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2.4 Complementation of verbal and gerundial infinitives

There are two types of infinitives: ordinary (or verbal) infinitives and gerundial (or nominal) infinitives. An ordinary infinitive may not be nominalised, though it can occur in argument position. A gerundial infinitive may be nominalised before or after a complement has been attached to it. This entails that an argument to a nominalised infinitive may be licensed either as a complement to a verb or as a complement to a noun. This entails the following: once the infinitive has been nominalised, an argument in the nominal field can no longer be licensed as a verbal argument. Furthermore, a gerundial infinitive still has a verbal middle field on its left, but it is quite restricted with respect to the arguments which can be licensed there. Anyhow, the middle field of infinitives is more restricted that the middle field of a tensed verb.

More details about the complementation of infinitival Noun Phrases (NPs) can be found in the sections below.

Complementation of infinitives can only be discussed after the distinction between the two types of infinitives has been presented first.

[+]1. Two types of infinitives

The Frisian languages family consists of North Frisian, Saterland Frisian and West Frisian. All three languages display a morphological and syntactic distinction between two types of infinitives:

  • Ordinary infinitives
  • Gerundial infinitives

Here Frisian contrasts with German and Dutch. In the latter two languages, all infinitives have the same ending, spelled (e)n. Saterland Frisian, like West Frisian, makes a morphological distinction between ordinary infinitives, which end in -e, and gerundial infinitives, which end in -n. The type of ending has consequences for the syntactic distribution of infinitives and for its complementation in Saterland Frisian.

The ordinary infinitive in Saterland Frisian ends in schwa, spelled -e, or in a handful of monosyllabic cases, in -o. The verbs in -o are: dwo ‘do’, geskjo ‘happen’, krjo ‘crow’, mjo ‘mow’, sjo ‘see’, slo ‘hit’, and verbs derived from them. The gerundial infinitive always ends in -n. In West Frisian there are seven verbs for which the distinction is neutralised, but for Saterland Frisian the distinction is made without exception. The choice of infinitive is a matter of syntactic selection. Modal verbs and the causative verb läite ‘let’ select the ordinary infinitive, which is glossed as OI. Two examples are given below:

Iek wiel dät nit kwede.
I wanted that not say.OI
I didn’t want to say that.
Hie liet mie tou wied lope.
he let me too far walk.OI
He had me walk too far.

In addition, the citation infinitive is in schwa as well, which is also used as a fragment answer to a question like: what are you doing:

Skäipe skere.
sheep shave
Shave sheep.

Verbs of perception and the infinitival marker tou ‘to’ (among others) select the gerundial infinitive, which may be shorted to 'the gerund', glossed as GI:

Iek sjo mie deer noch stounden.
I see me there still stand.GI
I still recall how I stood there.

The definite article and the demonstrative article select the gerund, which is illustrated below for the definite article:

Bie’t Wustmoakjen.
at.the sausage.make.GI
When making sausages.

This is an outline of the distribution of the two infinitives, but the actual distribution is more complex: for this, see The VP in Saterland Frisian. The selecting head (modal verb, verb of perception, and so on) plays a key part in determining the distribution of the two types of infinitives. It is hard to acquire this distribution as a second language speaker.

[+]2. Complementation of ordinary infinitives in argument position

Ordinary infinitives may not be nominalised. As a result, complements of ordinary infinitives are licensed like complements to verbs. In contrast, complements of gerundial infinitives can be licensed like complements to nouns.

[+]3. Complementation of gerundial infinitives

Gerundial infinitives may be nominalised. As a result, complements of gerundial infinitives may be licensed as complements to nouns are. So, the subject can be realised as a possessor in case it is a person:

Mien blaubäkjen.
my blue.mouth.GI
Me freezing from cold.

Both the subject and the object can be realised in a PP headed by fon ‘of’:

Dät Pingeljen fon ju Klokke.
the ringing of the clock
The ringing of the clock.
Dät Braidjen fon Hozen.
the knit.GI of socks
The knitting of socks.

The first example above features a PP that bears the thematic role of the subject, whereas the second example features a PP that bears the thematic role of the direct object. A gerundial infinitive may show up in all argument positions. The following examples respectively involve a gerundial infinitive in subject position, object position and as a prepositional complement.

Dät Strieuwjen fon dät Flaask brangt uus dän Dood.
the striving of the flesh brings us the death
The striving of the flesh causes us to die.
Dan skällen jie dät Bejeerjen fon dät Flaask nit ferfulje.
then shall you the lusting of the flesh not fulfill
Then you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh
Truch dät Wierkjen fon sien Krääft.
by the working of his strength
By the working of his strength.
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