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2.2. Nominal complements

Although the typical complement of an adjective is a PP, Subsection I will discuss some adjectives that may also take a noun phrase as their complement, subsection II, will show that these adjectives can occasionally also occur with a clause introduced by the anticipatory pronoun het.

[+]  I.  Genitive and dative nominal complements

This subsection discusses a relatively small set of adjectives and adjectival constructions that may take a nominal complement. Although such adjectives occur both in German and in Dutch, they seem somewhat rarer in the latter language; cf. Van Riemsdijk (1983) for an extensive discussion of the German counterparts of the adjectives discussed in this subsection. This subsection will not discuss adjectives in the form of past/present participles or modal infinitives, which may occur with nominal complements inherited from the base verb; these will be extensively discussed in Section 9.2.

[+]  A.  The case of nominal complements

Although case is not morphologically realized in Dutch, we can divide the set of adjectives that take a nominal complement into three groups on the basis of the case that would be assigned to the nominal complement in German. The German counterparts of the adjectives in parts A and B of Table 5 take, respectively, genitive and dative complements, and the German counterpart of the adjective waard 'worth' in the C part takes an accusative complement.

Table 5: Nominal complements of adjectives
case example translation
A. Genitive zich iets bewust zijn to be conscious of something
  iets deelachtig worden to acquire something
  iets gewend/gewoon zijn to be accustomed to something
  iets indachtig zijn to be mindful of something
  iets moe/zat/beu zijn to be weary of something
  iets machtig zijn to be in command of something.
B. Dative aangeboren innate
  beschoren given
  bespaard spared
  duidelijk/helder clear
  gehoorzaam obedient
  goedgezind well-disposed
  (on)bekend (un)known
  toegewijd/toegedaan devoted
  trouw loyal
  vertrouwd/vreemd familiar/foreign
C. Accusative waard worth

These case distinctions seem to correlate with the semantic complement type: the dative complements of the adjectives in Table 5B are normally +human or +animate, whereas the genitive and accusative complements of the adjectives in Table 5A can also be -animate. This is illustrated in (26); the nominal complements are given in italics.

Example 26
a. Jan is zich dat probleem bewust.
  Jan is refl  that problem  aware
  'Jan is aware of that problem.'
b. Het probleem werd Peter maar niet duidelijk.
  the problem  became  Peter  prt  not  clear
  'The problem didnʼt become clear to Peter.'
c. Dit boek is mij veel geld waard.
  this book  is  me  much money  worth
  'This book is worth a lot of money to me.'

The adjectives in Table 5A&B can be readily used in copular constructions, which is shown in the primeless examples of (27) and (28); in the German translations in the primed examples, we have indicated the case of the nominal complement by means of a subscript.

Example 27
a. Peter is het Frans machtig.
  Peter is  the French  in.command.of
a'. Peter ist des Französischengenitive mächtig.
  Peter is  the French  in.command.of
  'Peter is able to speak French.'
b. Peter is deze opera zat.
  Peter is  this opera  weary
b'. Peter ist dieser Opergenitive überdrüssig.
  Peter is  this opera  weary
  'Peter is weary of this opera.'
Example 28
a. Deze omgeving is hem erg vertrouwd.
  this area  is  him  very familiar
a'. Diese Umgebung ist ihmdative sehr geläufig.
  this area  is  him  very familiar
  'This area is very familiar to him.'
b. De universele grammatica is de mens aangeboren.
  the universal grammar  is  the man  innate
b'. Die Universalgrammatik ist dem Menschendative angeboren.
  the universal grammar  is  the man  innate
  'Universal Grammar is innate to man.'

The nominal complements differ from the prepositional ones discussed in 2.1 in that they cannot follow the adjective. This is illustrated in the (a)-examples in (29) for the Dutch examples in (27) and by the (b)-examples for the Dutch examples in (28).

Example 29
a. * Peter is machtig het Frans.
a'. * Peter is zat deze opera
b. * Deze omgeving is erg vertrouwd hem.
b'. * De universele grammatica is aangeboren de mens.

      The examples in (30a&b) show that the adjectives in Table 5 cannot readily be used in resultative constructions. An apparent counterexample is given in (30c), in which bekendmaken (which is normally written as a single word) is a fixed collocation with the meaning “to announce".

Example 30
a. * Ik maak Jan deze operagenitive zat (door hem te vaak te spelen).
  make  Jan this opera  weary   by playing it too often
b. * Ik maak Jandative deze omgeving bekend.
  make  Jan  this area  familiar
c. Ik maak Jan mijn plannen bekend.
  make Jan my plans  familiar
  'I announced my plans to Jan.'

Adjectives that take a genitive or a dative object differ in that only the former can be marginally used in the achten/vinden-construction; this is shown by the examples in (31a&b). However, if the dative noun phrase in (31b) is dropped, the construction becomes fully acceptable, although it is not clear why omitting the complement should have this effect; see the discussion of (35) for a suggestion that may be helpful in this respect.

Example 31
a. ? Ik acht Jan het Fransgenitive machtig.
  consider  Jan the French  in.command.of
b. *? Ik acht de mensdative de universele grammatica aangeboren.
  consider  the man  the universal grammar  innate
b'. Ik acht de universele grammatica aangeboren.
  consider  the universal grammar  innate

      An example with the adjective waard in Table 5C is given in (32a). This adjective also occurs in the syntactic frame in (32b); in this frame, the pronoun mij is assigned dative case in German, and the noun phrase het geld receives accusative case.

Example 32
a. Peter is die onderscheiding waard.
  Peter  is  that distinction  worth
a'. Peter ist die Unterscheidungaccusative wert.
  Peter  is  that distinction  worth
  'Peter deserves that distinction.'
b. Dit boek is mij het geld niet waard.
  this book  is me  the money  not  worth
b'. Dieses Buch ist mirdative den Preisaccusative nicht wert.
  this book  is  me  the money  not  worth
  'This book isnʼt worth the money to me.'
[+]  B.  The obligatoriness of the nominal complement

The genitive arguments of the adjectives in Table 5A are normally obligatory, although they can occasionally be replaced by a van-PP, as is illustrated in (33). The use of the number sign in (33b) indicates that omitting the genitive argument is possible, but will have a dramatic effect on the meaning of the sentence: Jan is moe/zat'Jan is tired/drunk'.

Example 33
a. Jan is zich *(het probleemgenitive) bewust.
  Jan is refl    the problem  conscious
a'. Jan is zich bewust van dat probleem.
  Jan is refl  conscious  of that problem
  'Jan is aware of that problem.'
b. Jan is #(die operagenitive) moe/zat.
  Jan is   that opera  weary
b'. ? Jan is moe/zat van die opera.
  Jan is  weary  of that opera

      It seems that the adjectives in Table 5B can be divided into two subclasses in this respect: beschoren, bespaard, goedgezind and toegewijd/toegedaan require that the dative argument be present, whereas aangeboren, duidelijk, gehoorzaam, helder, ( on) bekend, trouw, vertrouwd and vreemd can also occur without a dative argument. This is illustrated in (34).

Example 34
a. Peter is *(hemdative) goedgezind.
  Peter is    him  well.disposed
  'Peter is well-disposed towards him.'
b. Dit probleem is (hemdative) bekend.
  this problem  is  him  known
  'This problem is known (to him).'

It should be noted, however, that omitting the dative argument from the second subclass sometimes affects the meaning/denotation of the adjective. This is illustrated in (35). This raises the question as to whether our claim that the dative argument is optional with adjectives of the second subclass is actually correct; it may be the case that we are simply dealing with two homophonous forms.

Example 35
a. Deze karaktereigenschap is hemdative vreemd.
  this quality  is him  foreign
  'He doesnʼt possess this quality of character.'
b. Deze karaktereigenschap is vreemd.
  this quality  is weird

In some cases the dative noun phrases can be replaced by a voor- or an aan-PP. The former is possible with the adjectives duidelijk/helder, and the latter with the adjectives gehoorzaam and trouw.

Example 36
a. Het probleem is mij duidelijk/helder.
  the problem  is  me  clear/clear
  'The problem is clear to me.'
a'. ? Het probleem is duidelijk/helder voor me.
  the problem  is clear/clear  to me
b. De hond is Peter gehoorzaam.
  the dog  is Peter obedient
  'The dog is obedient to Peter.'
b'. De hond is gehoorzaam aan Peter.
  the dog  is obedient  to Peter
c. De hond is Peter trouw.
  the dog  is Peter loyal
  'The dog is loyal to Peter.'
c'. De hond is trouw aan Peter.
  the dog  is loyal  to Peter
[+]  C.  Order of the subject of the clause and nominal complements of adjectives

The genitive complement of the adjectives in Table 5A always follows the subject of the clause, which is illustrated in (37) by the contrast between the primeless and primed examples.

Example 37
a. dat Jan het Fransgenitive machtig is.
  that  Jan  the French  in.command.of  is
  'that Jan has a firm grasp of French'
a'. * dat het Frans Jan machtig is.
b. dat Jan deze operagenitive zat is.
  that  Jan this opera  weary  is
  'that Jan had enough of this opera.'
b'. * dat deze opera Jan zat is.

The adjectives in Table 5B, however, can again be divided into two subclasses in this respect. The adjectives gehoorzaam and trouw in (38a) require the dative object to follow the subject of the clause; the order in example (38b) forces the reading that it is Jan who is loyal/obedient to the dog.

Example 38
a. dat de hond Jandative trouw/gehoorzaam is.
  that  the dog  Jan  loyal/obedient  is
  'that the dog is loyal/obedient to Jan.'
b. # dat Jan de hond trouw/gehoorzaam is.

The adjectives in (39), on the other hand, allow the dative object to precede the subject. Since we also find this kind of order variation with the subject of dyadic unaccusative verbs, it has been suggested that the subject of the clause is in fact an internal argument of the adjective; cf. Bennis (2004) and also Cinque (1990). More evidence in favor of this claim can be found in Section 6.5.

Example 39
a. dat de universele grammatica de mensdative aangeboren is.
  that  the universal grammar  the man  innate  is
  'that Universal Grammar is innate to man.'
a'. dat de mensdative de universele grammatica aangeboren is.
b. dat dat probleem Jandative nu eindelijk duidelijk/helder is.
  that  that problem  Jan  now  finally  clear  is
  'that the problem is finally clear to Jan now.'
b'. dat Jandative dat probleem nu eindelijk duidelijk/helder is.
[+]  D.  Constituency of the adjective and the nominal complement

The genitive/dative noun phrase is a complement of the adjective (and not of the verb). One fact supporting this claim is that, in German, the case assigned to the noun phrase is determined by the adjective. Furthermore, if the noun phrase can be replaced by a complement PP, the combination A + PP can be placed in clause-initial position and must therefore be a constituent; cf. the constituency test.

Example 40
a. Ik was me dat probleemgenitive bewust.
  was refl  that problem  aware
a'. Ik was me bewust van dat probleem.
  was refl  aware  of that problem
  'I was aware of that problem.'
a''. [Bewust van dat probleem] was ik me niet.
  aware  of that problem  was  refl  not
b. De ridder bleef zijn heerdative trouw.
  the knight  remained  his lord  loyal
b'. De ridder bleef trouw aan zijn heer.
  the knight  remained  loyal  to his lord
b''. [Trouw aan zijn heer] bleef de ridder niet.
  loyal  to his lord  remained  the knight  not

Given that the combination A + PP forms a constituent, it seems relatively safe to assume that the same thing holds for the combination NP + A, although it should be noted that there is a potential problem: the primeless examples in (41) show that at least for some speakers, topicalization of the combination NP + A gives rise to a degraded result, and all speakers clearly prefer the split patterns in the primed examples. We return to these patterns in Section 2.3, while noting that German speakers seem to have much fewer problems with the primeless orders in (41).

Example 41
a. % [AP Dat probleemgenitive bewust] was ik me niet.
  that problem  aware  was  refl  not
  'I wasnʼt aware of that problem.'
a'. Bewust was ik me dat probleem niet.
a''. Dat probleem was ik me niet bewust.
b. % [AP Zijn heerdative trouw] bleef de ridder/hij niet.
  his lord  loyal remained  the knight/he  not
  'The knight/he didnʼt remain loyal to his lord.'
b'. Trouw bleef de ridder/hij zijn heer niet.
b''. Zijn heer bleef de ridder/hij niet trouw.
[+]  E.  Dative complements of adjectives modified by te'too' and genoeg'enough'

Although the set of adjectives that take a nominal complement is quite small in Dutch, it should be noted that virtually any gradable adjective can be combined with a dative object if it is modified by the (evaluative) intensifying element te'too'; cf. Section 3.1.2, sub II. The examples in (42) show that, in the resulting structure, the dative object refers to the individual whose evaluation is given. Note further that the subject of the clause can always follow the dative object; cf. the discussion of examples (38b&c) in Subsection C.

Example 42
a. dat het boek Jan/mij *(te) moeilijk is.
  that  the book  Jan/me    too  difficult  is
  'that the book is too difficult for Jan/me.'
a'. dat Jan/mij het boek te moeilijk is.
b. dat het water Jan/mij *(te) koud is.
  that  the water  Jan/me  too  cold  is
  'that the water is too cold for Jan/me.'
b'. dat Jan/mij het water te koud is.

The examples in (43) show that similar facts can sometimes be observed in the case of the modifier genoeg'enough'; cf. Section 3.1.3, sub IV.

Example 43
a. dat het boek Jan/mij al moeilijk *(genoeg) is.
  that  the book  Jan/me  already  difficult     enough  is
  'that the book is already difficult enough for Jan/me.'
a'. dat Jan/mij het boek al moeilijk genoeg is.
b. dat het water Jan/mij al koud *(genoeg) is.
  that  the water  Jan/me  already  cold     enough  is
  'that the water is cold enough for Jan/me.'
b'. dat Jan/mij het water al koud genoeg is.

The primeless examples in (44) illustrate that the dative phrases in (42) and (43) alternate with voor-PPs. The primed examples show that these PPs can be readily pied-piped by topicalization of an AP modified by te'too', but that this is harder in the case of the modifier genoeg. The fact that (44b') is also marked without the PP suggests that this is not due to problems with pied piping of the PP but to problems with topicalization of the modified adjective.

Example 44
a. dat het boek te moeilijk is voor Jan.
  that  the book too difficult  is for Jan
a. Te moeilijk voor Jan is dat boek niet.
  too difficult for Jan  is that book  not
b. dat het boek al moeilijk *(genoeg) is voor Jan.
  that  the book  already  difficult     enough  is for Jan
b'. ?? Moeilijk genoeg (voor Jan) is het boek nog niet.
  difficult enough   for Jan  is the book  not yet
[+]  F.  Some less clear cases

Besides the examples in Table 5, there are some more or lesss fixed expressions in which the categorial status of the predicative element is not clear; examples such as (45) are often considered lexicalized phrasal verbs.

Example 45
a. Hij is het spoor bijster.
  he  is the track  lost
  'He has lost his way.'
b. Hij is de stad meester.
  he  is the city  in.command.of
  'Heʼs in command of the city.'
c. Hij is zijn sleutels steeds kwijt.
  he  is his keys  all.the.time  lost
  'He mislays/loses his keys all the time.'
[+]  II.  Clauses introduced by the anticipatory pronoun het

A small subset of the adjectives in Table 5A, which take a genitive noun phrase as their complement, may also occur with a clausal complement, which can be finite or infinitival; the clearest cases involve the adjectives bewust'conscious' and moe/zat/beu'weary', illustrated in (46a) and (46b), respectively. The examples in (46) show that the clause is obligatorily introduced by the anticipatory pronoun het'it', which suggests that we can consider these examples as special cases of the examples with a nominal complement discussed in Subsection I. Observe that the implied subject PRO of the infinitival clauses in the primed examples must be construed as identical to the subject of the matrix clause.

Example 46
a. Ik ben ??(het) me bewust [dat hij ziek is].
  am      it  refl  conscious   that he ill is
  'Iʼm aware of the fact that heʼs ill.'
a'. Iki ben *(het) me bewust [PROi ziek te zijn].
  am     it  refl  conscious   ill  to be
  'Iʼm aware of the fact that Iʼm ill.'
b. Ik ben *(het) moe/zat/beu [dat jij steeds zeurt].
  am     it  weary  that  you  all.the.time  nag
  'Iʼm tired of it that you are nagging all the time.'
b'. Iki ben *(het) moe/zat/beu [(om) PROi steeds te moeten dansen].
  am    it  weary  comp  all.the.time  to have.to  dance
  'Iʼm weary of being obliged to dance all the time.'

The anticipatory pronoun het'it' cannot be present if the clausal complement is placed in clause-initial position; this occurs with finite clauses only, as infinitival clauses generally resist placement in this position. The fact that an anticipatory pronoun is impossible suggests that this pronoun acts as a kind of “placeholder" for the clause-final clauses in (46). Perhaps this may even lead to the conclusion that the clause is not even a constituent of the matrix or main clause when the anticipatory pronoun is present, given that clausal constituents normally can occupy the clause-initial position; cf. the constituency test.

Example 47
a. [Dat hij ziek is] ben ik *(het) me bewust.
a'. * [PRO ziek te zijn] ben ik (het) me bewust.
b. [Dat jij steeds zeurt] ben ik *(het) moe/zat/beu.
b'. * [Om PRO steeds te moeten dansen] ben ik (het) moe/zat/beu.

Perhaps this conclusion can also be supported by means of the left dislocation constructions in (48). Given that the clause-initial position immediately preceding the finite verb is occupied by the demonstrative dat'that', which has a function similar to the anticipatory pronoun het in (46), we conclude that the complement is external to the main clause. Observe that in these constructions infinitival clauses are at least marginally acceptable.

Example 48
a. [Dat hij ziek is] dat ben ik me bewust.
a'. ?? [PRO ziek te zijn] dat ben ik me bewust.
b. [Dat jij steeds zeurt] dat ben ik moe/zat/beu.
b'. ? [Om PRO steeds te moeten dansen] dat ben ik moe/zat/beu.

      Given that example (40b) has shown that the nominal complement of bewust can be replaced by a PP-complement, it does not come as a surprise that the anticipatory pronoun het in (46a) can be replaced by an anticipatory pronominal van-PP, as shown by the (a)-examples in (49). The (b)-examples show that moe/zat/beu'weary' allow the same option. Section 2.1, sub II, provides a more extensive discussion of clausal complements introduced by an anticipatory pronominal PP.

Example 49
a. Ik ben me er bewust van [dat hij ziek is].
  am  refl  there  conscious  of   that he ill is
a'. Ik ben me er bewust van [PRO ziek te zijn].
  am  refl  there  conscious  of  ill  to be
b. ? Ik ben er moe/zat/beu van [dat jij steeds zeurt].
  am  there  weary  of   that  you  all.the.time  nag
b'. ? Ik ben er moe/zat/beu van [om PRO steeds te moeten dansen].
  am  there  weary  of  comp  all.the.time  to have.to  dance

      Finally, we can note that the adjectives in Table 5B, which take a dative noun phrase as their complement, never take a clausal complement. This is of course not surprising given our earlier observation that the dative arguments of adjectives always refer to +animate entities.

  • Bennis, Hans2004Unergative adjectives and psych verbsAlexiadou, Artemis, Anagnostopoulou, Elena & Everaert, Martin (eds.)The unaccusativity puzzle: studies on the syntax-lexicon interfaceOxfordOxford University Press84-113
  • Cinque, Guglielmo1990Ergative adjectives and the lexicalist hypothesisNatural Language and Linguistic Theory81-39
  • Riemsdijk, Henk van1983The case of the German adjectivesHeny, Frank & Richards, B. (eds.)Linguistic Categories: Auxiliaries and related Puzzles1DordrechtReidel223-252
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