Second Language Research 30(1)
Minimalist rules and feature variation
If rules are minimal in character, then they should be abstract and carry few exception
features. German has a very simple rule of V2 that applies to the CP. It moves the verb
to the second position after any constituent. It could hardly be simpler. It occurs after
the verb has picked up a tense morpheme either in final or middle position, see illustration in (1).
German V2 Rule
Modern English does not move the main verb at all, so we never have a Shakespearean
kind of question: “plays he baseball?” (except for idioms like: “say you so?”). Instead
tense attaches to a modal or do-insertion occurs. Then, in what is called residual V2, it
can move into CP after a question word: “What did he say?” This is also a very simple
rule of movement of Tense, as we can see in the rule in (2).
The English rule is limited to moving Auxiliaries and limits the initial XP to a
Q-morpheme, but it has one important exception: it cannot occur with quotations, or else
we would have: “*‘nothing’ did Bill say”, instead of “‘nothing’ said Bill”. This means
that even in modern English the main verb can move in this occasion, just like in German.