentence particle, to such an extent that the speakers are stereotypically ridiculed for it. This is however far from universal.

Turning away from the spoken language to the written one (as a separate linguistic system), of course there is such thing - a punctuation mark, usually one of . ? ! This shows nicely in some dependency trees, where the punctuation is in fact the root of the tree.

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  • Honestly, I was trying this just to see if I could get away without using punctuation. I copy-pasted this from the linguistics board, which I've since deleted. Guess I need to update this to make this clear. I simply asked if there was a way to mark sentence ends with something other than v-final order or prosody, and I got assailed for the question being too complicated. Seriously. A simple yes-no question that I was worried may be TOO simple was too complex for the people over there to comprehend. Last time I ever post there.
    – user6046
    Mar 15 at 13:46

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