The Electrophysiological Manifestation of Dutch Verb Second Violations

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Abstract

We investigated the processing of violations of the verb position in Dutch, in a group of healthy subjects, by measuring event-related potentials (ERPs) through electroencephalography (EEG). In Dutch, the base position of the verb is clause final, but in matrix clauses, the finite verb is in second position, a construction known as Verb Second. In embedded clauses, the finite verb remains in its clause-final base position. The results show that ungrammatical placement of finite verbs in second position in embedded clauses yields a P600 response, which suggests that the parser treats this type of violation as a clear syntactic anomaly. This is in contrast to accounts by which a general preference for subject–verb–object word order in languages like Dutch is reflected by an absence of P600 effects in response to violations of Verb Second.

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