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13.1. Unmarked word orders in the middle field of the clause
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This section discusses unmarked word orders in the middle field of the clause. It will not be immediately obvious what the denotation of the notion unmarked is: this section will informally characterize it by means of a brief discussion of some semantic, syntactic and phonological properties of clauses. Semantically, unmarked word orders are understood in terms of information structure, especially the division of the clause in discourse-old and discourse-new information. Syntactically, unmarked word orders are understood in terms of the base order of constituents, and phonologically they are characterized by exhibiting a non-contrastive intonation contour. In short, we will assume that constituents appear in the unmarked order if they are part of the new information focus of their clause, observe certain linearization restrictions, and are not contrastively accented.

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[+]  I.  New-information focus

The literature often investigates unmarked orders by means of answers to wh-questions in the onset of a discourse. The reason is that in this context the part of the answer corresponding to the wh-word belongs to the new-information focus of its clause and is normally not contrastively marked. For example, the full answer to opening question (13a) given in (13b) provides discourse-new information, and it would therefore be unexpected if one of the clausal constituents were contrastively marked.

Example 13
a. Wat is er aan de hand?
question
  what  is there  to the hand
  'What is going on?'
b. Jan heeft de boeken aan Marie aangeboden.
answer
  Jan has  the books  to Marie  prt.-offered
  'Jan has offered the books to Marie.'

That the full clause in (13b) is part of the new-information focus is also clear from the fact that (without additional extra-linguistic information) pronominalization of the noun phrases is impossible. This is different in answers to opening questions that introduce a discourse topic, such as (14a&b); in the answers in the primed examples everything is part of the discourse-new information apart from the topics introduced by the corresponding questions, as is clear from the fact that the latter are the only constituents that can be pronominalized in these contexts.

Example 14
a. Wat heeft Jan gedaan?
question
  what  has  Jan  done
  'What has Jan done?'
a'. Jan/Hij heeft de boeken aan Marie aangeboden.
answer
  Jan/he  has  the books  to Marie  prt.-offered
  'Jan/He has offered the books to Marie.'
b. Wat is er met de boeken gebeurd?
question
  what  is there  with the books  happened
  'What has happened to the books?'
b'. Jan heeft de boeken/ze aan Marie aangeboden.
answer
  Jan has  the books/them  to Marie  prt.-offered
  'Jan has offered the books/them to Marie.'

Observe that the notion discourse-new does not imply that the hearer is unable to identify the intended entities, because in that case the answers in (13) and (14) would make no sense; the hearer can be assumed to be able to identify the intended referents of the noun phrases, and the new-information focus of the clause merely activates these entities as relevant for the ongoing discourse.

[+]  II.  The unmarked order of arguments and complementives

We can investigate the unmarked order of nominal arguments in the middle field of the clause by considering possible answers to the opening question Wat is er gisteren gebeurd?'What happened yesterday?'. Answer (15a) shows that subjects precede direct objects: inverting the two arguments results in a severely degraded result. Answer (15b) shows that nominal indirect objects precede direct objects.

Example 15
a. Gisteren heeft JanSubject de boekenDO gekocht.
  yesterday has  Jan  the books  bought
  'Yesterday Jan bought the books.'
b. Gisteren heeft JanSubject MarieIO de boekenDO aangeboden.
  yesterday  has  Jan  Marie  the books  prt.-offered
  'Yesterday Jan offered Marie the books.'

The question now arises as to whether the word order generalization that presents itself should be expressed by appealing to the grammatical functions of nominal arguments, as in (16a), or by appealing to their semantic roles, as in (16b).

Example 16
a. grammatical function: subject > indirect object > direct object
b. thematic role: agent > goal > theme

The passive counterpart of example (15b) in (17) suggests that the latter is to be preferred as the indirect object precedes the derived (theme) subject; the reversed order in Gisteren werden de boeken (door Jan) Marie aangeboden is of course grammatical but infelicitous as an answer to the opening question Wat is er gisteren gebeurd?'What happened yesterday?'.

Example 17
Gisteren werden (door Jan) MarieIO de boekenSubject aangeboden.
  yesterday  were  by Jan  Marie  the books  prt.-offered
'Yesterday the books were offered to Marie (by Jan).'

Example (18a) shows that the order of the indirect and the direct object must be inverted if the former is realized as a PP: the direct object precedes the prepositional indirect object. In fact, it seems a quite robust generalization that nominal objects precede prepositional objects in the unmarked order; cf. De Haan (1979). This is illustrated for a direct object in (18b) and a nominal indirect object in (18b'); we refer the reader to Sections 2.3.2, sub I, and 2.3.3 for a discussion of these two types of prepositional object construction.

Example 18
a. Gisteren heeft JanSubject het boekDO aan MarieIO aangeboden.
  yesterday  has  Jan  the book  to Marie  prt.-offered
  'Yesterday Jan offered the book to Marie.'
b. Gisteren heeft de directeur PeterDO met de opdracht belast.
  yesterday  has  the manager  Peter  with the assignment  charged
  'Yesterday the manager made Peter responsible for the assignment.'
b'. Gisteren heeft Marie PeterIO over het probleem verteld.
  yesterday  has  Marie  Peter  about the problem  told
  'Yesterday Marie told Peter about the problem.'

The examples in (19) show that nominal arguments also precede complementives (including verbal particles), which is not surprising given that Section 2.2 already noticed that these are typically positioned left-adjacent to the clause-final verbs.

Example 19
a. Marie heeft het hek donkerblauw geschilderd.
adjectival complementive
  Marie has  the gate  deep.blue  painted
  'Marie has painted the gate deep blue.'
b. Jan heeft de vaas in stukken gegooid.
prepositional complementive
  Jan has  the vase  in pieces  thrown
  'Jan has smashed the vase to pieces.'
c. Jan heeft de vaas weggegooid.
verbal particle
  Jan has  the vase  away.thrown
  'Jan has thrown away the vase.'

The discussion above has demonstrated that arguments and complementives exhibit a clear unmarked order; the word order generalizations we have established are given in (20).

Example 20
Unmarked order of arguments and complementives
a. nominal arguments: agent > goal > theme
b. nominal objects > prepositional objects
c. nominal objects > complementives

We will adopt as a working hypothesis that the generalizations in (20) reflect the relative orders of these clausal constituents within the lexical domain of the clause (which is in fact not easy to establish). This means that marked orders result from movement operations that move these constituents into certain positions in the functional domain of the clause. Furthermore, we will assume that these movements are motivated by specific syntactic, semantic and/or phonological considerations.

[+]  III.  Sentence accent

The distinction between unmarked and marked word orders is often reflected in the intonation contour of clauses. For our present purpose, we confine ourselves to the location of the so-called sentence accent in main clauses with at least one object and a verb in clause-final position. We will start by discussing the default placement of sentence accent that can be found in neutral clauses. After that we will briefly discuss the semantic effects of alternative placements of accents.

[+]  A.  Neutral intonation: the location of sentence accent

Main clauses with an object and a verb in clause-final position may have various accents. We take the sentence accent to be located at the end of the clause and to involve a sudden pitch lowering, which means that we adopt a more restrictive definition of sentence accent than some of the references given below. It seems relatively uncontroversial that the sentence accent (in our sense) is normally located within the lexical domain of the clause in some phrase preceding the clause-final main verb; see Baart (1987), Gussenhoven (1992), Booij (1995), and references given there. This observation has found a syntactic explanation in Cinque’s (1993) hypothesis that stress prominence is a reflection of depth of embedding: the default location of the sentence accent is the most deeply embedded constituent that may carry a word accent in the syntactic surface structure of the clause or, as a possibly better alternative, a prosodic structure derived from it by the elimination of phonetically empty nodes, as proposed by Baart (1987). This means that the sentence accent must be placed on the object provided that the latter is located within the lexical domain. The examples in (21) show that the proviso is indeed needed given that leftward movement of the object into the functional domain results in deaccenting the object; cf. Verhagen (1986). Note that sentence accent is indicated by small caps.

Example 21
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk[VP [NP mijn zuster] bezocht].
  Jan has  probably  my sister  visited
  'Jan has probably visited my sister.'
b. Jan heeft mijn zusteri waarschijnlijk [VPti bezocht].
  Jan has  my sister  probably  visited
  'Jan has probably visited my sister.'

We can illustrate the same on the basis of the examples in (22) with the help of the particle verb uitnodigen'to invite'; we adopt the hypothesis in Section 2.2 that the object and the verbal particle constitute a small clause. The default placement of sentence accent in (22a) is on the noun zuster, because this is again the most deeply embedded element with word/phrase accent. Example (22b) shows that nominal argument shift of the object into a position external to the lexical domain causes the sentence accent to shift onto the particle, as this particle is now the most deeply embedded constituent in the resulting structure.

Example 22
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [SC [NP mijn zuster] uit] genodigd].
  Jan has  probably     my sister  prt.  invited
  'Jan has probably invited my sister.'
b. Jan heeft mijn zusteri waarschijnlijk [VP [SCti uit] genodigd].
  Jan has  my sister probably  prt  called
  'Jan has probably invited my sister.'

Additional support for Cinque’s hypothesis that the default placement of the sentence accent is on the most deeply embedded constituent in the clause is provided in (23): example (23a) shows that the sentence accent is realized on the most deeply embedded phrase within the object, and (23b) shows that sentence accent must be realized on the complementive if it is complex, as the nominal complement of the preposition phrase in de vaas is more deeply embedded than the subject of the small clause, bloemen'flowers'.

Example 23
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [NP het meisje [uit [Haarlem]]] ontmoet].
  Jan has  probably  the girl  from Haarlem  met
  'Jan has probably met the girl from Haarlem.'
b. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [SC bloemen [in [de vaas]]] gezet].
  Jan has  probably  flowers  into   the vase  put
  'Jan has probably put flowers in the vase.'

A final piece of evidence in favor of Cinque’s hypothesis is given in (24), which shows that the location of sentence accent depends on the syntactic function of the phrase preceding the verb. The PP in (24a) functions as a prepositional object and this correctly predicts that the default placement of sentence accent is on the nominal complement of the PP as this is the most deeply embedded phrase. Since the PP in (24b) functions as an adverbial phrase, it must be external to the VP and this correctly predicts that the sentence accent is realized on the participle. Since the complementive PP in (24c) is again part of the VP, it is again correctly predicted that the sentence accent is realized on the nominal complement of the PP; see also Gussenhoven (1992).

Example 24
a. Jan heeft [VP [PP op [zijn vader]] gewacht].
prepositional object
  Jan has  for his father  waited
  'Jan has waited for his father.'
b. Jan heeft [PP op het perron] [VP gewacht].
adverbial PP
  Jan has  on the platform  waited
  'Jan has waited on the platform.'
c. Jani is [VP [SCti op het perron] gebleven].
complementive PP
  Jan  is  on the platform  stayed
  'Jan has stayed on the platform.'
[+]  B.  Information-structural effects of non-neutral intonation patterns

The previous subsection has described Cinque’s rule that derives neutral intonation patterns: the sentence accent is assigned to the most deeply embedded phrase within the lexical domain that may carry a word accent, which is prototypically an object. Clauses with a neutral intonation pattern are often ambiguous with respect to the focus-presupposition division: new-information focus can be restricted to the clausal constituent to which sentence accent is assigned, but it can also extend to include larger projections of the clause containing it. In the examples in (25), for instance, the new-information focus can be restricted to the direct object, but it can also be extended to include the (particle) verb; that this extension is possible is clear from the fact that these sentences can be used as answers to the question Wat heeft Jan gedaan?'What has Jan done?'. The alternative options in (25) thus differ in the scope of new-information focus, which is indicated by underlining.

Example 25
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [NP mijn zuster] bezocht].
  Jan has  probably  my sister  visited
  'Jan has probably visited my sister.'
a'. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [NP mijn zuster] bezocht].
  Jan has  probably  my sister  visited
b. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [SC [NPmijn zuster] uit] genodigd].
  Jan has  probably     my sister  prt.  invited
  'Jan has probably invited my sister.'
b'. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [SC [NPmijn zuster] uit] genodigd].
  Jan has  probably     my sister  prt.  invited

      Clauses that deviate from the prototypical assignment of the sentence accent can arise in two different ways, both of which have repercussions for the information structure of the clause. First, the element that would normally be assigned sentence accent can be removed from the lexical domain of the clause, as a result of which the sentence accent will be assigned in accordance with Cinque’s rule to the next most deeply embedded element. The examples in (26) show that the information-structural effect of leftward movement of the objects in (25) is that the objects can no longer be construed as part of the new-information focus but must be construed as part of the presupposition of the clause. Section 13.2 will discuss this in more detail.

Example 26
a. Jan heeft mijn zusteri waarschijnlijk [VPti bezocht].
  Jan has  my sister probably  visited
b. Jan heeft mijn zusteri waarschijnlijk [VP [SCti uit] genodigd].
  Jan has  my sister probably  prt. invited

      Another way of deriving non-neutral intonation patterns, which will be discussed more extensively in Section 13.3, is by simply ignoring Cinque’s rule. The examples in (27) show that this again results in a more restricted focus domain. The primeless examples in (27) have a neutral intonation pattern with the sentence accent on the most deeply embedded phrase and they can be interpreted such that all phrases within the lexical domain (VP) are part of new-information focus of the clause. The primed examples, on the other hand, have a marked main accent on a phrase higher in the structure and this triggers a so-called contrastive reading: the contrastively accented phrase (indicated by italics) is taken to be the relevant discourse-new information while the remainder of the lexical domain is construed as (familiar) background information. A contrastive intonation pattern is often used to correct information given earlier in the discourse or to exclude alternative possibilities, which we have indicated in the translations of these examples by adding the part within parentheses.

Example 27
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [het meisje] [[dat boek] gegeven]].
  Jan has  probably   the girl    that book  given
  'Jan has probably given the girl that book.'
a'. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [het meisje] [[dat boek] gegeven]].
  Jan has  probably   the girl    that book  given
  'Jan has probably given the girl that book (not the boy).'
b. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [dat boek] [[aan [het meisje]] gegeven]].
  Jan has  probably   that book     to the girl  given
  'Jan has probably given that book to the girl.'
b'. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [dat boek] [[aan [het meisje]] gegeven]].
  Jan has  probably   that book     to the girl  given
  'Jan has probably given that book to the girl (and not, e.g., the record).'

The same can be observed in examples such as (28): the sentence accent in the primeless examples is assigned to the most deeply embedded phrase within the lexical domain, and this allows an interpretation according to which the full lexical domain is part of the new-information focus of the clause. Shifting the accent to some other element within the noun phrase/small clause, as in the primed examples, again results in a more restricted contrastive focus reading; see Booij (1995:159) and Cinque (1993: section 6) among many others.

Example 28
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [NP het meisje [uit [Haarlem]]] ontmoet].
  Jan has  probably  the girl   from Haarlem  met
  'Jan has probably met the girl from Haarlem.'
a'. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [NP het meisje [uit [Haarlem]]] ontmoet].
  Jan has  probably  the girl  from Haarlem  met
  'Jan has probably met the girl from Haarlem (not the boy). '
b. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [SC bloemen [in [de vaas]]] gezet].
  Jan has  probably  flowers  into the vase  put
  'Jan has probably put flowers in the vase.'
b'. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [SC bloemen [in [de vaas]]] gezet].
  Jan has  probably  flowers  into the vase  put
  'Jan has probably put flowers in the vase (not peacock feathers).'

Observe that we used different typographical means for indicating the accents in (27) and (28): regular small caps for default sentence accent and small caps in italics for contrastive accent. The reason is that the two accents are not identical, as is clear from the fact that contrastive accent can also be assigned to phrases that would normally be assigned default sentence accent. The result of using contrastive accent instead of the regular sentence accent is again that the new-information focus is narrowed: while the verb may be part of the discourse-new information under a neutral intonation pattern, as in (29a), this is not the possible if contrastive accent is used, as in (29b). The two accents in (29) differ phonologically in that contrastive accent has an additional high tone.

Example 29
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [VP [het meisje] uit] genodigd].
  Jan has  probably    the girl  prt.  invited
  'Jan has probably invited the girl.'
b. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [[het meisje] uit] genodigd].
  Jan has  probably     the girl  prt.  invited
  'Jan has probably invited the girl (and not, e.g., the boy).'

      Finally, it should be noted that contrastively accented phrases are often displaced: the examples in (30) show that the unmarked order of the direct and prepositional indirect object can optionally be reversed if the latter is assigned contrastive accent. This will be the main topic of Section 13.3.

Example 30
a. Jan heeft het boek aan Marie/Marie aangeboden.
  Jan has  the book  to Marie  prt.-offered
  'Jan has offered the book to Marie.'
b. Jan heeft aan Marie/*Marie het boek aangeboden.
  Jan has  to Marie  the book  prt.-offered
  'Jan has offered the book to Marie.'
[+]  C.  Summary and concluding remark

The previous subsections have shown that the default placement of sentence accent is on the most deeply embedded constituent that may carry a word accent in the surface structure of the clause (or, alternatively, a prosodic structure derived from it by the elimination of phonetically empty nodes). Default sentence accent allows an interpretation of the full lexical domain as new-information focus, while the alternative placements of main accent result in a more restricted focus interpretation. The discussion was confined to main clauses with at least one object because in this way we were able to put aside a number of intricate questions concerning the accentuation of subjects that do not immediately concern us here. For example, subjects in clause-initial position typically function as an aboutness topic or a contrastive topic/focus, and are therefore also marked with a special accent (cf. Section 11.3.3, sub IV), which gives rise to the so-called intonational hat contour found in many Dutch declarative main clauses. In question-answer pairs such as (31b) the selection of the new-information focus can be established in a run-of-the-mill fashion on the basis of the location of the sentence accent.

Example 31
a. Waarom is Jan er niet?
  why  is Jan  here  not
  'Why isnʼt Jan here?'
b. Jan ligt met griep in bed.
  Jan  lies  with the.flu  in bed
  'Jan is lying in bed with the flu.'

It has been observed, however, that certain simple monadic constructions with a single accent on the subject may be interpreted as "all new-information focus"; this is illustrated by the question-answer pair in (32). This runs afoul of Cinque’s (1993) hypothesis that stress prominence is a reflection of depth of embedding, while it can be accounted for by, e.g., Baart’s (1987) earlier proposal that new-information focus is always projected from one of the verb’s arguments.

Example 32
a. Waarom ben je zo vroeg thuis?
  why  are  you  that early  home
  'Why are you home that early?'
b. De juf was ziek.
  the teacherfem.  was  ill

We will not digress on cases such as (32b) any further because the accent in (32b) may be different from default sentence accent and the phenomenon is restricted to simple monadic constructions for reasons not well understood. We refer the reader to Verhagen (1986), Baart (1987), Gussenhoven (1992), Cinque (1993), and references cited there for extensive, sometimes conflicting discussion of such cases.

[+]  IV.  Conclusion

Although it is well-known that Dutch has a relatively free word order in its middle field, the factors determining the various orders in actual utterances have received relatively little attention in the formal linguistic literature so far. Although interest has been growing rapidly in the last two decades, it seems fair to say that this area is still relatively uncharted. Nevertheless, recent research has made clear that the word order variation found is not the result of a unitary process: instead of assuming one generic "scrambling" rule, it now seems uncontroversial that various independent movement rules are at work in the derivation of the word orders found in actual utterances.

References:
  • Barbiers, Sjef2002Remnant stranding and the theory of movementAlexiadou, Artemis, Anagnostopoulou, Elena, Barbiers, Sjef & Gärtner, Hans-Martin (eds.)Dimensions of movement. From features to remnantsAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins47-67
  • Barbiers, Sjef2002Remnant stranding and the theory of movementAlexiadou, Artemis, Anagnostopoulou, Elena, Barbiers, Sjef & Gärtner, Hans-Martin (eds.)Dimensions of movement. From features to remnantsAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins47-67
  • Barbiers, Sjef2002Remnant stranding and the theory of movementAlexiadou, Artemis, Anagnostopoulou, Elena, Barbiers, Sjef & Gärtner, Hans-Martin (eds.)Dimensions of movement. From features to remnantsAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins47-67
  • Barbiers, Sjef2002Remnant stranding and the theory of movementAlexiadou, Artemis, Anagnostopoulou, Elena, Barbiers, Sjef & Gärtner, Hans-Martin (eds.)Dimensions of movement. From features to remnantsAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins47-67
  • Barbiers, Sjef2010Focus particle doublingZwart, Jan-Wouter & Vries, Mark de (eds.)Structure preserved. Studies in syntax for Jan KosterAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins
  • Barbiers, Sjef2010Focus particle doublingZwart, Jan-Wouter & Vries, Mark de (eds.)Structure preserved. Studies in syntax for Jan KosterAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins
  • Barbiers, Sjef2010Focus particle doublingZwart, Jan-Wouter & Vries, Mark de (eds.)Structure preserved. Studies in syntax for Jan KosterAmsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins
  • Barbiers, Sjef & Picallo, M. Carme2014Syntactic doubling and deletion as a source of variationPicallo, M. Carme (ed.)Linguistic variation in the minimalist frameworkOxfordOxford University Press197-223
  • Barbiers, Sjef & Picallo, M. Carme2014Syntactic doubling and deletion as a source of variationPicallo, M. Carme (ed.)Linguistic variation in the minimalist frameworkOxfordOxford University Press197-223
  • Barbiers, Sjef & Picallo, M. Carme2014Syntactic doubling and deletion as a source of variationPicallo, M. Carme (ed.)Linguistic variation in the minimalist frameworkOxfordOxford University Press197-223
  • Barbiers, Sjef & Picallo, M. Carme2014Syntactic doubling and deletion as a source of variationPicallo, M. Carme (ed.)Linguistic variation in the minimalist frameworkOxfordOxford University Press197-223
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordClarendon Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordClarendon Press
  • Haan, Ger de1979Conditions on rulesDordrechtForis Publications
  • Verhagen, Arie1986Linguistic theory and the function of word order in Dutch. A study on interpretive aspects of the order of adverbials and noun phrasesDordrechtForis Publications
  • Verhagen, Arie1986Linguistic theory and the function of word order in Dutch. A study on interpretive aspects of the order of adverbials and noun phrasesDordrechtForis Publications
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