14 The verb-second (V2) phenomenon

V2 in German

The linear position of the finite verb

As mentioned in
Chapter 5, V in German is head-final, but C is head-initial. These facts are illustrated in (1).

As was mentioned in Chapter 5, it has been a matter of debate in the literature whether I is head-initial or head-final in German. In what follows, we will assume that German, being a rich agreement language, has verb movement to I, with the consequence that I is head-final.

(1) a.  
[C ob ]    mein Freund dem     Mann gestern   das     Buch [V gegeben ] [I hat ]
   whether my   friend the.dat man  yesterday the.acc book    given        has
'whether my friend gave the man the book yesterday'
b. *
[C ob ] mein Freund [I hat ] dem Mann gestern das Buch [V gegeben ]
c. *
[C ob ] mein Freund [I hat ] [V gegeben ] dem Mann gestern das Buch

A very striking fact about German is that whereas finite verbs are final in subordinate clauses, this is not true in main clauses. This is clear from the position of the finite verb in a direct question like (2).

(2) a.  
Hat mein Freund dem     Mann gestern   das     Buch gegeben?
has  my   friend the.dat man  yesterday the.acc book given
'Did my friend give the man the book yesterday?'
b. *
Mein Freund dem Mann gestern das Buch gegeben hat?

The structural position of the finite verb

The contrast between (1a) and (2a) in the position of the finite verb immediately raises the question of what structural position the finite verb in (2a) occupies. Two pieces of evidence strongly suggest that the position is C.

Asyndetic conditional clauses. The first piece of evidence comes from the existence in German of two types of conditional clauses. In addition to conditional clauses introduced by the overt complementizer wenn 'if', German also allows asyndetic conditional clauses. These are marked not by the presence of an overt complementizer, but by the position of the finite verb. Both types of conditional clauses are illustrated in (3).1

(3) a.  
wenn mein Freund dem     Mann gestern   das     Buch gegeben hätte
if   my   friend the.dat man  yesterday the.acc book given   had.conditional
'if my friend had given the man the book yesterday'
b.  
hätte           mein Freund dem     Mann gestern   das     Buch gegeben
had.conditional my   friend the.dat man  yesterday the.acc book given
'had my friend given the man the book yesterday'

The finite verb in (3b) occupies exactly the same clause-initial position as the complementizer in (3a), suggesting that the verb has moved to C. The complementizer and the finite verb in (3) can be seen, then, as competing for the same syntactic slot. If this is so, then conditional clauses with both a complementizer and a clause-initial verb should be ungrammatical. This in indeed the case, as shown in (4).

(4)   * { hätte wenn, wenn hätte } mein Freund dem Mann gestern das Buch gegeben

Position of object pronouns. The second piece of evidence for verb movement to C comes from the position of object pronouns. In addition to the variability that German exhibits in the position of finite verbs, it allows a fair bit of word order freedom, and object pronouns regularly occur between complementizers and the subject, as shown in (5).

(5)    
wenn ihm     mein Freund gestern   das     Buch gegeben hätte
if   him.dat my   friend yesterday the.acc book given   had
'if my friend had given him the book yesterday'

As expected if asyndetic conditional clauses like (3) involve verb movement to C, object pronouns can immediately follow the finite verb, as shown in (6), just as they immediately follow the complementizer in (5).

(6)    
hätte ihm     mein Freund gestern   das     Buch gegeben
had   him.dat my   friend yesterday the.acc book given
'if my friend had given him the book yesterday'

The idea that non-clause-final finite verbs in German move to C is further corroborated by the distribution of object pronouns in direct questions. As in English (recall Chapter 11), direct yes-no questions in German require movement to C, and direct wh-questions require the additional movement of a wh-phrase to Spec(CP). This is shown in (7) and (8); here and in what follows, constituents in Spec(CP) are in boldface, and the verb in C is in italics.

(7)    
Hati mein Freund dem    Mann gestern   das     Buch gegeben ti?
has  my   friend the.dat man  yesterday the.acc book given
'Did my friend give the man the book yesterday?'
(8) a.  
Wasi    hatj mein Freund dem     Mann gestern   ti gegeben tj?
what.acc has  my   friend the.dat man  yesterday    given
'What did my friend give the man yesterday?'
b.  
Wanni hatj mein Freund dem     Mann ti das     Buch gegeben tj?
when   has  my   friend the.dat man     the.acc book given
'When did my friend give the man the book?'
c.  
Wemi   hatj mein Freund ti gestern   das     Buch gegeben tj?
who.dat has  my   friend    yesterday the.acc book given
'Who did my friend give the book to yesterday?'
d.  
Weri   hatj dem     Mann ti gestern   das     Buch gegeben tj?
who.nom has  the.dat man     yesterday the.acc book given
'Who gave the man the book yesterday?'

Again, as expected, object pronouns can immediately follow the finite verb, as shown in (9) and (10).

(9)    
Hati ihm     mein Freund gestern   das     Buch gegeben ti?
has   him.dat my   friend yesterday the.acc book given
'Did my friend give him the book yesterday?'
(10) a.  
Wasi    hatj ihm     mein Freund gestern   ti gegeben tj?
what.acc has  him.dat my   friend yesterday    given
'What did my friend give him yesterday?'
b.  
Wanni hatj ihm     mein Freund ti das     Buch gegeben tj?
when   has  him.dat my   friend    the.acc book given
'When did my friend give him the book?'

Movement to C as adjunction

In German as in English, Spec(CP) is a substitution node; that is, it has no content until filled by movement. But in both languages, the CP itself is the projection of a morpheme in C which, though silent, contains information concerning what might be called the sentence's mood or force (what we mean by this is whether the sentence is declarative, interrogative, imperative, conditional, and so on). Like verb movement to I, verb movement to C therefore must be adjunction. The structures before and after verb movement to C (via I) in German are shown schematically in (11).

(11) a.       b.  

Verb movement to C in declaratives

German allows ordinary (= non-wh) phrases to move to Spec(CP). This movement - known as topicalization to distinguish it from the movement of wh- phrases - is always accompanied by verb movement to C. As a result, declarative clauses like those in (12) are structurally parallel to their wh-question counterparts in (8).

(12) a.   Das Buchi hatj mein Freund dem Mann gestern ti gegeben tj.
the.acc book has my friend the.dat man yesterday given
'My friend gave the man the book yesterday.'
b.   Gesterni hatj mein Freund dem Mann ti das Buch gegeben tj.
c.   Dem Manni hatj mein Freund ti gestern das Buch gegeben tj.
d.   Mein Freundi hatj ti dem Mann gestern das Buch gegeben tj.

As expected, unstressed pronouns can immediately follow the finite verb in declarative main clauses, just as in the corresponding wh-questions.

(13) a.   Das Buchi hatj ihm mein Freund gestern ti gegeben tj.
the.acc book has him.dat my friend yesterday given
'My friend gave him the book yesterday.'
b.   Gesterni hatj ihm mein Freund ti das Buch gegeben tj.

It is worth noting that German allows Spec(CP) to be filled not only by movement, but also by direct substitution of the morpheme es 'it'. This yields sentences as in (14).

(14)     Es hati mein Freund dem Mann gestern das Buch gegeben ti.
it has my friend the.dat man yesterday the.acc book given
'My friend gave the man the book yesterday.'

Thus, in addition to the subject requirement that it shares with English, German has an additional topic requirement. In both cases, the requirement is purely syntactic. In other words, if the requirement is not satisfied by a semantically contentful element, it must be satisfied by an expletive element (it or there in connection with the English subject requirement, and es 'it' in the case of the German topic requirement).

The analysis of German clause structure that we have just presented has two striking consequences. First, ordinary declarative clauses differ structurally from wh-questions in English, but not in German. In English, ordinary declarative clauses are IPs and wh-questions are CPs, whereas in German, both clause types are CPs. In other words, even though the German sentence in (15) and its English translation in (16) exhibit the same superficial word order, they do not share the same structure, as indicated by the bracketing.

(15)     [CP Dein Freundi [C wirdj ] ti anrufen tj. ]
your friend will call
'Your friend will call.'
(16)     [IP Your friend [I will ] call. ]

A second consequence of the analysis is that the finite verb in a German main clause is always its second constituent. It cannot appear in third position because there is no structural slot to the left of Spec(CP) for a constituent to occupy. This is illustrated by the grammaticality contrast between (17) and (18).

(17) a. [CP Dein Freundi [C wirdj ] ti morgen anrufen tj. ]
your friend will tomorrow call
'Your friend will call tomorrow.'
b. [CP Morgeni [C wirdj ] dein Freund ti anrufen tj. ]
'Tomorrow, your friend will call.'
(18) a. * Morgeni [CP dein Freundj [C wirdk ] ti tj anrufen tk. ]
b. * Dein Freundi [CP morgenj [C wirdk ] ti tj anrufen tk. ]

Contrasts as in (17) and (18) are subsumed under the label of verb-second (V2) phenomenon, and German (and other languages that resemble it with regard to these contrasts) are referred to as V2 languages.

It is important to understand that the term V2 refers to a structural requirement, not to the default word order of a language. So even though English verbs and modals ordinarily occupy second position in their clause, English is not a V2 language in the sense just described. The reason is that an English verb or auxiliary can occupy second position, but doesn't necessarily. For instance, if the clause-initial constituent is not the subject, the verb or auxiliary in English occupies third position (with some exceptions to be discussed directly). This is illustrated in (19). Note particularly the grammaticality contrasts between (19b) and (17b) and between (19c) and (18a).

(19) a. Your friend will call.
b. * Tomorrow will your friend call.
c. Tomorrow, your friend will call.

V2 in the history of English

Ordinary declarative clauses are V2 in almost all the Germanic languages, which include the North Germanic (= Scandinavian) languages and the West Germanic languages (Dutch, English, Frisian, German, and Yiddish). The sole exception to this generalization is modern English, though not earlier stages of the language. In this section, we briefly discuss the history of V2 in English.

There is good reason to believe that V2 in Old and Middle English was a more complex phenomenon than in any of the other V2 languages. In particular, there is evidence that Old English (700–1150) exhibited not just one, but two types of V2. The first type was derived by verb movement to C, as just discussed for German, and it characterized direct questions, imperatives, certain clauses with negative force, and clauses introduced by certain adverbs. These clause types turn out to be exactly the ones in which modern English has preserved verb movement to C, as we will see later on in the chapter. The second type of V2, which was obligatory in ordinary declarative clauses, was structurally distinct (it involved verb movement to a head lower than C), and it was also superficially less transparent (sentences containing unstressed pronouns were apparently able to violate the V2 requirement). The analysis of this second type of V2 is beyond the scope of an introductory textbook; for discussion, the reader is referred to Pintzuk 1991, 1993. It is this second type of V2 that was lost in the history of English.2

In Middle English (1150–1500), evidence has recently been found of two syntactic dialects with respect to V2 (Kroch and Taylor 1997), characteristic of the south and north of England. The southern dialect basically maintained the Old English distinction between two types of V2: one for ordinary declarative clauses and one for special clause types like questions and so on. In the northern dialect, on the other hand, which was influenced by Scandinavian, all V2 clauses were uniformly derived by verb movement to C. In other words, the two dialects differed in whether V2 in ordinary declarative clauses involved verb movement to C. As just noted, the complexity of the Old English V2 pattern and its direct continuation in southern Middle English made it less transparent than the V-to-C type, and it has been proposed that speakers of the northern dialect misanalyzed southern V2 declaratives as non-V2 (Kroch, Taylor, and Ringe 2000). The desire to accommodate to the supposedly non-V2 southern pattern would then have led the northern speakers to produce clauses that were truly non-V2 (that is, non-V2 for both dialects). This development in turn might have brought about the loss of V2 in ordinary declarative clauses that is attested during the Middle English period and that resulted in the non-V2 character of ordinary declarative clauses in modern English.

In what follows, we give some examples of V2 clauses in Middle English and modern English. The examples from both time periods illustrate the transparent type of V2 discussed in the first part of this chapter, which involved verb movement to C, rather than the opaque type that was additionally possible in Old English and southern Middle English.

V2 in Middle English

Middle English encompasses the period from about 1150-1500. In contrast to Old English, Middle English, especially its later stages, is reasonably comprehensible to speakers of the modern language, and it seems like the 'same' language as modern English (whereas Old English feels at least as foreign as German).

(20) gives some examples of V2 declarative clauses from The travels of Sir John Mandeville, a bestselling travel book from the 1300s; the examples are taken from Mossé 1968:279, a convenient compendium of Middle English texts. (The constituent in Spec(CP) is in boldface, and the finite verb is in italics; the numbers after the examples indicate the page number in Mossé.)

Recall from previous chapters that the characters eth (capital Ð, lowercase ð) and thorn (capital Þ, lowercase þ) were used in Old and Middle English where we use 'th' today. The yogh character (ȝ) was used where we use 'g' or 'y' today.

Notice the doubly marked indirect question in (20b).

(20) a.   þanne wolde he make hem to drynken of a certeyn drynk.
'Then he would make them drink of a certain drink.'
b.   After that ȝit scholde he putten hem in a fayrere paradys where þat þei scholde see God.
'Yet after that he would put them in a more beautiful paradise where they would see God.'
c.   þan wolde he schewe hem his entent.
'Then he would show them his intent.'
d.   þere scholde þei dwellen with the most fairest damyselles þat myghte be, and pley with hem everemore.
'There they would dwell with the fairest damsels that there might be and play with them for ever more.'

(21) gives some further examples from the Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1340-ca. 1400).

(21) a.   Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie. (Mossé 1968:303, 709)
'He could read a lesson or a story well.'
b.   This tresor hath Fortune unto us yeven. (Mossé 1968:307, 779)
'This treasure, Fortune has given us.'
c.   Thy profit wol I telle thee anon. (Mossé 1968:308, 809)
'I will tell you right away what's in it for you.'
d.   Thanne shal al this gold departed be, my deere frend, bitwixen me and thee. (Mossé 1968:309, 831-832)
'Then all this gold will be divided up, my dear friend, between me and you.'
e.   Thanne may we bothe oure lustes all fulfille. Mossé 1968:(309, 833)
'Then both of us can fulfill all our desires.'
f.   Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gon. (Mossé 1968:311, 912).
'You will enter the bliss of heaven.'

Vestiges of V2 in modern English

Modern English is no longer a full-fledged V2 language in the sense that it exhibits the V2 phenomenon in ordinary declarative clauses. However, in syntactic contexts in which the verb moved to C in Old English, C is still required to dominate a modal or form of do support in the modern language. For instance, as we mentioned in Chapter 11, a modal or form of do moves to C in direct questions. We see a further example of vestigial V2 in the construction in (23), introduced in Chapter 5 as a test for the constituenthood of adjective phrases.

(23)     They are proud of their grandson, and so are we.

The verbal syntax of imperatives in modern English is too complex to discuss in an introductory textbook. However, it is clear that the auxiliary moves to C in negative imperatives, as is evident from the obligatory inversion of the subject and auxiliary do in (24).

(24) a.   Don't you dare!
b. * You don't dare! (ungrammatical as an imperative)

Finally, sentences that begin with a non-subject negative phrase, as in (25), require a modal or form of do in second rather than third position, as shown by the contrast between the (i) and (ii) examples.

(25) a. i.   Never in my life have I seen such a mess.
ii. * Never in my life, I have seen such a mess.
b. i.   Under no circumstances will I agree.
ii. * Under no circumstances, I will agree.
c. i.   Not a single ally has he encountered in all that time.
ii. * Not a single ally, he has encountered in all that time.

V2 in modern English is also triggered by only-phrases, as illustrated in (26).

(26) a. i.   Only in Brazil have I seen such orchids.
ii. * Only in Brazil, I have seen such orchids.
b. i.   Only a single ally has he encountered in all that time.
ii. * Only a single ally, he has encountered in all that time.
c. i.   Only under exceptional circumstances will I agree.
ii. * Only under exceptional circumstances, I will agree.

Clearly, this is related to the fact that only sentences can be paraphrased as illustrated for (26a) in (27).

(27)     Nowhere but in Brazil have I seen such orchids.

It is worth noting that some speakers tend to avoid using the (i) examples in (25) and (26) in favor of the ordinary subject-initial word order in (28) and (29).

(28) a.   I have never in my life seen such a mess.
b. I will agree under no circumstances.
c. He has encountered not a single ally in all that time.
(29) a. I have seen such orchids only in Brazil.
b. He has encountered only a single ally in all that time.
c. I will agree only under exceptional circumstances.

If this tendency were to become more pronounced over time, the (i) examples in (25) and (26) would eventually die out in usage. In the absence of positive evidence that clause-initial negative phrases license V2, children learning English would then presumably acquire a grammar that generates the currently ungrammatical (ii) examples.


Notes

1. As the translation of (3b) shows, English, too, allows asyndetic conditional clauses.

2. In addition to the remnants of the transparent German/Scandinavian/northern type of V2 that are discussed in the remainder of the section, modern English continues to retain vestiges of the complex southern V2 pattern in sentences such as (i).

(i) a.   There comes/goes the bus. (V2 with full noun phrase subject)
b.   There it comes/goes. (non-V2 with pronominal subject)


Exercises and problems

Exercise 14.1

Using the
xbar ch14 grammar tool, build structures for the sentences in (1) and (2).

(1) a.   I will call if I am not busy.
b.   If I am not busy, I will call.
(2) a.   I will call should I not be busy.
b.   Should I not be busy, I will call.

Exercise 14.2

A. Using the
German V2 grammar tool, build a structure for the German clause in (1).

(1)    
Mein Onkel hat bei seinen Nachbarn  dreimal     aus  der Schweiz     angerufen.
my   uncle has at  his    neighbors three.times from the Switzerland called
'My uncle called his neighbors three times from Switzerland.'

B. Given what you know about Universal Grammar and the grammar of German, are the sentences in (2) expected to be grammatical? Explain.

(2) a.   Angerufen hat mein Onkel aus der Schweiz dreimal.
b.   Aus der Schweiz hat mein Onkel dreimal angerufen.
c.   Dreimal aus der Schweiz hat mein Onkel bei seinen Nachbarn angerufen.

Exercise 14.3

A. Using the
xbar ch14 grammar tool, build structures for any three of the modern English V2 clauses in (1).

(1) a. i.   Never in John's life has he seen such a mess.
ii.   Only in Brazil has he seen such orchids.
b. i.   Under no circumstances will she agree.
ii.   Only under those circumstances will she agree.
c. i.   Not a single ally have they encountered.
ii.   Only a single ally have they encountered.

Exercise 14.4

Using the grammar tool in
xbar-ch14, build structures for each of the following sentences from Chaucer in (1). Assume that Chaucer instantiates the same V2 pattern as German (that is, the northern Middle English V2 pattern described earlier).

(1) a.   A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe. (Mossé 1968:303, 685)
'He had sewn a vernicle on his cap.'
b. Wel koude he rede a storie. (Mossé 1968:303, 709)
'He could read a story well.'
c. This tresor hath Fortune unto us yeven. (Mossé 1968:307, 779)
'Fortune has given this treasure to us.'

Exercise 14.5

A. Using the grammar tool in
***, build the structure for the italicized Early Modern English sentence in (1).

(1)     and God created man after his lycknesse; after the lycknesse of god created he him.

B. Assuming that case-checking in Early Modern English and present-day English are identical, how is case checked on he and him? Your answer should specify the case that is checked on each noun phrase, the case-checking head, and the case-checking configuration.

Exercise 14.6

A. Based on the data in (1) and (2), how do why questions differ from how come questions in Standard English? (For convenience, treat how come as a complex word.)

(1) a. ok Why are they making such a fuss?
b. * Why they are making such a fuss?
(2) a. * How come are they making such a fuss?
b. ok How come they are making such a fuss?

B. Based on the data in (3), how would you characterize the difference between direct questions in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and in Standard English?

(3) a.   Why you didn't tell me that?
(overheard at Market and 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA, 26 September 1998)
b.   What you bought tickets for?
(overheard at 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, PA, 26 November 1998)
c.   Where you was at?
(overheard at Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA, 20 July 2001)
d.   Where you went?
(overheard at Chestnut and 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 13 August 2001)
e.   What I told you?
(Willie Perdomo. From where a nickel cost a dime. Real News. April 2002. 28)
f.   Why you didn't come here? Why you didn't come here?
(overheard at Market and 12th Street Philadelphia, PA, 6 April 2012)
g.   Where he's at?
(overheard on Megabus, Philadelphia to DC, 23 April 2012)
h.   when I woked up, I said to myself, "Oh my God, where I'm at?" (overheard at 21st Street and Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 14 July 2013)

C. How does the verbal syntax of the archaicizing advertisement for B. Altman in (4) differ from your own verbal syntax, and how doesn't it?

The two instances of be are an archaic verb form called the subjunctive. In the modern language, the subjunctive has largely been replaced by the indicative (in this case, is).

(4)     What care I how chic it be if it not be the best for me?
(Kim Johnson Gross and Jeff Stone. 1998. Women's wardrobe. Chic simple. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.)

Exercise 14.7

The Middle English sentence in (1) was structurally ambiguous between the two interpretations in (2).

(1)     Thys rememberede thei nevyr to doo.
(2) a.   They never remembered to do this.
b.   They remembered never to do this.

Using the xbar ch14 grammar tool, build the two relevant structures for (1), indicating clearly which structure is intended to represent which interpretation.

For simplicity, assume that never modifies the same syntactic category in both interpretations.
Assume further that remember has belonged to the same verb class throughout the entire history of English.

Exercise 14.8

This exercise extends
Exercise 12.2.

Using the grammar tool in xbar ch14, build structures for the sentences in (1). For simplicity, you can build chunks and indicate how they go together.

(1) a.   Though the problem is difficult, we will solve it.
b.   Difficult though the problem is, we will solve it.

Problem 14.1

Given the discussion in the chapter as it stands, is it possible to derive the statement by Yoda in (1)? Explain. If not, what adjustments would have to be made to accommodate the sentence?

(1)     When 900 years you reach, look as good you will not.