I'm trying to teach myself about linguistics, and one example of Subject-Object-verb word order was ジョンは台所で本を読みました

Which the Wikipedia article translates as

John read a book in the kitchen.

But given that the paragraph before says:

The basic principle in Japanese word order is that modifiers come before what they modify

I found it odd that で comes before 本, as it appears as though the locative applies to the book, not the kitchen. My understanding is that the locative is roughly equivalent to an "English preposition" like 'in', 'on' or 'at'...

Is this because of the topic marker は needing to precede 台所 and pushing it behind the word instead, or have I misunderstood the locative case/Japanese sentence structure?

  • 2
    By modifiers it means relative clauses. Particles (almost?) universally come after
    – Angelos
    Oct 9, 2022 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


You've misunderstood that Wikipedia article.

The linguistic term for は、で and を in that sentence is particle (助詞) , not modifier, even though they do "modify" the word or phrase that they FOLLOW.

で is showing how 台所 relates to the action; "in the kitchen."

If anything, that entire phrase "台所で" would be the modifier because it is describing where the action takes place.

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