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10.1. Placement of the finite verb

Example (5a) shows that in embedded clauses verbs are situated in what is normally referred to as the clause-final position. Since the use of this notion may give rise to various misunderstandings, Subsection I starts by briefly discussing some potential problems with this notion. After this, Subsection II continues with a discussion of verb-first/second (often simply referred to as verb-second), that is, the movement operation that places the finite verb in the first or second position of main clauses. Verb-second is generally found in declarative clauses, in which the finite verb is preceded by the subject or some other phrase; wh-questions such as (5b) are prototypical instantiations of the latter case. Verb-first is found if the first position of the sentence remains (phonetically) empty; yes/no-questions such as (5c) are prototypical instantiations of this.

a. dat Jan dat boek wilfinite lezeninfinitive.
  that  Jan that book  wants  read
  'that Jan wants to read that book.'
b. Wat wilfinite Jan lezeninfinitive?
  what  wants  Jan read
  'What does Jan want to read?'
c. Wilfinite Jan dat boek lezeninfinitive?
  wants  Jan that book  read
  'Does Jan want to read that book?'

Subsection III concludes the discussion of the placement of the finite verb by considering the verb-first/second rule from a cross-linguistic perspective.

[+]  I.  Clause-final verbs

Verbs are normally in clause-final position; Subsection II will show that the only exception is the finite verb, which is moved into first/second position in main clauses. The use of the notion clause-final position is inadequate in various respects. First, it suggests that the clause-final verbs demarcate the right boundary of the clause, whereas examples like (6a&b) show that they may in fact be followed by various other constituents, such as PP-complements and embedded clauses; see Chapter 12 for more discussion. The notion "clause-final" should therefore be defined more loosely as "in the right periphery of the clause".

a. dat Jan al de hele dag wacht op antwoord.
  that  Jan  already  the whole day  waits  for answer
  'that Jan has been waiting for an answer all day.'
b. dat Jan aan Peter vertelt dat hij naar Groningen gaat.
  that  Jan to Peter  tells  that he to Groningen goes
  'that Jan tells Peter that heʼll go to Groningen.'

Second, the use of the notion clause-final positionmay suggest that the clause-final verbs are base-generated as part of a verbal complex in a specific position of the clause. An example of such a verbal complex is given in (7), in which the finite verb moet'must' is in clause-final position in the embedded clause in (7a), but moved into the second position in the main clause in (7b).

a. dat hij dat boek morgen moet hebben gelezen.
  that  he  that book  tomorrow  must have  read
  'that he must have read that book by tomorrow.'
b. Hij moet dat boek morgen tmoet hebben gelezen.
  he  must  that book  tomorrow  have  read
  'He must have read that book by tomorrow.'

Postulating a base-generated verbal complex is, however, not what is generally assumed in generative grammar: there are reasons for assuming that the verbs which enter the verbal complex are all base-generated as heads of independent verbal projections in a hierarchical structure. This structure is insightfully shown in the English translation of (7a) in (8). The structural representation in (8) formally expresses the intuition that the perfect auxiliary have selects a phrase headed by a participle and that the modal verb must selects a phrase headed by an infinitive; see Section 5.2 and Chapter 6 for extensive discussion.

that he must [have [read that book tomorrow]].

The fact that the verbs in the Dutch examples in (7) tend to cluster in clause-final position must therefore be epiphenomenal (which is clearly the case for the adjacent sequence of the verbs in English examples such as (8), which can easily be interrupted by adverbs) or the result of some movement operation. The latter is the option traditionally chosen for Germanic OV-languages like Dutch and German, and this has motivated the postulation of verb-clustering operations like Evers' (1975) verb raising. We confine ourselves here to noting this issue, and refer the reader to Chapter 7 for an extensive discussion of verb clustering.
      It should also be emphasized that the term clause-final position is a technical term which refers to a more deeply embedded position in the phrase structure, that is, a position at least internal to XP in Figure (2). Despite the fact that the finite verbs are "clause-final" in a pre-theoretical sense in the two primeless examples in (9), we will maintain that the finite verb is in clause-final position in the technical sense in (9a) only; in (9b) the finite verb is in second position (T or C). The difference between the two positions will become evident immediately if we add additional constituents, like the adverbial phrases graag'gladly' and in het park'in the park' in the primed examples.

a. dat Jan wandelde.
  that  Jan walked
  'that Jan was walking.'
a'. dat Jan graag in het park wandelde.
  that  Jan gladly  in the park walked
  'that Jan liked to walk in the park.'
b. Jan wandelde.
  Jan walked
  'Jan was walking.'
b'. Jan wandelde graag in het park.
  Jan walked  gladly  in the park
  'Jan liked to walk in the park.'

For the primed examples in (9), we will maintain that the adverbial phrases occupy not only the middle field in (9a') but also in (9b'). This is, however, difficult to demonstrate in the latter case as the clause-final verb position is empty. In some cases, however, the presence of the clause-final position can be established indirectly with the help of some other element in the clause. This can be illustrated in a simple way by means of separable particle verbs like doorgeven'to pass on' in (10). The primeless examples clearly show that nominal and clausal direct objects differ in that the former occupy a position in the middle field, whereas the latter occupy a position in the postverbal field of the clause. But the same can be indirectly established from the position of the particle door in the corresponding main clauses in the primed examples, given that particles are normally placed left-adjacent to the verb in clause-final position.

a. dat Jan <het zout> doorgaf <*het zout>.
  that  Jan    the salt prt.-gave
  'that Jan passed the salt.'
a'. Jan gaf <het zout> door <*het zout>
  Jan gave    the salt  prt.
  'Jan passed the salt.'
b. dat Jan <*dat Peter ziek was> doorgaf <dat Peter ziek was>.
  that  Jan      that Peter ill was prt.-gave
  'that Jan passed the message on that Peter was ill.'
b'. Jan gaf <*dat Peter ziek was> door <dat Peter ziek was>.
  Jan gave      that Peter ill was  prt.
  'Jan passed the message on that Peter was ill.'

There is a whole series of elements that are normally left-adjacent to the verb(s) in clause-final position, including complementives and stranded prepositions; we refer the reader to Chapter 13 for discussion and examples.

[+]  II.  Verb-first/second

In main clauses, finite verbs are normally situated in the first or second position. We will adopt the generally accepted assumption from generative grammar that all verbs are base-generated in some lower position in the clause–they all head some projection of their own–and that finite verbs are special in that they can be moved into the verb-first/second (C or T) position in main clauses. The special status of finite verbs is normally accounted for by assuming that the verb-first/second position contains temporal (T) and/or illocutionary force features (C) associated with the finite verb.
      The contrast between embedded and main clauses with respect to the position of finite verbs is illustrated again in (11); note that gisteren'yesterday' is in first position in (11a') as a result of topicalization; in yes/no-questions such as (11b'), this position remains (phonetically) empty and the verb ends up in first position as a result. For this reason verb-first and verb-second are often considered special instantiations of a single rule, and verb-second is normally used as a cover term for the two cases, a practice that we will follow here.

a. Marie zegt [dat Jan gisteren dat boek heeft gekocht].
  Marie says   that  Jan yesterday  that book  has  bought
  'Marie says that Jan bought that book yesterday.'
a'. Gisteren heeft Jan dat boek gekocht.
  yesterday  has  Jan that book  bought
  'Jan bought that book yesterday.'
b. Marie vraagt [of Jan gisteren dat boek heeft gekocht].
  Marie asks   if  Jan yesterday  that book  has  bought
  'Marie asks whether Jan bought that book yesterday.'
b'. Heeft Jan gisteren dat boek gekocht?
  has  Jan yesterday  that book  bought
  'Did Jan buy that book yesterday?'

The restriction of verb-second to main clauses suggests that complementizer insertion and verb-second are in complementary distribution. Under the traditional analysis, based on Paardekooper (1961) and Den Besten (1983), this follows from the claim that complementizers and finite verbs both target the C-position, as indicated in (12a). For completeness' sake, we show in (12b) that a verb-second construction such as (11b') is derived by means of an additional movement of some phrase into the specifier of CP, that is, the position immediately preceding the C-position. In yes/no-questions such as (11b') the finite verbs ends up in first position because no phonetically realized material can be moved to the sentence-initial position (perhaps due to the presence of some empty question operator in the specifier of CP).


The traditional analysis of verb-second in (12) maintains that in main clauses the finite verb always targets the C-position; consequently, any phrase preceding the verb in second position must have been placed there by means of topicalization (or wh-movement). Section 9.3 has shown, however, that subject-initial sentences differ from other verb-second sentences in that the finite verb can be preceded by an unstressed element: example (13a) is acceptable regardless of whether the subject pronoun is stressed or note, while the (b)- and (c)-examples in (13) show that other clause-initial (topicalized) phrases must be stressed.

a. Zij/Ze moet mij helpen.
subject pronoun in initial position
  she/she  must  me  help
  'She must help me.'
b. Haar/*ʼr moet ik helpen.
object pronoun in initial position
  her/her  must  help
  'I must help her.'
c. Op haar/*ʼr wil ik niet wachten.
prepositional object in initial position
  for her/her  want  not  wait
  'I donʼt want to wait for her.'
c'. Daarop/*Erop wil ik niet wachten.
pronominal PP in initial position
  for that/for it  want  not  wait
  'I donʼt want to wait for that.'

The (b)- and (c)-examples in (13) thus strongly suggest that phonetically reduced subject pronouns like ze'she' in (13a) cannot occupy the specifier position of CP, which in turn suggests that they are located in the regular subject position, that is, the specifier of TP. Given that there is no a priori reason for assuming that non-reduced subject pronouns like zij'she' and non-pronominal subjects must be treated differently, the null hypothesis seems to be that what we posit for phonetically reduced subject pronouns holds for all subjects. So we arrive at the hypothesis that subject-initial sentences normally have the structure in (14); See Travis (1984) and Zwart (1992/1997).

Subject-initial sentences

The Travis/Zwart-hypothesis, which assigns different structures to subject-initial sentences (TPs) and other verb-second constructions (CPs), may also explain another fact. The subject pronoun je'you' triggers different types of agreement depending on its position relative to the finite verb, as shown in (15). Let us assume that the morphological realization of subject-verb agreement depends on the location of the finite verb in the clause, T or C; see Zwart (1997) and Postma (2011). In (15a) the finite verb occupies the T-position and second person singular agreement is morphologically expressed by -t, whereas in (15b) it occupies the C-position and second person singular agreement is expressed by -Ø.

a. [TP Je krijgt [XP morgen een cadeautje tV]].
  you  get2p.sg  tomorrow  a present
  'Youʼll get a present tomorrow.'
b. [CP Morgen krijg-Ø [TP je tV [XPtmorgen een cadeautje tV]]].
  tomorrow  get2p.sg  you  a present
  'Youʼll get a present tomorrow.'

If we accept the proposals in (12b) and (14), the term verb-second no longer uniquely refers to verb movement into the C-position, and in the more recent formal-linguistic literature it is therefore often replaced by the more precise notions V-to-T and V-to-C. We will, however, stick to the term verb-second as a convenient descriptive term.
      Since the Travis/Zwart-hypothesis is highly theory-internal, we will not discuss it in any further detail, but we do want to point out that it has given rise to various hotly debated issues. First, the Travis/Zwart-hypothesis presupposes that the T-position in Dutch is located to the left of the lexical projections of the verb(s), as depicted in (14), and thus diverges from the more traditional claim, motivated by the OV-nature of Dutch, that the T-position is located to the right of these projections; the base structure [CP .. C [TP .. [VP ..V ..] T]] is not compatible with this hypothesis. Secondly, the Travis/Zwart-hypothesis is incompatible with the traditional claim that the complementary distribution of complementizer insertion and verb-second follows from the fact that the complementizer and the finite verb both target the C-position, given that the finite verb could in principle also be moved into the T-position; this is illustrated in (16b).

a. [C dat] Jan [T — ] dat boek gisteren heeft gekocht.
  that  Jan  that book  yesterday  has  bought
  'that Jan bought that book yesterday.'
b. * [C dat] Jan [T heeft ] dat boek gisteren theeft gekocht.

Thirdly, the Travis/Zwart-hypothesis makes it impossible to account for the obligatory nature of verb-second in main clauses by simply stating that the C-position must be lexically filled; instead, we have to assume that the highest head position in the extended projection of the verb be lexically filled: T in subject-initial main clauses and C in other verb-second constructions as well as embedded clauses. Finally, the Travis/Zwart-hypothesis raises the question as to why the T-position cannot be filled in Dutch embedded clauses, that is, why examples such as (16b) are unacceptable. A functional explanation for this might be that a complementizer or a finite verb in first/second position is used in Dutch to signal the beginning of a new clause; see Zwart (2001) and Broekhuis (2008) for a formalization of this intuition; see Zwart (2011) for a more detailed review of theoretical approaches to verb-second.

[+]  III.  A comparative perspective on the placement of the finite verb

The rules determining the placement of finite verbs in Dutch are relatively simple: finite verbs occur in the verb-second position in main clauses but occupy the so-called clause-final position in embedded clauses (where they cluster with the non-finite verbs). The examples in (17) illustrate this once again.

a. Jan leest dit boek niet.
  Jan reads  this book not
  'Jan doesnʼt read this book.'
a'. dat Jan dit boek niet leest.
  that  Jan this book  not  reads
  'that Jan doesnʼt read this book.'
b. Jan heeft dit boek niet gelezen.
  Jan has  this book  not  read
  'Jan hasnʼt read this book.'
b'. dat Jan dit boek niet gelezen heeft.
  that  Jan this book  not  read  has
  'that Jan hasnʼt read this book.'

This can be described by claiming that the finite verb is base-generated in the clause-final V-position in the universally valid template in (18), repeated from Section 9.1, but is moved into second position by verb-second in main clauses, subsection II further suggested that the categorial status of the verb-second position depends on the sentence-initial phrase: it can be identified as T in subject-initial sentences and as C in all other cases.


The universal template in (18) can be taken to imply that the situation might very well have been different, in the sense that the Dutch rules are simply a more or less random selection from a wider range of verb movement possibilities. This is in fact confirmed by cross-linguistic evidence. Consider the Icelandic examples in (19), taken from Jónsson (1996:9-10). When we compare the primeless and primed examples, we see that, at least at face value, the finite verbs seem to occupy the same position in main and embedded clauses, and since the finite verb is adjacent to the subject we may assume that the position in question is T. The fact that the main verbs in the (a)- and (b)-examples occupy different positions with respect to the adverb ekki'not' shows that non-finite verbs occupy a position lower in the structure than finite verbs (X or V depending on what the position of the direct object is taken to be). This suggests that finite verbs are moved from the V-position into the T-position in Icelandic (or the C-position in constructions with verb-subject inversion).

a. Jón las ekki þessa bók.
  Jón read  not  this book
  'Jón didnʼt read this book.'
a'. Jón las ekki þessa bók.
  that  Jón read  not  this book
  'that Jón didnʼt read this book.'
b. Jón hefur ekki lesið þessa bók.
  Jón has not  read  this book
  'Jón hasnʼt read this book.'
b'. Jón hefur ekki lesið þessa bók.
  that  Jón has  not  read  this book
  'that Jón hasnʼt read this book.'

The difference between Dutch and Icelandic shows that these languages differ with respect to the question as to whether there is an asymmetry in verb movement between root and embedded clauses; the examples in (18) and (19) show that this is the case in Dutch, which is therefore classified as an asymmetric verb movement language, but not in Icelandic, which is therefore classed as a symmetric verb movement language. The examples in (20) show that English is also a symmetric verb movement language but exhibits an asymmetry between main and non-main verbs. The symmetric verb movement behavior in root and embedded clauses will be clear from the comparison between the primeless and primed examples. The asymmetry between main and non-main verbs is clear from the contrast between the (a)- and (b)-examples, which shows that while non-main verbs must precede the frequency adverb often, main verbs must follow it.

a. John often read this book.
a'. that John often read this book.
b. Jan has often read the book.
b'. that John has often read this book.

There are also symmetric verb movement languages that do not have verb-second at all: Japanese, for example, consistently has the finite verb in clause-final position, as is illustrated in the examples in (21), cited from Tallerman (2015).

a. Hanakoga susi-o tukurimasita.
  Hanako-nom  sushi-acc  made
  'Hanako made sushi.'
b. Taroo-ga [Hanako-ga oisii susi-o tukutta to] itta.
  Taroo-nom   Hanako-nom  delicious  sushi-acc  made  comp  said
  'Taro said that Hanako made delicious sushi.'

From a cross-linguistic perspective on verb movement, Dutch has at least the following distinctive properties: (i) it has V-to-T/C, (ii) V-to-T/C holds for main and non-main verbs, and (iii) V-to-T/C applies in root clauses only. The chart in (22) summarizes the differences with the other languages mentioned.

Finite verb movement
  V-to-T/C main/non-main verb root/non-root clause
Icelandic + symmetric symmetric
Dutch + symmetric asymmetric
English + asymmetric symmetric
Japanese symmetric symmetric

The properties in Table (22) correctly place Dutch in the same class as German. It should be noted, however, that Dutch and German differ in one important respect: whereas German sometimes allows verb-second in embedded clauses without complementizers, Dutch does not; see Haider (2010:46-8). The examples in (23) first show that German has two forms of embedded declarative clauses: one with the complementizer dass'that' and a clause-final finite verb, and one without a complementizer and a verb in second position. Embedded verb-second especially occurs in cases in which the finite verb is a subjunctive; note that the adverbial phrase nie zuvor'never before' is placed in clause-initial position in (23b) and that the verb precedes the subject, so that we may conclude that the finite verb occupies the C-position.

a. Peter sagte [dass er nie zuvor so einen guten Artikel gelesen hätte].
  Peter said   that  he  never  before such a good article  read  had
  'Peter said that heʼd never read such a good article before.'
b. Peter sagte [nie zuvor hätte er so einen guten Artikel gelesen].
  Peter said  never before  had he  such a good article  read

The Dutch counterparts of (23) in (24) show that Dutch does not allow verb-second in embedded clauses. The number sign in (24b) indicates that this example is acceptable if the bracketed clause within straight brackets is construed as a direct quote, but this is not the intended reading here. For completeness' sake, it should be noted that embedded verb-second constructions are possible in some non-standard varieties of Dutch; see Barbiers et al (2005: Section

a. Peter zei [dat hij nooit eerder zoʼn goed artikel gelezen had].
  Peter said   that  he  never before such a good article  read  had
  'Peter said that heʼd never read such a good article before.'
b. # Peter zei [nooit eerder had hij zoʼn goed artikel gelezen].
  Peter said   never before  had he  such a good article  read

This section has shown that certain placements of finite verbs that are theoretically possible and in fact occur in other languages are excluded in Dutch. The universally valid template in (18) can be used to provide a descriptively adequate account of the variation in verb placement in the languages discussed in this section by setting the parameters in Table (22). The actual setting is, of course, a language-specific matter.

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