• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
11.3.Clause-initial position is filled

This section discusses clauses in which the clause-initial position in representation (85) is filled by some constituent. This results in V2-clauses (that is, main clauses with the finite verb in second position) or embedded clauses with some constituent preceding the complementizer (which is then normally phonetically empty). We refer the reader to Section 9.1 for a more detailed discussion of representation (85).

Example 85

In main clauses, the unmarked filler of the clause-initial position is the subject of the clause, as in (86a), but there are at least four marked constructions in which some other constituent precedes the finite verb: wh-questions such as (86b), topicalization constructions such as (86c), and exclamative constructions such as (86d). The use of traces in (86b-d) reflects the traditional hypothesis in generative grammar that these examples are derived by movement; traces indicate the base position of the moved phrases (here: the object position in the middle field of the clause). Alternative hypotheses are available, but will not be discussed here.

Example 86
a. Jan heeft Het geuzenboek van Louis-Paul Boon gelezen.
  Jan has  Het geuzenboek  by Louis-Paul Boon  read
  'Jan has read Het geuzenboek by Louis-Paul Boon.'
b. [Welk boek]i heeft Jan ti gelezen?
  which book  has  Jan  read
  'Which book has Jan read?'
c. [Dit boek]i heeft Jan ti gelezen.
  this book  has  Jan  read
  'This book, Jan has read.'
d. [Wat een boeken]i heeft Jan ti gelezen!
  what a books  has  Jan  read
  'What a lot of books Jan has read!'

      The examples in (87) show that the clause-initial position of declarative embedded clauses normally remains empty; the complementizer precedes the subject and topicalization is excluded. Observe that the complementizer in (87b&c) is in parentheses because this element is normally not phonetically realized in Standard Dutch if the first position is filled by phonetically realized material; if the first position is (phonetically) empty, as in (87a), the phonetic content of the complementizer cannot be omitted.

Example 87
a. Marie zegt [CP Ø dat [TP Jan dit boek niet gelezen heeft]].
  Marie says  that  Jan this book  not  read  has
  'Marie says that Jan hasnʼt read this book.'
b. * Marie zegt [Jani (dat) [TP tidit boek niet gelezen heeft]].
c. * Marie zegt [dit boeki (dat) [TP Jan tiniet gelezen heeft]].

The examples in (88) show that the clause-initial position is filled in embedded wh-questions, relative clauses and embedded exclamative constructions. It has been noted above that the phonetic content of the complementizer of/dat is normally omitted in written and formal Standard Dutch if the clause-initial position is phonetically filled. The complementizers are in parentheses, however, because it is often possible to overtly express the complementizer in such cases in colloquial speech as well as in certain dialects.

Example 88
a. Marie vroeg [CP wati (of) [TP Jan ti wilde lezen]].
  Marie asked  what   if  Jan  wanted  read
  'Marie asked what Jan wanted to read.'
b. de boeken [CP diei (dat) [TP hij ti heeft gelezen]]
relative clause
  the books  which   that  he  has  read
  'the books (that) he has read'
c. Ik vergat [CP [wat een boeken]i (dat) [TP hij ti heeft gelezen]].
  forgot   what a books  comp  he  has  read
  'I had forgotten that he has read so many books.'

      In examples like (86) and (88), the result of movement is immediately visible but there are also constructions for which it has been argued that wh-movement affects a phonetically empty element, as a result of which movement can only be detected by the presence of an interpretative gap. An example of such a construction is the so-called comparative deletion construction in (89), in which we indicate the gap by means of e. Note in passing that in constructions like these one of the verbs is often omitted under identity; we indicate this here by strikethrough.

Example 89
dat de tafel [AP even lang] is [als de bank [APe] is].
comparative deletion
  that  the table  as long  is   as  the couch  is
'that the table is as long as the couch is.'

Note further that certain main clauses with V1-orders have also been analyzed as involving a phonetically element in clause-initial position; we refer the reader to Section 11.2 for a discussion of such cases.
      One of the main findings in generative grammar is that the syntactic relation between constituents in clause-initial position and their traces is subject to a set of general conditions; see Ross (1967) and Chomsky (1973/1977), and Cheng & Corver for a very brief historical review (2006). For this reason the movements found in the constructions in (86) and (88) are often referred to by means of a single cover term, wh-movement; this name is derived from the fact that in English the moved constituents often contains a word starting with wh- like the interrogative pronoun who in (90a) or the relative pronoun which in (90b).

Example 90
a. I wonder [whoi you will meet ti tomorrow].
b. the book [whichi you bought ti yesterday]

The reader should keep in mind, however, that the notion of wh-movement covers all movements in (86) and (88), and not only those involving an interrogative or a relative pronoun. The following sections will successively discuss wh-movement in wh-questions (Section 11.3.1), in relative clauses (Section 11.3.2), in various types of topicalization constructions (Section 11.3.3), in exclamative constructions (Section 11.3.4), and in comparative deletion constructions (Section 11.3.5). Section 11.3.6 addresses the phenomenon of reconstruction, that is, the fact that wh-moved phrases behave in certain respects as if they still occupy their base position (the position of their trace); reconstruction is therefore often construed as strong evidence in favor of a movement analysis of wh-questions. Section 11.3.7 concludes this section on wh-movement with an appendix discussing so-called parasitic gaps, that is, interpretative gaps in the structure that only arise (under certain conditions) if some other gap is present that results from, e.g., wh-movement.

  • Cheng, Lisa & Corver, Norbert2006Lines of inquiry into <i>wh</i>-movementCheng, Lisa & Corver, Norbert (eds.)<i>Wh</i>-movement: moving onCambridge, MA/LondonMIT Press
  • Chomsky, Noam1973Conditions on transformationsAnderson, Stephen & Kiparsky, Paul (eds.)A festschrift for Morris HalleNew YorkHolt, Rinehart, and Winston71-132
  • Chomsky, Noam1977On <i>wh</i>-movementCulicover, Peter W., Wasow, Thomas & Akmajian, Adrian (eds.)Formal syntaxNew YorkAcademic Press71-132
  • Ross, John1967Constraints on variables in syntaxBloomingtonIndiana university linguistics club