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9.4. The postverbal field

The postverbal field differs from the clause-initial position in that it does not consist of a unique, single position: it can readily contain more than one constituent of the clause. This is illustrated in the examples in (48), taken from Koster (1974); in (48a) all constituents precede the clause-final verb, in (48b&c) the verb is followed by a single constituent, while in (48d) it is followed by two constituents. The examples in (48) also show that the phrases in the postverbal field can be of various types: the PP aan zijn vader is a PP-complement of the verb whereas the PP tijdens de pauze is an adverbial modifier of time. Nevertheless, it is not the case that all arguments and adverbial phrases can be placed in the postverbal field; one of the goals of this section is to establish a number of restrictions on this option.

Example 48
a. dat Jan tijdens de pauze aan zijn vader dacht.
  that  Jan during the break  of his father  thought
  'that Jan was thinking of his father during the break.'
b. dat Jan tijdens de pauze dacht aan zijn vader.
c. dat Jan aan zijn vader dacht tijdens de pauze.
d. dat Jan dacht aan zijn vader tijdens de pauze.

The discussion in this section is organized as follows, subsection I starts with a discussion of the placement of the arguments of the verb, and show that their ability to occur postverbally depends on their categorial status: nominal complements normally precede, complement clauses normally follow, and PP-complements can normally either precede or follow the clause-final verb(s), subsection II discusses the restrictions on the distribution of adverbial phrases; it will show that various types of adverbial phrases can occur either pre- or postverbally, with the notable exception of manner adverbs, which must precede the clause-final verb(s), subsection III will show that the postverbal field may contain not only entire clausal constituents, but also subparts of such constituents, like relative clauses or PP-modifiers of nominal arguments.

[+]  I.  Arguments of the verb

The examples in (49a&b) show that nominal arguments differ from clausal arguments in that the former normally precede the clause-final verb(s), whereas the latter follow them. PP-complements differ from nominal and clausal arguments in that they normally may either precede or follow the clause-final verb(s).

Example 49
a. dat Jan hem <het verhaal> vertelde <*het verhaal>.
nominal compl.
  that  Jan him    the story  told
  'that Jan told him the story.'
b. dat Jan hem <*dat zij komt> vertelde <dat zij komt>.
clausal compl.
  that  Jan him   that she comes  told
  'that Jan told him that sheʼll come.'
c. dat Jan hem <over haar komst> vertelde <over haar komst>.
  that  Jan him   about her arrival  told
  'that Jan told him about her arrival.'

Subsection A discusses the contrast between nominal and clausal complements while subsection B continues with a discussion of the placement of PP-complements, subsection C is comparative and more theoretical in nature; it deals briefly with the placement of the same types of arguments in English in order to show that our findings for Dutch may reflect some more general property of (at least) the Germanic languages.

[+]  A.  Nominal versus clausal complements

The placement differences of nominal and clausal complements relative to the clause-final verb(s) illustrated in (49a&b) have been a focus of attention ever since the rise of early generative grammar. The assumption that direct objects are inserted in the complement position of the verb inevitably led to the conclusion that alternate placements of direct objects in the sentence are the result of some movement transformation. So the question arose what the base-position of the direct object is: that of the nominal complement in (49a) or that of the clausal complement in (49b)? The consensus on this question in the mid 1970s seemed to be that underlyingly Dutch is an OV-language and that objects must therefore be uniformly base-generated in preverbal position; examples such as (49b) are thus derived by means of an obligatory extraposition rule, which moves the clause from the preverbal object position into some postverbal position; cf. Koster (1973/1974/1975).
      Although the extraposition approach remained dominant until the mid 1990s, it was clear from the start that it was not without its problems; cf. De Haan (1979). The most conspicuous problem had to do with freezing: since extraposition is movement and movement normally gives rise to a freezing effect, the extraposition approach predicts that clausal complements are islands for extraction; however, the sentence in (50), in which wh-movement takes place from an embedded clause, shows that this prediction is incorrect.

Example 50
Welk boeki heeft Jan gezegd [dat mijn zuster ti gelezen heeft]?
  which book  has  Jan said  comp  my sister  read  has
'Which book has Jan said that my sister has read?'

One potential way of saving the assumption that Dutch is underlyingly an OV-language and thus requires the direct object to be base-generated in preverbal position is to assume that the postverbal clause is actually not the true object of the verb but that it is dependent on a phonetically empty anticipatory object pronoun comparable to het in (51a), in which we indicate the relation between the pronoun and the clause by means of indices; see Koster (1999) for a defense of this analysis. However, this analysis is generally rejected because (51b) shows that the presence of an overt anticipatory pronoun normally blocks wh-movement from the embedded clause; see Hoekstra (1983), Bennis (1986), and many others Note that we have added the particle nog in these examples, since some speakers seem to prefer some material between the anticipatory pronoun and the clause-final verb.

Example 51
a. dat Jan heti (nog) zei [dat mijn zuster dat boek gelezen heeft]i.
  that  Jan  it  prt  said  that my sister  that book  read  has
  'that Jan said it that my sister has read that book.'
b. * Welk boeki heeft Jan heti (nog) gezegd [dat mijn zuster ti gelezen heeft]i?
  which book  has  Jan it  prt  said   that  my sister  read  has
  Intended reading: 'Which book has Jan said that my sister has read?'

If we continue assuming that nominal and clausal objects are base-generated in the same position, the obvious alternative to explore is to assume that they are both base-generated in postverbal position and that the nominal object is moved into some preverbal position. This approach has become popular since Kayne (1994), in which it was argued that rightward movement is excluded on general grounds, and that movement is thus uniformly to the left. A virtue of this approach is that we know independently that noun phrases may raise to higher/more leftward positions; for example, it is standardly assumed that the subject of a passive sentence is raised from the position occupied by the direct object of the corresponding active clause into the regular subject position of the clause, as in (52b), in order to get nominative case and/or to establish agreement with the finite verb.

Example 52
a. dat Jan Marie het boek aanbood.
  that  Jan Marie  the book  prt.- offered
  'that Jan offered Mary the book.'
b. dat het boeki Marie ti aangeboden werd.
  that  the book  Marie  prt.-offered  was
  'that the book was offered to Marie.'

In line with this tack, we might assume that the nominal object likewise moves from its underlying postverbal position into some higher position in which it can be assigned accusative case or establish abstract (that is, phonetically invisible) object-verb agreement (which is morphologically expressed in many other languages). A potential problem for this proposal is that it wrongly predicts freezing of the nominal direct object; example (53a) shows that the phrase wat voor een boek'what kind of book' functions as a single nominal phrase, which strongly suggests that (53b) is derived by extraction of the element wat from this complex phrase and thus that nominal objects are not islands for wh-extraction.

Example 53
a. [Wat voor een boek]i heeft mijn zuster ti gelezen.
  what kind of book  has  my sister  read
  'What kind of book did my sister read?'
b. Wati heeft mijn zuster [ti voor een boek] gelezen.

The discussion above shows that we can only maintain the assumption that nominal and clausal complements are base-generated in the same position if we assume that specific obligatory movement operations do not result in freezing; see Broekhuis (2008) for a proposal to that effect. It may, however, also be the case that the presupposition that nominal and clausal complements are base-generated in the same position is incorrect and that they are simply base-generated in, respectively, some pre- and postverbal position, as was proposed in De Haan (1979:44) and Barbiers (2000). A potential problem for this solution is that the verb and the postverbal clause should be considered a base-generated constituent, which leads to the wrong prediction that postverbal clauses must precede extraposed phrases, such as the PP tegen Peter'to Peter' in (54).

Example 54
a. dat Jan tegen Peter [zei [dat hij zou komen]].
  that  Jan  to Peter  said  that  he  would  come
  'that Jan said to Peter that he would come.'
b. ?? dat Jan zei [dat hij zou komen] tegen Peter.
  that  Jan  said   that  he  would  come  to Peter
b'. dat Jan zei tegen Peter [dat hij zou komen].
  that  Jan  said  to Peter  that  he  would  come

This subsection has briefly discussed three approaches to the placement of nominal and clausal arguments: two movement approaches (one involving rightward movement of clausal and one involving leftward movement of nominal arguments) and one base-generation approach. We have seen that they all rubn into various potential problems for which special provisions should be made.

[+]  B.  PP-complements

Subsection A has shown that nominal and clausal complements are strictly ordered with respect to the clause-final verb(s). This subsection shows that this does not hold for PP-complements, which can normally occur either to the left or to the right of these verbs.

Example 55
a. dat Jan <over het probleem> nadacht < over het probleem >.
  that  Jan    about the problem  prt.-thought
  'that Jan was thinking about the problem.'
b. dat Jan <op het telefoontje> wacht <op het telefoontje >.
  that  Jan   for the phone.call  waits
  'that Jan is waiting for the phone call.'

In cases like these it seems easy to establish the base-position of the PP: assuming that the two positions are related by movement, we predict that the PP in the derived position will exhibit a freezing effect. The fact illustrated by the examples in (56) that R-extraction is possible from the preverbal but not from the postverbal PP leads to the conclusion that the preverbal position is the more basic one; cf. Ruys (2008). This can be taken to support an OV-analysis of Dutch, provided we assume that PP-complements are base-generated in the complement position of the verb.

Example 56
a. dat Jan er de hele dag <aan> dacht <*aan>
  that  Jan there  the whole day  about  thought
  'that Jan was thinking about it all day.'
b. dat Jan er de hele dag <op> wacht <*op>
  that  Jan there  the whole day    for  waits
  'that Jan was waiting for it all day.'

The conclusion that the postverbal placement of PP-complements is the result of an extraposition operation, which has become known as PP-over-V, seems virtually inescapable if one assumes that movement invariably gives rise to a freezing effect. However, there are also problems with the claim that the stranded prepositions in (56) occupy the complement position of the verb. First consider example (57a), which shows that so-called VP-topicalization involves movement of a larger verb phrase that may include at least the direct object, that is, the complement position of the main verb. The earlier conclusion that stranded prepositions must occupy the base-position of the PP-complement therefore implies that the stranded preposition is VP-internal and must consequently be pied-piped by VP-topicalization. Example (57b') shows, however, that pied piping gives rise to an ungrammatical result; cf. Den Besten & Webelhuth (1990).

Example 57
a. [VP Dat boek lezen] wil Jan niet ti.
  that book read  wants  Jan  not
  'Jan doesnʼt want to read that book.'
b. [VP wachten]i wil Jan er niet opti.
  wait  wants  Jan there  not  for
b'. * [VP op wachten]i wil Jan er niet ti.
  for  wait  want  Jan there  not

If we accept the freezing effect as a diagnostic for movement, the acceptability of (57b) suggests that PP-complements are not base-generated as a complement of the verb at all, but VP-externally. Analyses of this sort have indeed been proposed on independent grounds and amount to saying that extraposition of PPs does not result from rightward movement of the PP but from leftward movement of the VP into a position left-adjacent of the PP. An early proposal of this kind can be found in Barbiers (1995), who claims that the landing site of the VP is the specifier of the PP, and that this turns the PP into an island for extraction. A potential problem for this proposal is that PP-complements are not generated within the lexical projection of the verb, but this can be solved if we follow Kayne (2004), who claims that PP-complements of verbs are not inserted as a unit but derived in the course of the derivation; the preposition is inserted as a functional head, which attracts a nominal complement of the verb. We will not discuss these proposals in detail here, but confine ourselves to stating that it is not a priori evident whether PP-complements are base-generated to the left or to the right of the clause-final verb(s) and, perhaps even more surprising, that it is not even evident that they are base-generated in the complement position of the verb.

[+]  C.  A comparison with English

The early extraposition approach considers the clause-final verb(s) to be the pivot around which a number of syntactic processes take place. Complements are inserted in preverbal position and various category-specific movement rules lead to a reordering of the verb and its complements. Such rearrangements are excluded with nominal complements, obligatory with clausal complements, and optional with PP-complements. The central role attributed to the verb is very aptly expressed by the term PP-over-V in the case of extraposition of PPs. More recent research has shown, however, that the pivotal role of verbs is perhaps an incidental property of Dutch. This can be clarified with the help of the English examples in (58).

Example 58
a. that John told the story yesterday.
b. * that John told yesterday the story.
b'. * that John said that he will come yesterday.
b''. that John said yesterday that he will come.
c. that John waited for his father a long time.
c'. that John waited a long time for his father.

Despite the fact that nominal, clausal, and prepositional complements all follow the main verb in English, it is clear that they exhibit a distributional difference similar to the corresponding elements in Dutch. The fact that clausal complements must follow time adverbs such as yesterday, whereas nominal complements normally precede such adverbs, shows that these complements occupy different positions. The fact that the PP-complement may either precede or follow the adverbial phrase a long time reflects the distributional behavior of the Dutch PP. The correspondence between the Dutch and English examples shows that what is at stake here is not so much the position of the complements relative to the verb but their absolute positions; in Dutch as well as in English, the three types of complements simply occupy different positions in the clause. An interesting hypothesis would be therefore that Dutch and English behave identically when it comes to the placement of the complements of the verb, but differently when it comes to the placement of the verb itself. One implementation, which seems to be widely accepted by the current generation of generative grammarians, is the claim that the lexical domain of the clause is not just a simple projection of the verb V, as suggested by the representation in (10), repeated here as (59a), but consists of at least two projections: one headed by a root element, which is normally (somewhat misleadingly) represented by V, and another headed by a so-called light verb v, as indicated in (59b); cf. Chomsky (1995). Recall that X in this structure stands for an indeterminate number of functional heads that may be needed to provide a full description of the structure of the clause.

Example 59
a. [CP ... C [TP ... T [XP ... X [VP ... V ...]]]]
b. [CP ... C [TP ... T [XP ... X [vP ... v [VP ... V ...]]]]]

The basic intuition behind the structure in (59b) is that all verbs are in fact derived from some non-verbal root by means of affixation with the verbal morpheme v. Although normally the light verb v is phonetically empty in Dutch, the hypothesis receives empirical support from Latinate verbs like irriteren'to irritate': this verb can be taken to be derived from a non-verbal root irrit -, which can also be used as the input of the adjective irritant or the noun irritatie. The Dutch light verb v can thus be seen as a zero morpheme comparable to -eren in (60a).

Example 60
a. [[irrit-]stem -erenV] 'to irritate'
b. [[irrit-]stem -antA] 'irritating'
c. [[irrit-]stem -atieN] 'irritation'

The correspondences between Dutch and English can now be accounted for by assuming that in these languages nominal, clausal, and prepositional complements occupy the same surface positions in the clause, while the differences can be accounted for by assuming that the root V moves to (merges with) the light verb v in English but not in Dutch embedded clauses. This is shown for nominal and clausal complements in (61). The postulated difference in V-to-v movement between English and Dutch can in fact be held responsible for the fact that English surfaces as a VO-language, whereas Dutch surfaces as an OV-language; see Barbiers (2000) and Broekhuis (2008/2011) for discussion.

Example 61

Note in passing that the schematic representation in (61) is not intended to make any claim about the base-positions of nominal and clausal complements; it may well be that VP is in fact a larger constituent within which the nominal or the clausal complement has moved to its surface position; see Johnson (1991), Koizumi (1993) and Broekhuis (2008) for arguments in favor of leftward movement of nominal objects within this VP-domain.

[+]  D.  Conclusion

This subsection has briefly discussed the distribution of postverbal arguments: nominal and clausal arguments occur, respectively, pre- and postverbally, while PP-complements may occur on either side of the clause-final verb(s). By adopting the claim that complements are all base-generated in the complement position of the verb, generative grammar has attempted to account for the different placement options by means of specific rearrangements in the clause. Early proposals involved obligatory extraposition of clausal arguments and optional PP-over-V. Since the mid-1990s, proposals have been developed that involve leftward movement of nominal complements and verbal projections. And there are also proposals that simply reject the claim that nominal and clausal arguments are base-generated in the same position. The debate concerning the derivation of the extant surface orders is ongoing and far from settled, and this subsection has reviewed only a small number of empirical facts that have played a crucial role in motivating/testing the various proposals. A more extensive description of the data can be found in Section 12.2.

[+]  II.  Adverbial modifiers

It is often claimed that the postverbal field may contain not only prepositional and clausal complements of the verb, but also various types of adverbial phrases (although we will see in Section 12.3 that this claim has recently been challenged and may be in need of revision). If correct, it should be noted that the availability of this option is related to the function of the adverbial phrase: adverbial phrases that affect the denotation of the verb, like manner adverbs, must occur preverbally, whereas all other adverbial phrases may occur either pre- or postverbally in speech (with the postverbal position often being the stylistically marked one if the adverbial phrase is not a PP).

Example 62
a. dat Jan het boek <grondig> las <*grondig>.
  that  Jan the book  thoroughly  read
  'that Jan read the book carefully.'
b. dat Jan het boek <in de tuin> leest <in de tuin>.
  that  Jan the book in the garden  reads
  'that Jan is reading the book in the garden.'
c. dat Jan het boek <verleden week> heeft gelezen <verleden week>.
  that  Jan the book    last week  has  read
  'that Jan read the book last week.'
d. dat Jan het boek <waarschijnlijk> zal lezen <waarschijnlijk>.
  that  Jan the book    probably  will read
  'that Jan will probably read the book.'

The examples in (62) also show that postverbal adverbial phrases can be of several syntactic categories: example (62b) involves a prepositional phrase, example (62c) a nominal phrase, and (62d) an adjectival phrase. The fact that nominal adverbial phrases may occur postverbally shows that the obligatory preverbal placement of nominal arguments cannot be accounted for by assuming a general ban on postverbal nominal phrases (unless one would like to assume that these are in fact PPs with an empty preposition; see Larson 1985 and McCawley 1988 for discussion).
      The instances in (63) show that it is not only nominal adverbial phrases that differ from nominal arguments, but that adverbial clauses likewise differ from clausal complements: unlike the latter, the former need not be in postverbal position but can also occur preverbally. It should be noted, however, that postverbal placement of adverbial clauses is often preferred for stylistic reasons, e.g., to avoid that the middle field becomes too long/complex.

Example 63
a. dat Jan [voordat hij vertrok] iedereen een hand gaf.
  that  Jan   before  he  left  everybody  a hand  gave
  'that Jan shook hands with everybody before he left.'
a'. dat Jan iedereen een hand gaf [voordat hij vertrok].
b. dat Jan [omdat hij ziek was] naar huis ging.
  that  Jan   because  he  ill  was  to home  went
  'that Jan went home because he was ill.'
b'. dat Jan naar huis ging [omdat hij ziek was].
[+]  III.  Postverbal phrases that are not constituents of the clause

The postverbal field may not only contain arguments of the verb and adverbial modifiers, but also subparts of such constituents. This is illustrated in the primed examples in (64) by means of, respectively, a relative clause and a PP-modifier of the direct object.

Example 64
a. Jan heeft [NP het boek [rel-clause dat Els hem gegeven heeft]] gelezen.
  Jan has  the book   that  Els him  given  has  read
  'Jan has read the book that Els gave him.'
a'. Jan heeft [NP het boek] gelezen [rel-clause dat Els hem gegeven heeft].
b. Jan heeft [NP het boek [PP met de gele kaft]] gelezen.
  Jan has  the book  with the yellow cover  read
  'Jan has read the book with the yellow cover.'
b'. Jan heeft [NP het boek] gelezen [PP met de gele kaft].

The examples in (65) shows that this option is available not only for modifiers of complements of the verb but also for phrases that are more deeply embedded: in (65a) the postverbal relative clause modifies the noun phrase het boek'the book', which is itself part of a PP-complement of the verb; in (65b) the postverbal PP functions as the PP-complement of the predicative AP erg trots preceding the verb; and in (65c) the postverbal relative clause modifies a noun phrase that is embedded in a PP-complement of this predicative AP.

Example 65
a. dat Jan [PP op het boek] wacht [rel-clause dat Els hem toegestuurd heeft].
  that  Jan  for the book  waits  that  Els him  prt.-sent  has
  'that Jan is waiting for the book that Els has sent him.'
b. dat Jan [AP erg trots] is [PP op zijn zoon]].
  that  Jan  very proud  is  of his son
  'that Jan is very proud of his son.'
c. Dat Jan [AP erg trots op het boek] is [rel-clause dat hij geschreven heeft]].
  that  Jan  very proud of the book  is  that  he  written  has
  'that Jan is very proud of the book that he has written.'

If we assume that the postverbal phrase is generated as part of the preverbal nominal/adjectival phrase, there are again at least two possible analyses: one is that the larger phrase is base-generated preverbally and that the modifier/complement of this phrase is in extraposed position, and another is that the larger phrase is base-generated postverbally and that the modifier/complement of this phrase is stranded by leftward movement of this phrase. The first proposal is the one standardly adopted in early generative grammar; cf., e.g., Reinhart (1980) and Baltin (1983). The second one was first proposed by Vergnaud (1974) for relative clauses and has become quite popular since Kayne (1994); see also Bianchi (1999). An alternative approach, which is attractive in view of the depth of embedding of the modified phrases, is that the postverbal phrase has never been part of the preverbal phrase but is generated as an independent phrase; see Kaan (1992), Koster (2000), De Vries (2002:ch.7) and much subsequent work. We will take this issue up again in Section 12.4.

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