2

Verb second is the phenomenon in which the finite verb is preceded by exactly one constituent. Not all languages have verb second, though, as can be seen here. The only thing I do not understand is why a simple clause with a SV order is not considered verb second.

As an example.

[The man] bites the dog.

The verb is clearly in second place here. So why isn't this called verb second? Is it because verb second has to involve verb movement? Or because the first element should not be the subject?

I am puzzled, mostly, because some authors argue - correctly, I believe - that English is not strictly speaking a V2 language. What confuses me about that, is that the most basic sentence in English (as the example given) does have a V2 word order, and also in subordinate clauses English seems to hold a V2 word order.

He said that the dog [had bitten] him.

In contrast with Dutch:

Hij zei dat de hond hem [gebeten had].

[verb]
2
  • 2
    "Verb Second" is an abstract tendency, a prototype. It is not objectively discernible without an accompanying theory of constituents. Using the one I normally use, I would say that The man is clearly a noun phrase, which is a constituent, and so the verb phrase bites the dog is the second constituent. So I'm puzzled about why you say this isn't called verb second; perhaps you're reading an introductory syntax text? They're full of things the authors think are true and important and of great significance, but which are incomprehensible 5 years after the book's been written.
    – jlawler
    Jan 8 '14 at 16:53
  • @jlawler I have been reading through quite some material (mainly focusing on Dutch, English and Middle and Old English) so I do not think I am biased by authors' own opinions. I will edit my main post with the comment I posted to TKR to make clear what puzzles me so much. Jan 9 '14 at 9:35
1

SV is a verb-second pattern: as jlawler says in his comment, the subject is a constituent, so the verb is in second position. Anyone who uses the term "verb-second" would agree with this, I believe.

The Wikipedia page you link to actually gives examples of SV order as a type of verb-second order: e.g. the very first example, from German, which it says "illustrates the V2 principle": Die Kinder spielten Fussball vor der Schule im Park.

Maybe what misled you is that that page says that English has moved from a V2 to a broadly SV order, which might be taken to suggest that SV is something entirely different from V2. But the point is that SV, as the most frequent type of V2, has become the basic unmarked word order in English, while other types of V2 -- in which the verb was preceded by e.g. an adverb, a PP, or an object, and the subject then followed the verb -- have mostly fallen out of use.

7
  • I am puzzled, mostly, because some authors argue - correctly, I believe - that English is not strictly speaking a V2 language. What confuses me about that, is - as you said - that the most basic sentence in English (as the example in my starting post) does have a V2 word order, and also in subordinate clauses English seems to hold a V2 word order. Jan 9 '14 at 9:34
  • I think topicalization is one of the constructions that make English not a V2 language. For example, "Mary, John loves" is "V3". In German (and Dutch, etc.), such word order is impossible.
    – Atamiri
    Jan 9 '14 at 12:11
  • 2
    @BramVanroy The point is that in a proper V2 language like Dutch or German, the verb always stands second in a declarative main clause, while in English, though the verb often stands second, there's no rule that it has to, and there are constructions where it doesn't.
    – TKR
    Jan 9 '14 at 22:23
  • 2
    If English were a V2 language, we'd have more sentences like these: "Naked Came the Stranger," "To the shore swam the mighty seal," "Into the battle surged the army of skeletons." "On the deck ate we hamburgers," "As if in a rage chopped the axe man at the stubborn redwood." Jan 10 '14 at 1:16
  • 1
    I guess I assumed that English isn't really a V2 language because the subject isn't obligatorily placed after the verb when the sentence contains an initial adverbial. Feb 7 '14 at 14:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.