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9.2. The position of the verbs
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This section discusses a number of basic facts concerning the placement of verbs in Dutch clauses, Subsection I starts by showing that in main clauses there are (at least) two verb positions; the so-called verb-first/second position, in which we find the finite verb, and the so-called clause-final verb position, where we find the remaining, non-finite verbs. In the (a)-examples in (12) the main verb is finite and therefore found in verb-first/second position whereas in the (b)-examples the main verb is non-finite and therefore found in clause-final position; the verb-first/second position in the (b)-examples is occupied by the finite auxiliary heeft'has'.

Example 12
Main clauses
a. Jan leest het boek morgen.
verb-second
  Jan reads  the book tomorrow
  'Jan will read the book tomorrow.'
a'. Leest Jan het boek morgen?
verb-first
  reads  Jan the book tomorrow
  'Will Jan read the book tomorrow?'
b. Jan heeft het boek gisteren gelezen.
verb-second & clause-final
  Jan has  the book  yesterday  read
  'Jan read the book yesterday.'
b'. Heeft Jan het boek gisteren gelezen?
verb-first & clause-final
  has  Jan  the book  yesterday  read
  'Did Jan read the book yesterday?'

Subsection II will show that this asymmetry in the placement of finite and non-finite verbs does not occur in embedded clauses; finite and non-finite verbs all appear in clause-final position, as illustrated by (13). We will see that there are reasons for assuming that here the verb-second position is occupied by the complementizer dat'that' or of'whether'

Example 13
Embedded clauses
a. Ik weet dat Jan het boek morgen leest.
clause-final
  know  that  Jan the book  tomorrow  reads
  'I know that Jan will read the book tomorrow.'
a'. Hij vroeg of Jan het boek morgen leest.
clause-final
  he asked  if  Jan the book  tomorrow  reads
  'He asked whether Jan will read the book tomorrow.'
b. Ik weet dat Jan het boek gisteren gelezen heeft.
clause-final
  know  that  Jan the book  yesterday  read  has
  'I know that Jan read the book yesterday.'
b'. Hij vroeg of Jan het boek gisteren gelezen heeft.
clause-final
  he asked  if  Jan the book  yesterday  read  has
  'He asked whether Jan read the book yesterday.'

Subsection III will conclude the discussion of verb placement by giving the standard analysis in generative grammar of this difference between main and embedded clauses. Note that here we do not discuss the order of the verbs in clause-final position; this issue issue is dealt with extensively in Chapter 7.

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[+]  I.  Main clauses

Examples (14a&b) show that verbs may occur in various places in the main clause; finite verbs occupy a position in the left periphery of the clause, whereas participles and infinitives occupy a position more to the right. Work in the structuralist tradition, such as Haeseryn et al. (1997), often refers to the position of the finite verb as the first pole of the clause and the position of the non-finite verb(s) as the second pole of the clause. Example (14c) shows that the second pole may remain empty when there are no non-finite verbs to fill it.

Example 14
a. Jan heeftfinite Marie deze ansichtkaart toegestuurdparticiple vanuit China.
  Jan has  Marie  this postcard  prt.-sent  from China
  'Jan has sent Marie this postcard from China.'
b. Jan wildefinite Marie deze ansichtkaart toestureninf vanuit China.
  Jan wanted  Marie  this postcard prt.-send  from China
  'Jan wanted to send Marie this postcard from China.'
c. Jan stuurdefinite Marie deze ansichtkaart toe vanuit China.
  Jan sent  Marie this postcard  prt  from China
  'Jan sent Marie this postcard from China.'

Using the idea of the two poles, we can divide main can be divided into three subdomains. The first subdomain consists of the position preceding the finite verb. This position is often occupied by the subject, as in the examples in (14) above, but the primeless examples in (15) show that it can also be occupied by, e.g., a questioned or topicalized direct object. The crucial observation, however, is that the finite verb can normally be preceded by just a single constituent; this will be clear from the fact illustrated in the primed examples in (15) that filling the position preceding the finite verb by a constituent other than the subject requires the subject to be placed after the finite verb; leaving the subject Jan in the position preceding the finite verb results in an ungrammatical sentence.

Example 15
a. Wat heeft Jan Marie toegestuurd vanuit China?
  what  has  Jan Marie  prt.-sent  from China
  'What did Jan send Marie from China?'
a'. * Wat Jan heeft Marie toegestuurd vanuit China?
b. Deze ansichtkaart heeft Jan Marie toegestuurd vanuit China.
  this postcard  has  Jan Marie  prt.-sent  from China
  'This postcard Jan has sent to Marie from China.'
b'. * Deze ansichtkaart Jan heeft Marie toegestuurd vanuit China.

Since the position preceding the finite verb can contain at most one constituent, this position is often referred to as the clause-initial position; in keeping with this, the position of the finite verb is often referred to as the second position of the clause in order to contrast it with the clause-final position occupied by the non-finite verbs. The examples in (15) show that the term clause-final position is somewhat misleading, given that verbs in this position can be followed by other elements. The examples in (16) show that this is easily possible in the case of PP-complements and even obligatory in the case of clausal complements. The positions following the verb(s) in clause-final position will be referred to as postverbal positions.

Example 16
a. Jan wil Marie <*of zij komt> vragen <of zij komt >.
  Jan wants  Marie  whether she comes  ask
  'Jan wants to ask Marie whether she will come.'
b. Jan wil niet langer <op Marie> wachten <op Marie>.
  Jan  wants  no longer    for Marie  wait
  'Jan doesnʼt want to wait for Marie any longer'

Given that the clause-initial position is normally filled by some constituent in declarative clauses and wh-questions, the term verb-second position is quite appropriate for such cases. There are, however, also cases in which the initial position remains empty so that the verb ends up in first position. This holds, e.g. for yes/no-questions such as (17).

Example 17
Heeft Jan Marie dit ansichtkaart toegestuurd vanuit China?
  has  Jan  Marie this postcard  prt.-sent  from China
'Has Jan sent Marie this postcard from China?'

The examples in (18) show that an adverbial phrase in the form of a PP or a clause can also occur in a postverbal position. Observe that clausal adverbial phrases differ from clausal complements in that they may occur both pre- and postverbally.

Example 18
a. Jan is <nadat hij gesproken had> snel vertrokken <nadat hij gesproken had>.
  Jan is    after he spoken had soon  left
  'Jan left soon after he had addressed the meeting.'
b. Jan is <na de vergadering> snel vertrokken <na de vergadering>.
  Jan is    after the meeting  soon  left
  'Jan left quickly after the meeting.'

The postverbal field is normally occupied by PPs and clauses, but this does not exhaust the possibilities: some adverbs may also occur postverbally. This is illustrated in (19a) for the modal adverb waarschijnlijk'probably'.

Example 19
a. Jan zal dat boek <waarschijnlijk> graag lezen <waarschijnlijk>.
  Jan will  that book     probably  gladly  read
  'Jan will probably be eager to read that book.'

Adverbial phrases indicating manner are special in that they categorically resist postverbal placement; the examples in (20) show that this holds not only for the manner adverbs but also for adverbial phrases in the form of a PP.

Example 20
a. Jan zal dat boek <aandachtig> lezen <*aandachtig>.
  Jan will  that book    attentively  read
  'Jan will read that book closely.'
b. Jan zal dat boek <met aandacht> lezen <*?met aandacht>.
  Jan will  that book    with attention   read
  'Jan will read that book closely.'

Observe that the examples in (21) show that the ungrammatical orders in (20) improve considerably if the postverbal phrases are preceded by an intonation break and assigned emphatic focus. In such cases the adverbials function as afterthougths, which are often taken to be external to the main clause, and thus belong to the class of elements to be discussed in Chapter 14.

Example 21
a. Jan zal dat boek lezen, ... aandachtig.
  Jan will  that book  read  attentively
  'Jan will read that book— closely.'
b. Jan zal dat boek lezen, ... met aandacht.
  Jan will  that book  read  with attention
  'Jan will read that book—with care.'

      The area between the verbs in second and clause-final position is often referred to as the middle field of the clause. This part of the clause may contain virtually all constituent parts of the clause, with the notable exception of clausal arguments; see (16a) above.

[+]  II.  Embedded clauses

The most conspicuous property of main clauses is that they usually require their finite verb to occur in second position; the examples in (22) show that the embedded counterparts of the main clauses in (14) require that the finite verb be placed in clause-final position, just like the non-finite verbs.

Example 22
a. Peter zei [dat Jan Marie dit boek heeftfinite toegestuurdpart vanuit China].
  Peter said   that  Jan Marie this book  has  prt.-sent  from China
  'Peter said that Jan has sent Marie this book from China.'
b. Peter zei [dat Jan Marie dit boek wildefinite toestureninf vanuit China].
  Peter said  that  Jan Marie this book  wanted  prt.-sent  from China
  'Peter said that Jan wanted to send Marie this book from China.'
c. Peter zei [dat Jan Marie dit boek toestuurdefinite vanuit China].
  Peter said  that Jan Marie  this book  prt.-sent  from China
  'Peter said that Jan sent Marie this book from China.'

This means that generally the examples in (14) cannot be embedded as such; examples such as (23) can only be interpreted as direct/quoted speech. That these examples cannot be interpreted as involving indirect speech is not a trivial fact given that this is possible in German and, to a lesser extent, the eastern part of the Netherlands; cf. Haider (1985/2010) and Barbiers (2005: Section 1.3.1.8).

Example 23
a. # Peter zei [Jan heeftfinite Marie dit boek toegestuurdpart vanuit China].
  Peter said   Jan has  Marie  this book  prt.-sent  from China
b. # Peter zei [Jan wildefinite Marie dit boek toestureninf vanuit China].
  Peter said   Jan wanted  Marie  this book  prt.-sent  from China
c. # Peter zei [Jan stuurdefinite Marie dit boek toe vanuit China].
  Peter said   Jan sent  Marie this book  prt.  from China

The examples in (24) show that the cases in (23) do not improve when we add the complementizer dat'that'. Again, this is not a trivial fact given that this is the natural way of forming embedded declarative clauses in, e.g., English; cf. John said that John has sent Mary the book from China.

Example 24
a. * Peter zei [dat Jan heeftfinite Marie dit boek toegestuurdpart vanuit China].
  Peter said   that Jan has  Marie  this book  prt.-sent  from China
b. * Peter zei [dat Jan wildefinite Marie dit boek toestureninf vanuit China].
  Peter said   that  Jan wanted  Marie  this book  prt.-sent  from China
c. * Peter zei [dat Jan stuurdefinite Marie dit boek toe vanuit China].
  Peter said   that  Jan sent  Marie this book  prt.  from China

The requirement that the verb be clause-final is, however, not absolute; there are a number of adverbial clauses that do allow the verb in first/second position. The examples in (25), for instance, show that conditional clauses may be introduced by the complementizer-like element als'if' and have the finite verb in clause-final position, but they may also occur without als and then have the finite verb in first position. Exceptional cases like these are discussed in Section 10.3.

Example 25
a. Als hij niet komt, dan krijgt hij niets.
  if  he  not  comes  then  gets  he  nothing
  'If he doesnʼt come, he wonʼt get anything.'
b. Komt hij niet, dan krijgt hij niets.
  comes  he  not  then  gets  he  nothing
  'If he doesnʼt come, he wonʼt get anything.'
[+]  III.  The standard analysis

The two subsections above have shown that main and embedded clauses differ in the position of finite verbs: they appear in second position in main clauses but in clause-final position in embedded clauses. The current standard analysis relates this difference to the distribution of complementizers: these are normally excluded in main but obligatory in embedded clauses. Paardekooper (1961) has shown that complementizers in embedded clauses and finite verbs in main clauses are placed in the same position with respect to pronominal subjects. When we put subject-initial main clauses aside for the moment, the examples in (26) show that such subject pronouns are always right-adjacent to the finite verb in main clauses and the complementizer in embedded clauses.

Example 26
a. Gisteren was ik/je/hij voor zaken in Utrecht.
main clause
  yesterday  was I/you/he  on business  in Utrecht
  'Yesterday, I was/you were/he was in Utrecht on business.'
a'. * Gisteren was voor zaken ik/je/hij in Utrecht.
b. dat ik/je/hij voor zaken in Utrecht was.
embedded clause
  that  I/you/he  on business  in Utrecht was
  'that I was/you were/he was in Utrecht on business.'
b'. * dat voor zaken ik/je/hij in Utrecht was.

Paardekooper concludes from this that finite verbs in main clauses occupy the same position as complementizers in embedded clauses. He suggests that this similarity of placement is related to the fact that complementizers and finite verbs enter into a similar relationship with the subject of the clause, as is clear from the fact that in certain Dutch dialects (but not in Standard Dutch) complementizers and finite verbs may agree in number and person with the subject of the clause. Paardekooper illustrates this by means of the two examples in (27) taken from Van Haeringen (1939). Note that the complementizer as'when' in these examples introduces temporal adverbial clauses, but that we find similar agreement in complement clauses introduced by the declarative complementizer dat'that' or the interrogative complementizer of'whether'; see Haegeman (1992), Hoekstra & Smit (1997), Zwart (1997) and the references given there for examples and more information.

Example 27
a. Assg Wim kompsg, mot zorgə dat je tuis ben.
  when  Wim  comes must  you  make.sure  that  you  at.home  are
  'When Wim comes, you must make sure to be at home.'
b. Azzəpl Kees en Wim komməpl, mot zorgə dat je tuis ben.
  when  Kees and Wim  come  must  you  make.sure  that  you  home  are
  'When Kees and Wim come, you must make sure to be at home.'

Paardekooper did not discuss the relation between the two positions of the finite verb in main and embedded clauses. The nature of this relation became, however, an urgent matter in early transformational grammar, in which it was assumed that the surface representations of sentences are transformationally derived from more abstract underlying forms. The main issue was: which word order is more basic—the one in main clauses or the one in embedded clauses? Koster (1975) convincingly argued that the order found in embedded clauses is more basic, on the basis of the following economy argument. If we assume that all verbs are base-generated in clause-final position, we only need a single verb-second rule that operates in main clauses and places the finite verb in second position: the rule in (28) simply expresses that finite verbs can be placed in second position in main clauses (X, Y and Z simply stand for a non-specified string of elements).

Example 28
Verb-second (main clauses only)
X Y Vfinite Z ⇒
X Vfinite Y Z

If we assumed that verbs are all generated in second position, however, we would need at least two rules: (i) one rule that places all non-finite verbs in clause-final position and (ii) another rule that places the finite verb in clause-final position in embedded clauses. In fact, Koster (1975) argues that we need many more word order rules on this assumption, but we refer the interested reader to Koster's classic article or to Zwart (2011: part II) for a more detailed technical introduction.
      Building on Paardekooper's insight, Den Besten (1983) added to Koster's economy argument the claim that the verb-second rule can be formulated in such a way that we can appeal to positions independently needed by assuming that the finite verb moves into the position normally occupied by the complementizer in embedded clauses; cf. Emonds' (1976) structure preservation constraint. The difference between main and embedded clauses is depicted in (29) on the basis of the structure proposed in (10). Note in passing that it is often assumed that head movement cannot skip intervening heads like T or X (but moves through them in a successive cyclic way); we have ignored this here but we will briefly return to it in Section 9.3.

Example 29

If we take the examples in (26) to show that subject pronouns obligatorily occupy the specifier of TP, that is the position left-adjacent to the T-head, this combination of the findings by Paardekooper and Koster provides a simple formal account of the basic Standard Dutch facts discussed so far.

[+]  IV.  Conclusion

This section has briefly discussed the placement of the verbs in main and embedded clauses. We have seen that verbs are normally placed in clause-final position with the exception of finite verbs in main clauses, which occur in second position. We argued that this second position is the same position as the position occupied by complementizers in embedded clauses. By means of the verb positions V and C, we can divide the clause into three parts, as indicated in Figure (30). Sections 9.3 to 9.5 will discuss these parts in more detail.

Example 30
References:
  • Hoekstra, Eric & Smit, Caroline (eds.)1997Vervoegde voegwoordenCahiers van het P.J. Meertens-InstituutAmsterdamP.J. Meertens-Instituut
  • Barbiers, Sjef, Bennis, Hans, Vogelaer, Gunther de, Devos, Magda & Ham, Margreet van de2005Syntactic atlas of the Dutch dialectsAmsterdamAmsterdam University Press
  • Besten, Hans den1983On the interaction of root transformations and lexical deletive rulesAbraham, Werner (ed.)On the formal nature of the WestgermaniaAmsterdamBenjamins47--131
  • Emonds, Joseph1976A transformational approach to English syntax: root, structure-preserving, and local transformationsNew YorkAcademic Press
  • Haegeman, Liliane1992Theory and description in generative syntax: a case study in West FlemishCambridge studies in linguistics; Supplementary volumeCambridgeCambridge University Press
  • Haeringen, C.B. van1939Congruerende voegwoordenTijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal en Letterkunde58161-176
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haider, Hubert1985V-second in GermanHaider, Hubert & Prinzhorn, Martin (eds.)Verb second phenomena in Germanic languagesDordrecht/RivertonForis Publications49-75
  • Haider, Hubert2010The syntax of GermanCambridgeCambridge University Press
  • Koster, Jan1975Dutch as an SOV languageLinguistic Analysis1111-136
  • Koster, Jan1975Dutch as an SOV languageLinguistic Analysis1111-136
  • Paardekooper, P.C1961Persoonsvorm en voegwoordDe Nieuwe Taalgids54296-301
  • Zwart, Jan-Wouter1997Morphosyntax of verb movement. A minimalist approach to the syntax of DutchDordrechtKluwer Academic Publishers
  • Zwart, Jan-Wouter2011The syntax of DutchCambridgeCambridge University Press
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