• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
6.4 The category and dummy status of the argument of a predication

The argument of predication is usually of the category Noun Phrase (NP), but it may also be of other categories: Adposition Phrase (PP), Adjective Phrase (AP) or Verb Phrase (VP). In addition, there is a special construction in which the combination of AP + PP is predicated of NP, and in which the PP is in a semantic part-whole relation to the NP.


Two examples are given below in which the argument of the predication is not of the category NP.

Beter rumelk as tou min.
better plentiful than too little
Having too much is better than having too little.
Beter ‘n Tiddelkop as ‘n Döäskop.
better a hothead than a dunce.head
Being a hothead is better than being a dunce.

The first example involves an argument of the category AP which receives a propositional interpretation. It gets an interpretation in terms of having rather than being. The second example involves an argument of the category NP, but again the NP receives a propositional interpretation. Here the interpretation suggests being rather than having.

PPs and sentences can also occur in argument position, but they are normally found at the end of the clause. In that case, the dummy pronoun et ‘it’ occupies the subject position. The dummy pronoun is the third person neuter pronoun. The following example features the dummy pronoun in subject position, and a PP at the end of the clause to which the dummy pronoun refers (both in bold):

Wan et koold is, is et beter in ‘n oold Huus as buppe ap ‘n näi.
when it cold is is it better in an old house than above on a new
When it is cold, it is better in an old house than on top of a new one.

The sentence could also be paraphrased without the place holder, as follows:

In ‘n oold Huus is beter as buppe ap ‘n näi.
in an old house is better than above on a new
In an old house is better than on top of a new one.

Sentences likewise occasionally occur in argument position, but normally the placeholder, the dummy pronoun, shows up and the sentence occurs at the end of the clause:

Et is goud dät wie hier sunt.
it is good that we here are
It is good that we are here.
Dät is beter foar die, dät du homeld of loom in dät Lieuwend ounroakest.
it is better for you that you crippled or lame in the life in.get
It is better for you that you get in the life crippled or lame.

The dummy pronoun is the reduced form et ‘it’ in the first example and the full form dät ‘it’ in the second one above. The dummy placeholder almost always shows up in subject position, rarely in object position.

The argument can also be realised as an infinitival clause, with the dummy pronoun in subject position.

Deeruum is et noodsekelk, herich tou wezen.
therefore is it necessary obedient to be
Therefore it is necessary to be obedient.

Although the dummy pronoun is usually absent from the object position, it is generally present in the position of adpositional object. Third person neuter pronouns realised as adpositional objects take the form of locative pronouns. Hence the dummy pronoun for an adposition is deer ‘there’. An example is given below:

Strieuwjet deerätter, besonnen tou wezen.
strive there.after level-headed to be
Try to be level-headed.

Alternatively, it is also regularly the case that the PP argument of an adjective is completely left out, and the infinitival clause appears without dummy pronoun. An example is given below:

Läitet uus nit wurich wäide, dät Goude tou dwoon.
let us not weary become the good to do
Let us not grow weary of doing the right thing.

Here the adposition fon ‘of’ and its complement have been omitted, as is clear from the following example:

Wier bääst du so wurich fon?
what.R are you so weary of
What are you so tired from?

Infinitival clauses functioning as direct objects, like their tensed counterparts, tend not to be doubled by dummy pronouns in argument position.

Jo beweerden, klouk tou wezen.
they claimed clever to be
They claimed to be clever.

To summarise, embedded clauses occur at the end of the clause containing them. If they function as subject, the dummy pronoun fills the subject position but not the object position. For PPs containing a dummy argument, either the PP as a whole is left out in the presence of a clause, or the Adposition appears preceded by the dummy pronoun deer ‘there, it’. The fact that dummy pronouns are much more frequent in subject position than in object position is an example of the many subject-object asymmetries which exist across languages.

    printreport errorcite