• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
1.1. Syntactic uses

This section exemplifies the syntactic uses of adjectives, which are summarized in Table 1; a more comprehensive discussion of these uses will be given in the sections indicated in the final column of the table.

Table 1: The syntactic uses of adjectives
1. attributive Chapter 5
2. predicative complementive copular construction Section 6.2
    resultative construction  
  supplementive Section 6.3
  appositive Section 6.4
3. partitive genitive Chapter 7
4. adverbial Chapter 8
[+]  I.  Attributive use of the adjective

One of the basic syntactic environments in which APs can be found is the prenominal attributive position, as in the examples in (3). If an adjective is used attributively, it normally restricts the reference of the complete noun phrase to those entities denoted by the noun that also have the property denoted by the adjective; the noun phrase in (3a), for example, refers to the subset of the boys that are clever; see Section, sub I, for a more precise and detailed discussion of the semantic contribution of attributively used adjectives.

Example 3
Attributive adjectives
a. (de) slimme jongens
  the  clever  boys
b. (de) snuggere meisjes
  the  brainy  girls

Attributively used APs do not modify the full noun phrase, but some smaller, intermediate projection of the noun. This is clear from the fact that two coordinated adjective-noun combinations can be associated with a single determiner. The presence of two articles in (4a) shows that we are dealing with coordination of two full noun phrases; the fact that the coordinated phrase refers to two separate sets consisting of clever boys and brainy girls, respectively, adds further support to this analysis. The fact that we find only a single article in (4b) strongly suggests that we are dealing with the coordination of some smaller nominal projection, which is supported by the fact that the full phrase refers to a single set of entities consisting of clever boys and brainy girls. See Section N3.3.2.4 for a detailed discussion of the contrast between  the one-set and two-set reading of coordinated nominal projections in (4).

Example 4
a. [NP [NP de slimme jongens] en [NP de snuggere meisjes]]
  the  clever  boys  and  the  brainy  girls
b. [NP de [[slimme jongens] en [snuggere meisjes]]]
  the    clever boys  and   brainy girls

The ability to occur in the prenominal attributive position seems sufficient to conclude that we are dealing with an adjective. First, the examples in (5) show that modifiers in the form of PPs or a (relative) clauses always follow the modified noun. Second, nouns and noun phrases cannot be used as modifiers at all: examples like hoekhuis'house on a corner' or bushalte'bus stop' should be considered compounds, which is clear from, e.g., the fact that these formations exhibit the typical intonation contour with stress on the first member of the compound.

Example 5
a. het <*op de hoek> huis <op de hoek>
  the     at the corner  house
  'the house at the corner'
b. het <*dat op tafel ligt> boek <*dat op tafel ligt>
  the     that on table lies  book
  'the book that is lying on the table'
[+]  II.  Predicative use of the adjective

If an AP is used predicatively, it specifies a property of some noun phrase that occurs in the same clause: for example, the copular construction Jan is aardig'Jan is nice' in (6a) below expresses that the property denoted by the adjective aardig is applicable to the referent of the noun phrase Jan; see Section, sub I, for a more detailed discussion of the semantics of predicatively used adjectives. As previously indicated in Table 1, three different types of predicatively used adjectives can be distinguished: complementives, supplementives and appositives. These uses will be briefly discussed in the following three subsections; see Chapter 6 for detailed discussion.

[+]  A.  Complementives

Complementive adjectives function as secondary predicates within in their clause. The examples in (6) show that they normally immediately precede the verb(s) in clause-final position in Dutch. Three typical constructions that contain a secondary predicate are the copular construction, the resultative construction, and the vinden-construction, illustrated in (6).

Example 6
Complementive adjectives
a. dat Jan aardig is.
copular construction
  that  Jan  nice  is
  'that Jan is nice.'
b. dat Jan het gras plat loopt.
resultative construction
  that  Jan the grass  flat  walks
  'that Jan walks the grass flat.'
c. dat Marie Jan aardig acht/vindt.
  that  Marie Jan  nice  considers
  'that Marie considers Jan nice.'

      The complementive adjectives in (6) are clearly part of the VP given that the verb and the AP satisfy the constituency test, according to which the position immediately preceding the finite verb in a main clause can only be occupied by a single constituent: the primeless examples in (7) show that the AP can be pied-piped under VP-topicalization. The primed examples show the AP can also be part of a left-dislocated VP, which must likewise be a constituent.

Example 7
a. [Aardig zijn] zullen de jongens niet.
  nice  be  will  the boys  not
a'. [Aardig zijn] dat zullen de jongens niet.
  nice  be  that  will  the boys  not
b. [Plat lopen] zal Jan het gras niet.
  flat walk  will  Jan the grass  not
b'. [Plat lopen] dat zal Jan het gras niet.
  flat walk  that  will  Jan the grass  not
c. [Dom achten/vinden] zal Marie de kinderen niet.
  stupid  consider  will  Marie the children  not
c'. [Dom achten/vinden] dat zal Marie de kinderen niet.
  stupid  consider  that  will  Marie the children  not

The examples in (8) show that the complementive adjectives in (6) are even a necessary part of the VP: they cannot be dropped. A related feature is that the meaning of these adjectives is an inherent part of the meaning expressed by the VP as a whole. For these reasons, we will consider them complements of the verb, hence their name "complementive adjectives".

Example 8
a. dat de jongens aardig/* zijn.
  that  the boys  nice  are
b. dat Jan het gras plat/* loopt.
  that  Jan the grass  flat  walks
c. dat Marie de kinderen dom/* acht/vindt.
  that  Marie the children  stupid  considers

      The examples in (9) show that the ability to occur in clause-final predicative position is normally not sufficient to conclude that we are dealing with an AP: the examples in (9) show that, at least in examples like (6a&c), the AP can readily be replaced by means of a predicatively used noun phrase like een aardige jongen.

Example 9
a. dat Jan een aardige jongen is.
  that   Jan a kind boy  is
b. dat Marie Jan een aardige jongen acht/vindt.
  that  Marie Jan  a kind boy  considers

Things may be different in resultative constructions: the examples in (10) show that using a resultative nominal complementive seems to give rise to a severely degraded result.

Example 10
a. Haar compliment maakte Jan gelukkig.
  her compliment  made  Jan happy
b. ?? Haar compliment maakte Jan een gelukkig mens.
  her compliment  made  Jan a happy person
[+]  B.  Supplementives

Supplementive adjectives differ from the complementive adjectives in that they need not be present and do not contribute to the meaning expressed by the VP; instead, supplementive adjectives add independent meaning of their own to the meaning of the full clause. Generally, supplementives are predicated of either the subject or the direct object of their clause. These two possibilities are illustrated in (11a) and (11b), respectively.

Example 11
Supplementive adjectives
a. Jan streek zijn overhemd (dronken).
  Jan ironed  his shirt   drunk
  'Jan ironed his shirt (while he was drunk).'
b. Jan streek zijn overhemd (nat).
  Jan ironed  his shirt   wet
  'Jan ironed his shirt (while it was wet).'

The English paraphrases in (11) are designed to express that the meaning of the VP and the supplementive adjective are relatively independent of each other. In the examples in (11) the semantic relation between the supplementive and the VP can be loosely defined as "simultaneousness", but Section 6.3 will show that this relation can be much more complex.
      As in the case of the complementive adjectives, the supplementive and the VP form a constituent. This is clear from the fact, illustrated in (12), that the supplementive can be pied-piped under VP-topicalization, and can be part of a left-dislocated VP.

Example 12
a. [Zijn overhemd dronken strijken] (dat) zal Jan niet.
  his shirt  drunk  iron   that  will  Jan not
b. [Zijn overhemd nat strijken] (dat) zal Jan niet.
  his shirt  wet  iron   that  will  Jan not

Still, the syntactic relation between the supplementive and the verb (phrase) is of a totally different nature than the syntactic relation between the complementive and the verb: instead of acting as a complement of the main verb, the supplementive adjective acts as an adjunct of the VP. This is especially clear with supplementives that are predicated of a(n agentive) subject, like dronken in (11a); example (13) shows that the supplementive can be expressed in an en hij doet dat ... clause in such cases, which is a sufficient test for assuming adjunct status (see Section 8.2.2 for a detailed discussion of this adverb test).

Example 13
Jan streek zijn overhemd en hij deed dat dronken.
  Jan ironed  his shirt  and  he  did  that  drunk

      Example (14) shows that ambiguity may occasionally arise between the resultative and the supplementive construction. Chapter 6 will discuss a number of means that may help to distinguish the two constructions.

Example 14
Jan streek zijn overhemd droog.
  Jan ironed  his shirt  dry
'Jan ironed (made) his shirt dry.'
'Jan ironed his shirt, while it was dry.'
[+]  C.  Appositives

The notion of appositive is often restricted to nominal modifiers like de voorzitter van onze vereniging in (15), but we will extend the use of this term to the postnominal APs in the (b)-examples of (16), (17) and (18), below.

Example 15
Jan, de voorzitter van onze vereniging, zei ...
  Jan  the chairman of our society  said

In some respects, appositive adjectives resemble both the supplementive and the attributive adjectives. Although the linear string of words is identical in (16a) and (16b), there is reason for assuming that we are dealing with a supplementive and an appositive adjective, respectively. First, the examples differ in intonation contour: appositive adjectives are often preceded and followed by brief intonation breaks, which are indicated by commas in (16b), whereas this is never the case with supplementives. Second, the two examples also have a distinct difference in meaning; the English renderings show that whereas the supplementive can be paraphrased by means of an adjunct clause, the appositive is more appropriately paraphrased by means of a parenthetic clause.

Example 16
a. dat Jan kwaad een gepeperde brief schreef.
  that  Jan angry  a spicy letter  wrote
  'that Jan wrote a spicy letter, while he was angry.'
b. dat Jan, kwaad, een gepeperde brief schreef.
  that  Jan  angry  a spicy letter  wrote
  'that Jan —he was angry— wrote a spicy letter.'

Finally, the examples in (17) show that the appositive is part of the noun phrase it modifies whereas the supplementive acts as an independent constituent of the clause: in (17a) two independent constituents appear in first position of the main clause and the sentence is ungrammatical as a result, whereas in (17b) only a single (complex) noun phrase precedes the finite verb and the result is fully acceptable.

Example 17
a. * Jan kwaad schreef een gepeperde brief.
a'. [NP Jan] [AP kwaad] schreef ...
b. Jan, kwaad, schreef een gepeperde brief.
b'. [NP [NP Jan] [AP kwaad]] schreef ...

      Example (17b) thus shows that appositives resemble attributively used adjectives in that they are part of a complex noun phrase. The primeless examples in (18) show, however, that appositives differ from attributively used adjectives in that they must occur postnominally and do not inflect. The primed examples further show that appositives can modify pronouns, whereas attributively used adjectives normally cannot.

Example 18
a. De kwade man schreef een gepeperde brief.
  the angry man  wrote  a spicy letter
a'. * De kwade hij schreef een gepeperde brief.
  the angry  he  wrote  a spicy letter
b. De man, kwaad, schreef een gepeperde brief.
  the man  angry  wrote  a spicy letter
b'. Hij, kwaad, schreef een gepeperde brief.
  he  angry  wrote  a spicy letter

      To conclude, note that the appositives in the (b)-examples above all have a non-restrictive interpretation. Adjectival appositives can, however, also be used as restrictors, in which case the first intonation break is absent; cf. Section 6.4, sub II. We have ignored the restrictive appositives here given that they behave syntactically just like non-restrictive ones.

[+]  III.  The partitive genitive use of the adjective

The partitive genitive construction is illustrated in (19). It consists of an inanimate existentially quantified pronominal element like iets'something' or niets'nothing', which is followed by an adjective inflected with the suffix -s. If some element has the ability to occur in the second part of this construction, this is sufficient for assuming that we are dealing with an adjective. We will not dwell on this construction here, but refer the reader to Chapter 7 for extensive discussion.

Example 19
Partitive genitive construction
a. iets bijzonder-s
  something  special
b. niets grappig-s
  nothing  funny
[+]  IV.  The adverbial use of the adjective

In contrast to English, adverbially used adjectives are not inflected and therefore not morphologically distinguished from the other adjectives in Dutch; there is no such thing as the English -ly suffix in Dutch. Consequently, we can only conclude that we are dealing with an adverbially used adjective by taking recourse to the meaning of the construction under discussion, that is, by determining whether the adjective modifies a noun phrase or an AP, VP or PP. For example, the attributively used adjectives geweldig, snel and diep from the primeless examples in (20) are used adverbially in the primed examples to modify, respectively, an AP, a VP, and a PP. Further discussion of this adverbial use will be postponed to Section, sub II, and Chapter 8.

Example 20
Attributive use
Adverbial use
a. een geweldig boek
  great  book
a'. Zijn huis is [AP geweldig groot].
  his house  is  extremely  large
b. een snel besluit
  fast  decision
  'a fast decision'
b'. Hij [VP rende snel naar huis].
  he  ran  quickly  to home
  'He ran home quickly.'
c. een diep gat
  deep  hole
  'a deep ditch'
c'. Hij ging [PP diep het bos in].
  he  went  deeply  the wood  into
  'He went deeply into the wood.'
    Suggestions for further reading ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    Show more ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    Show more ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    Show more ▼
    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.