Comparative Syntax Lecture: Sjef Barbiers (Meertens Institute & Utrecht University)

NOV 12, 2013 | 12:00 PM TO 2:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




November 12, 2013: 12:00 PM-2:00 PM




Sjef Barbiers (Meertens Instituut of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Utrecht University)

"Imperatives as distals – A microcomparative study"

The continental West-Germanic language varieties (Dutch, Frisian, German and their dialects) behave uniformly with respect to fronting in declarative clauses.  Left dislocation aside, maximally one constituent can precede the finite verb in main clauses and there are very few restrictions on the category, type and function of that constituent. The situation is different in imperative clauses. German and Middle-Dutch allow fronting in imperatives, modern varieties of Dutch do not, except for a  set of eastern Brabantish dialects which do allow fronting in imperatives but only if the fronted constituent is a distal D-pronoun (as in Da doe maar niet!  lit. that do just not ''You better don't do that!'). The goal of this paper is to explain these microcomparative contrasts. Following Portner (2004),  Zanuttini (2007) and Bennis (2007) I argue that imperative clauses (i.e. C/CP) must be marked as 2 person. In languages such as German and Middle Dutch in which there is a unique imperative form in the verbal paradigm the imperative verb does the marking, leaving SpecCP available for fronted constituents. Modern Dutch and most of its varieties do not have a unique imperative form. In these varieties the 2s pro subject moves to SpecCP, blocking fronting of other constituents. Eastern Brabantish, like Modern Dutch, does not have a unique imperative form, so fronting should be blocked by 2s pro in SpecCP. Fronting of distal D-pronouns is nevertheless possible in eastern Brabantish due to partial 2p subject incorporation into the finite verb. It is argued that 2person in the language varieties under discussion involves the feature bundle [distal, person] . Partial subject incorporation in eastern Brabantish is incorporation of just the [person] feature into the verb, marking the clause with [person]. A fronted distal D-pronoun marks the imperative clause with [distal]. Together, partially incorporated subject and distal D-pronoun do the same work as the imperative verb in German and 2s pro in Dutch, they mark the clause with [person, distal]. Apparent exceptions to the correlation between partial 2p subject incorporation and distal D-pronoun fronting go both ways. There is set of eastern Dutch dialects that have distal D-pronoun fronting but no partial subject incorporation and there is a set of southern Dutch dialects that seem to have partial subject incorporation but no distal D-pronoun fronting. The eastern Dutch dialects will be shown to be hybrid in the sense of Postma (2011), having both the Den Besten-type of verb second (with position dependent spell out of the subject pronoun) and the Zwart-type of verb second (position dependent spell out of the finite verb). The relevant southern Dutch dialects turn out to have subject pronoun doubling rather than partial subject incorporation.