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This chapter is devoted to R-pronominalization and R-extraction. The first term refers to pronominalization of the nominal complement of a preposition by means of a so-called R-word, which must precede the preposition. In (3) we give two examples with the R-word er, which will be glossed as there for reasons that will become clear when we discuss the examples in (6).

a. Jan kijkt naar de film.
  Jan looks at the movie
  'Jan is watching the movie.'
a'. Jan kijkt ernaar.
  the movie  there.at
  'Jan is watching it.'
b. Jan wacht op de bus.
  Jan waits for the bus
  'Jan is waiting for the bus.'
b'. Jan wacht erop.
  Jan waits  there.on
  'Jan is waiting for it.'

Pronominal R-words like er will normally be referred to as R-pronouns, although we will also use the notation +R pronouns when they are discussed in contrast to -R pronouns like hij/hem'he/him'. The combination of an R-pronoun and its associate adposition will be referred to as a pronominal PP.
      Table 1, which is based on the classification of the pronouns developed in Section N5.2, shows that all third person, non-anaphoric -R pronouns that can be used independently as arguments have a [+R] counterpart. The fact that these [+R] pronouns all contain an /r/ is responsible for their name.

Table 1: Types of R-pronouns
subgroup A [–neuter] [+neuter] R-pronoun
referential hij/zij'he/she' het'it' er'there'
demonstrative proximate deze'that' dit'this' hier'here'
distal die'this' dat'that' daar'there'
relative die'who' dat'which' waar'where'
Subgroup B [+human] [–human] R-pronoun
interrogative wie'who' wat'what' waar'where'
quantificational existential
'no one'
universal iedereen

Table 1 shows that the -R pronouns can be divided into four main groups by means of the features ±neuter and ±human. For the referential, demonstrative and relative pronouns (group A), the gender distinction is the most prominent one, although it should be noted that most nouns that refer to +human entities are -neuter as well; nouns with the feature constellation +neuter and +human are typically diminutives (exceptions are the noun meisje'girl', which has the formal characteristics of a diminutive, the noun kind'child', and a number of nouns with a negative connotation like wijf'bitch of a woman' and mens'person'). For the interrogative and quantificational pronouns (group B), only the distinction between +human and -human is relevant. As illustrated in (2), and to be discussed more extensively in Section 5.1, +R pronouns are typically, but not exclusively, used as alternative realizations of -human pronouns; see Table 2 in Section 5.1, sub VII, for an overview.

a. We kijken naar hem/??er naar.
  we  look  at him/there at
  'We are looking at him.'
b. We kijken er naar/*naar het.
  we look  there at/at it
  'We are looking at it.'

      In contrast to English, preposition stranding in Dutch cannot arise by extracting a full noun phrase or a regular pronoun from a prepositional phrase. This means that English constructions like (3a&b) are not possible in Dutch, as shown by the unacceptability of the primed examples in (3).

a. Which booki are you looking [PP at ti ]?
a'. * Welk boeki kijk je [PP naar ti ]?
  which book  look  you  at
b. Whati are you looking [PP at ti ]?
b'. * Wati kijk je [PP naar ti ]?
  what  look  you  at

Dutch does not have so-called pseudo-passives either, which is clear from the fact that English (4a) cannot be translated in Dutch by means of (4b), but must be rendered by means of the impersonal passive construction in (4b).

a. These topicsi have been talked [PP about ti] a lot.
b. * Deze onderwerpeni zijn veel [PP over ti] gesproken.
  these topics  have.been  a.lot  about  talked
b'. Er is veel over deze onderwerpen gesproken.
  there  has.been  a.lot  about these topics  talked

Preposition stranding is often possible, however, if we are dealing with pronominal PPs. We will refer to this type of preposition stranding, which is illustrated in the primed examples in (5) by means of wh-movement of the R-word, as R-extraction. In order to indicate that the R-word and the stranded preposition form a semantic unit, we will often mark the discontinuous pronominal PP by means of italics.

a. Jan kijkt naar de film.
  Jan looks  at the movie
  'Jan is watching the movie.'
a'. Waar kijkt Jan naar?
  where  looks  Jan  at
  'What is Jan looking at?'
b. Jan wacht op de bus.
  Jan waits  for the bus
  'Jan is waiting for the bus.'
b'. Waar wacht Jan op?
  where  waits  Jan for
  'What is Jan waiting for?'

Example (6) illustrates R-extraction for all R-pronouns in Table 1. We will follow the custom in the linguistic literature to gloss the R-pronouns by means of an English spatial pro-form. This custom is due to the fact, illustrated in the primed examples, that all R-words can also be used as spatial pro-forms.

Spatial pro-forms
a. Jan keer er zojuist naar.
  Jan looked  there  just now at
  'Jan looked at it just now.'
a'. Jan was er.
  Jan was there
  'Jan was there.'
b. Jan keek hier/daar goed naar.
  Jan looked  here/there  well  at
  'Jan looked at this/that well.'
b'. Jan zat hier/daar.
  Jan sat here/there
  'Jan was sitting here/there.'
c. het boek waar ik naar keek
  the book  where  at  looked
  'the book that I looked at'
c'. de stad waar Jan woont
  the city  where  Jan  lives
  'the city where Jan is living'
d. Waar keek je naar?
  what  looked  you  at
  'What did you look at?'
d'. Waar woont Jan?
  where  lives  Jan
  'Where does Jan live?'
e. Jan keek ergens goed naar.
  Jan looked  something  well  at
  'Jan looked at something carefully.'
e'. Dat boek is ergens.
  that book  is somewhere
  'That book is somewhere.'
f. Jan keek nergens goed naar.
  Jan looked  nothing  well  at
  'Jan looked at nothing carefully.'
f'. Dat boek is nergens.
  that book  is nowhere
  'That book is nowhere.'
g. Jan keek overal goed naar.
  Jan looked  everywhere  well  at
  'Jan looked at everything carefully.'
g'. de boeken liggen overal.
  the books  lie  everywhere
  'The books are lying everywhere.'

      To conclude this brief introduction to R-extraction, we want to discuss a potential problem for our earlier conclusion, which was based on the examples in (3) to (5), that preposition stranding is only possible with R-pronouns, viz., the observation that examples such as (7a) are more or less acceptable for some (but not all) speakers in informal speech. In principle, there are two possible analyses for this construction. The first analysis is given in (7b) and assumes that we are dealing with preposition stranding of the English type in the sense that it is the noun phrase that has been extracted from the PP. This analysis faces the problem that it forces us to develop some independent account for the ungrammaticality of the Dutch examples in (3) and (4b). Furthermore, it is rather surprising on this analysis that the noun phrase bananen cannot be moved into some position in the middle field of the clause: *Ik ben bananen dol op; cf. Van der Horst & Van der Horst (1999:269). The second analysis is given in (7c) and assumes that the movement involves an R-pronoun which is subsequently deleted; in essence, we are dealing with a left-dislocation construction with a deleted resumptive pronoun.

a. % Bananen ben ik dol op.
  bananas  am  fond  of
  'Bananas I am fond of.'
b. Bananeni ben ik dol [PP op ti ].
c. Bananen, daari ben ik dol [PP op ti ].

The analysis in (7c) has at least four advantages. First, it is in accordance with our conclusion on the basis of the examples in (3) and (4b) that preposition stranding is only possible with R-pronouns. Second, it receives some support from the fact that the resumptive pronoun can also be overt: Bananen, daar ben ik dol op. Third, the (b)-examples in (8) shows that the preposition met must surface in its stranded form mee, both in the construction with and without daar; cf. Klooster (2001:324).

a. Ik ben blij met dat cadeau.
  am  happy  with that present
b. Dat cadeau, daar ben ik blij mee/*met.
  that present,  there  am  happy  with/with
b'. Dat cadeau ben ik blij %mee/*met.
  that present,  am  happy    with/with

Fourth, the analysis in (7c) does not predict the acceptability of constructions such as *Ik ben bananen dol op. And, finally, it correctly predicts that PPs that do not allow R-extraction cannot undergo the form of preposition stranding shown in (7a) either; cf. Klooster (2001:324).

a. * Die dagen (daar) werk ik nooit op.
  those days   there  work  never  on
b. * Amsterdam (daar) woon ik niet in.
  Amsterdam   there  live  not  in
c. * Die manier (daar) doet hij het niet op.
  that way   there  does  he  it  not  in

For these reasons, we will adopt the analysis in (7c) and assume that the markedness of (7a) is due to the fact that, for many speakers of Dutch, deletion of the R-pronoun is apparently not a favored option. For more discussion, see Klooster (1989), Van der Horst & Van der Horst (1999:268ff), and Van der Horst (2008).

      Before we start our more comprehensive discussion of R-pronominalization and R-extraction, we want to point out that, besides its use as a spatial pro-form, the R-word er can also function as an expletive in impersonal passives and existential/presentational sentences like (10a&b), and as the licenser of the nominal gap [e] in so-called quantitative er constructions such as (10c).

a. Er werd gedanst.
  there  was  danced
b. Er waren drie studenten in de tuin.
  there  were  three students  in the garden
c. Jan heeft er [NP drie [e]] gekocht.
  Jan has  there  three  bought
  'Jan has bought three [e.g., books].'

Realizing that er can perform more than one function is important because one occurrence of er can occasionally express more than one of these functions at the same time. In (11b), for example, er simultaneously performs the function of expletive, licenser of the nominal gap in the noun phrase remnant that corresponds to drie sigaren in (11a), and the complement of the stranded preposition in. We will discuss examples like these more extensively in Section 5.5.3.

a. Gisteren zaten er nog drie sigaren in de doos.
  yesterday  sat  there  still  three cigars  in the box
  'Yesterday, there were still three cigars in the box.'
b. Gisteren zaten er nog [NP drie [e]] in.
  yesterday  sat  there  still  three  in
  'Yesterday, there were still three in it.'

      This chapter is organized as follows. Sections 5.1 through 5.3 will discuss the restrictions on R-pronominalization and R-extraction: Section 5.1 starts by discussing the semantic restriction that, in the general case, the R-pronoun refers to a -human entity; Section 5.2 continues with the lexical restrictions on the adpositions, e.g., that locational but not temporal prepositions can readily be part of a pronominal PP; Section 5.3 concludes with the discussion of a number of syntactic conditions on R-extraction. Section 5.4 provides some examples of idiomatic constructions containing pronominal PPs, and Section 5.5 finally, explores a domain that goes slightly beyond the discussion of R-pronominalization and R-extraction by discussing the co-occurrence restrictions on the R-words in (6) and (10) as well as erʼs ability, illustrated in (11b), to simultaneously perform more than one function.

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  • Klooster, Wim2001Grammatica van het hedendaags Nederlands. Een volledig overzichtDen HaagSDU Uitgeverij
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