English is usually considered a typical fixed word order language, in which syntax seems to play a predominant role. Thus, the order of the arguments with regard to the predicate seems to be quite fixed, as in (3):
(3) Mary gave the visitor a glass of milk  (4) Most of these problems a computer could take in its stride
(3) Mary gave the visitor a glass of milk Any inversion of this order would be strange, unless some situational or contextual element were to make a different order more appropriate. In English the finite verb has a kind of privileged position. The Subject normally precedes, and the two Objects follow. However, so-called fronting of non-Subject constituents is acceptable in certain pragmatic conditions. Quirk et al. (1985: 1377) mention (4):
(4) Most of these problems a computer could take in its strideHere an Object constituent precedes the finite verb. As is suggested by the presence of these, the Object contains known, topical, information. A computer, as appears from the presence of the indefinite article, does not represent information introduced earlier.
From the examples given above it appears that also in English the word order is to some extent `free', in the sense that the flow of information contains as a rule certain factors that favour or necessitate a certain order. Our knowledge of English enables us to identify such factors. In this connection, intonation is an important element. For Latin, data concerning intonation are lacking, and consequently it is much more difficult exactly to determine which factors underlie a given word order. For this reason, a given word order often seems to be arbitrary, or the impression is created that anything is possible. Further research will have to show to what extent the diverging data on Latin word order can be explained on the basis of pragmatic factors such as those mentioned above, and to what extent, moreover, syntactic factors play a role. In crosssection 9.3. and crosssection 9.4. a number of aspects are discussed.
Pinkster, Harm (1942-) , Latin Syntax and Semantics [info], xii, 320 p.: ill.; 24 cm. [word count] [Pinkster].