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3.4. Pronominalization of the adjective

Section 2.4 has briefly discussed pronominalization of the adjective (phrase). Some of the examples given there are repeated here as (317). In (317a) the pronoun het'it' performs the same function as the full AP bang voor honden'afraid of dogs', whereas in (317b) it replaces the smaller phrase bang'afraid', which is evident from the fact that the PP voor spinnen'of spiders' functions as the PP-complement of the pronominalized adjective. If the adjective is modified by means of an intensifier, pronominalization is also possible. As will become clear below, however, many aspects of this construction are in need of further investigation in order to arrive at a clearer and more coherent description of the relevant facts.

Example 317
Jan is [AP bang voor honden] ..
  Jan is  afraid  of dogs ..
a. .. en ik ben het ook.
  .. and  am  it  too
b. .. en ik ben het voor spinnen.
  .. and  am  it  of spiders

      Consider the examples in (318). In (318a) the pronoun het performs the same function as the complete constituent vrij bang voor honden'rather afraid of dogs', and in (318b) it replaces the smaller phrase vrij bang. In both cases the result is fully acceptable.

Example 318
Jan is vrij bang voor honden ..
  Jan is rather  afraid  of dogs ..
a. .. en ik ben het ook.
  .. and  am  it  too
b. .. en ik ben het voor spinnen.
  .. and  am  it  of spiders

The pronominalizations in (318) do not seem to exhaust the possibilities. Two alternative options are given in (319a&b), which are perhaps somewhat marked but do not seem to be unacceptable. The pronoun het in (319a) seems to replace the phrase bang voor honden given that the intensifier zeer'very' is interpreted as a modifier of this phrase, and in (319b) it only replaces the adjective bang given that both the PP-complement and the intensifier are overtly realized. For reasons that will become clear shortly, it is important to note that the addition of the element erg'much' leads to an ungrammatical result; cf. the primed examples of (319).

Example 319
Jan is vrij bang voor honden ..
  Jan is rather  afraid  of dogs ..
a. ? .. en ik ben het zelfs zeer.
  .. and  am  it  even very
a'. *? .. en ik ben het zelfs zeer erg.
  .. and  am  it  even very much
b. ? .. en ik ben het zeer voor spinnen.
  .. and  am  it  very  of spiders
b'. * .. en ik ben het zeer erg voor spinnen.
  .. and  am  it  very  much  of spiders

      Not all modifiers can occur in the pronominalization construction. The intensifier heel'very' in (320a), for instance, gives rise to an ungrammatical result. Observe, however, that the construction becomes fully grammatical if we add the adjective erg to the structure, as in (320b).

Example 320
a. * Jan is vrij bang voor honden en ik ben het zelfs heel.
  Jan is rather  afraid  of dogs  and  am  it  even  very
b. Jan is vrij bang voor honden en ik ben het zelfs heel erg.
  Jan is rather  afraid  of dogs  and  am  it  even  very  much
  'Jan is rather afraid of dogs, and Iʼm even very much so.'

At first sight, example (320b) seems to be a special case of (319a). After all, the intensifier erg normally can be modified by the intensifier heel, as in heel erg bang, so (320b) may simply contain the complex intensifier phrase heel erg. There are, however, reasons for assuming that this is not the correct analysis, and that erg does not function as an intensifier in this example but as a “dummy" element (comparable to English much) that licenses the presence of the intensifier heel. This will become clear when we consider the examples in (321) with the modifiers te'too' and zo'so', which were discussed in Section 3.1.3. The examples in (321a&b) show that replacement of the AP bang voor honden by the pronoun het is normally impossible (although (321a) without erg improves considerably if the modifier te is assigned heavy accent); however, like in (320), the structure can be saved by inserting the element erg'much' after the modifier te'too'/ zo'so'.

Example 321
Jan is vrij bang voor honden.
  Jan  is rather  afraid  of dogs
a. Hij is het eigenlijk te *(erg).
  he  is it  actually  too    much
  'Actually, he is too much so.'
b. Hij is het zelfs zo *(erg) dat hij niet meer naar buiten durft.
  he is it  even  so    much  that  he  no longer  to outside  dares
  'Actually, heʼs even so much so that he doesnʼt dare to go outside.'

In this case erg cannot be considered an intensifier for the simple reason that it cannot occur in APs modified by te and zo like (322). Consequently, erg must perform some other function.

Example 322
a. Hij is eigenlijk te (*erg) bang voor honden.
  he  is actually  too   much  afraid of dogs
b. Hij is zelfs zo (??erg) bang voor honden dat ...
  he  is  even  so    much  afraid  of dogs  that

The same conclusion can be drawn from pronominalization constructions that involve the interrogative modifier hoe'how'; in the second conjunct in (323) erg must be added despite the fact that the string *hoe erg bang is impossible.

Example 323
Ik weet dat Jan bang voor honden is, maar hoe *(erg) is hij het eigenlijk?
  know  that  Jan afraid  of dogs  is but  how much  is he  it  actually

Example (323) suggests again that erg does not act as an intensifier, but performs some other function in the context of AP-pronominalization. Finally, note that not all modifiers require the addition of erg in the pronominalization construction. The examples in (324) show that the addition of erg is even prohibited in the case of the (complex) modifiers genoeg'enough' and voldoende'sufficiently'.

Example 324
Jan is niet erg intelligent ..
  Jan is not  very  intelligent ..
a. .. maar hij is het (*erg) genoeg voor deze taak.
  .. but  he  is it   much  enough  for this task
b. .. maar hij is het voldoende (*erg) voor deze taak.
  .. but  he  is it  sufficiently   much  for this task

      The discussion above has shown that in some cases, the addition of erg is sometimes required to license pronominalization of the adjective, whereas in other cases the addition of erg leads to ungrammaticality. Here, we want to provide a speculative account of this fact, which is based on the analysis of comparable English cases featuring English much in Corver (1997a/1997b). Such an analysis assumes that the distribution of erg is determined by the relative position of the modifier in the structure. One of the standard assumptions of generative grammar is that modifiers occupy a position external to the immediate projection of the head of the phrase, which contains the complements of the phrase. This means that the base structure of a modified AP is as given in (325), in which PP stands for PP-complement; cf. Section 4.3.

Example 325
[... MODIFIER [AP (PP) A (PP)]]

The modifiers of the adjective are, however, also ordered with respect to each other, which suggests that more structure is needed to provide a full account of the organization of the AP. For instance, there is reason for assuming that an example such as (326a), which involves modification by the complex modifier zo ... mogelijk'as ... as possible' may have a structure like (326a'), in which the adjective is moved from its base position into a position preceding the element mogelijk; cf. the discussion of example (147) in Section 4.3.1. If so, we should assume that the modifier zo is even more to the left. Furthermore, we may assume by analogy that example (326b) has the structure in (326b').

Example 326
a. zo mooi mogelijk
  as  beautiful  as.possible
a'. [XP zo [YP mooii mogelijk [APti ]]]
b. zo vreselijk aardig dat ...
  so  terribly  kind  that
b'. [XP zo [YP vreselijk [AP aardig]] dat ...]

Now assume that the head of the projection labeled YP must be somehow filled when the AP is pronominalized. If the modifier is itself part of YP, this requirement is fulfilled trivially, and this may account for the fact that the addition of erg is impossible in examples such as (327).

Example 327
Jan is vrij bang voor honden ..
  Jan is rather afraid of dogs ..
a. ?? .. en ik ben het vreselijk/geweldig (erg).
  .. and  am  it  terribly/tremendously   much
b. .. en ik ben het *wat/??tamelijk (erg).
  .. and  am  it   somewhat   much
c. .. maar/en ik ben het amper ?(*erg).
  .. but/and  am  it  hardly    much

However, if the modifier is the part of the projection labeled XP, the element erg must be inserted as a “dummy" to fill the head position of YP. It will be clear that the analysis suggested here, as well as the classification of modifiers that is implied by it, requires more research in the future.

  • Corver, Norbert1997<i>Much</i>-support as Last ResortLinguistic Inquiry28119-164
  • Corver, Norbert1997The internal syntax of the Dutch extended adjectival projectionNatural Language and Linguistic Theory15289-368
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