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Complementation of ordinary infinitives in argument position

An ordinary infinitive may not be nominalised, though it can occur in argument position. The complements of such an infinitive can only be licensed as verbal complements.


Ordinary infinitives may not be nominalised. As a result, complements of ordinary infinitives cannot be licensed as complements to nouns are. So, the subject cannot be realised as a possessor:

Example 1

a. *Bouke syn wurkje
Bouke his work.OI
Bouke's working
b. *Har laitsje
her laugh.OI
Her laughing

Neither the subject nor the object can be realised in a fan of phrase:

Example 2

a. *Wurkje fan Bouke
work.OI of Bouke
Working of Bouke
b. *Skeare fan skiep
shave.OI of sheep
Shaving of sheep

The ordinary infinitive cannot be preceded by an article or a demonstrative, as is illustrated below for the demonstrative:

Example 3

a. *Dat laitsje!
that laugh.OI
That laughing!
b. *Sok wurkje!
Such work.OI
Such working!

However, an ordinary infinitive may show up in argument positions not requiring any articles. The infinitival complements are licensed in the way which is customary for infinitival verbs, which implies, for example, that the direct object occurs to the left of the verb. Some examples are given below. The first example (a) involves the subject position, the second one (b) the object position:

Example 4

a. Sigaren smoke is lekker
cigars smoke.OI is nice
Smoking cigars is nice
b. Ik fyn sigaren smoke net sa lekker
I find cigars smoke.OI not so nice
I find smoking cigars not so nice

Such examples may involve a VP inserted in an argument position. If only NPs are allowed in argument position, then it must be assumed that these VPs have been nominalised at their outer edges, and that they can only be nominalised at their outer edges. It must be added that prepositional complements, for some reason, resist the insertion of such VPs:

Example 5

a. ?*Hy giet tekear tsjin sigaren smoke
he goes at.rage against cigars smoke.OI
He rages against smoking cigars
b. ?*Sy tinkt oan sigaren smoke
she thinks of cigars smoke.OI
She thinks of smoking cigars

The examples are more acceptable if the gerundial infinitive is used:

Example 6

a. ?Hy giet tekear tsjin sigaren smoken
he goes at.rage against cigars smoke.GI
He rages against smoking cigars
b. ?Sy tinkt oan sigaren smoken
she thinks of cigars smoke.GI
She thinks of smoking cigars
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More information can be found in Germen J. de Haan (2010) and Visser (1989).

  • Haan, Germen J. de2010Studies in West Frisian Grammar. Selected papers by Germen J. de HaanLinguistik Aktuell/ Linguistics Today 161John Benjamins Publishing Company
  • Visser, W1989Ta de nominale ynfinityf yn it FryskPhilologia frisica anno 198851-74