Occasionally, I hear Japanese described as free word order because it allows argument scrambling. Then I think of Latin, and go "Hah!" The other day I happened to come across a bit of Virgil that nicely illustrates Latin's horrifying (at least to readers) ability to not only scramble the relative order of noun phrases, but break them up into little bits and scatter them about like confetti:
ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis aetas;
magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo.
Which might be approximated as:
last Cumaean's comes already song's season;
great from whole centuries' is-born cycle.
Already the Cumaean [oracle]'s song's last season comes;
The great cycle of the centuries is born anew ("from whole").
For Chomskyan syntacticians, I suppose you'd have to look at it as a kind of quantifer floating-like phenomenon gone mad. Case marking and agreement do help disambiguate it a bit, but still...
This piece of verse, incidentally, is apparently where the slogan on the US dollar, "Novus Ordo Seclorum" (New Order of the Centuries - aka New World Order:), comes from, though I don't see "Novus" in there. Seeing as medieval Christians used to think this poem predicted the coming of the Messiah, and here it's being used rather blatantly to refer to the founding of the US, this is a pretty amazing piece of boasting if you think about it; I guess the "city on a hill" conception of America has been popular for a long time...
Names of the chemical elements in Chinese
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