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Verb third as Cluster movement in German

From the book Verb Second
Joachim Sabel


In this paper, I analyze specific syntactic properties of verb third sentences in German. It is argued that verb third is derived from the process of XP- cluster formation, i.e. a derivation in which elements representing a complex pre-field such as [CP α β [C’ V … ]] are merged by an adjunction operation [α[α β]] in which a maximal projection β is adjoined to another Xmax α similar to heads in clitic clusters or morphemes in verb movement operations in the middle field (TP) before the multi-segmental element moves higher up into the C-system. My analysis implies that verb third (V3) sentences in German can be regarded as a variant of verb second sentences because only one constituent precedes the finite verb in C0. The possibility of XP-cluster-movement in V3-sentences is linked to the scrambling (free constituent order) nature of German. Other scrambling languages such as, for example, Persian, Japanese and Korean, also show XP- cluster formation with subsequent cluster movement but without the combination of the V2- constraint. Further potential analyses of the V3-phenomenon in German, such as the multiple specifier analysis and the headless VP-fronting analysis are compared to the cluster analysis from an empirical and theoretical point of view.

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