Dependent-marking language

A dependent-marking language is one where the grammatical marks showing relations between different constituents of a phrase tend to be placed on the dependents or modifiers, rather than the heads of the phrase in question. In a noun phrase, the head is the main noun and the dependents are the article, the adjectives, the possessives, etc. In a verb phrase the head is the verb and the dependents are its arguments (subject, object, etc.).

A typical example of almost pure dependent marking is Japanese, where each part of a sentence is supposed to be marked for its function (topic, subject, object, complement), while the verb is completely devoid of morphological marks showing person, number, gender, or any other property of the arguments.

"The artist drew a painting."
画家 描いた
gaka -ga e -o kaita
artist -subject painting -object drew

Less pure examples are Czech, Latin, Spanish, German, and English. In English, the word order determines the role of the nouns in the sentence, so neither the head nor dependent are usually marked in the case of the verb phrase.

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