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5.1.7.Independently used argument clauses

Argument clauses are selected by some higher predicate by definition and we therefore expect them to occur as dependent clauses only. Nevertheless, it seems that they sometimes can occur independently. The discourse chunks in (338) show that this use is discourse-related in the sense that argument clauses can easily occur independently as an answer to a wh-question.

a. A. Peter is hier. B. Wat zei je? A. Dat Peter hier is.
  Peter is here  what  said  you  that  Peter  here  is
  'Peter is here. What did you say? That Peter is here.'
b. A. Kom je nog? B. Wat vroeg je? A. Of je nog komt.
  come  you  still  what  asked  you  whether  you  still  come
  'Are you coming or not? What did you ask? Whether youʼre coming or not.'
c. A. Wat doe je? B. Wat vroeg je? A. Wat of je doet.
  what  do  you what  asked  you  what  whether  you  do
  'What are you doing? What did you ask? What youʼre doing.'

Such examples can of course be analyzed as cases in which the context allows omission of the underlined parts of the strings in Ik zei dat Peter hier is'I said that Peter is here', Ik vroeg of je nog komt'I asked whether you are coming or not', and Ik vroeg wat of je doet'I asked what you are doing ..'. A similar analysis seems possible for echo-questions of the type in (339), where we may assume that the underlined parts in Je vraagt me of ik nog kom?'Are you asking me whether I am coming or not?' and Je vraagt me wat ik doe?'Are you asking me what I am doing?' are omitted. We refer to De Vries (2001:514) and Den Dikken (2003:7) for more examples.

a. A. Kom je nog? B. Of ik nog komt? I denk van niet.
  come  you  still  whether  still  come  I think  of not
  'Are you coming or not? Whether Iʼm coming? I donʼt think so.'
b. A. Wat doe je? B. Wat of ik doe? Niets.
  what  do  you what  whether  do  noting
  'What are you doing? What Iʼm doing? Nothing.'

Independently used interrogative non-main clauses are also very common to express that the speaker is wondering about something. The main and non-main wh-clauses in (340) seem more or less interchangeable, although the latter has a stronger emotional load. This emotional load is also reflected in that such independently used interrogative clauses typically contain some modal element like nu weer: example (340a') is completely acceptable as a neutral wh-question; example (340), on the other hand, feels somewhat incomplete and is certainly not construed as a neutral wh-question, as is marked by means of the "$" diacritic.

a. Wie heeft dat nu weer gedaan?
  who has  that  prt  prt  done
  'Who has done that?'
a'. Wie heeft dat gedaan?
  who has  that  done
  'Who has done that?'
b. Wie dat nu weer gedaan heeft!?
  who  that  prt  prt  done  has
  'Who (for heavenʼs sake) has done that?'
b'. $ Wie dat gedaan heeft!?
  who  that  done  has

A similar emotional load can be detected in the independently used declarative non-main clauses in the primed examples in (341); the speaker's involvement is again clear from the fact that while the primeless examples can be used as more or less neutral assertions, the primed examples emphasize that the speaker makes a certain wish, is uncertain, feels a certain indignation, etc. De Vries (2001:518) argues that this may be a good reason for considering independently used non-main clauses as constructions in their own right. Another reason he gives is that such examples have intonational patterns that differ markedly from those of their embedded counterparts: for instance, (341a') has a typical exclamation contour, (341b') a question contour, and (341c') allows various marked intonation patterns.

a. Ik hoop [dat je er lang van genieten mag].
  hope that  you  there  long  of  have.pleasure  may
  'I hope you may enjoy it for a long time.'
a'. Dat je er lang van genieten mag!
b. Ik vraag me af [of dat nou een goed idee is].
  wonder  refl  prt.  whether  that  prt  a good idea  is
  'I wonder whether that is such a good idea.'
b'. of dat nou een goed idee is?
c. Ik begrijp niet [waar dat nou weer goed voor is].
  understand  not  where  that  prt  again  good  for  is
  'I donʼt understand whatʼs the use of that.'
c'. Waar dat nou goed voor is …

Independently used non-main clauses may also have highly specialized meanings or functions that their embedded counterparts lack. For example, when used as an answer to the question in (342), the independently used of-clause in (342b) expresses emphatic affirmation: the speaker is replying that he is eager to have the book in question. This use is so common that it would in fact suffice to answer (342) with en of !'I sure do!'. Embedded of-clauses cannot perform this function, but simply express dependent questions.

a. Wil je dit boek hebben?
  want  you  this book  have
  'Do you want to have this book?'
b. En of ik dit boek wil hebben!
  and  whether  this book  want have
  'I sure do want to have that book!'

Because discussing the interpretational implications of the independent uses of argument clauses would lead us into the domain of the conditions on actual language use (performance), we will not digress on this. This topic has received some attention in Cognitive Linguistics since Evans (2007): we refer the reader to Verstraete et al. (2012), Tejedor (2013), Van Linden & Van de Velde (2014), and the references cited therein.

  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Evans, Nicholas2007Insubordination and its usesNikolaeva, I. (ed.)Finiteness. Theoretical and empirical foundationsOxfordOxford University Press366-431
  • Linden, An van & Velde, Freek van de2014(Semi-)autonomous subordination in Dutch: structures and semantic-pragmatic valuesJournal of Pragmatics60226-250
  • Tejedor, Laura2013Intersubjectivity in insubordination. Emotional and humorous effects of independent <i>dat </i>clauses in DutchUniversity of LeidenThesis
  • Verstraete, Jean-Christophe, D'Hertefelt, Sarah & Linden, An van2012A typology of complement insubordination in DutchStudies in Language36123-153
  • Vries, Jelle de2001Onze Nederlandse spreektaalDen HaagSdu Uitgevers
  • Vries, Jelle de2001Onze Nederlandse spreektaalDen HaagSdu Uitgevers
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