Article published in:What is a verb? – Linguistic, psycholinguistic and developmental perspectives on verbs in Germanic and Semitic languages
Edited by Eva Smolka and Dorit Ravid
[The Mental Lexicon 14:2] 2019
► pp. 319–332
What does a verb? Indicate sentence type
The history of the Germanic sentence type system
An important task of the verb in German is to indicate sentence type. Depending on where the verb is positioned, the clause is a declarative (verb after the first constituent, which can be any constituent), wh-interrogative (verb after the first constituent, being the wh-phrase), yes/no-interrogative (verb in first position, bearing indicative or subjunctive mood) or imperative clause (verb in first position, bearing imperative mood). This system developed out of a system in which sentence type was indicated by clause-final sentence mood particles, as is usual in older Indo-European (and Semitic) languages. In declarative sentences, the verb-second syntax only came about shortly before the Old High German attestation sets in. We can trace the gradual development of the modern German verb-second syntax with variable prefield from a clear topic-comment structure to a more flexible structure.
Keywords: sentence type, prefield, verb-second, Old High German
Published online: 15 January 2020
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