In the following sentence, why is Disesen Artikel in the front? Does this means it is being raised from some other position in the sentence?

Diesen    Artikel wird  der       Burgermeister gelesen    haben?
this.ACC  article will  the.NOM   Mayor         read.PRES  have.BARE

I'm supposed to write a tree representing this sentence, but I am simply not sure if it is correct or not. In my tree, I have Diesen Artikel moving to the Specifier of CP, and wird in C head. Does this make sense? What would its "motivation" for moving up be?

  • 4
    "gelesen" is not PRES and "haben" is not BARE. Are you sure you have understood the sentence?
    – fdb
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 10:27
  • True. Though the terms may be used differently in the flavor of grammar the OP is sposta use in the tree structure; who knows? If you have a lot of movement rules, you can just make a base tree that looks like The Burgermeister will have read this article? and then derive the movements. But apparently what's needed is One Tree To Rule Them All, And In The Darkness Bind Them.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


I find your sentence implausible as a question (are you sure it is a question?), but, otherwise, diesen Artikel is the direct object of gelesen and must have been raised from the complement position immediately to the left of gelesen. As to its 'landing site', to my knowledge there is no agreement concerning the details of the structure of the German Vorfeld, but what you have assumed (that it has landed in the Spec CP and that the finite auxiliary wird has risen into C) used to be the standard view in analyses of German formulated in the late 1980's and early 1990's within the metatheoretical framework of Chomsky's Principles and Parameters Theory. As regards why constituents are raised into the Vorfeld, the usual assumptions are Information-Structure-related, and, in this case, the ascension of diesen Artikel would probably be explained by German syntacticians as a case of Topicalization. Nevertheless, the German Vorfeld can also lodge Foci - especially Wh-interrogatives and negative items - informationally unmarked subjects, emphatic (i.e., focused) subjects, preposed 'frame' adverbials, infinitives (cf. Versprechen kann ich das nicht), passive participles, etc., as well as plain Topics, which is why it is debatable whether it consists of just Spec C or, as is more likely, of several informationally different heads and specifiers, as often assumed after Rizzi's (1997) influential analysis of the left 'periphery' of the clause.

  • The sentence is perfectly fine as a question.
    – Atamiri
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 13:55

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