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It has been a long-standing insight in Dutch syntax that the clause can be divided into several topological fields which can be defined by means of the positions that can be occupied by verbs: the verb-second position, which is occupied by finite verbs in main clauses, and the so-called clause-final verb position, in which the remaining verbs find a place. In the examples in (1) these verb positions are shown in italics. Note that we will follow the general practice of abbreviating the notions of "verb-second" and "clause-final verb" position as "second" and "clause-final" position; this is not problematic as long as one does not take the notion "clause-final" too literally because the verb(s) occupying this position can be followed by other material.

Example 1
a. Gisteren is Jan naar de dierenarts geweest met zijn hond.
  yesterday  is Jan  to the vet  been  with his dog
  'Jan went to the vet with his dog yesterday.'
b. Hoe wil Jan dat boek versturen naar zijn dochter?
  how  wants  Jan that book  send  to his daughter
  'How does Jan want to send that book to his daughter?'

Since Paardekooper (1961) it has generally been assumed that the verb-second position in examples such as (1) is identical to the position occupied by the complementizers dat'that' and of'if/whether' in their embedded counterparts in (2); in such examples the finite verb forms a verb cluster with the non-finite verbs in clause-final position. Note that the complementizer of in wh-questions like (2b) is optional in colloquial speech (and normally not realized in writing/formal speech).

Example 2
a. Ik denk [dat Jan gisteren naar de dierenarts is geweest met zijn hond].
  think   that  Jan yesterday  to the vet  is been  with his dog
  'I think that Jan went to the vet with his dog yesterday.'
b. Ik vroeg [hoe (of) Jan dat boek wil versturen naar zijn dochter]?
  asked   how   if  Jan that book  wants  send  to his daughter
  'I asked how Jan wants to send that book to his daughter.'

With the help of the two verb positions introduced above, we can define three topological fields, as indicated in (3). The clause-initial position can contain at most one constituent, which normally has some specific information-structural function: it can be a question word, a discourse topic, a contrastively focused element, etc. The middle field may contain constituents of various types, such as nominal and prepositional arguments, complementives, and adverbial phrases. The same holds for the postverbal field, which normally contains longer constituents, such as complement clauses, relative clauses, and adverbial phrases/clauses.

Example 3

Although distinguishing these topological fields is very useful in discussing word order, Section 9.1 will show that using the positions and fields distinguished in (3) is not unproblematical since they do not seem to have an independent theoretical status; we will therefore in due course replace the structure in (3) by the somewhat more sophisticated structural representation of the clause in (4); this representation shows that especially the (linear notion of) middle field crosses various (hierarchical) domain boundaries normally assumed in generative grammar.

Example 4

This chapter also aims at providing a bird's eye view of the overall organization of the clause by briefly introducing a number of movement phenomena affecting the linear order of the clause: verb-second (Section 9.2), wh-movement and topicalization (Section 9.3), extraposition (Section 9.4), and scrambling (Section 9.5). These phenomena will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 10 to Chapter 13; readers who are primarily interested in browsing through the relevant data may go to these chapters immediately.

  • Paardekooper, P.C1961Persoonsvorm en voegwoordDe Nieuwe Taalgids54296-301