wo sentences, the canonical SOV order of sentence 1) should
be processed faster than the scrambled order of sentence 2).
This is tested in Experiment 1 of the present study.
The same argument given to the sentences of 1) and 2) can
be made with an active sentence with a dative verb. Both 3) and
4) are Sinhalese active sentences with ditransitive verbs. The
word order of example 3) is SOOV (Subject-Indirect Object-
Direct Object, and the Verb). Example 4) is built based upon
the word order of 3) in order to have an OSOV scrambled order
sentence (Direct Object-Subject-Indirect Object, and the Verb).
Despite different word orders, both 3) and 4) fundamentally
carry the same meaning of Nimala helped Lalani with studies.
As with active sentences consisting of transitive verbs, the three
information cues of case markers, thematic roles, and gram-
matical functions provide the same prediction for the canonical
order of ditransitive canonical sentence 3). In contrast, sentence
4) deviates all three information cues. Consequently, the ca-
nonical order 3) should be processed faster than the scrambled
order 4). This is tested in Experiment 2 of the present study.
3) SOOV order (canonical)
nimala lalani-ta pādam kiyādunnēya
Nimala (φNOM, anim) Lalani (DAT, anim) study (φACC,
inam) teach (V + PST)
Nimala helped Lalani with studies.
4) OSOV order (scrambled)
pādam nimala lalani-ta kiyādunnēya
Study (φACC, inam) Nimala (φNOM, anim) Lalani (DAT,
anim) teach (V + PST)
Nimala helped Lalani with studies.
Two different types of information, thematic roles and case
particles provide conflicting information for canonical order for
passive sentences with a transitive verb. Considering case
markers, sentence 5) is assumed to be canonical since a nomi-
native case-marked noun (computer) is placed in the sentence
initial position followed by a dative case-marked noun (Ruwan).
In contrast, thematic roles indicate sentence 6) to be canonical,
because an agent (Ruwan) comes prior to a theme (computer).
In this sense, sentence 6) becomes a scrambled order according
to case particles, while sentence 5) is identified as scrambled by
thematic roles. Yet, both 5) and 6) fundamentally carry the
same meaning of the computer was repaired by Ruwan. These
two conflicting sets of information of case particles and the-
matic roles are tested in Experiment 3 of the present study.
5) SOV order (canonical predicted by case particles)
ruwan-wisin pariganakaya hadaadenulebuweaya
Ruwan (φNOM, anim) computer (φACC, inam) repair (V +
PSS + PST)
The computer was repaired by Ruwan.
6) OSV order (canonical predicted by thematic roles)
pariganakaya ruwan-wisin hadaadenulebuweaya
Computer (φACC, inam) Ruwan (φNOM, anim) repair (V +
PSS + PST)
The computer was repaired by Ruwan.
Once again, different information of case particles and
grammatical functions provide conflicting information for ca-
nonical order for potential sentences with transitive verbs. Ac-
cording to grammatical functions, the potential sentence 7) is a
canonically ordered potential sentence since the subject (San-
giitha) precedes the object (dance). However, according to the
case markers, the canonical order should be arranged in a man-
ner that the noun (dance) case-marked by a nominative precede
the noun (Sangiitha) with a dative case marker -ta, indicating
sentence 8) to be canonical. Again, both sentences 7) and 8)
carry the same fundamental meaning of Sangiitha can dance.
These two conflicting sets of information of grammatical func-
tions and case particles are tested in Experiment 3 of the pre-
sent study.
7) SOV order (canonical predicted by grammatical functions)
sangiitha-ta natanna hekiyaawaketha
Sangiitha (DAT, anim) dance (φNOM, inam) can (V + PST)
Sangiitha can dance.
8) OSV order (canonical predicted by case particles)
natanna sangiitha-ta hekiyaawaketha
Dance (φNOM, inam) Sangiitha (DAT, anim) can (V+PST)
Sangiitha can dance.
Using the fore-mentioned four types of sentences, the present
study investigated the priority of information which determines
the canonical word order of written Sinhalese. Experiment 1
compared processing of active sentences with transitive verbs
between canonical and scrambled orders. Experiment 2 used
active sentences with ditransitive verbs, Experiment 3 used
passive sentences, and Experiment 4 used potential sentences.
The Sinhalese language is a rare case. There are not many
languages existing in the world on which the series of experi-
ments regarding all the three kinds of information of case parti-
cles, thematic roles, and grammatical information can be con-
ducted together. The Sinhalese language is one of a few such
languages.
Experiment 1: Active Sentences with
Transitive Verbs
Experiment 1 examined active sentences with transitive
verbs in order to ascertain the scrambling effects in active sen-
tences with intransitive verbs. Since lexical items used are
identical, the processing speeds and errors can be directly
compared between canonical and scrambled sentences. Ex-
periment 1 assumed that native Sinhalese speakers would take
longer to process OSV scrambled sentences than SOV canoni-
cal sentences. Experiment 1 investigated whether or not a dif-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 27
A. B. P. KANDUBODA ET AL.
ferent syntactical structure requires the different degree of cog-
nitive load to process these sentences.
Participants
Thirty-two native Sinhalese speakers (26 male and 6 female)
residing in Japan (Aichi Prefecture) participated in the present
experiment. They had been in Japan from 6 months to 3 years
of the time of testing. Ages ranged from 23 years and 6 months
to 46 years and 4 months, with the average age being 35 years
and 0 months on the day of testing. They are all native Sin-
halese speakers, born and brought up in Sri Lanka at least up to
the age of 21. All of them had fulfilled at least 13 years of edu-
cation (up to high school graduation) in Sri Lanka instructed in
the Sinhalese language. Their Japanese ability was very low;
none of them had passed or taken the lowest grade of the Japa-
nese Language Proficiency Test. Among 32 participants, 11
were students at a Japanese language school, and 21 are work-
ing at a Japanese company.
Procedure
Participants were asked to determine as quickly and accu-
rately as possible whether a visually presented sentence in the
Sinhalese script on a computer monitor was correct by pressing
either a “Yes” key or a “No” key. Reaction times and error
rates for sentence correctness decisions were automatically
recorded by the computer. The presentation of the stimulus was
controlled by a computer program DMDX (version 3.2.6.4).
The stimulus sentences were randomly presented in the center
of the computer screen for 600 milliseconds after the appear-
ance of a line of asterisks “******” which indicated the eye
fixation point on the screen. Prior to the experiment, all the
participants were instructed to respond by pressing either “Yes”
or “No” key as quickly and as accurately as possible to deter-
mine whether the sentence shown on the screen is correct or
incorrect. Fourteen practice trials were given to the participants
in advance of the actual testing. This procedure was the same in
all four experiments and henceforth, explanation will be omit-
ted in the following three experiments.
Materials
A total of 172 stimuli were prepared for Experiment 1.
Thirty-six active sentences with transitive verbs (36 canonical
ordered sentences for correct “Yes” responses) were selected
according to the canonical order as nominative noun phrase
with empty case marker, whereas accusative noun phrase is
marked by the dative case marker -ta as in kamalā nimala-ta
gehuwāya. A sample of “Yes” stimuli are presented in appendix
A. In order to make the scrambled order sentences, the nomina-
tive NP and the accusative NP were switched as nimala-ta ka-
malā gehuwāya. There were 36 scrambled sentences for correct
“Yes” responses. The same strategy was used to make another
72 stimuli for the correct “No” responses with either syntacti-
cally or semantically incorrect sentences. For example, the
canonical noun phrase order of amila me-se kēwēya meaning
“Amila ate the table” is scrambled as me-se amila kēwēya. In
this way, 36 canonical and 36 scrambled sentences (72 in total)
were created for correct “No” responses. In addition, another 28
(14 canonical sentences and 14 scrambled sentences) sentences
were added as control sentences.
To avoid participants repeatedly seeing the same sentences in
a different word order, a counterbalanced design was applied to
allocate the participants as list 1 and list 2. Each list contained
36 correct (18 canonical and 18 scrambled) sentences for cor-
rect “Yes” responses and 36 incorrect (18 canonical and 18
scrambled) sentences for correct “No” responses with an addi-
tional 14 control sentences (7 canonical and 7 scrambled) to
each group.
Analysis and Resul ts
Extremes among sentence correctness decision times (less
than 500 ms and longer than 5000 ms) were recorded as miss-
ing values. Table 1 illustrates the means of correct “Yes” and
“No” reaction times and error rates for sentence correctness
decisions. Before performing the analysis, reaction times out-
side of 2.5 standard deviations at both the high and low ranges
were replaced by boundaries indicated by 2.5 standard devia-
tions from the individual means of participants in each category.
Statistical tests were conducted for the participants’ variability
(F1) and for the stimulus item variability (F2). Only stimulus
items of correct responses were used in the analyses of reaction
times. The means and standard deviations for correct “Yes” and
“No” responses are reported in Table 1.
A series of analysis of variance analyses (ANOVAs) with
repeated measures for canonical and scrambled order were
conducted for both reaction times and error rates. The means
and standard deviations were reported in Table 1. The results
for correct “Yes” responses indicated that canonical sentences
had shorter reaction times [F1(1,31) = 19.517, p < .001; F2(1,
35) = 66.981, p < .001], and lower error rates [F1(1,31) =
10.148, p < .01; F2(1,35) = 19.386, p < .001] than the same
sentences in scrambled order. Likewise, correct “No” responses
showed the same result that canonical order resulted in shorter
reaction times [F1(1,31) = 9.859, p < .01; F2(1.35) = 8.345, p
< .01] than the same sentences in scrambled order. However, no
difference in error rates was noted [F1(1,31) = 2.310, p = .139,
ns; F2(1,35) = 1.800, p = .188, ns.].
Discussion
Processing correct active sentences with transitive verbs
showed significant scrambling effects in Experiment 1. This
result provides evidence for existence of scrambling effects in
Table 1.
Reaction times and error rates for active sentences with transitive verbs.
Reaction Time (ms) Error Rate (%)
Response
Type
Sentence
Type M SD M SD
“Yes” SOV 1291 254 2.43%3.14%
ReponsesOSV 1498 330 9.55%12.40%
OSV-SOV 207 F1*** F2** 7.12%F1** F2***
“No” SOV 1436 390 12.15%13.79%
ReponsesOSV 1538 300 9.03%8.32%
OSV-SOV 102 F1** F2** –3.13%
Note: *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
28
A. B. P. KANDUBODA ET AL.
written Sinhalese, supporting a configurational syntactic struc-
ture. An additional Experiment 2 was conducted to identify the
same scrambling effects under the different condition of active
sentences with ditransitive verbs.
Experiment 2: Active Sentences with
Ditransitive Verbs
Experiment 2 used active sentences with ditransitive verbs as
in nimala lalani-ta pādam kiyādunnēya meaning “Nimala
helped Lalani with studies”. These sentences can interchange
three noun phrases in any order, so that five scrambled sen-
tences can be produced on the basis of a single canonical order
(SOOV). However, an inanimate noun in the third NP position
was placed in the sentence-initial position in Experiment 2. For
example, a canonical order of nimala lalani-ta pādam kiyādun-
nēya [
S NP-NOM (anim) [VP NP-DAT (anim) [VP NP-ACC
(inam) V]]] was altered into its corresponding scrambled sen-
tence pādam nimala lalani-ta kiyādunnēya [s NP-ACC (inam)1
[S NP-NOM (anim) [VP NP-DAT (anim) [VP gap1 V]]]]. Since
both canonical and scrambled order sentences were constructed
with identical lexical items, the sentences carry the same sen-
tential meaning of “Nimala helped Lalani with studies”. Only
the syntactical structure was altered to investigate the scram-
bled effects.
Participants and Procedure
Refer to Experiment 1.
Materials
Experiment 2 examined active sentences containing ditransi-
tive verbs as presented in Appendix B (sample of “Yes” re-
sponses). Thirty-six canonical ordered sentences for correct
“Yes” responses were prepared like the example nimala lalani-
ta pādam kiyādunnēya meaning “Nimala helped Lalani with
studies”. Based on these, the scrambled order sentences were
created by putting the thirdly-positioned NP (e.g., pādam) into
the sentence-initial position as in pādam nimala lalani-ta ki-
yādunnēya. With this procedure, 72 sentences for correct “Yes”
responses were created. Again, the same strategy was used to
make another 72 stimuli for the correct “No” responses with
either syntactically or semantically incorrect sentences. For
example, the canonical noun phrase order of amila wāhanaya-
ta banakēwēya meaning “Amila doctrine the vehicle” is scram-
bled as bana amila wāhanaya-ta kēwēya. In addition, another
28 sentences (14 canonical and 14 scrambled) were added as
control sentences. As a result, a total of 172 stimuli were pre-
pared for “Yes” and “No” responses. To avoid participants
repeatedly seeing the same sentences in a different word order,
a counterbalanced design was applied as in Experiment 1.
Analysis an d Resul ts
Extremes among sentence correctness decision times (less
than 600 ms and longer than 6000 ms) were recorded as miss-
ing values. Table 2 showed the means of correct “Yes” and
“No” reaction times and error rates for sentence correctness
decisions. The procedure and analysis employed the same as
Experiment 1.
In Experiment 2, canonical sentences for correct “Yes” re-
sponses resulted in shorter reaction times [F1(1,31) = 6.017, p
Table 2.
Reaction times and error rates for active sentences with ditransitive
verbs.
Reaction Time (ms) Error Rate (%)
Response
Type
Sentence
Type M SD M SD
“Yes” SO1O2V 1562 367 6.25%11.70%
Reponses O2SO1V 1683 337 10.24%9.37%
O2SO1V-SO1O2V
(Scrambling Effects) 120 F1* F2*** 3.99%F1* F2*
“No” SO1O2V 1643 362 18.06%13.01%
Reponses O2SO1V 1719 386 15.28%9.98%
O2SO1V-SO1O2V
(Scrambling Effects) 77 F1* F2 n.s. –2.78%
Note: *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
< .05; F2(1,35) = 14.494, p < .001], and lower error rates [F1(1,
31) = 5.001, p < .05; F2(1,35) = 6.740, p < .05] than scrambled
sentences. In contrast, for correct “No” responses, a difference
was found between the reaction times of canonical and scram-
bled sentences in participant analysis [F1(1,31) = 4.836, p
< .05], but not in item analysis [F2(1,35) = 3.646, p = .064, ns.].
Error rates were not significant [F1(1,31) = 1.494, p = .231, ns.;
F2(1,35) = 0.947, p = .337, ns.].
Discussion
In addition to Experiment 1, Experiment 2 also provided
evidence for the existence of scrambling effects in active sen-
tences with ditransitive verbs. Thus, the existence of a configu-
rational syntactic structure was supported in written Sinhalese,
which leads us the second question. What kind of information
cues do native Sinhalese speakers use to identify the canonical
order in written Sinhalese?
Experiment 3: Passive Sentences with
Transitive Verbs
Experiment 3 employed passive sentences with transitive
verbs. Sentences such as niila wisin samara-ta gasanulebuwāya
[S NP-NOM [VP NP-DAT V]], (“Samara was hit by Niila”) are
altered to make scrambled order sentences by relocating the
dative noun phrase (samara-ta) to the initial position of the
sentence samara-ta niila wisin gasanulebuwāya [S NP-DAT1
NP-NOM [VP gap1V]]. Both canonical and scrambled sentences
fundamentally carry the same meaning of “Samara was hit by
Niila”. In passive sentences, thematic roles and case markers
provide a conflicting picture of their word orders. The canoni-
cal order assumed by thematic roles indicates that an agent
should precede the theme (i.e., samara-ta niila wisin gasanule-
buwāya). Contrarily, the canonical order assumed by case par-
ticles indicates that an NP followed by ablative wisin particle
should placed in the initial position of the sentence, followed by
another NP accompanied by the dative case marker -ta (i.e.,
niila wisin samara-ta gasanulebuwāya). Therefore, it is hoped
that, on the processing of passive sentences, Experiment 3 of-
fers evidence as to which information cue (thematic roles or
case particles) is actually used by native Sinhalese speakers.
Participants and Procedure
Refer to Experiment 1.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 29
A. B. P. KANDUBODA ET AL.
Materials
Experiment 3 used passive sentences, a sample of which is
shown in Appendix C (sample of “Yes” responses). First, 30
canonical ordered sentences for correct “Yes” responses were
selected as in niila wisin samara-ta gasanulebuwāya meaning
“Samara was hit by Nimala”. Based on these, the scrambled
order sentences were altered by moving the NP with dative -ta
to the sentence-initial position as in samara-ta niila wisin
gasanulebuwāya. As a result, 60 sentences were created for
correct “Yes” responses. Using the same procedure, another 60
stimuli were produced for the correct “No” responses contain-
ing either a syntactic or semantic error. In addition, another 24
sentences (12 canonical and 12 scrambled) were added as con-
trol sentences. To avoid participants repeatedly seeing the same
sentences in a different word order, a counterbalanced design
was applied as in Experiments 1 and 2.
Analysis an d Resul ts
Extremes among sentence correctness decision times (less
than 500 ms and longer than 5000 ms) were recorded as miss-
ing values. Table 3 showed the means of correct “Yes” and
“No” reaction times and error rates for sentence correctness
decisions. The procedure and analysis were the same as the
previous experiments.
In Experiment 3, SOV ordered passive sentences for correct
“Yes” responses showed shorter reaction times [F1(1,31) =
10.132, p < .01; F2(1,29) = 19.209, p < .001] and lower error
rates [F1(1,31) = 21.381, p < .001; F2(1,29) = 33.278, p < .001]
than those with scrambled order (OSV). In contrast, for correct
‘No’ responses, neither reaction times [F1(1,31) = 2.832, p
= .102, ns.; F2(1,29) = 4.046, p = .054, ns.] nor error rates [F1(1,
31) = 3.414, p = .453, ns.; F2(1,29) = 4.083, p = .053, ns.]
showed significance.
Discussion
Results of Experiment 3 indicated that the canonical order
identified by case particles in which NP with the ablative case
marker -wisin precedes a NP with the dative case marker -ta
was more quickly processed for sentence correctness decisions
than the canonical order identified by thematic roles. Therefore,
thematic roles can be excluded as a major cue of priority in-
formation; consequently, the remaining information cues, case
Table 3.
Reaction times and error rates for passive sentences with transitive
verbs.
Reaction Time (ms) Error Rate (%)
Response
Type
Sentence
Type M SD M SD
“Yes” SOV 1696 331 2.71% 3.33%
Response OSV 1788 311 12.29%12.11%
OSV-SOV
(Scrambling Effects) 92 F1** F2*** 9.58% F1*** F2**
“No” SOV 1737 372 9.17% 10.54%
Response OSV 1686 383 5.00% 7.76%
OSV-SOV
(Scrambling Effects) –51 –4.17%
Note: *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
particles and grammatical functions, were taken into considera-
tion for revealing the priority information for identifying ca-
nonical order used by native Sinhalese speakers.
Experiment 4: Potential Sentences
Since Experiment 3 excluded thematic roles as a major cue
of the priority information for canonical order, Experiment 4
was conducted focusing on the two remaining information cues,
case particles and grammatical functions. Potential sentences
such as nimala-ta japan kathākiriime hekiyāwaketha [S NP-
DAT [VP NP-NOM V + POT]] meaning “Nimala speaks Japa-
nese” were altered to create the corresponding scrambled sen-
tences as in japan nimala-ta kathākiriime hekiyāwaketha [S
NP-NOM1 [VP NP-DAT [VP gap1 V + POT]]]. In potential sen-
tences, the dative case marker -ta is assigned to a grammatical
subject. Grammatical functions require that a subject with -ta
comes before the object in the canonical order as in nimala-ta
japan kathākiriime hekiyāwaketha [S NP-DAT [VP NP-NOM V
+ POT]]. On the other hand, the canonical order assumed by
case particles suggests a dative case marker –ta should precede
the predicate as in japan nimala-ta kathākiriime hekiyāwaketha
[S NP-NOM1 [
VP NP-DAT [VP gap1V + POT]]]. If canonical
order is identified by grammatical functions (i.e., SOV are
processed faster and more accurately than the OSV scrambled
order), grammatical functions will prove to be the last remain-
ing priority information in written Sinhalese. In contrast, if the
canonical order is identified by the case particles (i.e., OSV are
processed faster and more accurately than the SOV scrambled
order), the case particles will provide the priority information in
written Sinhalese.
Participants
Thirty native Sinhalese speakers (26 male and 4 female) re-
siding in Aichi prefecture, Japan participated in Experiment 4.
All of them participated in Experiments 1-3. However, due to a
mechanical trouble, data of two participants were not recorded.
Ages ranged from 23 years and 6 months to 46 years and 2
months, with the average age being 32 years and 2 months on
the day of testing.
Procedure
Refer to Experiment 1.
Materials
Experiment 4 used potential sentences (refer to Appendix D
for a sample of “Yes” responses). First, 24 canonical ordered
sentences for correct “Yes” responses were selected as in ni-
mala-ta japan kathākiriimeh ekiyāwaketha meaning “Nimala
can speak Japanese”. Based on these, the scrambled order sen-
tences were relocated by moving the secondly-positioned NP to
the sentence-initial position (japan nimala-ta kathākiriimehe-
kiyāwaketha). As a result, 48 sentences were created for correct
“Yes” responses. Using the same procedure, another 48 stimuli
were created for the correct “No” responses containing either a
syntactic or semantic error. In addition, another 20 sentences
(10 canonical and 10 scrambled) were added as control sen-
tences. To avoid participants repeatedly seeing the same sen-
tences in a different word order, a counterbalanced design was
applied as in the previous experiments.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
30
A. B. P. KANDUBODA ET AL.
Analysis an d Resul ts
Extremes among sentence correctness decision times (less
than 500 ms and longer than 5000 ms) were recorded as miss-
ing values. Table 3 error rates for sentence correctness deci-
sions. The procedure and analysis were the same as the previ-
ous experiments. Table 4 shows the means and standard devia-
tions for correct “Yes” and “No” reaction times and error rates
for sentence correctness decisions.
In Experiment 4, SOV ordered potential sentences showed
shorter reaction times for correct “Yes” responses [F1(1,29) =
4.885, p < .05; F2(1,23) = 8.288, p < .01] and lower error rates
[F1(1,29) = 8.863, p < .01; F2(1,23) = 5.035, p < .05] than those
with scrambled order of OSV. For correct “No” responses,
canonical order did not show faster reaction times than scram-
bled order in participant analysis [F1(1,29) = 4.067, p = .053,
ns.], but was significant in item analysis [F2(1,23) = 6.873, p
< .05], whereas no difference was found in error rates [F1(1,29)
= 1.543, p = 224, ns.; F2(1,23) = 1.657, p = .211, ns.].
Discussion
The results of Experiment 4 indicated that the processing of
potential sentences based on grammatical functions word order
(i.e., SOV) required shorter reaction times and lower error rates
than the word order identified by the case particles (i.e.,
OSV).Therefore, considering all the results of Experiments 1 to
4, it can be concluded that grammatical functions are the re-
maining priority information in written Sinhalese.
General Discussion
The present study investigated priority information used by
native Sinhalese speakers. As shown in Table 5, the three kinds
of information of thematic roles, case particles, and grammati-
cal functions provide different cues to canonical order. The-
matic roles requires agent to precede theme and goal. Case
Table 4.
Reaction times and error rates for potential sentences.
Reaction Time (ms) Error Rate (%)
Response
Type
Sentence
Type M SD M SD
“Yes” SOV 1492 304 4.44%6.09%
Response OSV 1568 335 11.39&14.60%
OSV-SOV
(Scrambling Effects) 77 F1* F2** 7% F1** F2*
“No” SOV 1609 394 8.33%9.02%
Response OSV 1687 280 11.11%10.57%
OSV-SOV
(Scrambling Effects) 78 F1 n.s.F2* 2.78%
Note: *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.
Table 5.
Predicted canonical order by information cues
Information Cues Canonical Word Order
Thematic Roles Agent > Theme > Goal
Case Particles Nominative > Dative > Accusative
Grammatical Functions Subject > Object > Verb
particles offers a cue that nominative comes before dative and
accusative. Grammatical functions provide information that
subject comes before object.
Processing grammatically and semantically acceptable sen-
tences (correct “Yes” responses) showed consistently signifi-
cant scrambling effects in each of the four experiments. In Ex-
periment 1, OSV scrambled sentences resulted in longer reac-
tion times compared to SOV canonical sentences. In addition,
Experiment 2 also showed that OSOV scrambled sentences take
longer to process than SOOV canonical sentences. The results
of Experiments 1 and 2 provided evidence for scrambling ef-
fects in written Sinhalese. Thus, as previous studies (Dissan-
ayaka, 2007; Herath, Hyodo, Kawada, Ikeda, & Herath, 1994;
Pallatthara & Weihene, 1966; Tamaoka et al., 2011) indicated,
both experiments in the present study also showed that the ca-
nonical word order in the Sinhalese language is SOV.
However, thematic roles, case particles and grammatical
functions provide the same information for canonical order in
active Sinhalese written sentences. For example, in the sentence
amara nimala-ta gehuwēya meaning “Amara hit Nimala”, case
particles indicate that the nominative NP is always marked by
empty (φ), and the accusative NP always precedes the case-
marker -ta (which is dative, but functions like an accusative) in
an active sentence which contains a transitive verb. Secondly,
thematic roles suggest as an agent (amara) always precedes a
theme (nimala), so that the sentence can be interpreted as the
agent Amara hits Nimala. Finally, grammatical functions sug-
gest that the word order should be organized as subject S
(amara) object O (nimala-ta) and verb V (gehuwēya). To iden-
tify the priority information applicable to a variety of sentence
types, two further experiments were conducted to single out the
universal information cue.
Passive sentences display conflict between the information
for canonical word order provided by thematic roles and case
particles. Therefore, Experiment 3 is aimed at comparing the
processing of canonical order defined by thematic roles and
case particles in the processing of passive sentences. Results of
Experiment 3 showed that native Sinhalese speakers processed
passive sentences with SOV canonical word order defined by
case particles more quickly and accurately than OSV order
defined by thematic roles. Thus, native Sinhalese speakers rely
on the information provided by the case particles when proc-
essing passive sentences. Experiment 3 excluded thematic roles
as the priority information. Thus, Experiment 4 investigated the
remaining two cues, case particles and grammatical functions.
In Experiment 4, native speakers processed SOV potential
sentences defined by grammatical functions more quickly and
accurately than OSV, were the information is provided by case
particles. Therefore, Experiment 4 revealed that native Sin-
halese speakers use the information given by grammatical func-
tion (plural) rather than case particles for the processing of
potential sentences. The present study concluded grammatical
functions as the most universal information cue for canonical
word order among thematic roles, case particles, and gram-
matical functions for written Sinhalese sentences.
To conclude, as found in the Japanese language (Tamaoka et
al., 2005), grammatical functions clearly provide adequate in-
formation for native speakers to determine canonical order in
various types of written Sinhalese sentences. Grammatical
functions must offer crucial information which delivers cues for
canonical order for various languages.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 31
A. B. P. KANDUBODA ET AL.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
32
Acknowledgements
We are grateful to anonymous reviewers for their invaluable
comments and suggestions. The study reported here was partially
supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (No. 23320106
and No. 22222001) from the Japanese Ministry of Education,
Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.
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A. B. P. KANDUBODA ET AL.
Appendix A: A Sample List of Active Sentences
Consisting of Transitive Verbs in Experiment 1
Experiment 1 used 36 canonical ordered sentences for correct
YES responses as exemplified below. Based on these sentences,
36 scrambled sentences were built. The secondly positioned
noun (ACC) is placed in the sentence initial position in order to
make scrambled order sentences.
1 kamala niila-ta hondakiwwaaya
Kamala (φNOM, anim) Niila (ACC, anim) praise (V + PST)
Kamala praised Niila.
2 guruthuma daruwanta igennuweaya
teacher (φNOM, anim) children (ACC, anim)
teach (V + PST)
The teacher educated the children.
3 gayaani niila-ta bennaaya
Gayani (φNOM, anim) Niila (ACC, anim) scold (V + PST)
Gayani scolded Niila.
4 amila ganga-ta andagehuweaya
Amila (φNOM, anim) Ganga (ACC, anim) call (V + PST)
Amila called Ganga.
5 mallii nayaa-ta gehuweaya
younger brother (φNOM, anim) snake (ACC, anim)
Hit (V + PST)
Younger brother hit the snake.
Appendix B: A Sample List of Active Sentences
Consisting of Ditransitive Verbs in Experiment 2
Experiment 2 used 36 canonical ordered sentences for correct
YES responses as exemplified below. Another 36 sentences for
scrambled order were constructed based on these sentences.
The thirdly positioned noun (ACC) is placed in the sentence
initial position in order to make scrambled sentences.
1 guruthuma lamayata paadam kiyaadunneaya
teacher (φNOM, anim) student (DAT, anim)
lesson (φACC, inam) teach (V + PST)
The teacher taught lessons to the student.
2 gayakayaa rasikayanta giitha kiiwaaya
singer (φNOM, anim) listners (DAT, anim)
songs (φACC, inam) sing (V + PST)
The singer sang a song for the audience.
3 ayyaa mata potak dunneaya
elderbrother (φNOM, anim) me (DAT, anim)
book (φACC, inam) give (V + PST)
Elder brother gave me a book.
4 akkaa mallita salli dunnaaya
elder sister (φNOM, anim) younger brother (DAT, anim)
money (φACC, inam) give (V + PST)
Elder sister gave money to younger brother.
5 horu apata boru kiiweaya
thieves (φNOM, anim) us (DAT, anim) lie (φACC, inam)
tell (V + PST)
The thieves lied to us.
Appendix C: A Sample List of Passive Sentences
Consisting Transitive Verbs in Experiment 3
Experiment 3 used 30 canonical ordered sentences for correct
YES responses as exemplified below. Based on these sentences,
30 scrambled sentences were constructed. The secondly posi-
tioned noun (DAT) is placed in the sentence initial position to
make scrambled order sentences.
1 ammaa wisin apata kiribath hadanu lebuweaya
mother (NOM, anim) us (DAT, anim)
milkrice (φACC, inam) make (V + PASS + PST)
The milk rice was made by mother.
2 thaththaa wisn apata paadam kiyadenulebuweaya
father (NOM, anim) us (DAT, anim) lessons (φACC, inam)
teach (V + PASS + PST)
The lessons were taught by father.
3 malli wisin nangita akuru uganwanu lebuweaya
younger brother (NOM, anim) younger sister (DAT, anim)
letters (φACC, inam) help (V + PASS + PST)
Younger sister was helped by younger brother to read letters.
4 maamaa wisin apata liyumak liyanu lebuweaya
uncle (NOM, anim) us (DAT, anim) letter (φACC, inam)
write (V + PASS + PST)
The letter was written by our uncle.
5 ruwan wisin akkata pariganakaya hadaadenu lebuweaya
Ruwan (NOM, anim) elder sister (DAT, anim)
computer (φACC, inam) repair (V + PASS + PST)
The computer was repaired by Ruwan.
Appendix D: A Sample List of Potential
Sentences Used in Experiment 4
Experiment 4 used 24 canonical ordered sentences for correct
YES responses as exemplified below. Based on these sentences,
another 24 sentences were constructed for the scrambled order
sentences. The secondly positioned noun (NOM) is placed in
the sentences initial position in order to make scrambled order
sentences.
1 nangita piinanna hekiyāwaketha
younger sister (DAT, anim) swim (φNOM, inam) can (V + PRE)
Younger sister can swim.
2 amālita chitraandinna hekiyāwaketha
Amali (DAT, anim) art + draw (φNOM, inam) can (V + PRE)
Amali can draw pictures.
3 chiitata duwanna hekiyāwaketha
cheetah (DAT, anim) run (φNOM, inam) can (V + PRE)
The cheetah can run.
4 ajithta criketgahanna hekiyāwaketha
Ajith (DAT, anim) cricket+play (φNOM, inam)
can (V + PRE)
Ajith can play cricket.
5 sangiithata natanna hekiyāwaketha
Sangiitha (DAT, anim) dance (φNOM, inam) can (V + PRE)
Sangiitha can dance.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 33