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6.5. Clausal subjects
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In the preceding sections, we have restricted our attention to predicatively used adjectives with nominal subjects, such as Jan in (200a) and (201a). In addition, many adjectives can take a clausal subject, which is generally introduced by the anticipatory pronoun het'it'. The clausal subject can often be either finite or infinitival. Examples are given in (200b-c) and (201b-c); PRO in (200c) and (201c) stands for the implied subject of the infinitival clause.

Example 200
a. Jan is leuk.
  Jan is nice
b. Het is leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  it  is nice   that  Marie my favorite book  reads
  'Itʼs nice that Marie is reading my favorite book.'
c. Het is leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  it  is nice  comp  my favorite book  to read
  'Itʼs nice to read my favorite book.'
Example 201
a. Ik vind Jan leuk.
  consider  Jan nice
b. Ik vind het leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  consider  it  nice   that  Marie my favorite book  reads
c. Ik vind het leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  consider  it  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read

The reason to consider the clause in these examples as the subject of the adjective is that the semantic relation between leuk'nice' and Jan in (200a) and (201a) is similar to the semantic relation between leuk and the propositions expressed by the dependent clauses in (200b-c) and (201b-c): both the referent “Jan" and the events “Marie is reading my favorite book"/“PRO reading my favorite book" are considered to be part of the set denoted by leuk. This section is organized as follows, subsection I starts by discussing some general properties of constructions with a clausal subject, subsections II and III focus on adjectival constructions that contain a finite and an infinitival clausal subject, respectively. Section IV, finally, discusses two special cases: the easy-to-please-construction and modal infinitives.

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[+]  I.  General properties

This subsection discusses some general properties of adjectival constructions that contain a finite or infinitival clausal subject.

[+]  A.  The relation between the anticipatory pronoun and the clausal subject

The dependent clauses in (200b-c) and (201b-c) are optional. Since logical subjects are normally obligatorily present, it is often assumed that, syntactically speaking, these clauses are not the real subjects of the adjective. That they are interpreted as the subject is due to their relation to the anticipatory pronoun het'it', which functions as the syntactic subject of the adjective. The relation between the pronoun and the clause is expressed by means of coindexation, as in (202).

Example 202
a. Heti is leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest]i.
  it  is nice  that  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. Heti is leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen]i.
  it  is nice comp  my favorite book to read
b. Ik vind heti leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest]i.
  consider  it  nice    that  Marie my favorite book  reads
b'. Ik vind heti leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen]i.
  consider  it  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read
[+]  B.  No anticipatory pronoun if the clausal subject is clause-initial

The anticipatory pronoun functions like a “place-holder" for the subject clause, which is normally placed at the right edge of the matrix clause. This placeholder must be dropped, however, if the subject clause is placed in clause-initial position, as in (203). This provides additional evidence for the assumption that the clauses in (202) are the logical subjects of the adjective.

Example 203
a. [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] is (*het) leuk.
  that Marie my favorite book reads  is     it  nice
a'. [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] is (*het) leuk.
  comp  my favorite book to read  is     it  nice
b. [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] vind ik (*het) leuk.
  that Marie my favorite book reads  consider  I        it  nice
b'. [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] vind ik (*het) leuk.
  comp  my favorite book  to read  consider     it  nice

      It should be observed that, although the anticipatory pronoun het must be dropped in the (a)-examples of (203), the clausal subject does not occupy the regular subject position of the matrix clause, but the sentence-initial position that can be occupied by, for instance, wh-phrases and topicalized elements. This is clear from the fact that the clause cannot follow the finite verb in yes/no questions, and from the fact that preposing of the clause is not possible in embedded clauses. This is illustrated in (204) and (205), respectively.

Example 204
a. * Is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] leuk?
  is   that Marie my favorite book reads  nice
b. * Is [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] leuk?
  is   comp  my favorite book  to read  nice
Example 205
a. dat het leuk is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that  it  nice  is   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. * dat [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] leuk is.
b. dat het leuk is [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  that  it  nice  is comp  my favorite book  to read
b'. * dat [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] leuk is.

Just as the clausal subject cannot occupy the regular subject position of the clause in the copular constructions above, it cannot occupy the regular object position of the clause in the vinden-construction either. This is shown in (206).

Example 206
a. * Ik vind [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] leuk.
b. * Ik vind [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] leuk.

      Although examples (204) to (206) show that the clausal subjects in (203) clearly do not occupy the same position as the anticipatory pronouns in (202), the fact that the anticipatory pronoun het cannot be used in (203) strongly suggests that topicalization of the subject clauses does not take place in one fell swoop, but proceeds via the position occupied by the anticipatory pronoun het in (202); if so, this position is occupied by a trace of the clause, and consequently insertion of the “place-holder" cannot take place. We refer the reader to Den Dikken and Næss (1993) for arguments in favor of the claim that topicalization of clauses may proceed through the regular argument (subject or object) positions of the clause based on English and Norwegian Locative Inversion constructions.

[+]  C.  Anticipatory pronoun is optional with clause-initial predicative adjectives

If the adjective is preposed, as in (207), the anticipatory pronoun is optionally present, although the two cases differ slightly in intonation and meaning. If the anticipatory pronoun is present, it is followed by a short intonation break and the sentence simply expresses that the event the clausal subject refers to can be characterized by means of the adjective leuk'nice'. If the anticipatory pronoun is absent, on the other hand, there is no intonation break and the sentence expresses that from among the things under discussion the event expressed by the subject clause can be characterized as leuk'nice'; the sentence is contrastive, as is clear form the fact that the adjective must be assigned contrastive accent in this case.

Example 207
a. Leuk is (het) [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  nice  is   it   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. Leuk is (het) [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  nice  is   it  comp  my favorite book  to read
b. Leuk vind ik (het) [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  nice  consider   it   that Marie my favorite book reads
b'. Leuk vind ik (het) [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  nice  consider   it is  comp  my favorite book  to read
[+]  D.  The adjective and its clausal subject cannot be preposed as a whole

The examples in (208) show that the adjective and the clausal subject cannot be preposed as a whole (although for some speakers these examples are acceptable if the adverb niet is assigned heavy accent). This suggests that the adjective and the clausal subject do not form a constituent.

Example 208
a. *? Leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] is (het) niet.
  nice  that  Marie my favorite book  reads  is  it  not
a'. * Leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] is (het) niet.
  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read  is  it  not
b. *? Leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] vind ik (het).
  nice that  Marie my favorite book  reads  consider   it
b'. * Leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] vind ik (het).
  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read  consider   it

There is, however, one exception to this general rule: adjectives that take an interrogative clause as their subject if they are negated do allow topicalization of this kind. This will be discussed in Subsection II.

[+]  E.  The clausal subject follows the verb(s) in clause-final position

That the adjective and the clausal subject do not form a constituent is also suggested by the fact that the clausal subject is not adjacent to the adjective in embedded clauses but obligatorily follows the verb(s) in clause-final position. This is demonstrated in (209) and (210).

Example 209
a. dat het leuk is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that  it  nice  is  that  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. * dat het leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] is.
b. dat het leuk is [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  that  it  nice  is   comp  my favorite book  to read
b'. * dat het leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] is.
Example 210
a. dat ik het leuk vind [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that  it  nice  consider   that  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. * dat ik het leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] vind.
b. dat ik het leuk vind [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  that  it  nice  consider  comp  my favorite book  to read
b'. * dat ik het leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] vind.
[+]  II.  Finite clausal subjects

This subsection focuses on adjectives that take a finite clausal subject. It will be shown that these adjectives must be divided into two classes on syntactic grounds; cf. Bennis (2004). Some care is needed while reading this subsection, since much of what is discussed here is still under investigation, and speakers of Dutch tend to have different judgments on the examples discussed.
      We have seen that some adjectives, like leuk in (200), may take either a nominal or a clausal subject. Another example is given in (211). The fact that, as with leuk, the subject clause is optional with duidelijk suggests that the anticipatory pronoun functions as the syntactic subject of the adjective. The coindexing between the anticipatory pronoun het and the finite clause in (211b&c) is again used to express that the clause functions as the logical subject of the adjective.

Example 211
a. Het voorstel is (mij) eindelijk duidelijk.
  the proposal  is  me  finally  clear
  'The proposal is finally clear to me.'
b. Heti is eindelijk duidelijk ([dat Jan de baan zal krijgen]i).
  it  is finally  clear    that  Jan the job  will  get
  'Itʼs finally clear that Jan will get the job.'
c. Ik acht heti wel duidelijk ([dat Jan de baan zal krijgen]i).
  consider  it  prt  clear    that  Jan the job  will  get
  'I consider it clear that Jan will get the job.'

Constructions with duidelijk also act as expected with respect to the other properties discussed in Subsection I: the (a)-examples in (212) and (213) show that the anticipatory pronoun must be dropped if the subject clause occupies the sentence-initial position; the (b)-examples that the anticipatory pronoun is optional if the adjective occupies the sentence-initial position; the (c)-examples that the adjective and the clausal subject cannot be preposed as a whole; and the (d)-examples, finally, that the clausal subject must follow the verb(s) in clause-final position.

Example 212
a. [Dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] is (*het) eindelijk duidelijk.
  that  Jan the job  will  get  is      it  finally  clear
b. Duidelijk is (het) eindelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
c. *? Duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] is (het) eindelijk.
d. dat het eindelijk duidelijk is [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
d'. * dat het eindelijk duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] is.
Example 213
a. [Dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] acht ik (*het) wel duidelijk.
  that  Jan the job  will  get  consider      it  prt  clear
b. Duidelijk acht ik (het) wel [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
c. * Duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] acht ik (het) wel.
d. dat ik het wel duidelijk acht [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
d'. * dat ik het wel duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] acht.

There are, however, also various differences between the two adjectives leuk and duidelijk, which will be discussed in the following subsections.

[+]  A.  The anticipatory pronoun het'it'

There is a conspicuous difference between the examples in (200b) and (211b), in which the anticipatory pronoun is the nominative subject of the sentence: when the anticipatory pronoun het follows the finite verb in second position, as in the primeless examples in (214), it can be dropped if the adjective is duidelijk, but not if the adjective is leuk. A similar difference can be observed in the primed examples, where the clause containing the anticipatory pronoun is embedded.

Example 214
a. Natuurlijk is *(het) leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  of course is    it  nice   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. dat *(het) leuk is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that     it  nice  is  that Marie my favorite book reads
b. Eindelijk is (het) duidelijk [dat Jan de baan moet krijgen].
  finally  is   it  clear   that Jan the job must get
b'. dat (het) duidelijk is [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  that   it  clear  is  that Jan the job will get

In the vinden-constructions the anticipatory pronoun is normally obligatorily present, as is demonstrated in (215). In officialese, however, the anticipatory pronoun can be dropped if the verb achten is used. This is shown in (216).

Example 215
a. Natuurlijk vind ik *(het) leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  of course  consider     it  nice   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. dat ik *(het) leuk vind [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that     it  nice  consider   that Marie my favorite book reads
b. Nu vindt ook Peter *?(het) duidelijk [dat Jan de baan moet krijgen].
  now  considers  also Peter    it  clear   that Jan the job must get
b'. dat ook Peter *?(het) duidelijk vindt [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  that  also Peter      it  clear  considers   that Jan the job will get
Example 216
dat het hof bewezen acht [dat ...]
  that  the court  proved  considers   that
'that the court considers it proven that ...'
[+]  B.  Interrogative clauses

Another difference between the adjectives leuk and duidelijk is that if the adjective is negated, the declarative subject clause can be replaced by a dependent interrogative clause in the case of duidelijk, but not in the case of leuk. This is illustrated in (217) by means of the contrast between the (a)- and (b)-examples. Note that the (b)-examples are acceptable regardless of whether negation is expressed syntactically by the negative adverb niet'not' or morphologically by the negative prefix on-.

Example 217
a. * Het is niet leuk [of Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  it  is not  nice   whether  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. * Ik vind het niet leuk [of Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  consider  it  not  nice whether  Marie my favorite book  reads
b. Het is onduidelijk/niet duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  it  is unclear/not clear   whether  Jan the job  will get
  'Itʼs unclear/not clear whether Jan will get the job.'
b'. Ik vind het nog onduidelijk/niet duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  consider  it  still  unclear/not clear   whether Jan the job will get
  'I consider it still unclear/not clear whether Jan will get the job.'

Note in passing that adjectives that are morphologically derived from verbs that select a dependent interrogative clause, such as twijfelachtig'uncertain' (derived from twijfelen'to doubt'), must take an interrogative complement.

Example 218
Het is twijfelachtig [of Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  it is uncertain  whether  Marie my favorite book  reads

Given that dependent interrogative clauses typically occur as complements of certain verbs, it is normally assumed that they are selected: the examples in (217) therefore suggest that the clausal subjects in the (b)-examples are complements of the adjective. In other words, adjectives like ( on) duidelijk are the counterparts of unaccusative verbs like vertrekken'to leave' in the sense that their clausal subjects are DO-subjects (internal arguments). There are at least two additional arguments in favor of this suggestion.

[+]  1.  Topicalization

If the finite clauses in the (b)-examples in (217) are DO-subjects of the adjective ( on) duidelijk, the two make up a constituent. Consequently, we expect that the two can be moved into clause-initial position (provided, at least, that this constituent is not split by movement). This expectation is indeed borne out; consider the data in (219).

Example 219
a. Het is nog steeds niet duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  it  is prt  still  not  clear   whether  Jan the job  will  get
a'. Duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen] is het nog steeds niet.
b. Het is nog steeds onduidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  it  is prt  still   unclear   whether  Jan the job  will  get
b'. ? Onduidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen] is het nog steeds.

The fact that (219a') is acceptable suggests that the adjective and the finite clause indeed form a constituent. Example (219b') seems somewhat degraded, but improves considerably if it is part of a larger structure: Onduidelijk of Jan de baan zal krijgen is het nog steeds, maar we hopen er morgen meer over te horen'It is still unclear whether Jan will get the job, but we hope that we will hear more about it tomorrow'. Recall that the examples in (208) have already shown that adjectives like leuk do not allow topicalization of this type.
      A potential problem for concluding that duidelijk (always) has a DO-subject is that topicalization of the adjective and the finite clause is excluded if the latter is introduced by the declarative complementizer dat'that'. This was illustrated in (212c). For completeness’ sake, observe that the pronoun het is obligatorily present in the primed examples in (219), unlike what is the case if the adjective or finite clause is topicalized in isolation; cf. the examples in (212a&b).

[+]  2.  Wh-extraction from the finite clause

A second argument in favor of the assumption that duidelijk takes a DO-subject is that, for at least some speakers, duidelijk allows wh-extraction from the finite clause. Since w h-extraction is possible from complement clauses only, this supports the claim that duidelijk takes a DO-subject. Example (220a) shows that adjectives like leuk do not allow wh-extraction, but we cannot conclude from this that leuk does not take a DO-subject; example (220b) shows that in the case of duidelijk, wh-extraction from the finite clause requires that the anticipatory pronoun het be dropped. The pronoun het is, however, obligatory with leuk and it is for this reason that wh-extraction is excluded. For the same reason, wh-extraction is never possible in vinden-constructions such as (220c) because in this construction the pronoun het is likewise obligatory.

Example 220
a. * Wati is (het) leuk [dat Marie ti leest]?
  what  is  it  nice   that Marie  reads
b. Wati is (*het) duidelijk [dat Jan ti zal krijgen]?
  what  is   it  clear   that Jan  will  get
c. * Wati vind je (het) duidelijk [dat Jan ti zal krijgen]?
  what  consider  you    it  clear   that Jan  will  get
[+]  C.  The Resultative Construction

A final difference between leuk and duidelijk is that only the latter can be used in a resultative construction. However, this is probably not related to the difference discussed in B, but to the fact that duidelijk optionally selects a dative argument: an adjective like evident'obvious', which is probably of the same type as duidelijk (see Table 2) but does not select an additional argument, cannot enter the resultative construction either.

Example 221
a. * Peter maakte (het) leuk [dat Jan de baan krijgt].
  Peter made   it  nice   that Jan the job gets
b. Peter maakte (het) ons duidelijk [dat Jan de baan krijgt].
  Peter made  it  us  clear  that Jan the job gets
  'Peter made it clear to us that Jan will get the job.'
c. * Peter maakte (het) evident [dat Jan de baan krijgt].
  Peter made   it  obvious   that Jan the job gets
[+]  D.  Conclusion

When we consider the class of adjectives that may take a finite clause as their logical subject, it is not always easy to determine to which type they belong. This is largely due to the fact that those adjectives that allow dropping of the anticipatory pronoun in constructions such as (214) do not always allow an interrogative clause in negative contexts. Further, results of the wh-extraction test are not always clear since many speakers do not readily allow it anyway. Table 2 provides the results for a small sample of adjectives. In this table pronoun-drop indicates whether the anticipatory pronoun can be dropped in the relevant contexts, interrogative indicates whether the finite clause may be an interrogative clause in negative contexts, and wh-movement indicates whether wh-extraction is possible in the absence of an anticipatory pronoun.

Table 2: Properties of adjectives with a finite clausal subject
adjective translation pronoun-drop interrogative wh-movement
aardig nice n.a.
gevaarlijk dangerous n.a.
pijnlijk embarrassing n.a.
vervelend annoying n.a.
aannemelijk plausible + +
bekend well-known + + +
evident obvious + + +

The adjectives in Table 2 can all take either a noun phrase or a finite clause, but there are also some that preferably take a clausal subject in the sense that subjects of the nominal type are restricted to the personal pronoun het and the neuter demonstratives dit/dat'this/that', which may refer to propositions, or (often marginally) deverbal nouns. Some examples of such adjectives are: jammer/spijtig'unfortunate' and modal adjectives like mogelijk'possible', and zeker'certain'.

Example 222
a. Heti is jammer/spijtig ([dat je vertrekt]i).
  it  is a.pity    that  you  leave
b. Dit/Dat is jammer/spijtig.
  this/that  is a.pity
c. ?? Je vertrek is jammer/spijtig.
  your leaving  is a.pity
d. * De bomaanslag is jammer/spijtig.
  the bomb.attack  is a.pity
Example 223
a. Heti is mogelijk/zeker ([dat Jan vertrekt]i).
  it  is possible/certain    that  Jan leaves
b. Dit/Dat is mogelijk/zeker.
  this/that  is possible/certain
c. ? Zijn vertrek is mogelijk/zeker.
  his leaving  is possible/certain
d. *? De bomaanslag is mogelijk/zeker.
  the bomb.attack  is possible/certain

For completeness’ sake, note that the (a)-examples in (224) are more or lesss acceptable, which is perhaps due to the possibility of interpreting the indefinite noun phrase een bomaanslag as an event: “the occurrence of a bomb attack". Note in this connection that, as is shown by the (b)-examples, inf-nominalizations can also be used as subjects of these adjectives.

Example 224
a. Een bomaanslag zou nu jammer/spijtig zijn.
  a bomb.attack would  now  a.pity be
a'. Een bomaanslag is nu mogelijk.
  a bomb.attack is now  possible
b. Het krijgen van een onvoldoende zou jammer/spijtig zijn.
  the  getting  of an unsatisfactory.mark  would  a.pity  be
  'Getting an unsatisfactory mark would be a pity.'
b'. Het krijgen van een onvoldoende is nog steeds mogelijk.
  the getting of an unsatisfactory.mark  is prt  still  possible
[+]  III.  Infinitival clausal subjects

This subsection focuses on adjectives that take an infinitival clausal subject. The examples in (225) show that these adjectives may select a, generally optional, van- or voor-PP. The implied subject PRO of the infinitival clause is often dependent on the nominal complement of this PP for its interpretation: the examples in (225) are interpreted in such a way that it is Jan who is complaining/passing the exam. In cases like these, it is said that the implied subject PRO is controlled by the noun phrase it is referentially dependent on, and the referential dependency between the complement of the PP and PRO is expressed by means of subscripts.

Example 225
a. Het is flauw van Jani [om PROi over het examen te klagen].
  it  is silly of Jan  comp  about the exam  to complain
  'Itʼs silly of Jan to complain about the exam.'
b. Het is gemakkelijk voor Jani [om PROi voor het examen te slagen].
  it  is easy  for Jan  comp  for the exam  to pass
  'Itʼs easy for Jan to pass the exam.'

If the van-PP is omitted, it is still presupposed. Because the nominal part of the implicit PP has an arbitrary interpretation, the sentences as a whole are understood “generically". We could represent this as in (226): the italicized phrase stands for the implied PP, NP refers arbitrarily and the implied subject PRO inherits this arbitrary interpretation, which is expressed by means of coindexing; see Van Haaften (1991), Vanden Wyngaerd (1994; ch.6) and references cited there.

Example 226
a. Het is flauw van NPi [om PROi over het examen te klagen].
  it  is silly  comp  about the exam  to complain
  'Itʼs silly to complain about the exam.'
b. Het is gemakkelijk voor NPi [om PROi voor het examen te slagen].
  it  is easy  comp  for the exam  to pass
  'Itʼs easy to pass the exam.'

      The adjectives can be divided into the three groups in (227) on the basis of the interpretational properties of the implied subject PRO; cf. Van Haaften (1991). The infinitival complements of the adjectives in (227) are optionally preceded by the complementizer om. Occasionally adjectives are part of more than one group, depending on the context or the selected preposition. An example is vervelend'annoying', which requires obligatory control if it takes a van-PP (which expresses the source of the annoyance) and is compatible with optional control if it takes a voor-PP (which expresses an entity that is potentially affected by the event denoted by the infinitival clause).

Example 227
a. Obligatory control adjectives optionally select a van- or voor-PP with a +animate complement; PRO is controlled by the nominal complement of the PP.
b. Optional control adjectives optionally select a voor-PP with a +animate or a -animate complement; PRO may be controlled by the nominal complement of the PP, but may also receive an arbitrary interpretation.
c. Arbitrary control adjectives do not select a PP; PRO receives an arbitrary interpretation.

The following subsections will consider the three groups in (227) in more detail. It is, however, important to first observe that the appropriateness of the term obligatory control adjective does not necessarily imply that we are dealing with obligatory control in its more technical sense within generative grammar. Section V4.3 shows that obligatory control in this sense requires that PRO have a unique, c-commanding antecedent within a certain local domain. The simple fact that obligatory control adjectives only optionally select the PPs containing the controller of PRO already suffices to show that we are not dealing with obligatory control in the technical sense. Furthermore, it seems obvious for most of the cases discussed in the following subsections that the infinitival clauses function as logical subjects of the adjectives, and that the PRO-subject of the infinitival clauses are therefore not c-commanded by their controllers, which are more deeply embedded in the predicative APs. For another view on this issue, see Vanden Wyngaerd (1994: Section 6.2).

[+]  A.  Obligatory control adjectives

The obligatory control adjectives select a van- or voor-PP, and the nominal +animate complement of the PP controls the implied subject of the infinitival clause. A small sample is given in (228).

Example 228
Obligatory control adjectives:
aardig'nice', dom'stupid', flauw'silly', gemakkelijk'easy', moeilijk'difficult', mogelijk'feasible' and ( on) verstandig'(un)wise', slim'smart'

Examples of adjectives that take a van-PP are given in (225a) and (229): the adjective attributes a property to (the behavior of) the referent of the nominal complement of van. The van-PP may be dropped, in which case an arbitrary interpretation results along the lines indicated in (226).

Example 229
Het was verstandig (van Jani) [(om) PROi vroeg te vertrekken].
  it  was wise   of Jan  comp  early  to leave
'It was wise (of Jan) to leave early.'

Examples of adjectives that take a voor-PP are given in (225b) and (230). The referent of the nominal complement of voor acts as an “experiencer": example (230) implies that Jan experiences difficulties in admitting mistakes. If the voor-PP is dropped, PRO again obtains an arbitrary interpretation.

Example 230
Het is moeilijk (voor Jani) [(om) PROi fouten toe te geven].
  it  is difficult   for Jan  comp  mistakes  prt.  to admit
'Itʼs difficult for Jan to admit mistakes.'
[+]  B.  Optional control adjectives

The optional control adjectives select a voor-PP, the nominal complement of which optionally controls the implied subject of the infinitival clause. Two subcases should be distinguished: adjectives that select a PP with a +animate nominal complement, and adjectives that select a PP with a nominal complement that may be either +animate or -animate. A small sample of each type is given in (231).

Example 231
Optional control adjectives:
a. the voor-PP takes a +animate complement: leuk'nice', naar/ rot'unpleasant', vervelend'annoying', saai'boring', vernederend'humiliating'
b. the voor-PP takes either a +animate or a -animate complement: belangrijk'important', goed'good', gevaarlijk'dangerous', nodig'necessary', noodzakelijk'necessary', nuttig'profitable', schadelijk'harmful'

That the PP-complements of the adjectives in (231a) need not control the implied subject of the infinitival clause can be illustrated by means of the examples in (232). Example (232a) is ambiguous between at least two readings: either it may be the case that Jan takes the book (to someone) or it may be the case that some other person brings the book to Jan. The latter reading can be enforced by adding the indirect object hem to the infinitival clause, as in (232b): if this pronoun is interpreted as coreferential with Jan, the implied subject PRO must be construed as disjoint in reference from Jan given that it would otherwise be illicitly bound by it; see Section N5.2.1.5 for a discussion of the binding conditions on pronouns. As before, coindexing indicates coreference.

Example 232
a. Het is leuk voor Jani [(om) PROi/j dat boek te brengen].
  it  is nice  for Jan  comp  that book  to bring
b. Het is leuk voor Jani [(om) PRO*i/j hemi dat boek te brengen].
  it  is nice  for Jan  comp  him  that book  to bring
  'Itʼs nice for Jan to bring him that book.'

Similar observations can be made with respect to the adjectives in (231b): (233a) is ambiguous between a reading in which it is Jan himself who does the disclosure of the secret and a reading in which the disclosure is done by some other person. As in (232), the latter reading can be enforced by adding a pronoun to the infinitival clause that is interpreted as coreferential with Jan, as in (233b).

Example 233
a. Het is gevaarlijk voor Jani [(om) PROi/j dat geheim te verklappen].
  it is dangerous  for Jan  comp  that secret  to tell
  'Itʼs dangerous for Jan to let the cat out of the bag.'
b. Het is gevaarlijk voor Jani [(om) PRO*i/j dat geheim aan hemi te verklappen].
  it is dangerous  for Jan  comp  that secret  to him  to tell
  'Itʼs dangerous for Jan to tell him the secret.'

At first sight, the control readings are difficult to obtain if the PP takes a -animate complement. Example (234a), for example, does not allow a control reading. This does, of course, not imply that control is excluded, given that the impossibility of the control reading is due to the fact that the noun phrase het milieu'the environment' is simply not a suitable subject for the predicate vuilnis storten'to dump waste'. If the -animate PP-complement is a suitable subject for the infinitival predicate, e.g., if the latter is a passive construction as in (234b), control becomes possible. Observe that the arbitrary reading of PRO is not possible in (234b); see V4.3 for more discussion.

Example 234
a. Het is schadelijk voor het milieui [(om) PRO*i/j vuilnis te storten].
  it  is harmful  to the environment  comp  waste  to dump
  'Itʼs harmful to the environment to dump waste.'
b. Het is schadelijk voor het weilandi [om PROi/*j te vaak bemest te worden].
  it is harmful  to the meadow  comp  too often  fertilized to be
  'Itʼs harmful to the meadow to be fertilized too often.'

Unlike the case with obligatory control adjectives, the referent of the nominal complement of voor does not act as an “experiencer" in the case of optional control adjectives: the examples in (233), for example, do not imply that Jan experiences his or someone elseʼs telling the secret as dangerous. Instead, the referent of the nominal complement of voor is the entity that is potentially affected by the event expressed by the infinitival clause.

[+]  C.  Arbitrary control adjectives

The arbitrary control adjectives do not take a PP-argument (although for some speakers this depends on the context). Consequently, no controller is present and the implied subject of the infinitival clause must be arbitrarily construed. Adjectives that belong to this class are: afkeurenswaardig'condemnable', gebruikelijk'common', onnodig'not needed', overbodig'unnecessary', raadzaam'advisable'. Some examples are given in (235).

Example 235
a. Het is afkeurenswaardig (*van/*voor Jan) [om PRO zulke boeken te lezen].
b. Het is onnodig (*van/%voor Jan) [om PRO zulke boeken te lezen].
c. Het is overbodig (*van/%voor Jan) [om PRO zulke boeken te lezen].
d. Het is raadzaam (*van/%voor Jan) [om PRO zulke boeken te lezen].
  it  is A     of/for Jan  comp  such books     to read
  'It is ADJECTIVE to read such books.'

That PRO is arbitrarily construed is clear from the presence of the generic possessive pronoun je'oneʼs' in (236), which is interpreted as coreferential with arbitrary PRO.

Example 236
a. Het is afkeurenswaardig [(om) PRO je handen te wassen voor het eten].
b. Het is onnodig [(om) PRO je handen te wassen voor het eten].
c. Het is overbodig [(om) PRO je handen te wassen voor het eten].
d. Het is raadzaam [(om) PRO je handen te wassen voor het eten].
  it  is A comp  oneʼs hands  to wash before the dinner
  'Itʼs ADJECTIVE to wash oneʼs hands before dinner.'
[+]  D.  A note on adjectives that take finite but not infinitival clauses

We conclude this discussion on infinitival clausal subjects by noting that there are also adjectives that may take a finite but not an infinitival clause. This holds for epistemic modal adjectives like (on)waarschijnlijk'(im)probably' and (on)zeker'(un)certain'.

Example 237
a. Het is waarschijnlijk/zeker [dat Jan morgen komt].
  It  is probable/certain   that  Jan tomorrow  comes
  'Itʼs probable/certain that Jan will come tomorrow.'
b. * Het is waarschijnlijk/zeker [om PRO morgen te komen].
  It  is probable/certain that  comp  tomorrow  to come

Bennis and Hoekstra (1989a) suggest that the unacceptability of (237b) is due to the fact that these modal adjectives do not select a PP, as a result of which PRO remains unidentified. A problem for their proposal is that it incorrectly predicts that arbitrary control adjectives of the types discussed in the previous subsection do not occur at all. The claim that PRO can be assigned an arbitrary interpretation, on the other hand, raises the question why examples such as (237b) are unacceptable. Since we do not have any insight to offer here, we leave this question to future research.

[+]  IV.  Two special cases

Subsection IIIA, has shown that example (238a) contains predicatively used obligatory control adjectives. Since this example seems more or lesss synonymous with the examples in (238b&c), it has been suggested that the latter are derived from (or are at least closely related to) the former. However, the three construction types differ in various respects, which will be discussed in Subsections A and B. We start with examples such as (238b), which are often referred to as easy-to-please-constructions. After that, we discuss examples such as (238c), which are normally referred to as modal infinitive constructions because they inherently express some notion of modality. It will turn out that in this construction the adjective is not used as a predicative complement at all; it is instead the modal te-infinitive that functions as the predicate and the AP acts as an adverbial phrase.

Example 238
a. Het is moeilijk/gemakkelijk om dit probleem op te lossen.
  it  is tough/easy  comp  this problem  prt. to solve
  'Itʼs tough/easy to solve this problem.'
b. Dit probleem is moeilijk/gemakkelijk om op te lossen.
  this problem  is tough/easy  comp  prt. to solve
  'This problem is tough/easy to solve.'
c. Dit probleem is moeilijk/gemakkelijk op te lossen.
  this problem  is tough/easy  prt. to solve
  'This problem can be solved easily/with difficulty.'
[+]  A.  The easy-to-please-construction

It has been suggested that the so-called easy-to-please-construction in (238b) is derived from the het-construction in (238a), which we will from now on refer to as the het-construction for convenience, by means of NP-movement; cf. Chomsky (1973). This means that the relationship between (238a) and (238b) is claimed to be similar to the relationship between the examples in (239), where the noun phrase Jan arguably originates in the subject position of the embedded infinitival clause, and replaces the anticipatory pronoun het as a result of movement into the subject position of the main clause.

Example 239
a. Het schijnt [dat Jan ziek is].
  it  seems  that  Jan ill  is
  'It seems that Jan is ill.'
b. Jani schijnt [ti ziek te zijn].
  Jan  seems  ill  to be
  'Jan seems to be ill.'

Likewise, example (238b) is claimed to be derived from (238a) by movement of the noun phrase dit probleem from the object position of the embedded clause into the subject position of the matrix clause, as a result of which it replaces the pronoun het. This Raising-to-Subject derivation is given in (240b).

Example 240
a. Het is moeilijk/gemakkelijk [om PRO dit probleem op te lossen].
= ( 238a)
b. Deze probleemi is moeilijk/gemakkelijk [om PRO ti op te lossen].
= ( 238b)

The main reason for assuming that the het- and easy-to-please-constructions are related by movement is that examples (238a&b) seem to be more or lesss synonymous, just like the Subject Raising examples in (239), subsection 1 will show, however, that similar constructions also occur with adjectives like leuk'nice' and that with such adjectives meaning differences do arise, subsection 2 will further show that there are also a number of syntactic differences, which suggests that the Raising-to-Subject approach in (240b) cannot be maintained and that we simply have to assume that the subject is base-generated as the subject of the adjective; cf. Bennis & Wehrmann (1987) and Chomsky (1995:ch.3). Such an analysis raises the question why the direct object of the infinitival clause cannot be expressed; this question is discussed in Subsection 3, subsection 4 will conclude the discussion of the easy-to-please-construction by showing that the adjectives that enter this construction always express properties that are subject to subjective evaluation.

[+]  1.  Semantic differences between the easy-to-please and the het-construction

The examples in (241) show that, although the two examples in (238a&b) seem more or lesss synonymous, easy-to-please-constructions and their alleged het-counterparts may exhibit non-trivial meaning differences. For example, the adjective leuk'nice' in example (241a) is predicated of clause and thus expresses that the event of looking at/meeting Jan is nice, whereas in (241b) the adjective is predicated of the noun phrase Jan; more specifically, it is claimed that Jan looks nice.

Example 241
a. Het is leuk om Jan te zien.
  it  is nice  comp  Jan to look.at
  'Itʼs nice to look at Jan/meet Jan.'
  Impossible reading: 'Jan is good-looking.'
b. Jan is leuk om te zien.
  Jan is nice  comp  to look.at
  'Jan is good-looking.'
  Impossible reading:: 'Itʼs nice to look at/meet Jan.'

Pairs similar to that in the copular constructions in (238a&b) and (241) can be found in vinden-constructions; whereas the examples in (242) are near synonymous, the two examples in (243) show a difference in meaning similar to the pair in (241).

Example 242
a. Jan vindt het moeilijk/gemakkelijk om PRO dit probleem op te lossen.
  Jan considers  it  tough/easy  comp  this problem  prt. to solve
  'Jan considers it tough/easy to solve this problem.'
b. Jan vindt dit probleem moeilijk/gemakkelijk om PRO op te lossen.
  Jan considers  this problem  tough/easy  comp  prt. to solve
Example 243
a. Marie vindt het leuk om PRO Jan te zien.
  Marie considers  it  nice  comp  Jan to look.at
  'Marie considers it nice to see Jan.'
b. Marie vindt Jan leuk om PRO te zien.
  Marie considers  Jan nice  comp  to see
  'Marie considers Jan good-looking.'

      These semantic observations concerning (241) and (243) suggest that the easy-to-please-constructions in the (b)-examples are not derived from the het-constructions in the (a)-examples, but that the noun phrase Jan is generated as the subject of the adjective directly; speakers sometime report similar intuitions about the examples in (238a&b) and (242), but it is much more difficult to make these intuitions explicit.
      Additional semantic evidence in favor of the claim that the het- and the easy-to-please-constructions have different underlying structures comes from the fact that leuk'nice' can be replaced by its antonym lelijk in the (b)-examples of (241) and (243), but not in the (a)-examples. If one assumes that the (b)-examples in (244) and (245) are indeed derived from the (a)-examples, there is no obvious way of accounting for the observed difference in acceptability. But if the two constructions have different underlying structures, the difference can be accounted for by appealing to the selectional properties of the adjectives; whereas leuk'nice' can take either a clause or a noun phrase as its subject, lelijk'ugly' can only take a noun phrase.

Example 244
a. * Het is lelijk om Jan te zien.
  it  is ugly  comp  Jan to look.at
b. Jan is lelijk om te zien.
  Jan is ugly  comp  to look.at
  'Jan looks ugly.'
Example 245
a. * Marie vindt het lelijk om PRO Jan te zien.
  Marie considers  it  ugly  comp  Jan to look.at
b. Marie vindt Jan lelijk om PRO te zien.
  Marie considers  Jan ugly  comp  to see
  'Marie considers Jan ugly.'
[+]  2.  Syntactic differences between the easy-to-please and the het-construction

The previous subsection concluded on the basis of semantic differences between the het- and the easy-to-please-construction that the two have distinct base structures. This subsection provides support of a syntactic nature. First, Subsection III has shown that the complementizer om is optional in the het-construction; in the easy-to-please-construction, however, the complementizer om is obligatorily present. Compare the examples in (246).

Example 246
a. Het is altijd leuk [(om) Marie te ontmoeten].
  it  is always  nice  comp  Marie to meet
  'Itʼs always nice to meet Marie.'
b. Marie is altijd leuk [*(om) te ontmoeten].
  Marie is always  nice    comp  to meet
  'Marie is always nice to meet.'

Second, the infinitival clause must appear postverbally in the het-construction, while it may appear preverbally in the easy-to-please-construction. This is demonstrated in (247).

Example 247
a. dat het leuk is [om naar Marie te kijken].
  that  it  nice  is comp  at Marie  to look
  'that itʼs nice to look at Marie.'
a'. * dat het leuk [om naar Marie te kijken] is.
b. dat Marie leuk is [om naar te kijken].
  that  Marie nice  is comp  at  to look
  'that Marie is nice to look at.'
b'. dat Marie leuk om naar te kijken is.

Third, the examples in (248) show that pied piping of the infinitival clause under AP-topicalization is excluded in the het-construction, whereas it is possible in the easy-to-please-construction (although it should be noted that for some speakers (248a) becomes acceptable if the negative adverb niet is assigned heavy accent). This may be related to the word order difference between the two constructions illustrated in (247).

Example 248
a. * Leuk [om naar Marie te kijken] is het niet.
  nice  comp to Marie to look  is it  not
b. Leuk [om naar te kijken] is Marie niet.
  nice  comp at to look  is Marie not

The syntactic differences discussed above suggest that the het- and the easy-to-please-constructions have different base structures, and that the noun phrase in the latter construction is not base generated as the object of the infinitival clause, but directly as the subject of the adjective. Another syntactic fact in support of this claim is that the easy-to-please-construction can also be used in attributive position; it seems highly improbable that either of the examples in (249) is derived from a structure in which the modified noun is base-generated as the complement of the infinitival verb..

Example 249
a. een moeilijk/gemakkelijk probleem om op te lossen
  tough/easy  problem  comp  prt. to solve
b. een leuke jongen om te zien
  a nice  boy  comp  to see

The Raising-to-Subject approach to the easy-to-please-construction would further run into the problem that this requires NP-movement to apply across the complementizer om, whereas there are good reasons for assuming that this is never possible; cf. Section V4.3. Our conclusion that the noun phrase in the easy-to-please-construction is base-generated as the subject of the adjective, of course, avoids this problem.
      For completeness’ sake, note that the problem for the Raising-to-Subject approach is not the fact that NP-movement applies from within a clausal subject, given that the English example in (250a') may be just such a case; the derivation of this example can be taken to be exactly parallel in the relevant respects to the (ungrammatical) derivation of example (240b). Nevertheless, it is important to note that the corresponding Dutch example in (250b') is ungrammatical; although Dutch does have raising verbs, it does not have raising adjectives.

Example 250
a. It is likely that John will win.
a'. Johni is likely [ti to win].
b. Het is waarschijnlijk dat Jan zal winnen.
b'. * Jani is waarschijnlijk [ti te winnen].
[+]  3.  The structure of the infinitival clause

If the noun phrase is indeed generated as the subject of the adjective, that is, if the noun phrase does not originate from within the infinitival clause, we still have to account for the fact that the direct object of the infinitival clause cannot be morphologically expressed; since we are dealing with transitive verbs in the infinitival clauses, we would expect the direct object to be present, but the examples in (251) are ungrammatical if the direct objects are expressed overtly.

Example 251
a. Deze somi is moeilijk om (*’ri) op te lossen.
  this problem  is tough  comp   her  prt.  to solve
a'. * een moeilijke/gemakkelijke somi om (*’ri) op te lossen
  tough/easy  problem  comp   her  prt.  to solve
b. Deze jongeni is leuk om (*’mi) te zien.
  this boy  is nice  comp    him  to see
b'. een leuke jongeni om (*’mi) te zien
  a nice boy  comp    him  to see

In order to account for the judgments in (251), it has been argued that the direct object of the main verb of the infinitival clause is indeed present but has no overt form: it is a phonetically empty element, which resembles the pronouns die/dat in relative clauses. In other words, the grammatical versions of the infinitival clauses in the primed examples of (251) are assumed to have a structure similar to relative clauses. This is illustrated in (252): in (252b), a phonetically empty operator OP has been moved into clause-initial position, just like the relative pronoun die in (252a). If we assume that both the relative pronoun and the empty operator function as the direct object of the verb zien'to see', the impossibility of using the pronouns r'her' and ’m'him' in (251) follows from the assumption that the object position is already occupied by the trace of the empty operator. In order to get the desired meanings, we should of course assume that the nominal projection leuke jongen functions as the antecedent of the relative pronoun/empty operator.

Example 252
a. die leuke jongen [diei [ik ti zag]]
  that  nice  boy   that   I  saw
b. een leuke jongen [OPi om [PRO ti te zien]]

There are various syntactic phenomena that can be accounted for if we assume that the easy-to-please-constructions in (251) involve an empty operator that is moved into the initial position of the infinitival clause, and which can therefore be said to support the suggested analysis. First, example (253a) shows that movement of a relative pronoun into clause-initial position may strand a preposition. If we are dealing with the preposition met, the result of preposition stranding is that the preposition takes the form mee; cf. (253b). Some prepositions. like zonder'without' in (253c), do not allow stranding. See Section P5.3 for more discussion.

Example 253
a. de jongen [waari [ik naar ti keek]]
  the boy   who   I  at  looked
  'the boy I looked at'
b. de jongen [waari [ik mee/*met ti uit ben geweest]]
  the boy   who   I  with  out  have been
  'the boy I went out with'
c. * de jongen [waari [ik zonder ti uit ben gegaan]]
  the boy   who   I  without  out  have been
  '*the boy I went out without'

If the easy-to-please-construction involves movement of an empty operator, we expect similar facts to arise in this construction. The examples in (254) show that this is indeed borne out.

Example 254
a. Jan is leuk [OPi om [PRO naar ti te kijken]].
  Jan is nice  comp  at  to look
  'Jan is nice to look at.'
b. Jan is leuk [OPi om [PRO mee/*met ti uit te gaan]].
  Jan is nice  comp  with out  to go
  'Jan is nice to go out with.'
c. * Jan is leuk [OPi om [PRO zonder ti uit te gaan]].
  Jan is nice  comp  without  out  to go
  '*Jan is nice to go out without.'

Note that the passive construction in (255) shows that NP-movement cannot strand a preposition in Dutch. This means that the data in (254) also provides evidence against the NP-movement analysis of the easy-to-please-construction.

Example 255
a. Marie kijkt naar Jan.
  Marie looks  at Jan
  'Marie is looking at Jan.'
b. * Jani werd naar ti gekeken.
  Jan  was  at  looked

Second, relative pronouns can be extracted from more deeply embedded clauses and be placed into the initial position of the matrix clause; cf. (256a). Similar extractions may apply in the easy-to-please-constructions; cf. (256b).

Example 256
a. de voorstelling [diei [Jan zei [dat hij ti gezien had]]]
  the performance   which   Jan said   that  he  seen  had
  'the performance which John said that heʼd seen'
b. Deze voorstelling is leuk [OPi om [PRO te zeggen [dat je ti gezien hebt]]].
  this performance is nice  comp  to say   that  one  seen has
  'This performance is nice to say that one has seen.'

It should be noted, however, that many speakers consider the examples in (256) to be somewhat marked. The main point is, however, that they do not seem to be ungrammatical, as will be clear from the fact that they are far less degraded than the examples in (257) and (258), to be discussed below.
      Third, relative pronouns cannot be extracted from so-called islands for extraction, such as embedded interrogative clauses and certain adverbial phrases. This is demonstrated in (257); example (257a) involves extraction from an interrogative clause, and the examples in (257b-c) involve extraction from an adverbial clause/PP.

Example 257
a. * de voorstelling [diei [Jan vroeg [of Peter ti gezien had]]]
  the performance   which   Jan asked   whether  Peter  seen  had
  '*the performance which John asked whether Peter had seen'
b. * de jongen [diei [Marie lachte [nadat zij ti ontmoet had]]]
  the boy   who   Marie laughed   after  she  met  had
  '*the boy who Marie laughed after sheʼd met'
c. * de vakantie [waari [ik tijdens ti gekampeerd heb]]
  the holiday   which   I  during  camped  have
  '*the holiday which I camped during'

The examples in (258) show that similar facts arise in the case of the easy-to-please-construction; see (253c) and (254c) for more examples.

Example 258
a. * Deze voorstelling is leuk [OPi om [PRO te vragen [of Peter ti gezien heeft]]].
  this performance is nice  comp  to ask   whether Peter seen has
  'This performance is nice to ask whether Peter has seen.'
b. * De jongen is leuk [OPi om [PRO te lachen [nadat je ti ontmoet hebt]]].
  the boy  is nice  comp  to laugh  after  one  met  has
c. * De vakantie is leuk [OPi om [PRO tijdens ti te kamperen]].
  the holiday  is nice  comp  during  to camp

Fourth, under certain circumstances relative pronouns can fill two interpretative gaps in the structure: a trace and a so-called parasitic gap. This is shown in (259): in (259a), the relative pronoun dat acts as the direct object of the verb opbergen'to file' by virtue of its relation with its trace ti, and in (259b) it enters into an additional relation with the empty object position of the verb of the adjunct clause zonder te lezen, the parasitic gap PG. As is demonstrated in (260), similar facts can be observed in the easy-to-please-construction.

Example 259
a. het boek [dati [Jan ti opbergt]]
  the book   which   Jan  prt.-files
b. het boek [dati [Jan [zonder PGi te lezen] ti opbergt]]
  the book   which   Jan  without  to read  prt.-files
  'the book that Jan files without reading'
Example 260
a. Dit boek is leuk [OPi om [PRO ti op te bergen]].
  this book  is nice  comp  prt.  to file
b. Dit boek is leuk [OPi om [PRO [zonder PGi te lezen] ti op te bergen]].
  this book  is nice  comp   without  to read  prt.  to file
  'This book is nice to file without reading.'

Finally, the implied subject PRO cannot function as the empty operator, that is, the empty operator postulated in the easy-to-please-construction cannot be identical to the implied subject PRO of the infinitival clause. This can be demonstrated by means of the examples in (261): in (261a), there are two interpretative gaps (the implied subject PRO and the empty operator OP); in the passive construction in (261b), on the other hand, there is only one interpretative gap (the implied subject PRO), and the construction is ungrammatical.

Example 261
a. Dit probleem is moeilijk [OPi om [PRO ti op te lossen]].
  this problem  is tough  comp  prt.  to solve
b. * Dit probleem is moeilijk [om PRO op gelost te worden].
  this problem  is tough  comp  prt.  solved  to be

The unacceptability of (261b) has nothing to do with the fact that the embedded verb is a passive participle; in (262), the embedded verb is a passive participle as well but the result is acceptable, because the operator does not correspond to the PRO subject of the passive clause.

Example 262
a. Deze universiteit is leuk [OPi om [PRO Peter naar ti toe te sturen]].
  this university  is nice  comp  Peter to  prt.  to send
b. Deze universiteit is leuk [OPi om [PRO naar ti toe gestuurd te worden]].
  this university  is nice comp  to  prt.  sent to be

The discussion in this subsection has shown that the claim that infinitival clauses in the easy-to-please-construction contain an empty operator that is moved into the initial position of that clause is supported by the fact that it accounts for a number of similarities between these infinitival clauses and relative clauses. We have also seen that the postulated empty operator cannot correspond to the empty subject pronoun PRO.

[+]  4.  The adjective

Not all set-denoting adjectives can occur in the easy-to-please-construction. Example (263a), for example, is completely unacceptable. However, the example becomes fully acceptable if we add the intensifier te'too' to the adjective, as in (263b). The fact that this modifier licenses the addition of a dative DP, which refers to a participant whose evaluation is given, suggests that the adjective must at least express some subjective evaluation in order to be usable in this construction. Observe that the adjectives used in the previous subsections ( moeilijk/gemakkelijk'easy/difficult', leuk'nice' and lelijk'ugly') all imply a subjective evaluation by the speaker.

Example 263
a. * Deze soep is (mij) zout [OPi om [PRO ti te eten]].
  this soup  is  me  salty  comp  to eat
b. Deze soep is (mij) te zout [OPi om [PRO ti te eten]].
  this soup  is  me  too salty  comp  to eat
  'This soup is too salt (to me) to eat.'
[+]  B.  Modal infinitives

This subsection discusses the differences between the examples in (238b&c), repeated here as (264a&b). The easy-to-please-construction in (264a) is easy to confuse with example (264b), which involves a modal infinitive. but the following subsections will show that two constructions differ in various respects.

Example 264
a. Dit probleem is moeilijk/gemakkelijk om op te lossen.
  this problem  is tough/easy  comp  prt. to solve
  'This problem is tough/easy to solve.'
b. Dit probleem is moeilijk/gemakkelijk op te lossen.
  this problem  is tough/easy  prt. to solve
  'This problem can be solved easily/with difficulty.'
[+]  1.  Meaning

The term modal infinitives is used for the infinitives in examples such as (264b) because they inherently express some notion of modality: (264b), for instance, expresses that the sum can be solved. Such modal meanings are absent in the easy-to-please-constructions in the (a)-examples. Related to this difference in meaning is that the infinitival verbs in modal infinitive constructions must denote an activity, whereas this does not hold for the infinitival verbs in easy-to-please-constructions; this is illustrated by means of the contrast between the (a)- and (b)-examples in (265).

Example 265
a. Die boeken zijn handig om te hebben.
  those books  are handy  comp  to have
  'Itʼs handy to own those books.'
a'. Wiskunde is handig om te kennen.
  math  is handy  comp  to know
b. * Die boeken zijn (gemakkelijk/niet) te hebben.
  those books  are   easy/not  to have
b'. * Wiskunde is (gemakkelijk/niet) te kennen.
  math  is  easy/not  to know
[+]  2.  The status of the adjective

The first difference between these construction types concerns the syntactic function of the AP: in the easy-to-please-construction the AP functions as the predicate of the copular construction, whereas it functions as an adverbial phrase in the modal infinitive construction; in this construction it is the te-infinitive that functions as the predicate. This can be made clear quite easily by means of the examples in (266): the adverbially used AP in (266b) can be dropped, whereas dropping the AP in (266a) leads to ungrammaticality. The number sign indicates that some speakers accept example (266a) without the adjective if the infinitival clause is interpreted as a goal-infinitive, which is of course irrelevant here.

Example 266
a. Dit probleem is #(moeilijk/gemakkelijk) om op te lossen.
  this problem  is    tough/easy  comp  prt.  to solve
  'This problem is tough/easy to solve.'
b. Dit probleem is (moeilijk/gemakkelijk) op te lossen.
  this problem  is  tough/easy  prt.  to solve
  'This problem can be solved (easily/with difficulty).'

This distinction is also clear from the fact illustrated in (267) that replacement of the adjective moeilijk/gemakkelijk by an adjective that normally cannot be used adverbially is possible in the easy-to-please-construction, but not in the modal infinitive construction. For completeness’ sake, the primed examples illustrate the result of dropping the adjective.

Example 267
a. Jan is lelijk om te zien.
  Jan is ugly  comp  to see
  'Jan looks ugly.'
b. * Jan is lelijk te zien
   Jan is ugly  to see
  'Jan can be seen.'
a'. * Jan is om te zien.
b'. Jan is te zien.

The examples in (268) show that the adjective can be replaced by a clausal adverb like waarschijnlijk'probably' or the adverbial negative/affirmative marker niet/wel in the modal infinitive construction, but not in the easy-to-please-construction.

Example 268
a. * Dit probleem is waarschijnlijk/niet/wel om op te lossen.
  this problem  is probably/not/aff.  comp  prt.  to solve
b. Dit probleem is waarschijnlijk/niet/wel op te lossen.
  this problem  is probably/not/aff.   prt.  to solve
  'This problem cannot be solved.'

This concludes our discussion on the status of the adjective in these constructions for the moment, but Subsection 5 will provide a final piece of evidence in favor of the conclusion that the AP functions as an adverbial phrase in the modal infinitive construction.

[+]  3.  The complementizer om

A third difference between the two constructions concerns the question as to whether the complementizer om can or must be present. Om is obligatorily present in the easy-to-please-construction; dropping om in (267a), which would give rise to the string in (267b), leads to ungrammaticality. In the modal infinitive construction, on the other hand, addition of om is blocked; adding om to (267b'), which would give rise to the string in (267a'), leads to ungrammaticality.

[+]  4.  Word order

The examples in (269) show that the infinitival clause of the easy-to-please-construction follows the verb(s) in clause-final position, whereas the te-infinitive of the modal infinitive construction precedes the finite verb.

Example 269
a. dat dit probleem moeilijk/gemakkelijk is om op te lossen.
  that  this problem  tough/easy  is comp  prt.  to solve
  'that this problem is tough/easy to solve.'
a'. *? dat dit probleem moeilijk/gemakkelijk om op te lossen is.
b. *? dat dit probleem (moeilijk/gemakkelijk) is op te lossen.
  that  this problem   tough/easy  is prt.  to solve
  'that this problem can be solved (easily/with difficulty).'
b'. dat dit probleem (moeilijk/gemakkelijk) op te lossen is.

The fact that the modal infinitives must precede the clause-final verbs of course follows from the fact that they function as complementives; cf. Section 6.2.2.

[+]  5.  The attributive construction

A contrast similar to that in (269) can be found in attributive constructions: the (a)-examples in (270) show that the attributively used adjective precedes and the infinitival clause follows the head noun in easy-to-please-constructions; the (b)-examples, on the other hand, show that the te-infinitive must precede the head noun in modal infinitive constructions.

Example 270
a. een gemakkelijke probleem om op te lossen
a'. * een gemakkelijke om op te lossen probleem
b. * een gemakkelijk probleem op te lossen
b'. een gemakkelijk op te lossen probleem

Observe that the adjective gemakkelijk exhibits adjectival inflection in (270a), but not in (270b). This shows again that gemakkelijk is used adverbially in the modal infinitive construction; see the discussion in 2 above.

[+]  6.  Movement

Subsection IVA has given various arguments in favor of the claim that the easy-to-please-construction involves movement of an empty operator. The modal infinitive construction differs systematically from the easy-to-please-construction in this respect; in modal infinitive constructions, stranded prepositions do not occur (cf. (271a)), empty positions in more deeply embedded clauses within the te-infinitive are not licensed (cf. (271b)), and parasitic gaps give rise to a marginal result (cf. (271c)).

Example 271
a. * Dit programmai is (moeilijk) mee ei te werken.
  this program  is  tough  with  to work
b. * Dit programmai is (moeilijk) te zeggen [dat je ei helemaal kent].
  this program  is  tough  to say   that  you  completely  know
c. ?? Dit boeki is (moeilijk) [zonder PGi te lezen] ei op te bergen.
  this book  is  tough   without  to read  prt.  to file
[+]  7.  Addition of a door-phrase

The modal infinitive construction is compatible with a door-phrase that expresses the implied agent of the action denoted by the modal infinitive, whereas addition of an agentive door-phrase is not possible in the easy-to-please-construction. This is illustrated in (272).

Example 272
a. * Dit probleem is <door Jan> moeilijk/gemakkelijk om <door Jan> op te lossen.
  this sum  is   by Jan  tough/easy  comp  prt. to solve
  'This problem is tough/easy to solve (by Jan).'
b. Dit probleem is door Jan moeilijk/gemakkelijk op te lossen.
  this problem  is by Jan  tough/easy  prt.  to solve
  'This problem can be solved (easily/with difficulty) by Jan.'

Because door-phrases also occur in passive constructions, it has been suggested that modal infinitive constructions are somehow related to the passive. If modal infinitive constructions involve a movement similar to that in passive constructions, at least the data in Subsection 6 would be explained: the movement operation in the passive construction cannot strand prepositions (cf. (273a)), cannot apply from an embedded clause (cf. (273b)), and only marginally licenses parasitic gaps (cf. (273c)).

Example 273
a. * Dit programmai wordt hier mee ti gewerkt.
  this program  is  here  with  worked
b. * Dit programmai wordt gezegd [dat jij helemaal ti kent].
  this program  is  said   that  you  completely  know
c. ? Dit boeki werd [zonder PGi te lezen] ti opgeborgen.
  this book  was   without  to read  prt.-filed

This concludes our present discussion of the modal infinitives; a more exhaustive discussion of the properties of modal infinitives can be found in Sections 9.2.2 and 9.3.1, sub III.

References:
  • Bennis, Hans2004Unergative adjectives and psych verbsAlexiadou, Artemis, Anagnostopoulou, Elena & Everaert, Martin (eds.)The unaccusativity puzzle: studies on the syntax-lexicon interfaceOxfordOxford University Press84-113
  • Bennis, Hans & Hoekstra, Teun1989PRO and the Binding TheoryBennis, Hans & Kemenade, Ans van (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 1989Dordrecht11-20
  • Bennis, Hans & Wehrmann, Pim1987Adverbial argumentsBeukema, Frits & Coopmans, Peter (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 1987Dordrecht1-11
  • Chomsky, Noam1973Conditions on transformationsAnderson, Stephen & Kiparsky, Paul (eds.)A festschrift for Morris HalleNew YorkHolt, Rinehart, and Winston71-132
  • Chomsky, Noam1995The minimalist programCurrent studies in linguistics ; 28Cambridge, MAMIT Press
  • Dikken, Marcel den & Næss, Alma1993Case dependencies: the case of predicate inversionThe Linguistic Review10303-336
  • Haaften, Ton van1991De interpretatie van verzwegen subjectenFree University AmsterdamThesis
  • Haaften, Ton van1991De interpretatie van verzwegen subjectenFree University AmsterdamThesis
  • Wyngaerd, Guido vanden1994PRO-legomena. Distribution and Reference of infinitival subjectsLinguistic Models 19Berlin/New YorkMouton de Gruyter
  • Wyngaerd, Guido vanden1994PRO-legomena. Distribution and Reference of infinitival subjectsLinguistic Models 19Berlin/New YorkMouton de Gruyter
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