The position of finite verbs in Dutch clauses

One example of a syntactic paradigm defined by horizontal relations in a network is the position of the finite verb in Dutch clauses (or German clauses, for that matter). In declarative main clauses, the verb is in second position (often abbreviated as “V2” position). The finite verb can occur in other positions as well, however, and these positions have a syntactic meaning: initial verbs (V1) occur in polarity questions, conditionals and imperatives. These contexts can be unified under “non-assertive” meaning.[1] Finite verbs can also occupy the clause-final position (Vn)[2], typically in subordinate clauses, which can be seen as conveying the meaning of “backgrounding” (see Van der Horst 1984: 172175). The various positions of the finite verb in Dutch clauses form a “paradigm” and are related to each other through horizontal relations of contrast, as visualised in Figure 5.[3]

The position of the finite verb in Dutch clauses as a constructional network with horizontal relations

Figure 5: The position of the finite verb in Dutch clauses as a constructional network with horizontal relations

  • [1] See Goldberg and Del Giudice (2005) for a similar proposal concerning the historically relatedEnglish subject-auxiliary inversion.
  • [2] Vn does not necessarily mean the very last position in the clause. Hence, it is more accurateto speak about V-late than about V-final.
  • [3] Interestingly, the syntacticisation of V1 and V-late is probably a diachronic corollary of theemergence of V2 (see Hopper 1975; Van der Horst 2008): V1 and V-late only acquired grammaticalsignificance in contrast to V2. This shows that the horizontal lines do capture something substantive in language.
 
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