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2.3.2.Infinitival clauses

This section discusses infinitival clausal complements of nouns. We will see that this option is more or less restricted to non-declarative speech-act nouns, and an extremely small set of non-derived nouns.

[+]  I.  Deverbal speech-act nouns

Some, but not all, speech-act nouns can also be followed by an infinitival complement clause, which is sometimes optionally introduced by the complementizer om. Table 15 gives an indication of the possibilities.

Table 15: Infinitival complement clauses of speech-act nouns
nominal head complement
yes-no questions:
de vraag hoe het probleem op te lossen
‘the question of how to solve the problem’
het verzoek (om) te (mogen) vertrekken
‘the request to be (allowed to) leave’
wishes, ideas, suggestions:
het advies (om) te blijven
‘the advice to stay’

The primed examples in (636) show that declarative speech-act nouns do not readily accept infinitival complement clauses. Note that PRO stands for the implied subject of the infinitival clause.

Declarative clauses
a. Jan verklaarde [PRO onschuldig te zijn].
  Jan declared  innocent  to be
a'. ?? de verklaring [PRO onschuldig te zijn]
  the statement  innocent  to be
b. Jan deelde mee [PRO morgen al te vertrekken].
  Jan announced  prt. tomorrow  already  to leave
b'. ?? de mededeling [PRO morgen al te vertrekken]
  the announcement  tomorrow  already  to leave

      As far as questions are concerned, it is only wh-questions that can be realized as an infinitival complement clause, which is simply a reflex of the fact that speech act verbs do not take infinitival yes/no questions either. The lack of embedded infinitival yes/no-questions may be due to the fact that there is no linker that can mark infinitival clauses as questions, that is, whereas the complementizer of'whether' can be used to formally mark a finite clause as an embedded yes/no-question, such a specialized marker is lacking for infinitival clauses: the only complementizer-like element is om.

Yes/ no-questions
a. * de vraag [(om) PRO te komen]
  the question  comp  to come
b. * de vraag [(om) PRO het boek te lezen]
  the question  comp  the book  to read

Speech-act verbs like vragen'to ask' do take infinitival wh-questions: Jan vroeg [PRO wat te doen]'Jan asked what to do', which is probably related to the fact that the complement is now explicitly marked as a question by the wh-phrase in clause-initial position. Example (638) shows that the speech-act noun vraag can also take infinitival wh-questions as its complement. Note that the implied subject PRO can either receive an arbitrary interpretation or (optionally) be construed as coreferential with (a referent set containing) the agent of the speech-act noun.

a. de/zijni vraag [wat PROarb/i te doen]
  the/his question  what  to do
b. de/zijni vraag [wie PROarb/i in vertrouwen te nemen]
  the/his question  who  in confidence  to take
  'the question of who to take into confidence'

Dependent wh-clauses seem restricted given that wh-phrases with an adverbial function normally give rise to a marked result. A notable exception is hoe'how', which appears very frequently in this construction; we found 432 different instantiations of the string [ de vraag hoe te] on the internet. For comparison, we want to mention that we found less then twenty relevant instantiations of the string [ de vraag wanneer te], and no relevant instantiations of the string [ de vraag waarom te]. The examples in (639a&b) are taken form the internet; (639c) is a constructed example.

Adverbial wh-phrases
a. de vraag [hoe PRO te overleven]
  the question   how  to survive
b. de vraag [wanneer PRO te zaaien en te oogsten]
  the question   when  to sow and  to harvest
c. ?? de vraag [waarom PRO te vertrekken]
  the question   why  to leave

The same thing holds for interrogative pronominal PPs of the form waar + P. We searched the internet for the strings [de vraag waar+P te] for the prepositions op, in and over, and for each case we had fewer than 5 hits, which all involved the same verb. The relevant examples are given in (640).

Speech-act nouns (interrogative pronominal PPs)
a. de vraag [waarop PRO te letten bij brand]
  the question  what-on  to take.care.of  in.case.of fire
  'the question what you should give extra attention in case of fire'
b. de vraag [waarin PRO te investeren]
  the question  where-in  to invest
  'the question what to invest in'
c. de vraag [waarover PRO te schrijven]
  the question  where-about  to write
  'the question what to write about'

      The facts in (638) to (640) again seem to reflect more or less what we find in the verbal domain, so we may conclude that we are dealing here with inherited arguments. It therefore does not come as a surprise that speech-act nouns derived from verbs denoting the act of asking permission or giving directions readily accept infinitival complements, given that these verbs are typically combined with infinitival clauses. In (642), the implicit subject PRO is interpreted as identical to, respectively, the agent and the goal of the speech-act noun (which may both be left implicit), just as it would be construed as coreferential with, respectively, the agent and the goal of the corresponding verb.

Requests and orders
a. het/Jansi verzoek [(om) PROi toegelaten te worden]
  the/Janʼs  request  comp  admitted  to be
  'the/Janʼs request to be admitted'
b. het bevel (aan Jani) [(om) PROi direct te vertrekken]
  the order  to Jan comp  immediately  to leave
  'the order (to Jan) to leave immediately'

Just as the verb vragen'to ask' can readily be used with the same function as verzoeken'to request' and bevelen'to order', the derived noun vraag'question' can be used with the same function as verzoek and bevel. It differs from these nouns, however, in that it requires explicit mention of the antecedent of the implied subject PRO.

a. Jansi/?de vraag [(om) PROi te mogen vertrekken]
  Janʼs/the  question  comp  to be.allowed  leave
  'Janʼs/the question to be allowed to leave'
b. de vraag ?(aan Jani) [(om) PROi te vertrekken]
  the question    to Jan  comp  to leave
  'the question (to Jan) to leave'

Nouns derived from speech-act verbs like adviseren'to advise' or verzekeren'to assure' also give rise to a fully acceptable result. In (643a) the implicit PRO subject is coreferential with the implied agent of the noun phrase, which in turn is coreferential with the subject of the clause; the complementizer om must be omitted, just like in the corresponding verbal construction. In (643) the implicit PRO subject is coreferential with the goal of the speech-act noun.

Non-factual speech-act nouns
a. Jani gaf ons de PROi verzekering [PROi voorzichtig te zullen zijn].
  Jan gave  us  the assurance  careful  to will  be
b. het advies aan Jani [(om) PROi voorzichtig te zijn]
  the advice  to Jans  comp  careful  to be
  'the advice to Jan to be careful'
[+]  II.  Proposition nouns

As declarative speech-act nouns, proposition nouns denoting statements or facts seem to give rise to a marked result if they take an infinitival complement.

Proposition nouns (facts, beliefs)
a. (?) Jan veronderstelde [PRO niet te kunnen komen].
  Jan  supposed  not  to be.able  come
  'Jan supposed that he wouldnʼt be able to come.'
a'. *? de veronderstelling [PRO niet te kunnen komen]
  the supposition  not  to be.able  come
b. Jan nam aan [PRO direct te kunnen beginnen].
  Jan assumed  directly  to be.able  begin
  'Jan assumed that he could begin immediately.'
b'. ?? de aanname [PRO direct te kunnen beginnen]
  the assumption  directly  to be.able  begin
[+]  III.  Non-derived nouns

There is a very small set of non-derived nouns that can take an infinitival complement. A typical example is the noun idee'idea' in (645a): the implicit PRO argument can be interpreted arbitrarily or refer to the agent/possessor of the idea. Another potential case is wens'wish' in (645b), provided that one accepts that this noun is non-derived and can be used as input for deriving the verb wensen'to wish' instead of the relation being the other way round.

a. het/mijni idee [?(om) PROarb/i opnieuw te beginnen]
  the/my  idea  comp  afresh  to begin
  'the/my idea to start afresh'
b. de/mijni wens [(om) PROarb/i gelukkig te zijn]
  the/my wish  comp  happy  to be
  'the/my wish to be happy'

The fact that the noun feit'fact' in (646) cannot be combined with an infinitival clause shows that not all non-derived nouns that take a finite clause can take an infinitival clause. The difference between (645a&b), on the one hand, and (646b), may be related to factivity: infinitival clauses cannot be factive. This would fit in nicely with the earlier observation that declarative speech-act and proposition nouns cannot take infinitival complements either.

a. het feit [dat we de maan kunnen bereiken/hebben bereikt]
  the fact  that we the moon  can reach/have reached
b. * het feit [(om) PRO de maan te kunnen bereiken/te hebben bereikt]
  the fact  comp  the moon  to can reach/to have reached
[+]  IV.  Deadjectival nouns

Although some adjectives allow infinitival complements, these complements are not necessarily inherited by the deadjectival noun. Example (647) provides some examples of such clausal complements. As in the case of finite complement clauses (see examples (633) and (635)), the unacceptability of complement clauses with deadjectival nouns can be accounted for by the fact that these nouns do not denote abstract content.

a. Jan is (er) boos (over) [PRO niet uitgenodigd te zijn].
  Jan is there  angry  about  not invited  to be
a'. * Jans boosheid (erover) [PRO niet uitgenodigd te zijn]
  Janʼs  crossness  there-about  not invited  to be
b. Peter is (er) zeker (van) [PRO de beste te zijn].
  Peter is there  certain of  the best  to be
b'. * Peters zekerheid (ervan) [PRO de beste te zijn]
  Peterʼs  certainty  there-of  the best  to be

Consider in this respect also the pairs of sentences in (648). As is shown in (648a), the adjective bang'afraid' may take an infinitival complement, preferably introduced by om. However, the deadjectival noun bangheid'fear' in (648a'), though acceptable without a complement, cannot inherit the clausal complement. In the case of the near-synonym angst(ig), on the other hand, the reverse is true. Here, the denominal adjective angstig'afraid' in (648b) cannot take a clausal complement. The basic noun angst'fear' in (648b'), however, is a (relational) proposition noun that does accept an infinitival complement clause. Finally, there are cases like the (c)-examples in (648), in which both the adjective and the derived noun accept an infinitival complement.

a. Jan is bang [(om) PRO ontslagen te worden].
  Jan is afraid  comp  dismissed  to be
a'. * Jans bangheid [om PRO ontslagen te worden].
  Janʼs  fear  comp  dismissed  to be
b. * Jan is angstig [om PRO ontslagen te worden].
  Jan is afraid  comp  dismissed  to be
b'. Jans angst [(om) PRO ontslagen te worden]
  Janʼs  fear  comp  dismissed  to be
c. Jan is vastberaden [(om) PRO de wedstrijd te winnen].
  Jan is determined  comp  the match  to win
c'. Jans vastberadenheid [(om) PRO de wedstrijd te winnen]
  Janʼs determination  comp  the match  to win
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