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The Electrophysiological Manifestation of Dutch Verb Second Violations

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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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO; grant # VPR-00-02 to RB). Furthermore, we wish to thank Walter Schirm and Nynke van den Bergh for their help with preparing the stimuli and Peter Albronda for technical assistance.

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Correspondence to Dirk-Bart den Ouden.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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den Ouden, DB., Bastiaanse, R. The Electrophysiological Manifestation of Dutch Verb Second Violations. J Psycholinguist Res 38, 201–219 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-009-9106-6

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Keywords

  • Verb Second
  • Verbs
  • ERP
  • P600
  • Dutch
  • Syntax