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Verb Second

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Anders Holmberg


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This is an overview of the verb-second phenomenon and theories of it. Issues taken up include: differences between real and apparent verb second, which categories can be first constituents, (apparent) exceptions to V2, the two types of V2 languages (I-V2 and C-V2), embedded V2 in C-V2 languages. Among theories of V2 the following are considered specially: den Besten (1983/1989), Travis (1984, 1994), V2 as remnant VP movement, V2 in Optimality Theory, V2 in the framework of an articulated CP. The question whether V2 is ‘narrow syntax or PF’ is discussed, therein the question whether V-to-C has semantic effects, and the variety of meanings/functions the constituent preceding the verb may have. A key question which the paper endeavours to answer is whether ‘V2 language’ is a meaningful, well-defined notion. The answer is that it is. It is a language that has the following property: A functional head in the left periphery attracts the finite verb and (separately) a phrasal constituent without categorial restrictions. This doesn’t exclude the possibility of more than one constituent preceding the finite verb, provided that it has not been moved there – which there are examples of in most (or all) of the known V2 languages. The V2 languages which are considered specially include the Germanic ones, Breton, and Kashmiri. The system in Breton differs from that in the other languages in that even an externally merged (non-expletive) constituent can satisfy V2.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Holmberg A

Editor(s): Kiss, T., Alexiadou, A.

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: In Press

Book Title: Syntax – an International Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Research

Year: 2013

Edition: 2nd

Series Title: HSK Series

Publisher: Walter de Gruyter Verlag

Place Published: Berlin