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12.5. Word order
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This section discusses a number of tendencies concerning word order in the postverbal field. We will restrict our attention to the order of arguments and adverbial modifiers, and refer the reader to Section N3.3.2 for a more extensive discussion of word order restrictions on relative clauses in extraposed position.

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[+]  I.  The position of argument clauses

This subsection discusses the placement of argument clauses with respect to other extraposed phrases. Since Koster (1974) it has generally been assumed that extraposed phrases exhibit a mirror effect; their relative order is the inverse of what we find in the middle field of the clause. We illustrate this effect for the order of argument clauses with respect to other arguments and adverbial phrases. With regard to adverbial phrases a problem arises in the sense that, although the mirror effect does arise with adverbial clauses, it does not seem to be required in the case of adverbial PPs.

[+]  A.  Placement with respect to other arguments

Clausal arguments normally follow other postverbal arguments. This is illustrated in (118) for a direct object clause: it follows the prepositional indirect object aan Peter and the PP-complement tegen Peter. The relative orders of the arguments found in these examples clearly illustrate the mirror effect, as they are clearly the inverse of what we find in the middle field of the clause, where the direct object normally precedes the PP: cf. dat Jan dat verhaal aan Peter vertelde'that Jan told that story to Peter' and dat Jan die dingen tegen Peter gezegd had'that Jan said these things to Peter'.

Example 118
a. dat Jan <aan Peter> vertelde <aan Peter> [dat Marie zou komen].
  that  Jan   to Peter  told  that Marie would come
  'that Jan told Peter that Marie would come.'
a'. *? dat Jan vertelde [dat Marie zou komen] aan Peter.
b. dat Jan <tegen Peter> zei <tegen Peter> [dat Marie zou komen].
  that  Jan   to Peter  said  that Marie would come
  'that Jan said to Peter that Marie would come.'
b'. *? dat Jan zei [dat Marie zou komen] tegen Peter.

That argument clauses follow prepositional objects does not only hold for object but also for subject clauses, which resemble object clauses in that they originate as internal arguments; see Section 5.1.3, where it is shown that subject clauses normally do not occur in (in)transitive unaccusative constructions. We illustrate this by means of the passive counterparts of the (a)-examples in (118); cf. dat dit verhaal aan Peter verteld werd'that this story was told to Peter' and dat die dingen tegen Peter gezegd werden 'that these things were said to Peter'.

Example 119
a. dat er <aan Peter> verteld werd <aan Peter> [dat Marie zou komen].
  that  there     to Peter  told  was  that Marie would come
  'that Peter was told that Marie would come.'
a'. * dat er verteld werd [dat Marie zou komen] aan Peter.
b. dat er <tegen Peter> gezegd werd <tegen Peter> [dat Marie zou komen].
  that  there     to Peter  said  was  that Marie would come
  'that they said to Peter that Marie would come.'
b'. * dat er gezegd werd [dat Marie zou komen] tegen Peter.

Because subject and object clauses normally originate as internal arguments, there are only a few cases in which they co-occur. In the rare cases that this does happen, the relative order of the subject and the object clause cannot easily be determined because De Haan (1974) has shown that in such cases the subject clause tends to be placed in clause-initial position. He even claims that it is impossible to place the subject clause in postverbal position. This may be an overstatement, as the sharp contrast between the two (b)-examples in (120) indicates that the primeless example is relatively well-formed.

Example 120
a. [Dat hij niet klaagt] zal wel betekenen [dat hij gelukkig is].
  that he not complains  will  prt  mean    that  he  happy  is
  'that he doesnʼt complain probably means that he is happy.'
b. % Het zal wel betekenen [dat hij gelukkig is], [dat hij niet klaagt].
  it  will  prt mean    that  he  happy  is  that  he  not  complains
b'. * Het zal wel betekenen [dat hij niet klaagt], [dat hij gelukkig is].
  it  will  prt mean    that he not complains   that  he  happy  is

The contrast between the two (b)-examples could be seen as another instantiation of the mirror effect but it should be noted that postverbal placement of the subject clause requires the subject position to be filled by the anticipatory pronoun het'it'. This suggests that the "subject" clause is actually not an argument clause but a clausal apposition in right-dislocated position; cf. Section 12.2, sub IB, and this suggests that we should put cases like (120b) aside from our present discussion. Another reason to do this is that the subject clause may actually be nominal in nature, as it can readily be replaced by the noun phrase het feit dat hij niet klaagt'the fact that he doesnʼt complain'.

[+]  B.  Placement with respect to adverbial clauses

Argument clauses normally precede adverbial clauses. This is illustrated in (121) for adverbial clauses expressing, respectively, time and reason; the primed examples are possible only if the adverbial clause is interpreted parenthetically, in which case it must be preceded and followed by an intonation break. Note in passing that the strings in the primeless examples are ambiguous in speech, as the adverbial clauses may also be construed as part of the object clause, in which case they refer to the time at which/the reason why the resignation will take place.

Example 121
a. Jan zal ons vertellen [dat hij zal aftreden] [zodra hij hier is].
  Jan will  us  tell  that he will prt.-resign  as.soon.as  he here is
  'Jan will tell us that heʼll resign as soon as heʼs here.'
a'. # Jan zal ons vertellen [zodra hij hier is] [dat hij zal aftreden].
b. Jan zal ons vertellen [dat hij zal aftreden] [omdat hij integer is].
  Jan will  us  tell  that he will prt.-resign  because  he  honest  is
  'Jan will tell us that heʼll resign because he is honest.'
b'. # Jan zal ons vertellen [omdat hij integer is] [dat hij zal aftreden].

The order restriction illustrated in (121) is again an instantiation of the mirror effect. This becomes apparent as soon as one realizes that object clauses are normally part of the focus (new information) of the clause and that adverbial clauses tend to precede the focus of the clause when they are located in the middle field of the clause; we illustrate this in (122) by means of the non-specific indefinite nominal object iets belangrijks'something important'. The mirror effect thus correctly predicts the primed examples in (121) to be excluded.

Example 122
a. Jan zal ons [zodra hij hier is] iets belangrijks vertellen.
  Jan will us  as.soon.as  he  here  is  something important  tell
  'Jan will tell us something important as soon as he is here.'
a'. * Jan zal ons iets belangrijks [zodra hij hier is] vertellen.
b. Jan zal ons [omdat hij ons waardeert] iets belangrijks vertellen.
  Jan will us  because  he  us  appreciates  something important  tell
  'Jan will tell us something important because he appreciates us.'
b'. * Jan zal ons iets belangrijks [omdat hij ons waardeert] vertellen.

Subject clauses behave in a similar fashion as object clauses, and for the same reasons. The examples in (123) illustrate this by means of the passive counterparts of the (a)-examples in (121) and (122). Note that the strings in the primeless examples are ambiguous in speech again, as the adverbial clauses may also be construed as part of the object clause.

Example 123
a. Ons zal verteld worden [dat hij zal aftreden] [zodra hij hier is].
  us  will  told  be   that  he  will  prt.-resign  as.soon.as  he here is
  'We will be told that he will resign as soon as heʼs here.'
a'. # Ons zal verteld worden [zodra hij hier is] [dat hij zal aftreden].
b. Ons zal [zodra hij hier is] iets belangrijks verteld worden.
  us  will  as.soon.as  he  here  is  something important  told  be
  'We will be told something important as soon as he is here.'
b'. * Ons zal iets belangrijks [zodra hij hier is] verteld worden.
[+]  C.  Placement with respect to prepositional adverbial phrases

The examples in (124) provide similar cases as the ones in (121) with a temporal and a locational PP, but here the judgments are much less clear: the primed examples all seem acceptable, with a preference for the order in the doubly primed examples, in which the adverbial PPs precede the object clauses This may be due to the fact that in speech the PP tends to be construed as part of the object clause; the much-preferred order seems to be the ones in the primeless examples, with the PPs in preverbal position.

Example 124
a. dat Jan [na het gesprek] dacht [dat hij de baan zou krijgen].
  that  Jan after the interview  thought   that  he  the job would  get
  'that Jan thought after the interview that he would get the job.'
a'. dat Jan dacht [dat hij de baan zou krijgen] [na het gesprek].
a''. dat Jan dacht [na het gesprek] [dat hij de baan zou krijgen].
b. dat Jan [in de bus] vreesde [dat hij ziek werd].
  that  Jan   in the bus  feared  that he  ill  became
  'that Jan was afraid in the bus that he would become ill.'
b'. dat Jan vreesde [dat hij ziek werd] [in de bus].
b''. dat Jan vreesde [in de bus] [dat hij ziek werd].

We see that the examples in (124) do not exhibit the mirror effect found in the earlier examples. This is perhaps not surprising given that direct object clauses also tend to follow adverbial phrases of other categories. Example (125b), for instance is only acceptable with an afterthought intonation contour; the modal adverb waarschijnlijk must be preceded by a distinct intonation break and bear accent.

Example 125
a. dat Jan ons waarschijnlijk zal vertellen [dat hij zal aftreden].
  that  Jan  us  probably  will  tell   that  he  will  prt.-resign
  'that Jan will probably tell us that is going to resign.'
b. # dat Jan ons zal vertellen dat hij zal aftreden waarschijnlijk.
b'. dat Jan ons zal vertellen waarschijnlijk [dat hij zal aftreden].

The same probably holds for example (126b), although the more prominent interpretation is that the adverb morgen'tomorrow' is construed with the object clause as a backgrounded right-dislocated phrase: it is not the telling but the resignation that will take place tomorrow.

Example 126
a. dat Jan ons morgen zal vertellen [dat hij zal aftreden].
  that  Jan  us  tomorrow  will  tell   that  he  will  prt.-resign
  'that Jan will tell us tomorrow that heʼll resign.'
b. # dat Jan ons zal vertellen dat hij zal aftreden morgen.
b'. dat Jan ons zal vertellen morgen [dat hij zal aftreden].

It should be noted however that Section 12.3 has shown that postverbal adverbs like waarschijnlijk and morgen are also right-dislocated. If correct, we have to conclude that the object clauses in the primed (b)-examples in (125) and (126) are not extraposed, but left-dislocated as well. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that VP-topicalization cannot pied pipe the object clause if the adverb is present.

Example 127
a. [Vertellen (*waarschijnlijk) dat hij zal aftreden] zal Jan ons morgen.
  tell     probably  that  he  will  prt.-resign  will  Jan us  tomorrow
b. [Vertellen (*morgen) dat hij zal aftreden] zal Jan ons niet.
  tell   tomorrow  that  he  will  prt.-resign  will  Jan us  not

This, in turn, makes it plausible that the doubly-primed examples in (124) also involve right dislocation and should therefore be ignored for our present purposes. The discussion above shows that determining the relative order of extraposed phrases is not a trivial matter, and should receive must more attention than it has been given so far.

[+]  II.  Prepositional objects

Prepositional objects are normally adjacent to the clause-final verb(s), regardless of whether they precede or follow these verb(s). This can be seen as an immediate consequence of the mirror effect; elements that are left-adjacent to the clause-final verbs in the middle field of the clause are expected to be right-adjacent to these verb(s) when extraposed, subsection IA has already illustrated this for the order of postverbal prepositional objects and argument clauses. The examples in (128) show that the mirror effect also occurs in the case of adverbial clauses/PPs.

Example 128
a. Jan heeft [voordat hij vertrok] toch nog [naar de post] gekeken.
  Jan has  before he left  yet  still   at the post  looked
  'Before he left, Jan had looked at the mail after all.'
a'. Jan heeft toch nog gekeken [naar de post] [voordat hij vertrok].
a''. * Jan heeft toch nog gekeken [voordat hij vertrok] [naar de post].
b. Jan heeft [voor zijn vertrek] toch nog [naar de post] gekeken.
  Jan has  before his departure  yet  still   at the post  looked
  'Before his departure, Jan had looked at the mail after all.'
b'. Jan heeft toch nog gekeken [naar de post] [voor zijn vertrek].
b''. * Jan heeft toch nog gekeken [voor zijn vertrek] [naar de post].

It should be noted that prepositional object clauses differ from postverbal PP-objects in that they tend to follow postverbal adverbial phrase; an example like (129b') is only acceptable with the intonation contour associated with afterthoughts, that is, with a distinct intonation break before the adverbial phrase, which also receives contrastive accent. This is of course not surprising in view of our conclusion in Section 12.2, sub IB, that clauses introduced by an anticipatory pronominal element are not extraposed but right-dislocated.

Example 129
a. dat Jan er [in het buitenland] al snel naar verlangt [dat hij naar huis kan].
  that  Jan there   in the foreign.countries  already  quickly  for  longs   that  he  to home  can
  'that when abroad, Jan soon wants to go home again.'
b. dat Jan er al snel naar verlangt [in het buitenland] [dat hij naar huis kan].
b'. dat Jan er al snel naar verlangt [dat hij naar huis kan] *(,) [in het buitenland].

That prepositional object clauses introduced by an anticipatory PP are not extraposed but right-dislocated is also clear from the fact illustrated in (130) that they obligatory follow postverbal adjectival and nominal adverbial phrases like waarschijnlijk'probably' and morgen'tomorrow', which were shown to be right-dislocated in Section 12.3.

Example 130
a. dat Jan erop wacht waarschijnlijk [dat het bericht vrij komt].
  that  Jan for.it  waits  probably that the news  free  comes
  'that Jan is probably waiting for the release of the news.'
b. dat Jan erop zal wachten morgen [dat het bericht vrij komt].
  that  Jan for.it  will wait  tomorrow  that the news  free  comes
  'that Jan will wait tomorrow for the release of the news.'
[+]  III.  Adverbial phrases

This section discusses the relative order of adverbial phrases. Example (131b) shows that it is at least marginally possible for a temporal and a locational PP to co-occur in the postverbal field. The examples in (131) further show that we find the mirror effect here–while the temporal adverbial phrase preferably precedes the locational adverbial phrase in the middle field of the clause, it preferably follows it in the postverbal field.

Example 131
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [tot drie uur] [in de tuin] gewerkt.
  Jan has  probably  until 3 o'clock  in the garden  worked
  'Jan has probably worked in the garden until 3 o'clock.'
a'. * Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [in de tuin] [tot drie uur] gewerkt.
b. (?) Jan heeft waarschijnlijk gewerkt [in de tuin] [tot drie uur].
b'. *? Jan heeft waarschijnlijk gewerkt [tot drie uur] [in de tuin].

In (132) we provide similar examples involving the adverbial phrase ondanks de hitte'despite the heat' and a locational adverbial phrase: while the former must precede the locational adverbial phrase in the middle field of the clause (under a neutral intonation pattern), it follows it in the postverbal field.

Example 132
a. Jan heeft [ondanks de hitte] [in de tuin] gewerkt.
  Jan has   despite the heat  in the garden  worked
  'Jan has worked in the garden despite the heat.'
a'. * Jan heeft [in de tuin] [ondanks de hitte] gewerkt.
b. (?) Jan heeft gewerkt [in de tuin] [ondanks de hitte].
b'. * Jan heeft gewerkt [ondanks de hitte] [in de tuin].

Note in passing that the linear string in (132b') is acceptable under the irrelevant reading in which the PP in de tuin'in the garden' modifies the noun hitte'heat', as in (133a); this example differs from (132a) in meaning and intonation.

Example 133
a. Jan heeft [ondanks de hitte [in de tuin]] gewerkt.
  Jan has  in.spite.of the heat  in the garden  worked
  'Jan has worked in spite of the heat in the garden.'
b. Jan heeft gewerkt [ondanks de hitte [in de tuin]].
[+]  IV.  Conclusion

This subsection has discussed a number of restrictions on word order in the postverbal field. We have seen that PP-complements precede direct object clauses while adverbial clauses come last. This order is the inverse of the order found in the middle field of the clause, which has motivated the postulation of a mirror effect: extraposition inverts the order. Note in passing that the order in (134) is identical to the one found in English.

Example 134
... Vfinal – PP-complement – object clause – adverbial clause

Prepositional adverbial phrases at first seem to exhibit a somewhat deviant behavior to the extent that they may precede object clauses. We have seen, however, that this may be due to the fact that object clauses need not be extraposed but can also be right-dislocated, which can be supported by the fact illustrated again in (135) that object clauses may also follow postverbal adverbial phrases like waarschijnlijk'probably' and gisteren'yesterday', which were argued to be right-dislocated in Section 12.3

Example 135
a. dat Jan vertelde aan Marie gisteren dat hij zou komen.
  that  Jan told  to Marie  yesterday  that he would come
  'that Jan told Marie yesterday that he would come.'
b. dat Jan zei tegen Peter vanmorgen dat hij zou komen.
  that  Jan said  to Peter  this.morning  that he would come
  'that Jan said to Peter this morning that he would come.'

This mirror effect was first observed by Koster (1974) for PPs and it is often tacitly assumed that it is restricted to phrases of this type; see Barbiers (1995:ch.4) for an interesting analysis based on this assumption. The examples given in this section show, however, that the effect is also found with clauses.

References:
  • Barbiers, Sjef1995The syntax of interpretationThe Hague, Holland Academic GraphicsUniversity of Leiden/HILThesis
  • Haan, Ger de1974On extrapositionSpektator4161-183
  • Koster, Jan1974Het werkwoord als spiegelcentrumSpektator3601-618
  • Koster, Jan1974Het werkwoord als spiegelcentrumSpektator3601-618
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