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6.4.2.Zijn + bare infinitive (absentive construction)

If zijn is used as a non-main verb, it normally functions as a perfect auxiliary. There is, however, also a more restricted use of zijn in which it selects a bare infinitive; we illustrate this use in (217a). De Groot (2000) has called this construction the absentive as it expresses that the referent of the subject of the clause is "absent" in a sense to be made precise below; we will follow De Groot by rendering this meaning aspect by means of the particle off in the English translations. Although we discuss the absentive construction as part of this chapter on non-main verbs, it is controversial whether we are indeed dealing with a verbal complexis vissen in example (217a); Haslinger (2007:ch.2) has argued that we are actually dealing with a copular construction in which the bare infinitive functions as a nominal complementive. Note that the absentive construction is typically found in the northern varieties of Dutch (De Schutter 1974). This may be related to the fact that the perfect-tense counterpart of (217a) in (217b) requires the use of the old Germanic infinitival form wezen instead of the more recent form zijn. The form wezen is also restricted to the northern varieties of Dutch (where it is on the decline as well); cf. De Rooij (1986).

a. Jan is vissen.
  Jan is fish
  'Jan is off fishing.'
b. Jan is wezen/*zijn vissen.
  Jan is be/be  fish
  'Jan has been off fishing.'

The discussion of the absentive construction is organized as follows. We begin the discussion in Subsection I by briefly considering a number of meaning aspects of the absentive construction, subsection II deals with the semantic restrictions on the bare infinitive selected by zijn, subsection III continues by showing that there is no straightforward evidence that the verb zijn is an argument taking verb, and it will also point to certain complications related to the application of the pronominalization test we proposed for establishing (non-)main status for verbs, subsection IV reviews the available evidence in favor of the two analyses sketched above and argues that this evidence is not fully conclusive to choose between the two options; we will nevertheless show that the non-main verb analysis is better equipped to handle the relevant data than the copular construction analysis, subsection V concludes the discussion by comparing the absentive construction in (217) with the seemingly similar construction in (218), in which the absentive meaning aspect is expressed by the particle uit'out'; we will show that the latter construction differs from the absentive in that it is a run-of-the-mill copular construction.

Jan is uit vissen.
  Jan is out  fish
'Jan is out fishing.'

The absentive construction has not received much attention in the literature to date; see Sassen (1977-8) and Haeseryn et al. (1997;1033-5) for reviews of work preceding De Groot (2000) and Haslinger (2007:ch.2). The discussion in the following subsections will show that there are still many obscurities that need more attention than we are able to give here. We will therefore leave these to future research.

[+]  I.  Meaning

The absentive construction exhibits certain semantic similarities to clauses containing the aspectual verbs gaan'to go' and komen'to come' discussed in Section 6.4.1. These verbs may be purely aspectual but may also be used such that the lexical meaning of the corresponding main verbs gaan and komen remains active; in that case, aspectual gaan and komen express not only inchoative aspect but also that the referent of the subject of the clause undergoes some change of location with respect to the deictic center, which is normally contextually determined or, by default, taken as the "here and now" of the speaker and/or the addressee. On the default interpretation, the examples in (219) express that Jan will leave/join the speaker/addressee in order to go fishing; the adverbs marked with a dollar sign require the context to provide additional information. See Section 6.4.1, sub I, for a more detailed discussion of the notion of deictic center.

a. Jan gaat daar/%hier een tijdje vissen.
  Jan goes  there/here  a time  fish
  'Jan will go there in order to fish a while.'
b. Jan komt hier/%daar een tijdje vissen.
  Jan comes  here/there  a time  fish
  'Jan will come here in order to fish a while.'

The absentive construction is like the aspectual construction with gaan in that it expresses that the subject of the clause is not present at the implied deictic center; under its default interpretation, example (220a) expresses that Jan is not in the vicinity of but is in fact out of reach of the speaker/addressee. Note in passing that the notion "out of reach" is essentially pragmatically determined; it often involves physical distance but may also include other factors. For example, it is not normal to say (220a) when Marie is in a room adjacent to the one where the speaker is located, but it is possible to say (220b) when the speaker is in a room adjacent to the bathroom. Conventions concerning privacy make Marie sufficiently out of the speaker's reach in the latter case to justify the use of the absentive—although Haeseryn et al. (1997:1035) claim that even in this case the "physical distance" reading is the most prominent one.

a. Marie is werken.
  Marie is work
  'Marie is off working'
b. Marie is douchen.
  Marie is take.a.shower
  'Marie is off taking a shower.'

The absentive construction furthermore expresses that Jan is engaged in the activity of fishing in a broad sense. The addition in a broad sense is needed to account for the aspectual difference between the absentive and the progressive aan het + infinitive constructions such as (221b), which are discussed in Section 1.5.3, sub I.

a. Jan is vissen.
  Jan is fish
  'Jan is off fishing.'
b. Jan is aan het vissen.
progressive aan het + infinitive construction
  Jan is aan het  fish
  'Jan is fishing.'

Whereas (221b) necessarily implies that the eventuality of Jan fishing includes the moment of speech, example (221a) need not imply this; it covers a larger range of activities including the leaving of the deictic center, the travelling to the place where the activity denoted by the bare infinitive takes place, the performance of the activity itself, and the return to the deictic center—as long as Jan is engaged with one of these activities, sentence (221a) will be considered true. That this is the case is clear from the fact that the speaker may actually start to use (221a) at the moment that Jan has left the house (and is thus out of the speaker's reach). In fact, examples such as (222) are very frequent when the speaker wants to announce that he is leaving in order to do something (and will thus be out of the addressee's reach).

Ik ben vissen!
  am  fish
'Iʼm off fishing.'

Note in passing that the use of utterances such as (222) is otherwise very restricted in speech for pragmatic reasons; the requirement that the referent of the construction has left the deictic center implies that the speaker and the addressee are not involved in face-to-face interaction. Such utterances are very common, though, in written communication. In this respect, examples such as (222) differ considerably from perfect-tense constructions such as Ik ben wezen vissen'I have been off fishing', which are very common in speech because they do not imply absence at the moment of speech, but at some moment preceding it; see Sassen (1977-8) for more discussion.
      The discussion above has shown that absentive is typically used when the subject of the clause (i) has left the deictic center, (ii) is out of reach of the speaker/addressee, and (iii) is involved in a broad sense in the activity denoted by the bare infinitive. De Groot further claims that the absentive implies that the subject will return to the deictic center after a certain period of time, which is predictable on the basis of pragmatic knowledge or former experience. This is, however, contested by Haslinger (2007:ch.2), who provides the idiomatic expression in (223a) as a counterexample to this claim. Given the idiomatic nature of the expression, it is not immediately clear how strong this argument is, so we will leave this issue open. Haslinger seems correct, however, in claiming that the time span during which the subject will be out of reach need not be predictable; examples such as (223b) are completely natural.

a. Jan is hemelen.
  Jan is  be.in.heaven
  'Jan has died.'
b. Jan is fietsen en ik heb geen idee wanneer hij terug is.
  Jan is cycle  and  have  no idea  when  he  back  is
  'Jan is off cycling and Iʼve no idea when heʼll be back.'

Although De Groot may somewhat overstate the relevance of pragmatic knowledge, he is certainly right in emphasizing the relevance of the speaker/hearer's knowledge of the world in that the projection of the bare infinitives typically denotes eventualities that have a typical setting or that are typical for the referent of the subject of the clause. If we take the deictic center to include Marie's home, her husband may use example (224a) to refer a series of events starting with Marie leaving the house, getting into her car, driving to the post office, dropping the letter into the letterbox, and returning home. And the use of an example such as (224b) would be strange if Marie was not a regular soccer player.

a. Marie is even een brief posten.
  Marie  is for.a.moment  a letter  post
  'Marie is off for a moment posting a letter.'
b. Marie is voetballen.
  Marie  is  play.soccer
  'Marie is off playing soccer.'

The meaning of the absentive is non-compositional in the sense that it expresses the subject's absence without there being any overt material available that could be held responsible for that meaning aspect. That this meaning aspect is really present is shown again by the question-answer pairs in (225) that show that the sentence Hij is vissen'He is off fishing' can not only be used as an answer to a question like Wat is Jan aan het doen?'What is Jan doing?' but also to a question like Waar is Jan?'Where is Jan?'.

a. Wat is Jan aan het doen? Hij is vissen.
  what  is Jan aan het  do  he  is fish
  'What is Jan doing? Heʼs off fishing.'
b. Waar is Jan? Hij is vissen.
  where  is Jan  he  is fish
  'Where is Jan? Heʼs off fishing.'

The acceptability of the question answer-pair in (225b) may simply be due to the fact that the use of the absentive involves extensive knowledge of the subject's routine, more specifically, that he is normally not performing this activity of fishing at the deictic center. Haslinger (2007:ch.2), however, claims that it is syntactically encoded. We will not discuss her proposal here because it is crucially based on the assumption that absentive constructions involve control, that is, have the representation NPibe [PROi .... Vinf]. This is, however, implausible given that zijn is an unaccusative verb and is therefore rather expected to be in a subject raising construction: NPibe [ti .... Vinf]. We refer the reader to Subsections III and IV for relevant discussion.

[+]  II.  Semantic restrictions on the bare infinitive

De Groot (2000) and Haslinger (2007) show that there are a number of semantic restrictions on the phrase headed by the bare infinitive. The most important ones are that the subject of the clause is agentive and that the eventuality expressed by this phrase has a certain duration. The bare infinitive is therefore normally an (in)transitive verb denoting an activity or an accomplishment.

a. Jan is wandelen.
  Jan is walk
  'Jan is off walking.'
b. Jan is een boterham eten.
  Jan is a sandwich  eat
  'Jan is off eating a sandwich.'

Example (227a) shows that unaccusative verbs do not seem to be possible. This also accounts for De Groot's observation illustrated in (227b) (for which he provides a separate semantic account) that examples such as (226a) become infelicitous when we add a directional complementive, because this makes the movement verb unaccusative. Clear evidence for this is provided by perfect auxiliary selection; see the contrast between Jan heeft/*is gewandeld'Jan has walked' and Jan is/*heeft naar Groningen gewandeld'Jan has walked to Groningen'.

a. * Jan is vertrekken/vallen/stijgen/emigreren.
  Jan  is leave/fall/rise/emigrate
b. *? Jan is naar Groningen wandelen.
  Jan  is to Groningen  walk
  'Jan is off walking to Groningen.'

Another restriction on the use of the absentive is that the eventuality denoted by the bare infinitive is seen as a discrete unit that is performed in an uninterrupted fashion. This is clear from the fact that when the infinitive denotes an accomplishment, the referent of the subject is only expected to return to the deictic center after he has completed the eventuality. The two examples in (228), for example, have different implications for the time span that Marie will be absent; while this time span may be short in the case of (228a), example (228b) strongly suggests that Marie is spending a sabbatical in some far-off place where she will write the book.

a. Marie is een brief schrijven.
  Marie is a letter  write
  'Marie is off writing a letter.'
b. Marie is een boek schrijven.
  Marie is a book  write
  'Marie is off writing a book.'

The nature of the semantic restrictions on the bare infinitives is sometimes somewhat obscure, as is clear from the fact that De Groot and Haslinger occasionally have different acceptability judgments. We will therefore not delve more deeply in this issue but leave it to future research, for which the studies by De Groot and Haslinger provide excellent starting points.

[+]  III.  There is no evidence that the verb zijn'to be' takes arguments

There is no clear evidence for assuming that the verb zijn'to be' in the absentive construction is predicational in nature, that is, able to take nominal arguments. The reason is that pronominalization cannot be used as a test for determining whether we are dealing with a main verb in this case. In order to see this, consider the copular construction in (229).

a. Jan is ziek en Marie is het/dat ook.
  Jan is ill  and  Marie is it/that  also
  'Jan is ill and Marie is it too'
b. Marie is al docent maar Jan is het/dat nog niet
  Marie is already  teacher  but  Jan is it/that  not  yet
  'Marie is a teacher already, but Jan isn't yet.'

The problem is that these examples show that the pronouns het and dat do not only pronominalize nominal arguments but also adjectival and nominal complementives, from which it follows that we cannot conclude from the acceptability of Jan/Marie is dat ook in the second conjunct of the examples in (229) that the copula zijn is a two-place predicate. According to the so-called small clause analysis discussed in Section 2.2.4, the complementive and its subject will be generated as a single phrase, and the surface structure is subsequently derived by raising the noun phrase from its base position into the subject position of the clause. On this analysis, the subject of the clause is an argument of the complementive and the copular is only needed to express morphologically the tense (present) and agreement features (third person singular).

a. Jan is [SCti ziek].
  Jan is  ill
b. Marie is [SCti docent].
  Marie is  teacher

Judgments on pronominalization in absentive constructions furthermore tend to vary from speaker to speaker and from construction to construction. Consider the examples in (231a). Examples such as (231a) are given as grammatical in Haslinger (2007), and some of our informants indeed accept them but others consider them marked. Examples such as (231b) are not discussed by Haslinger, but again accepted by some of our informants but considered unacceptable by others.

a. % Jan is zwemmen en Marie is het/dat ook.
  Jan  is swim  and  Marie is it /that  too
  'Jan is off swimming and Marie too.'
b. % Jan is een boek kopen en Marie is het/dat ook.
  Jan  is a book  buy  and  Marie is that  too
  'Jan is off buying a book and Marie too.'

The variability in judgments makes it very hard to draw any clear conclusions with respect to the question as to whether or not pronominalization is possible. It may be the case that speakers who reject pronominalization as marginal or unacceptable simply favor omission of the entire clause, as in the fully acceptable and completely natural examples in (232). Speakers who accept pronominalization in (231), on the other hand, may interpret the second conjunct as some kind of copular construction, that is, with the pronoun functioning as a complementive.

a. Jan is zwemmen en Marie ook.
  Jan  is swim  and  Marie too
  'Jan is off swimming and Marie too.'
b. Jan is een boek kopen en Marie ook.
  Jan  is a book  buy  and  Marie  too
  'Jan is off buying a book and Marie too.'

The main finding of this subsection is that the pronominalization test cannot be used in complementive constructions in order to determine the adicity of the verb, because pronominalization of complementives is possible as well. In addition, the judgments on pronominalization of the phrase headed by the bare infinitival are somewhat unclear.

[+]  IV.  Is the bare infinitive nominal or verbal in nature?

The discussion in Subsection III made it clear that there is no clear evidence in favor of the claim that zijn in the absentive construction is an n-place predicate, that is, an argument taking verb. This seems to leave open two syntactic analyses: the verb zijn functions as a regular copular verb and is thus combined with a nominal small-clause complement, as in (233a), or zijn functions as a non-main verb that is combined with the projection of an infinitival main verb, as in (233b).

a. Jan is [SCti [NP een boek kopen]].
copular construction analysis
  Jan is  a book  buy
  'Jan is off buying a book.'
b. Jan is [VPti [een boek kopen]].
non-main verb analysis
  Jan is   a book  buy
  'Jan is off buying a book.'

Semantic considerations seem to favor the analysis in (233b), given that bare-inf nominalizations like een boek kopen'buying a book' normally do not denote properties that can be attributed to the referent of the subject of a copular construction (although Haslinger, 2007:41, explicitly claims that phrases like een boek kopen do denote properties in absentive constructions), but this subsection will show that the syntactic tests for establishing the categorial status of the infinitive do not provide straightforward results: some support the copular construction analysis in (233a), whereas others support the non-main verb analysis in (233b).
      The two analyses in (233) make different predictions when it comes to word order. If we are dealing with a copular construction, the presumed bare-inf nominalization functions as a complementive and is therefore expected to precede the copular in clause-final position; if we are dealing with a construction in which zijn functions as a non-main verb, the bare infinitive must be a main verb and is therefore expected to be able to follow zijn in clause-final position. Haslinger (2007:ch.2) claims that the infinitive must precede the verb zijn and thus that the copular construction analysis is the correct one.

a. dat Jan <vissen> is <%vissen>.
  that  Jan    fish  is
  'that Jan is off fishing.'
b. dat Jan <een boek kopen> is <*een boek kopen>.
  that  Jan     a book  buy  is
  'that Jan is off buying a book.'

It is indeed the case that many of our informants prefer the order vissen is in (234a), but the alternative order is vissen is also accepted by at least some of these informants, for which reason we marked this order by means of a percentage sign; we also found the order zijn–infinitive on the internet for, e.g., the intransitive verbs fietsen'to cycle', logeren'to stay', sporten'to do sport', wandelen'to walk', werken'to work', and winkelen'to shop'. Haslinger notes the same thing in footnote 48 on page 63 but nevertheless claims the order zijn—infinitive to be ungrammatical, because speakers that accept this order in examples such as (234a) reject it when the infinitival phrase is more extensive, as illustrated in (234b). She fails to note, however, that the relevant order much improves if the infinitive and its object are separated by the verb zijn, as shown in (235a). Examples (235b&c) illustrate the same thing by means of examples that were taken from the internet: our Google search (1/7/2013) on the strings [boodschappen is doen] and [de hond is uitlaten] resulted in, respectively, 56 and 31 hits, most of which instantiate the absentive construction.

a. dat Jan een boek <kopen> is <%kopen>.
  that  Jan  a book     buy is
  'that Jan is off buying a book.'
b. dat hij boodschappen is doen.
  that  he  purchases  is do
  'that heʼs off doing his shopping.'
c. dat hij de hond is uitlaten.
  that  he  the dog  is  out-let
  'that heʼs off walking the dog.'

Note that embedded absentive constructions do not occur very frequently and are often difficult to find because of the intervention of other construction types (such as infinitival nominalizations in subject position followed by a finite verb in second position, e.g. De hond uitlaten is leuk'Walking the dog is fun'), which makes it hard to compare the relative frequencies of the two word orders. We are therefore not able at this moment to say what the relative frequency of the object–zijn–infinitive and the object-infinitive-zijn order is.
      Even if we interpret the fact that many speakers prefer the order infinitive–zijn in examples such as (234) as evidence in favor of the copular construction analysis, we cannot straightforwardly adopt it given that it wrongly predicts that the infinitive would also have to precede the clause-final verb clusters in the corresponding perfect-tense constructions, as in (236).

a. ?? dat Jan vissen is geweest.
  that  Jan fish  is been
b. *? dat Jan een boek kopen is geweest.
  that  Jan a book  buy  is been

Examples such as (236) are dubious, the normal perfect-tense forms being the ones given in (237); whereas the string [is wezen vissen] is very frequent, we found only one case on the internet with the string [vissen is geweest] that allowed an interpretation as an absentive construction; all other cases involved the progressive forms like dat Jan aan het vissen is geweest'that Jan has been fishing' or forms with the particle uit like dat Jan uit vissen is geweest, which will be discussed in the next subsection. The fact that the bare infinitives in (237) follow the other verbs in clause-final position strongly militates against analyzing them as nominal complementives. Haeseryn et al. (1997:1033) provide similar judgments and add that examples such as (237) are typically found in the western part of the Netherlands.

a. dat Jan is wezen vissen.
  that  Jan  is be  fish
  'that Jan has been off fishing.'
b. dat Jan een boek is wezen kopen.
  that  Jan a book  is be  buy
  'that Jan has been off buying a book.'

The contrast in acceptability between (236) and (237) thus favors the non-main verb analysis of the absentive construction. This analysis is also supported by the fact that these examples exhibit the IPP-effect: wezen has the form of an infinitive and cannot be replaced by the participle form geweest'been'.
      A potential problem for the non-main verb analysis is Haslinger's claim that the sequence wezen + infinitive in (237) may also precede the verb zijn, as shown in (238). This may open the possibility again to analyze the italicized parts as bare-inf nominalizations with the function of complementive.

a. dat Jan wezen vissen is.
  that  Jan  be fish  is
  'that Jan has been off fishing.'
b. dat Jan een boek wezen kopen is.
  that  Jan a book  be  buy  is
  'that Jan has been off buying a book.'

However, a Google search (9/26/2012) revealed that the constructions in (238) actually do not occur; the (a)-examples in (239) show that whereas the order is wezen vissen in (237a) occurs more than 100 times, the order wezen vissen is was not found (none of the hits for this search string instantiated the relevant word order). The (b)-examples show that we found similar results for the transitive string boodschappen is wezen doen. This shows that the orders in (238) are not the ones normally found in Standard Dutch.

a. Clause-final is wezen vissen
a'. Clause-final wezen vissen is
b. Clause-final boodschappen is wezen doen
b'. Clause-final boodschappen wezen doenis

The discussion above strongly suggests that in constructions with more than two verbs the infinitive must always be final in the clause-final verb cluster, and thus be separated from its objects (if present). This again militates against the copular construction analysis: on this analysis the infinitive heads a bare-inf nominalization, and such nominalizations normally are impermeable by external elements, like the verb zijn. Furthermore, example (240b) shows that bare-inf nominalizations are normally islands for extraction.

a. Jan verafschuwt [DP boeken kopen].
  Jan loathes books  buy
  'Jan loathes buying books.'
b. * Wati verafschuwt Jan [DPti kopen]?
  what  loathes  Jan  buy

Haslinger claims, however, that the object of a transitive verb can be wh-moved; her examples are given in (241). If correct (some speakers feel uncomfortable with examples of this type, for which reason we added a percentage sign to the (241b)), this would again show that the copular construction analysis is incorrect.

a. De poes is [muizen vangen].
  the cat  is   mice  catch
  'The cat is off catching mice.'
b. % Wati is de poes [ti vangen]?
  what  is the cat  catch

The discussion above has shown that the copular construction analysis can be supported by the fact that many speakers prefer the order infinitive–zijn in imperfect-tense examples such as (234). The analysis runs into several problems, however, in perfect-tense constructions: the copular construction analysis predicts that the bare infinitive should precede zijn, but the reversed order seems to be the one that is actually preferred. Finally, the copular construction analysis implies that the infinitive functions as the head of a bare-inf nominalization and thus wrongly predicts that the infinitive cannot be split from its dependents. Given that the non-main verb analysis does not prohibit the infinitive–zijn order in (234) and is fully consistent with the other facts discussed in this subsection, it should be given more credit than it has received so far, although it still remains to be seen whether it will be tenable in the long run.

[+]  V.  Vissen zijn versus uit vissen zijn

This subsection concludes our discussion by briefly comparing absentive constructions such as Jan is vissen'Jan is off fishing' with constructions such as (242a), in which the absentive meaning is overtly expressed by means of the particle uit'out'. We start by showing that the uit vissen zijn construction is a more special form of the run-of-the-mill copular construction in (242b). The discussion will be relatively brief since we will see that the uit vissen zijn construction is very similar to the uit vissen gaan construction discussed in Section 6.4.1, sub VI.

a. Jan is een dagje uit vissen
  Jan is a daydiminutive  out fish
  'Jan is out fishing for the day.'
b. Jan is een dagje uit.
  Jan is  a daydiminutive  out
  'Jan is out for the day (i.e. involved in some outdoor recreative activity).'

The claim that the sequence uit vissen in (242a) performs the same function as the particle uit in (242b) implies that it behaves as a constituent. That this is indeed the case is clear from the fact illustrated in (243a) that it may occur in sentence-initial position. Example (243b) further shows that the sequence cannot be interrupted by the verb in clause-final position; this also supports our proposal by showing that the infinitive cannot be construed as part of the verbal complex. Moreover, the word order of the phrase uit vissen is fixed: the infinitive vissen, cannot precede the particle uit or be separated from it by means of wh-movement: cf. *Jan is vissen uit and *Wat is Jan uit?'*What is Jan out?'; see also Haeseryn et al. (1997:1054).

a. Uit vissen is hij nog niet geweest.
  out fish  is he  not  yet  been
  'He hasnʼt been out fishing yet.'
b. * dat Jan uit is vissen.
  that  Jan  out  is  fish

For these reasons, we will analyze the constituent uit + infinitive as proposed in Section 6.4.1, sub VI, according to which the bare infinitive functions as a modifier of the adposition uit. This may also account for the fact that infinitives in the uit vissen zijn construction normally refer to recreational activities. A number of typical examples are given in (244), although there are also cases like uit werken zijn'to be out working' and somewhat obsolete expressions like uit wassen zijn'to be out washing', both having to do with performing domestic duties at other people's homes.

a. uit eten zijn 'to be out lunching/dining'
b. uit jagen zijn 'to be out hunting'
c. uit dansen zijn 'to be out dancing'
d. uit winkelen zijn 'to be out shopping'

As for the uit vissen gaan construction, the claim that the phrase uit vissen syntactically behaves as a complementive can be supported by the fact illustrated by the primed examples in (245) that it must always precede the verbs in clause-final position and does not trigger the IPP-effect; the absentive constructions in the primeless examples were discussed in the previous subsections and added here for comparison.

a. dat Jan <vissen> is <%vissen>.
  that  Jan    fish  is
  'that Jan is off fishing.'
a'. dat Jan uit <vissen> is <*vissen>
  that  Jan out     fish  is
  'that Jan is out fishing.'
b. dat Jan is wezen/*geweest vissen.
  that  Jan  is be/been fish
  'that Jan has been off fishing.'
b'. dat Jan uit vissen is geweest/*wezen
  that  Jan out  fish  is been/be
  'that Jan has gone out fishing.'

The contrasts between the primeless and primed examples in (245) are important because they highlight the fact that the absentive does not exhibit the behavior that we might expect from a complementive construction, and thus enforce the conclusion from the previous subsection that the absentive construction is not a copular construction.
      For completeness' sake, we want to conclude the discussion by noting that the bare infinitive is mostly not accompanied by an object or a modifier. Haeseryn et al. (1997:1054) provide example (246a) as a possible exception, but we have added a number sign to this example because the status of this example is unclear to us. Our informants consider this example marked and only tend to accept this string under the irrelevant reading, in which vlinders vangen functions as an afterthought. That (246a) is unacceptable under the intended reading seems to be supported by the fact that its embedded counterpart in (246b) is considered degraded by at least some speakers due to the fact that the placement