Brief Notes on Word Order
In considering the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese versions of Harry Potter, there are some differences in word order that need to be noted.
1. Prepositions. Prepositions or their equivalents come before the noun in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese, but after the noun in Japanese. An example:
English: From London
Chinese: Cóng Lún-dūn
Japanese: Rondon kara
Vietnamese: từ Luân Đôn
(Note: other particles, such as the subject marker ga, the object marker o, and the possessive marker no also come after the noun in Japanese.)
2. Adjectives and possessive expressions come before the noun in English, Chinese, and Japanese, but after the noun in Vietnamese. An example:
English: Black dragon
Chinese: Heī lóng
Japanese: Kuroi doragon
Vietnamese: Rồng đen
English: Harry's wand
Chinese: Hālì de mózhàng
Japanese: Harii no tsue
Vietnamese: cây đữa phép của Harry ("cây" is a 'counter' - see 5 below).
3. The general word order in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). In Japanese it is SOV - i.e., the verb comes at the end of the sentence. An example:
English: Harry eats rice (= 'a meal')
Chinese: Hālì chī fàn
Japanese: Harii wa go-han o tabemasu
Vietnamese: Harry ăn cơm
4. Relative clauses (i.e., short sentences modifying nouns) come after the noun in English and Vietnamese, but before the noun in Japanese and Chinese. An example:
English: the boy who bought a wand
Chinese: mǎi mózhàng de nán-hái (mǎi = 'buy', mózhàng = 'wand') A connecting particle de is placed between the clause and the word nán-hái 'boy'.
Japanese: tsue o katta otoko no ko (tsue o = 'wand + object particle', katta = 'bought')
Vietnamese: cậu bé mà mua một cây đữa phép ("mà" = 'who', "mua" = 'buy', "một" = 'one', "cây" is a counter, refer to 5 below, "đữa phép" = 'wand').
5. All three languages have parts of speech known as 'classifiers', 'counters', or 'measure words'. These are like the 'loaf', 'cake', and 'head' in expressions like 'a loaf of bread', 'a cake of soap', 'three head of cattle', but are used much more extensively than in English. Virtually every noun can take a counter in CJV. They are most prevalent in Vietnamese but are also widely used in Chinese and Japanese, especially when counting things. To take an example that translates easily into English (note the word order):
English: one sheet of paper / a sheet of
Chinese: yī zhāng zhǐ (yī = 'one', zhāng = 'sheet', zhǐ = 'paper')
Japanese: kami ichi mai (kami = 'paper', ichi = 'one', mai = 'sheet'.) The order can also be reversed to 'ichi mai no kami'.
Vietnamese: một tờ giấy ("một" = 'one', "tờ" = 'sheet', "giấy" = 'paper').