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5.1 The auxiliary of being and its selection restrictions

The verb of being selects VPs which may be headed by various verb forms. These are presented in the sections below. The PP infinitive has been described and analysed in Laker & Kramer (2022).

[+]1. The verb of being selecting an unaccusative perfect participle

The copula of being selects unaccusative perfect participles. This construction is used for the expression of the perfect tense. Verb Phrase (VP)-predication is allowed with perfect participles of unaccusative verbs. Two examples are given below:

Hie is deer bätedeel bie kemen.
he is R.it behind.down at come
He lost out.
Salomons Kat, die fon Wiezigaid fon ’n Stoul falen is.
Salomon’s cat who of arrogance of a chair fallen is
Salomon’s cat who fell off a chair because of his arrogance.

Unaccusative perfect participles are similar to transitive perfect participles (passive participles) in that both can combine with the auxiliary of being. From a generative perspective, unaccusative verbs are object raising verbs, that is, verbs of which the accompanying tensed auxiliary forms raise the verbal object to their subject position. The perfect participle does not provide a subject position. This implies that the verb of being is an object to subject raising verb, when it is used as to form the passive and to form the perfect tense of unaccusative verbs. See for more information: Unergative and unaccusative subjects and the auxiliary of the perfect.

[+]2. The verb of being selecting a passive participle

The verb of being also functions as the auxiliary of the perfect for the passive voice. The present and past tenses of the passive voice are formed with the auxiliary wäide ‘become’. This verb is conjugated in the perfect with the verb of being, and the participle of wäide is omitted in the perfect tense. Some examples are given below:

Allerwegense wädt Brood boaken.
everywhere is bread baked
Everywhere, bread is baked.
Dät Säidjen wuud eer fon Hounde däin.
the sowing was past of hands done
Sowing was done by hand in the past.
[simple past]
Allerwegense is Brood boaken.
everywhere is bread baked
Everywhere, bread has been baked.
[present perfect]
Dät Säidjen waas al fon Hounde däin.
the sowing was already of hands done
Sowing had already been done by hand.
[past perfect]

Unaccusative participles are like passive participles in that they combine with the verb of being. Passive participles do not provide a subject position for the object argument. This implies that the auxiliaries of the passive, wäide ‘become’ and weze ‘be’, are object-to-subject raising verbs, that is, the object of their complement is raised to their subject position.

Unaccusative perfect participles are distinguished from passive participles by the fact unaccusative participles do not combine with the verb of the passive wäide ‘become’:

Hie is / *wädt fon ’n Stoul falen.
he is / *becomes of a chair fallen
He fell off a chair.

The present and simple past tense forms of unaccusative verbs themselves provide a subject position for the underlying object, so there is no need for the verb of becoming to be used as verb of the passive. There might also be aspectual reasons for the incompatibility of wäide ‘become’ with unaccusative participles.

Furthermore, it is not the case that only transitive verbs can be passivised. Unergative verbs denoting verbs of activity can be passivised as well. The resulting passive is impersonal.

Deer wuud dan bie soangen.
R.it became then at. Sung
It was accompanied by singing.
[Literally: there was sung at it]

In these respects, Saterland Frisian patterns with the neighbouring West Germanic languages.

[+]3. The verb of being selecting a to-infinitive

The combination of the verb of being with a to-infinitive was already discussed in: VP > Types of to-infinitival constituents > Object oriented to-infinitives with clause union (4.2), subsection “The verb of being”. Note that the verb of being was analysed there as a object to subject raising verb. It was seen above to have the same function as perfect auxiliary for unaccusatives.

When the verb of being selects a to-infinitive, it may be accompanied by an evaluative adjective like goud ‘good’. Two examples are given below:

Dät is goud tou bruken.
that is good to use
That is useful.
Dät waas laidich goud tou ferstounden.
that was relatively good to understand
It was relatively easy to understand.

The evaluative adjective modifies the modality of the to-infinitive. Again the verb of being is an object to subject raising auxiliary, or more precisely, it makes available a position of lexicalisation for the object of the verb in its complement.

[+]4. The verb of being selecting a PP infinitive

The PP infinitive has been described and analysed in Laker & Kramer (2022). The data in this section have been taken from their article. An example of the PP infinitive is given below:

Jo wieren an ’t Spieljen.
they were at the playing
They were playing.

The PP infinitive is most frequently selected by the auxiliary of being, occasionally by some other auxiliaries. The verbs lexicalising the PP infinitive semantically belong to the class of verbs describing an ongoing activity or process. Some examples of process verbs are given below:

Wan ‘t Woater dan an ’t Sjoden waas.
when the water then at the boiling was
When the water was boiling.
Ju Mede ist nun an ’t Jeezjen.
the mead is now at the fermenting
The mead is now fermenting.

Some further examples involving verbs of activitity are given below:

Iek bän juust an ’t Ouwaasken.
I am just at the off.washing
I am just doing the dishes.
Ju wieren an ’t Täärsken wezen.
they were at the threshing been
They had been threshing.

The first example above shows that selected bare adpositions (verbal particles) are incorporated in the PP infinitive. This is reminiscent of reduced infinitives of purpose (or accompanying activity), which also exhibited incorporation of selected bare adpositions. We also note a first difference between reduced infinitives of purpose and PP infinitives: reduced infinitives of purpose are placed to the right of the verb cluster, ourside the middle middle, whereas PP infinitives are found to the left of the verb cluster, inside the middle field. The construction is used for habitual or frequent activities.

Another difference between reduced infinitives of purpose and PP infinitives is as follows. Reduced infinitives of purpose cannot be accompanied by any material, so there are no PPs or direct object accompanying the infinitive in its middle field. PP infinitives, in contrast, can be accompanied by sentential PPs:

Hie is je ap ’e Toal an ’t Wietjen.
he is yes at the hall at the whitewashing
He is whitewashing in the hall.

Presumably, this PP is located in the middle field of the auxiliary of being. The question arises whether the PP infinitive has a middle field of its own. This doesn’t seem to be the case, seeing that particles are incorporated in the PP infinitive, that is, they are not realised in the syntax (the middle field) but in the morphology. The same applies to direct objects. The PP infinitive is apparently not able to provide a position of lexicalisation for direct objects. The verb of being is not able to do so either, seeing that it may combine in the perfect tense with unaccusative and passive participles but not with transitive participles. However, it turns out that PP infinitives may combine with subcategorised PPs, provided these PPs are placed to the right of the PP infinitive.

Fröier wieren do Bäidene al loange foar Wienachten an ’t Beedjen tou dät Kristkindken.
earlier were the children already long before Christmas at the praying to the Christ.child
In the past, children were already praying to the Christ child long before Christmas.
Do sunt tetich an ’t Arbaien an ’t Skip.
they are busy at the working on the ship
They are busy working on the ship.

In the last example above, the PP doesn’t denote a location but the object which is the focus of the work, as is clear from the choice of preposition in Sater Frisian (the English preposition is ambiguous here). The examples suggest that the middle field is not available for PPs, whereas the end field is. The end field might be available because the infinitive has a nominal status, and nouns characteristically realised their PPs in their end field. In fact, PPs are never found prenominally. Now direct objects cannot be placed in the end field, and if the middle field is unavailable, we expect that direct objects will not be present, unless they are incorporated. This is indeed the case. Roughly one fifth of all examples of PP infinitives collected in Laker & Kramer involve object incorporation (98 out of 525). Some examples are given below:

Iek bän ieuwen an ’t Bril säiken.
I am short at the glass seek
I am (taking a moment) looking for my glasses.
Wie wieren juust an ’t Swienuuteenuursnieden.
we were just at the pig.out.eachother.cut
We were just cutting the pig in parts.
Die oolde Maier die waas immer an ’t Sloteskeenmoakjen.
the old Maier that was always at the ditch.clean.make
Old Maier, he was always cleaning up the ditches.

The first example above involces incorporation of a direct object. The second example involves the incorporation of two elements: the direct object and a reciprocal PP. The last example features the incorporation of a direct object and a predicate, more specifically a bare adjective. Characteristically, modifiers and functional heads like determiners are not incorporated. The question arises why the elements which are incorporated, cannot be realised in the syntax, more specifically, in the middle field of the selecting verb, the verb of being. Apparently, the infinitive is nominalised and incorporation is the only option, although it is unclear why movement to the superordinate clause is not allowed. Put differently, there is no clause union of the middle field of the infinitive and the verb of being, possibly because of the deep application of nominalisation. Note that the ‘deep’ nature of the nominalisation is signalled by the article. More verbal infinitives are not accompanied by an article. This construction is also found in other West Germanic languages, but in Dutch, for example, incorporation does not target direct objects, which can be realised in the syntax, in the middle field of the verb of being.

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