• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
5.5.1. Weak and strong R-words
quickinfo

The R-word er behaves like a phonetically weak pronoun, whereas the other R-words behave like strong pronouns. This is illustrated in (115): spatial er behaves like the weak personal subject and object pronouns ze'she' and m'him' in that it cannot be used in coordinated structures; the other spatial R-words, on the other hand, can be used in this context, just like the strong personal pronouns zij'she' and hem'him'.

Example 115
a. zij/*ze en Jan
  she  and  Jan
b. Marie en hem/*'m
  Marie and  him
c. hier en daar/*er
  here  and  there

The assumption that er is a weak pro-form also accounts for the fact that, as a general rule, it cannot be placed in sentence-initial position; the (a)-examples in (116) show that the normal position of weak object pronouns is right-adjacent to the finite verb in second or the subject in non-topicalized position, and the (b)-, (c)- and (d)-examples show that the same thing holds for the locational pro-form er as well as prepositional and quantitative er.

Example 116
a. Jan heeft 'm gisteren bezocht.
weak object pronoun
  Jan has  him  yesterday  visited
  'Jan visited him yesterday.'
a'. Gisteren heeft Jan 'm bezocht.
a'' Hem/*'M heeft Jan gisteren bezocht.
b. Jan heeft er jaren gewerkt.
locational pro-form
  Jan has  there  for.years  worked
  'Jan has worked there for years.'
b'. Jaren heeft Jan er gewerkt.
b''. Daar/*er heeft Jan jaren gewerkt.
c. Jan heeft er gisteren op gewacht.
prepositional er
  Jan has  there  yesterday  for  waited
  'Jan waited for it yesterday.'
c'. Gisteren heeft Jan erop gewacht.
c''. Daar/*Er heeft Jan gisteren op gewacht.
d. Jan had er gisteren [NP drie [e]].
quantitative er
  Jan had there  yesterday  three
  'Jan had three (e.g., books) yesterday.'
d'. Gisteren had Jan er [NP drie [e]].
d''. * Er had Jan gisteren [NP drie [e]].

Weak subject pronouns (with the exception of the weak third person masculine pronoun - ie'he') behave markedly differently in this respect and, as is shown in (117a), they may either occur in sentence-initial position or follow the finite verb in second position. Since it is generally assumed that expletive er acts as a place-holder of the subject position, it is not really surprising that it exhibits the same behavior as the weak subject pronouns.

Example 117
a. Gisteren heeft zij/ze het boek gelezen.
subject pronoun
  yesterday  has  she  the book  read
a'. Zij/Ze heeft gisteren het boek gelezen.
b. Gisteren heeft er iemand tegen mij gelogen.
expletive er
  yesterday  has  there  someone  to me  lied
  'Yesterday, someone lied to me.'
b'. Er heeft gisteren iemand tegen mij gelogen.

Note in passing that the generalization that non-expletive er cannot occur in sentence-initial position does not hold if er is part of a larger constituent occupying the sentence-initial position. This is especially the case if the first constituent is a (nominalized) infinitival clause; in (118), we give examples involving the locational pro-form er as well as prepositional and quantitative er.

Example 118
a. [Er drie maanden per jaar wonen] zou ik wel willen.
locational
  there  three months  a year  live  would  prt  want
  'Iʼd like to live there for three months a year.'
b. [Er alleen over klagen] helpt niet.
prepositional
  there  only  about  complain  helps  not
  'It doesnʼt help to just complain about it.'
c. [Er [NP zes e] achter elkaar opeten] is wat overdreven.
quantitative
  there  six  after each.other  prt.-eat  is a.bit  excessive
  'To eat six [e.g., buns] one after the other is a little excessive.'

      Example (119a) shows that weak object pronouns are obligatorily moved into a position preceding clausal adverbs like waarschijnlijk'probably'. Example (119b) shows that the same thing holds for the prepositional er (unless one of the syntactic restrictions discussed in Section 5.3 prohibits movement of er), and (119c) provides a similar example with quantitative er. We do not give an example with locational er given that place adverbs can be base-generated in a position preceding the clausal adverbs.

Example 119
a. Jan heeft <hem/'m> waarschijnlijk <hem/*'m> bezocht.
object pronoun
  Jan has     him  probably  visited
  'Jan probably visited him.'
b. Jan heeft <daar/er> waarschijnlijk <daar/*er> op gewacht.
prepositional
  Jan has    there  probably  for  waited
  'Jan probably has waited for it.'
c. Jan heeft <er> waarschijnlijk <*er> [NP drie [e]].
quantitative
  Jan has there  probably  three
  'Jan has probably three [e.g., books].'

Note that the strong form daar in (119b) may occupy a position within PP since the complete sequence daar op can be scrambled or be placed in sentence-initial position, as is shown in the primed (a)-examples in (120). The primed (b)-examples show that scrambling or topicalization is not possible with er op; this follows from the property of er illustrated in (119b) that it must be moved into some position external to the PP in the middle field of the clause.

Example 120
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [daar op] gewacht.
a'. Jan heeft [daar op] waarschijnlijk gewacht.
a''. [Daar op] heeft Jan waarschijnlijk gewacht.
b. * Jan heeft waarschijnlijk [er op] gewacht.
b'. * Jan heeft [er op] waarschijnlijk gewacht.
b''. * [Er op] heeft Jan waarschijnlijk gewacht.

      The discussion above has shown that the R-word er behaves like a weak pro-form that must be moved into the position indicated by means of +R in (121); the only exception is expletive er, which, like weak subject pronouns, may also occupy the first position in the sentence, indicated by XP. The other R-words are more like strong pronouns in that they need not move into +R, that is, they may remain in their original position, and they may also occupy the sentence-initial position XP.

Example 121
XP V+fin (Subject) [+R] ... ADVclause ... V-fin

      There are two further remarks that can be made with respect to the position of the R-words. First, it should be noted that what holds for the “pure” expletive form er in (122a) also holds for the occurrence of er in (122b), which functions simultaneously as expletive and as prepositional er. This shows that prepositional er is possible in clause-initial position, as long as it also performs the function of expletive. Note that example (122c) shows that quantitative er behaves differently in this respect: it can never precede the finite verb in second position. We will return to these cases in Section 5.5.3.

Example 122
a. Erexpl zitten vier sigaren in de sigarenkist.
  there  are  four cigars  in the cigar.box
b. Erexpl+prep zitten vier sigaren in.
  there  are  four cigars  in
b'. * Erexpl zitten erprep vier sigaren in.
c. Erexpl zitten erquant [NP vier e] in de sigarenkist.
  there  are  there  four  in the cigar.box
c'. * Erexpl+quant zitten [NP vier e] in de sigarenkist.

Second, it can be observed from the (b)- and (c)-examples in (123) that movement of weak R-words is clause-bounded, that is, the landing site must be in the same clause as its original position. The (a)-examples show that R-words again behave in a way similar to weak pronouns in this respect.

Example 123
a. Jan zegt [dat Peter 'mi waarschijnlijk ti zal bezoeken].
pronoun
  Jan says  that  Peter him  probably  will visit
  'Jan says that Peter will probably visit him.'
a'. * Jan zegt 'mi [dat Peter waarschijnlijk ti zal bezoeken].
b. Jan zegt [dat hij eri zeker [ti op] zal wachten].
prepositional
  Jan says  that  he  there  certainly  for  will  wait
  'Jan says that he will certainly wait for it.'
b'. * Jan zegt eri [dat hij zeker [ti op] zal wachten].
c. Els zegt [dat Jan er waarschijnlijk [NP drie [e]] heeft].
quantitative
  Els says  that Jan there  probably  three  has
  'Els says that Jan has probably three [e.g., books].'
c'. Els zegt er [dat Jan waarschijnlijk [NP drie [e]] heeft].
readmore
References:
    cite
    print
    This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
    A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.