In this paper, we have developed an account of word order in Dutch and German verb clusters based on minimal assumptions about phrase structure. We have assumed that the internal structure of Dutch and German verb phrases is identical and that the word order constraints for both languages are almost identical. Word order differences between Dutch and German verb clusters are therefore a consequence of differences in lexical specification only.
We have demonstrated that the kind of word order variation that has been used to argue for a branching analysis of the verb cluster in German can in fact be accounted for without introducing the `verb cluster' as a subphrase of the VP. Furthermore, since a `flat' VP leaves room for a considerable amount of word order variation, phenomena which are problematic for a branching analysis can be accounted for as instances of word order variation as well. Finally, our revised account of `argument-inheritance' verbs leads to an improved analysis of partial VP fronting.