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8.2.1. Clausal adverbs

The adjectival clausal adverbs can be divided into the subclasses in (19), which are discussed more extensively in the following subsections.

Example 19
a. Modal adverbs: vermoedelijk 'presumably'
b. Subjective adverbs: gelukkig 'fortunately'
c. Frequency adverbs: vaak 'often'
d. Emphasizers/amplifiers: echt 'truly'
[+]  I.  Modal adverbs

The adjectival modal adverbs express to what degree of probability/plausibility the proposition expressed by the clause is true. Some typical examples of such adverbs are given in (20).

Example 20
a. blijkbaar 'apparently'
f. ontegenzeglijk 'undeniably'
b. beslist 'definitely'
g. schijnbaar 'seemingly'
c. misschien 'maybe/perhaps'
h. vermoedelijk 'presumably'
d. mogelijk 'possibly'
i. waarschijnlijk 'probably'
e. natuurlijk 'of course'
j. zeker 'certainly'

In (21) two examples are given in context; the paraphrases in the primed examples show that we are indeed dealing with modification of the full clause.

Example 21
a. Jan is (heel) misschien/zeker ziek.
  Jan is very  perhaps/certainly  ill
  'Jan is perhaps/certainly ill.'
a'. Het is (heel) misschien/zeker zo dat Jan ziek is.
  it  is very  perhaps/certainly  the.case  that  Jan ill  is
  'Itʼs perhaps/certainly the case that Jan is ill.'
b. Jan is (zeer) waarschijnlijk ziek.
  Jan is very  probably  ill
  'Jan is (quite) probably ill.'
b'. Het is (zeer) waarschijnlijk zo dat Jan ziek is.
  it  is  very  probably  the.case  that  Jan ill  is
  'Itʼs (quite) probably the case that Jan is ill.'

The fact that the heads of the adverbial phrases in (21) can be modified by the intensifier heel/zeer'very' unambiguously shows that they are adjectives. However, with the exception of (zeer) beslist'definitely', using an intensifier is impossible with the other adverbs in (20). Nevertheless, there are other indications that these are adjectival in nature: the elements blijkbaar, schijnbaar, natuurlijk and vermoedelijk, for instance, contain the adjectivizing affixes -baar and -lijk.
      Observe that, despite the fact that the clausal adverbs in (21) can be modified by means of an intensifier, comparative formation is excluded. This is especially conspicuous in the case of the adjective waarschijnlijk, which normally does allow the comparative form. This contrast has already been illustrated in the examples in (14) in Section 8.2, sub I, which also show that on- prefixation of adverbially used waarschijnlijk is excluded.

[+]  II.  Subjective adverbs

The adjectival subjective adverbs express some subjective evaluation by the speaker of the assertion expressed by the clause. Some typical examples are given in (22).

Example 22
a. gelukkig 'fortunately'
b. helaas 'unfortunately'
c. hopelijk 'hopefully'
d. onverhoopt 'unhoped for'

The primeless examples in (23) provide some sentences in which these adverbs are used; their paraphrases are given in the primed examples.

Example 23
a. Jan is helaas ziek.
  Jan  is unfortunately  ill
a'. Het is helaas zo dat Jan ziek is.
  it  is unfortunately  the.case  that  Jan ill  is
b. Jan is gelukkig weer genezen.
  Jan  is fortunately  again  recovered
b'. Het is gelukkig zo dat Jan weer genezen is.
  it  is fortunately  the.case  that  Jan again  recovered  is

      The adjectives in (22a) cannot be modified by means of an intensifier or undergo comparative formation if used subjectively. This is especially conspicuous in the case of gelukkig, which normally allows both. The adverbs are also special in that they do not allow on- prefixation. This is again conspicuous in the case of adverbial gelukkig, whose negative counterpart is not ongelukkig but ongelukkigerwijs'unfortunately'; see the discussion of (26b) below. We can illustrate all this by means of the examples in (24).

Example 24
a. De onsportieve atleet is gelukkig ten val gekomen.
  the unfair athlete  is fortunately  ten fall  come
  Reading 1: 'Fortunately, the unfair athlete fell.'
  Reading 2: 'The unfair athlete fell in a fortunate manner.'
b. De onsportieve atleet is erg gelukkig ten val gekomen.
  the unfair athlete  is very fortunately  ten fall  come
  Only reading: 'The unfair athlete fell in a very fortunate manner.'
c. De onsportieve atleet is gelukkiger ten val gekomen (dan zijn rivaal).
  the unfair athlete  is more fortunately  ten fall  come   than his rival
  Only reading: 'The unfair athlete fell in a more fortunate manner (than his rival).'
d. De onsportieve atleet is ongelukkig ten val gekomen.
  the unfair athlete  is unfortunately  ten fall  come
  Only reading: 'The unfair athlete fell in an unfortunate manner.'

Example (24a) is ambiguous: the adjective is either interpreted as a clausal adverb, in which case it expresses relief on the part of the speaker, or it is used as a VP (manner) adverb, in which case it indicates that the fall has no serious consequences. If the adjective is modified by means of the intensifier erg'very', as in (24b), it can only be interpreted as a VP adverb. The same thing holds if the adjective has the comparative form or is prefixed with on-, as in (24c-d).
      Because subjective adverbs cannot be modified by an intensifier, it is difficult to establish that some of the adverbs in (22) are really adjectives. Still, the fact that onverhoopt is (in fact, must be) prefixed with the negative marker on- strongly suggests that we are indeed dealing with an adjective (cf. Section 1.3.1, sub II), and the same thing is suggested by the fact that hopelijk contains the adjectivizing affix -elijk. Another indication that we are dealing with adjectives is that some subjective clausal adverbs can be modified by the degree element genoeg. In fact, adding this element to example (24a), as in (25a), strongly favors the interpretation of the adjective as a clausal adverb. Recall, however, that the modifier genoeg'enough' may license an infinitival om-clause if it modifies, for instance, an attributive adjective. This is not possible if we are dealing with a clausal adverb; addition of an om-clause to (25a) forces an interpretation of the adjective as a VP adverb.

Example 25
a. De onsportieve atleet is gelukkig genoeg ten val gekomen.
  the unfair athlete  is fortunately  enough  ten fall  come
  Preferred reading: 'Fortunately (enough), the unfair athlete fell.'
b. De onsportieve atleet is gelukkig genoeg ten val gekomen om door te kunnen gaan.
  the unfair athlete  is fortunately  enough  ten fall  come  comp  prt.  to be-able  continue
  Only reading: 'The unfair athlete fell in such a fortunate manner that he could continue.'

      A remarkable property of genoeg is that it enables certain adjectives to be used as clausal adverbs, which otherwise cannot be used in this function; example (24d) has shown that the negative adjective ongelukkig normally cannot be interpreted as a clausal adverb, but if we add genoeg, as in (26a), this interpretation becomes readily available. Example (26b) shows that a similar effect obtains if we add the affix -erwijs to this adjective.

Example 26
a. De atleet is ongelukkig genoeg ten val gekomen.
  the athlete  is unfortunately  enough ten  fall  come
  Preferred reading: 'Unfortunately (enough), the unfair athlete fell.'
b. De atleet is ongelukkigerwijs ten val gekomen.
  the athlete  is unfortunately  ten fall  come
  Only reading: 'Unfortunately, the unfair athlete fell.'

Diepeveen (2011) has shown that genoeg also has the ability to convert basic adjectives like interessant'interesting', which normally cannot be used adverbially, into subjective adverbs. Some examples are given in (27).

Example 27
a. Interessant *(genoeg) is dat ook voor Clinton zelf belangrijk.
  interestingly     enough  is that  also  for Clinton  himself  important
  'Interestingly enough, this is also important for Clinton himself.'
b. Gek *(genoeg) is het in de pub altijd veel drukker.
  strangely     enough  is it  in the pub  always  much busier
  'Strangely enough, itʼs always more crowded in the pub.'
[+]  III.  Frequency adverbs

The third type of adjectival clausal adverbs are the frequency adverbs in (28), which differ from time adverbs like laat'late' in that they do not situate the event in a specific interval on the time axis, but indicate the frequency of the event.

Example 28
a. altijd 'always'
h. nooit 'never'
b. dagelijks 'daily'
i. soms 'sometimes'
c. wekelijks 'weekly'
j. steeds 'constantly'
d. maandelijks 'monthly'
k. telkens 'repeatedly'
e. dikwijls 'frequently'
l. vaak 'often'
f. geregeld 'regularly'
m. zelden 'rarely'
g. gewoonlijk 'usually'

That the frequency adverbs can function as clausal adverbs is clear from the fact illustrated in (29) that they can occur in the het is adverb zo dat ... frame. 8.2.2, sub III, will return to the frequency adverbs and show that they can be used not only as clausal adverbs, but also as VP adverbs.

Example 29
a. Marie staat vaak laat op.
  Marie gets  often  late  up
  'Marie often gets up late.'
b. Het is vaak zo dat Marie laat opstaat.
  it  is often  the.case  that Marie  late  up.gets

      That most of the frequency adverbs in (28) are of an adjectival nature is clear from the fact that many of them can be modified by means of an intensifier or a quantifier. This is illustrated in (30).

Example 30
a. bijna altijd 'almost always'
b. heel dikwijls 'very frequently'
c. zeer geregeld 'very regularly'
d. heel soms (lit: very sometimes) 'occasionally'
e. erg/zeer vaak 'very often'
f. zeer zelden 'very rarely'

That dagelijks/wekelijks/maandelijks are adjectival in nature is beyond doubt, given that they may occur in attributive position; cf. (31). Finally, that gewoonlijk is adjectival is plausible since it contains the adjectival affix -lijk.

Example 31
een dagelijkse/wekelijkse/maandelijkse bijeenkomst
  daily/weekly/monthly  meeting

In some cases, however, it is not possible to determine the categorial status of frequency adverbs, because they do not allow modification or comparative formation.

Example 32
a. steeds 'constantly'
b. telkens 'repeatedly'
a'. * heel steeds
b'. * heel telkens
a''. * steedser/het steedst
b''. * meer/het meest telkens
[+]  IV.  Time adverbs

The (a)-examples in (33) show that adverbial phrases of time like laat'late' cannot be used as sentence adverbs; Section 8.2.2, sub II, will show that adverbs like these act as VP adverbs. Nevertheless there are certain adverbial phrases of time that can sometimes act as sentence adverbs, which is illustrated in the (b)-examples by means of the adverbial PP op zondag'on Sunday'.

Example 33
a. Marie staat vaak laat op.
  Marie gets  often  late  up
a'. * Het is laat zo dat Marie (vaak) opstaat.
  it  is late  the.case  that Marie  often  up.gets
b. Marie staat op zondag vaak laat op.
  Marie gets  on Sunday   often  late  up
  'On Sundays, Marie often gets up late.'
b'. Het is op zondag vaak zo dat Marie laat opstaat.
  it  is on Sunday  often  the.case  that  Marie  late  up.gets

The primeless examples show that this difference in function is reflected by the position of these adverbial phrases relative to the frequency adverb vaak'often': whereas the VP adverb laat'late' follows the frequency adverb, the adverbial phrase op zondag'on Sunday' precedes it. The semantic contributions of the two adverbial phrases also differ: whereas the adjective laat seems to situate the event on the time axis, the phrase op zondag expresses a restriction on the proposition: it is specifically on Sundays that Marie gets up late (not on other days).
      Adjectives cannot be readily used as clausal adverbs of time. Possible cases are vroeger'in the past', tegenwoordig'nowadays', and later'in the future'. It is not clear, however, whether these elements are really adjectives. The element vroeger in (34), for example, has a slightly different meaning than the attributively used counterpart in zijn vroegere vrouw'his former wife', and resembles the complement of the PP in We spraken over vroeger'We talked about the past'. The fact that later can be also used as the complement of a PP, as in We sparen voor later'We are saving money for later', suggests that we are actually dealing with nominal elements. We leave this for future research.

Example 34
a. Jan ging vroeger vaak naar de kerk.
  Jan went  in.the.past  often  to the church
  'Jan used to go to church often.'
a'. Het was vroeger zo dat Jan vaak naar de kerk ging.
  it  was in.the.past  the.case  that Jan  often  to the church  went
  'It used to be the case that Jan went to church often.'
b. Jan staat tegenwoordig laat op.
  Jan stands  nowadays  late  up
  'Nowadays, Jan gets up late.'
b'. Het is tegenwoordig zo dat Jan vaak laat op staat.
  it  is nowadays  the.case  that Jan  often  late  up  stand

For completeness’ sake, note that the adverb vroeger in (34a) is certainly not the comparative form of the adjective vroeg'early', which is clear from the fact that vroeger cannot be replaced by the positive adjective vroeg or the superlative form het vroegst, as is shown in (35a). Example (35b) shows that all these forms are easily possible if we are dealing with a VP adverb. Similar facts can be observed for the adverb later'later'.

Example 35
a. Jan ging *vroeg/#vroeger/*het vroegst vaak naar de kerk.
  Jan went    early/earlier/the earliest  often  to the church
b. Jan ging vaak vroeg/vroeger/het vroegst naar de kerk.
  Jan  went  often  early/earlier/the earliest  to the church

      Other possible cases are adverbs like zojuist'just now', straks'later/soon', gisteren'yesterday', and morgen'tomorrow'. The examples in (36) illustrate for straks that it may function both as a clause and as a VP adverb; see also the discussion of the examples in (18) from Section 8.2, sub III, which show that the position of the time adverb relative to the modal adverbs determines its construal as a clause or a VP-adverb. It is again difficult, however, to prove that we are dealing with adjectives.

Example 36
a. Jan koopt straks het boek.
  Jan buys  later  the book
  'Later, John will buy the book/John will buy the book later.'
b. Het is straks zo dat Jan het boek koopt.
  it  is later  the.case  that  Jan  the book  buys
b'. Jan koopt het boek en hij doet dat straks.
  Jan buys the book  and  he does that  later
[+]  V.  A note on emphasizers/amplifiers

The final set of adverbs that we will discuss here are the emphasizers/amplifiers. Some examples are echt'truly', absoluut'absolutely', and duidelijk'clearly'. The main function of these elements is to emphasize the truth of the assertion, or to scale upwards from an assumed norm. Some examples are given in (37). This class of adverbs is problematic as the paraphrases in the primed examples may seem somewhat unnatural and do not fully cover the meaning of the primeless examples.

Example 37
a. Hij is echt een held.
  he  is truly  a hero
a'. Het is echt zo dat hij een held is.
  it  is truly  the.case  that  he  a hero  is
b. Jan vertelt absoluut onzin.
  Jan  tells  absolutely  nonsense
b'. Het is absoluut zo dat Jan onzin vertelt.
  it  is absolutely  the.case  that  Jan nonsense  tells
c. Jan heeft duidelijk een fout gemaakt.
  Jan  has  clearly  a mistake  made
c'. Het is duidelijk zo dat Jan een fout gemaakt heeft.
  it  is clearly  the.case  that  Jan a mistake  made  has

The examples in (38) show that adjectives like these can also be used attributively (cf. Section 1.3.5, sub II); their adjectival status is therefore beyond doubt.

Example 38
a. Hij is een echte held.
  he  is a true hero
b. Dit is absolute onzin.
  this  is absolute nonsense
c. Dit is een duidelijke fout.
  this  is a clear mistake

      Actually, the adverbially and attributively used adjectives in (37) and (38) are quite close in meaning in the sense that the adverbs in (37) are intimately related to the noun phrases they precede, which perhaps accounts for the fact that the paraphrases in the primed examples of (37) do not seem to fully capture the meaning of their primeless counterparts. One indication for this is that, unlike the clausal adverbs discussed earlier, the emphasizer/amplifier must be immediately left adjacent to the predicative noun phrase in (37a) and the direct objects (37b&c). This contrast is illustrated in (39), by means of the modal adverb waarschijnlijk and the emphasizer absoluut from (37b).

Example 39
a. Jan zal waarschijnlijk dat verhaal vertellen.
  Jan will  probably  that story  tell
a'. Jan zal dat verhaal waarschijnlijk vertellen.
a''. Waarschijnlijk zal Jan dat verhaal vertellen.
b. Jan heeft absoluut onzin verteld.
  Jan has  absolutely  nonsense  told
b'. * Jan heeft onzin absoluut verteld.
b''. * Absoluut heeft Jan onzin verteld.

The value of this particular argument is perhaps not entirely clear since it could be the case that the unacceptability of (39b') is accidental: the unacceptability of the examples in (40) shows that the emphasizer absoluut is only possible if the direct object is a nonspecific indefinite noun phrase, and such noun phrases can never be placed in front of a clausal adverb; cf. *Jan zal een verhaal waarschijnlijk vertellen'Jan will probably tell a story'. Nevertheless, the contrast between the doubly-primed examples in (39) shows clearly that some adjacency requirement is at work.

Example 40
a. ?? Jan heeft absoluut die onzin verteld.
  Jan has  absolutely  that nonsense  told
b. ?? Jan heeft duidelijk die fout gemaakt.
  Jan has  clearly  that mistake  made

Other evidence that the emphasizers/amplifiers must be left adjacent to the nominal predicate or direct object emerges if we compare the double object constructions in (41) (and the same thing can be shown on the basis of example (42c) in the next subsection). In (41a) the indirect object niemand'no one' may follow the modal adverb waarschijnlijk'probably', whereas the placement of the indirect object after the emphasizer/ amplifier absoluut'absolutely' in (41b) is impossible on the intended reading.

Example 41
a. Jan heeft waarschijnlijk niemand het hele verhaal verteld.
  Jan has  probably  no one  the whole story  told
b. # Jan heeft absoluut niemand onzin verteld.
  Jan has  absolutely  no one  nonsense  told

Given that example (41b) is acceptable if the adverb is construed as an emphasizer of the negation expressed by the pronoun niemand, perhaps we should conclude that these adverbs are actually not clausal adverbs but function as modifiers of nonspecific indefinite noun phrases. If so, the het is adverb zo dat ... frame may not be a fully reliable test for detecting clausal adverbs.

[+]  VI.  The position of the clausal adverbs

In the examples in the previous subsections, the clausal adverbs occupy a position in the middle field of the clause. With the exception of the emphasizers/amplifiers in (42c), they may also be topicalized, that is, be placed in clause-initial position. This is illustrated in (42a) for the modal and subjective adverbs and in (42b) for the frequency adverbs.

Example 42
a. Het boek is waarschijnlijk/helaas uitverkocht.
  the book  is unfortunately  out.sold
  'Probably/Unfortunately, the book has been sold out.'
a'. Waarschijnlijk/Helaas is het boek uitverkocht.
b. Ik ga zelden naar de bioscoop.
  go  rarely  to the movies
b'. Zelden ga ik naar de bioscoop.
c. Jan heeft duidelijk een fout gemaakt.
  Jan has  clearly  a mistake  made
c'. *? Duidelijk heeft Jan een fout gemaakt.

Placement of the clausal adverbs in a position following the verb(s) in clause-final position is normally not an option, although it should be observed that example (43a), with a modal/subjective adverb, is acceptable if the clause-final verbs are followed by an intonation break.

Example 43
a. dat het boek uitverkocht is *( , ) waarschijnlijk/helaas.
  that  the book  out.sold  is  probably/unfortunately
b. * dat ik naar de bioscoop ga ( , ) zelden.
  that  to the movies  go  seldom
c. * dat Jan een fout gemaakt heeft duidelijk.
  that  Jan a mistake  made  has  clearly

      Some of the clausal adverbs discussed above can co-occur in a single clause. Although the judgments are sometimes somewhat unclear, the preferred order of these adverbs seems to be as indicated in (44); cf. Cinque (1990).

Example 44
The order of the clausal adverbs
subjective – modal – frequency – emphasizer/amplifier

It is not always easy to combine a subjective and a modal adjective, but if it is possible, as with vrijwel zeker'almost certainly' in (45a), the subjective clausal adverb must precede the modal one. The subjective and modal clausal adverbs precede the frequency adverbs, as is shown in (45b) and (45c), respectively. The examples in (45d) show that the frequency adverbs in turn precede the emphasizers/amplifiers.

Example 45
a. Het boek is helaas vrijwel zeker/??waarschijnlijk uitverkocht.
  the book  is unfortunately  almost certainly/probably  out.sold
a'. * Het boek is vrijwel zeker/waarschijnlijk helaas uitverkocht.
b. Ik ga helaas zelden naar de bioscoop.
  go  unfortunately  seldom  to  the movies
b'. * Ik ga zelden helaas naar de bioscoop.
c. Hij gaat vermoedelijk regelmatig naar de bioscoop.
  he  goes  presumably  often  to the movies
c'. * Hij gaat regelmatig vermoedelijk naar de bioscoop.
d. Jan is soms echt een held.
  Jan is sometimes  really  a hero
d'. * Jan is echt soms een held.

      The examples in (46) show that the order in (44) must be preserved under topicalization, that is, topicalization of a clausal adverb across another clausal adverb is blocked. We do not give examples with echt, as this element does not allow topicalization anyhow; cf. (42c).

Example 46
a. Helaas is het boek vrijwel zeker/??waarschijnlijk uitverkocht.
a'. * Vrijwel zeker/waarschijnlijk is het boek helaas uitverkocht.
b. Helaas ga ik zelden naar de bioscoop.
b'. * Zelden ga ik helaas naar de bioscoop.
c. Vermoedelijk gaat hij regelmatig naar de bioscoop.
c'. * Regelmatig gaat hij vermoedelijk naar de bioscoop.

For completeness’ sake, note that helaas can also be used as an interjection, as in Helaas, het boek is vrijwel zeker/waarschijnlijk uitverkocht. This example differs from (46a) in that helaas does not occupy the regular clause-initial position, which is occupied by the subject het boek, and is therefore extra-clausal.

  • Cinque, Guglielmo1990Types of A'-dependenciesCambridge, MA/London
  • Diepeveen, Janneke2011Interestingly, interessanterweise, interessant genoeg: De vorming van evaluatieve bepalingen in het Nederlands vanuit contrastief perspectiefLage Landen Studies2195-220
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