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Preference for hawwe have as the auxiliary of the perfect in irrealis contexts

Some or all unaccusative main verbs have a slight preference for hawwe have as the auxiliary of the perfect in the B-construction.


Unaccusative verbs select the verb wêze be as their auxiliary of the perfect tense (see unergative and unaccusative subjects and the auxiliary of the perfect). However, such verbs may occur with hawwe have as the auxiliary of the perfect in irrealis contexts. The B-construction is by definition an irrealis context. So there are many examples of unaccusative verbs which are found with hawwe have in the perfect tense. Three are given below:

Example 1

a. Dy skipper soe oars ek dûmny wurden ha, mar …
that skipper would incidentally DcP minister become have but
By the way, that skipper would have become a minister, but …
b. It is sûnde en skande, der koe in perfester út groeid ha
it is sin and shame there could a professor from grown have
It is a shame, he could have grown into a professor
c. Klaas Taks moast ek mar meikommen ha; dat hie ik wol aardich fûn
Klaas Taks should DcP DcP along.come have that had I DcP nice found
Klaas Taks should also have come along; I would have enjoyed that

Incidentally, the last example also illustrates that the simple past tense of hawwe have may have an irrealis interpretation when it occurs in a clause denoting a consequence of an irrealis condition. To return to auxiliary selection, the main verbs in the examples above select wêze be as the auxiliary of the perfect in realis contexts. Examples are given below:

Example 2

a. Dy skipper is dûmny wurden
that skipper is minister become
That skipper has become a minister
b. *Dy skipper hat dûmny wurden
that skipper has minister become
That skipper has become a minister

The auxiliary of the perfect wêze be is not banned from irrealis contexts, as the following examples from 19th century Frisian indicate:

Example 3

a. Mei sokke praatsjes koene jy wol yn Den Haach bleaun wêze
with such talk could you DcP in The Hague stayed be
With such talk, you'd better have stayed in The Hague
b. Jo moasten al ris oerkommen wêze
you must DcP DcP over.come be
You should have come over here for a visit

A prescriptive source from 1909 claims that the use of wêze be in infinitival irrealis contexts is an interference from Dutch. Nowadays, it is common. Other irrealis contexts may also feature the use of hawwe have with unaccusative verbs in nineteenth-century Frisian, as shown below:

Example 4

As ik net moatten hie, hie ik hjir net kommen
if I not must had had I here not come
If I had not had to, I would not have come here

A nice example is the following, in which the second clause is irrealis, featuring hawwe have, and the third clause is realis, featuring wêze be:

Example 5

As ik har mem wurden wie, hie it nea bard, wat no bard is
if I her mother become was had it never happened what now happened is
If I had become her mother, what happened now would never have happened

Incidentally, the conditional clause features wêze be as the auxiliary of the perfect.