Extending Hawkins’ comparative typology: Case, word order, and verb agreement in the Germanic languages

  • Gunther De Vogelaer Ghent University
Keywords: Afrikaans, case, comparative typology, Dutch, English, German, Germanic, grammatical relations, grammatical word order, Hawkins’ typology, Scandinavian, verb agreement


In a well-known book, Hawkins (1986), expanding on an original idea by Sapir (1921), attributes a number of typological differences between German and English to the fact that German uses morphological means (i.e. case) to distinguish grammatical relations, whereas English makes use of a strict-SVO word order. Dutch seems problematic to Hawkins’ generalisation, in that neither case nor word order can be used consistently to express the basic grammatical relations. Using verb agreement as an extra parameter, Dutch can be integrated in Hawkins’ typology. In addition, data from Scandinavian languages and Afrikaans indicate that Hawkins’ notion of ‘grammatical word order’ can be replaced by a more precise word order feature, viz. the possibility to place verbs in between subjects and objects in all sentence types.