• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
2.2.4.The structure of complementive constructions

The question of what structure must be assigned to examples containing a complementive has given rise to a lengthy, still unsettled debate. According to some, the subject is part of a projection headed by the complementive, which is often referred to as a small clause: it occupies a designated subject position, in which it saturates the thematic role assigned by the predicate, as in (283a). According to others, however, the subject is generated in the regular object position of the verb, the subject-predicate relation being established by other means, which is indicated here by means of subscripts in (283b).

a. .... [VP ... V [SC DP [Pred]]]
b. .... [VP ... V DPi Predi]

The main difference between the two proposals is that in the former the noun phrase and the complementive form a constituent, whereas in the latter they do not. One argument in favor of the former is that the complementive and its subject do indeed behave like a constituent when it comes to coordination, as is shown in (284a). One argument in favor of the latter is that the noun phrase and the complementive need not be adjacent. Of course, many proposals have been put forth to solve these problems. Proponents of the small clause approach may account for an example such as (284b) by referring to the independently established fact that noun phrases can be scrambled in Dutch, and proponents of the alternative approach may claim that examples such as (284a) involve coordination of a verbal projection smaller than VP.

a. Jan vindt [[SC Marie aardig] maar [SC Els een smeerlap]].
  Jan considers  Marie nice  but  Els an asshole
b. Jan vindt Marie waarschijnlijk niet aardig.
  Jan consider  Marie probably  not nice
  'Probably, Jan wonʼt consider Marie nice.'

Another test that suggests that the noun phrase and the complementive form a constituent is that they can be pronominalized together, as is shown by example (285a). For completeness' sake, note that the noun phrase can, of course, also be pronominalized in isolation and that the same thing holds for complementives in (at least) copular constructions; this is illustrated by (285b&c).

a. Jan vindt [SC dat boek erg goed]i maar Peter vindt dat niet.
  Jan considers  that book  very good  but  Peter  considers  that not
  'Jan considers that movie very good but Peter doesnʼt.'
b. Jan vindt het erg goed.
  Jan considers  it  very good
c. Jan is erg aardig maar Els is dat ook.
  Jan  is very nice  but  Els is that  too

Another potential argument in favor of the small clause approach is the fact that in copular constructions such as (286) the nominative subject of the clause may follow the object pronoun hem'him'. If we assume that the nominative phrase is base-generated within the small clause as the subject of the adjective bekend this may follow from the fact that nominative subjects are only optionally moved into the subject position of the clause; see Section 13.2 and Section N8.1.4.

a. dat hem [SC die problemen bekend] zijn.
  that  him  those problems  known  are
  'that heʼs aware of those problems.'
b. dat die problemeni hem [SCti bekend] zijn.
  that  those problems  him  known  are

A perhaps even more convincing argument is that the nominative subject may also follow the pronoun ons'us' in example (287a). The fact that the subject may follow this pronoun strongly suggests that it must be generated within the AP, given that the pronoun is selected by the modifier te'too' of the adjective—an example such as *dat ons die auto duur is shows that the pronoun cannot be present if the modifier is dropped; see section A2.2, sub I for extensive discussion.

a. dat ons die auto te duur is.
  that  us  that car  too expensive  is
  'that that car is too expensive for us.'
b. dat die auto ons ti te duur is.
  that  that car  us  too expensive  is

For the reasons discussed above, we will adopt the small clause approach in this work. We want to conclude this section with a bibliographical note. The debate on the two structures in (283) finds its origin in Stowell (1983), who defends the proposal in (283a), and Williams (1980), who defends the proposal in (283b). An influential Dutch advocate of Stowell's proposal is Hoekstra (1984a/1988/2004: part IV). Williams' proposal has been defended by Neeleman (1994b). Proposals that potentially reconcile and at least combine a number of advantages of the two competing ideas can be found in Bowers (1993), Hale & Keyser (1993) and Den Dikken (2006), which postulate some functional head in between the DP and the complementive that expresses the predicative relation between the two. When we call this functional head pred, the structure of a small clause is as follows [PredP DP Pred [XP ... X ...]], where X stands for N, A or P.

  • Bowers, John1993The syntax of predicationThe Linguistic Review24591-656
  • Dikken, Marcel den2006Relators and linkers. The syntax of predication, predicate inversion, and copulasCambridge, MA/LondonMIT Press
  • Hale, Ken & Keyser, Samuel1993On argument structure and the lexical expression of syntactic relationsHale, Ken & Keyser, Samuel (eds.)The view from Building 20: essays in linguistics in honor of Sylvain BrombergerCambridge, MA/LondonMIT Press53-109
  • Hoekstra, Teun1984Transitivity. Grammatical relations in government-binding theoryDordrecht/CinnaminsonForis Publications
  • Hoekstra, Teun1988Small clause resultsLingua74101-139
  • Hoekstra, Teun2004Arguments and structure. Studies on the architecture of the sentenceBerlin/New YorkMouton de Gruyter
  • Neeleman, Ad1994Complex predicatesUtrechtUniversity of UtrechtThesis
  • Stowell, Tim1983Subjects across categoriesThe Linguistic Review2285-312
  • Williams, Edwin1980PredicationLinguistic Inquiry11203-238
report errorprintcite