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9.1. General discussion
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This section provides a general discussion of the adjectival use of participles and modal infinitives. We will discuss past/passive participles, present participles and modal infinitives in separate subsections.

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[+]  I.  Past/passive participles

This subsection discusses the attributive and predicative use of the past/passive participles, and concludes with a brief note on so-called pseudo-participles.

[+]  A.  Attributive use

The participles can be divided into two main groups: present participles such as vechtend'fighting' and past/passive participles such as gekust'kissed'. Both types can be used as attributive adjectives, as is clear from the fact illustrated in Table 1, repeated from Section 1.2, that they exhibit attributive inflection.

Table 1: Inflection of attributively used past/passive and present participles
de-nouns singular plural
definite (i) de vechtende jongen
the fighting boy
(i) de vechtende jongens
the fighting boys
  (ii) de gekuste jongen
the kissed boy
(ii) de gekuste jongens
the kissed boys
indefinite (i) een vechtende jongen
a fighting boy
(i) vechtende jongens
fighting boys
  (ii) een gekuste jongen
a kissed boy
(ii) gekuste jongens
kissed boys
het-nouns singular plural
definite (i) het vechtende kind
the fighting child
(i) de vechtende kinderen
the fighting children
  (ii) het gekuste kind
the kissed child
(ii) de gekuste kinderen
the kissed children
indefinite (i) een vechtend- kind
a fighting child
(i) vechtende kinderen
fighting children
  (ii) een gekust- kind
a kissed child
(ii) gekuste kinderen
kissed children

Section 5.1.1, sub II, has shown, however, that the -e inflection is absent in the case of irregular past/passive participles like geschreven'written' in (2) that end in -en (pronounced as schwa), but this is clearly due to a phonological condition that prohibits two immediately adjacent schwa-sounds in certain environments.

Example 2
a. de geschreven- brief
  the  written  letter
b. de verdreven- koning
  the  dislodged  king
c. de gebeten- hond
  the  bitten  dog
[+]  B.  Predicative use

We will assume for the moment that exhibiting attributive inflection is a sufficient condition for assuming adjectival status for a certain element (although we will argue in Section 9.2 that the situation is more complex in that at least some attributively used participles retain certain verbal properties). If this is correct, we would predict that, in at least some cases, participles can also be used as predicates. A problem is, however, that predicatively used adjectives are not morphologically marked, so that we cannot formally distinguish the “verbal" past/passive participles from their “adjectival" counterparts.
      Given that the Dutch passive auxiliary zijn'to have been' is homophonous to the copular verb zijn'to be', the use of a participle with this auxiliary is expected to lead to ambiguity. The examples in (3) show that this expectation is indeed borne out; as indicated by the English renderings, the examples are ambiguous between an adjectival/state reading and a verbal/activity reading. The copular constructions in (3) are sometimes called adjectival passives; cf. Emonds (2006).

Example 3
a. De muur is versierd.
  the wall  is decorated
  Copular construction: 'The wall is decorated.'
  Passive construction: 'The wall has been decorated.'
b. Deze ham is gerookt.
  this ham  is smoked
  Copular construction: 'This ham is smoked.'
  Passive construction: 'This ham has been smoked.'

Note in passing it is sometimes assumed that the auxiliary zijn'to be' in the passive versions of the examples in (3) is a perfect auxiliary and that the sentence contains a phonetically empty passive auxiliary; we ignore this for the moment but refer the reader to Section V6.2.2, sub II for a discussion of this.
      A similar ambiguity as in (3) might be expected to arise with the verb worden'to become', which can also be used both as a passive auxiliary and a copular verb. The examples in (4) show, however, that this expectation is not borne out. The examples in (4) can only be interpreted as passive constructions, and thus only express the verbal/activity reading; cf. Verrips (1996).

Example 4
a. De muur wordt versierd.
  the wall  is  decorated
  Passive construction only: 'The wall is being decorated.'
b. Deze ham wordt gerookt.
  this ham  is  smoked
  Passive construction only: 'This ham is being smoked.'

This restriction follows if adjectival past/passive participles are individual-level predicates: the examples in (5) show that individual-level adjectives like intelligent cannot enter the copular worden-construction either; cf. Section 1.3.2.2, sub IV, example (111).

Example 5
a. Jan is ziek/intelligent
  Jan  is ill/intelligent
b. Jan wordt ziek/*?intelligent
  Jan  becomes  ill/intelligent

The first two subsections below will show that adjectival past/passive participles do indeed exhibit more properties typical of individual-level predicates. The main goal of the following subsections, however, is to show the participles in (3) are ambiguous between an adjectival and a verbal reading by illustrating a number of tests that have been proposed to distinguish the verbal and adjectival past/passive participle.

[+]  1.  Adverb selection

The two readings of the participle can be made more prominent by using an adverbial phrase that indicates a larger time interval, such as al jaren'for years', or an adverbial phrase that refers to a certain point in time, such as gisteren'yesterday'; the first favors the adjectival/state reading, whereas the latter favors the verbal/activity reading.

Example 6
a. De muur is al jaren versierd.
  the wall  is for years  decorated
  Copular construction only: 'The wall has been in a decorated state for years.'
b. De muur is gisteren versierd.
  the wall  is yesterday  decorated
  Passive construction only: 'The wall was decorated yesterday.'

This adverb test is only applicable if the perfect passive auxiliary zijn'to have been' is used: if the durative passive verb worden'to be' is used, as in (7), both adverbial phrases are possible despite the fact that such examples only have the passive interpretation; see the discussion of (4) above, which has shown that worden blocks the adjectival/state reading of the participle. The acceptability of the adverbial phrase al jaren in (7a) is probably related to the durative nature of the passive auxiliary worden.

Example 7
a. De muur wordt al jaren versierd.
  Passive construction only: 'The wall has been being decorated for years.'
b. De muur werd gisteren versierd.
  Passive construction only: 'The wall was decorated yesterday.'

The fact that copular constructions with zijn'to be' in (6a) cannot be modified by a punctual adverbial phrase of time supports our earlier suggestion that adjectival past/passive participles function as individual-level predicates, cf. ??Jan is vandaag intelligent'Jan is intelligent today'.

[+]  2.  Expletive er-construction

The examples in (8) show that adjectival past/passive participles cannot occur in expletive er-constructions; the past/passive participle can only have a verbal/activity reading and we are therefore dealing with passive constructions.

Example 8
a. Er is een muur versierd.
  there  is wall  decorated
  Passive construction only: 'A wall has been decorated.'
b. Er is een ham gerookt.
  there  is a ham  smoked
  Passive construction only: 'A ham has been smoked.'

The fact that copular constructions with zijn'to be' cannot take the shape of an expletive construction supports our earlier suggestion that adjectival past/passive participles function as individual-level predicates; *Er is een jongen intelligent'there is a boy intelligent'.

[+]  3.  The passive door-phrase and on- prefixation

That the participle can be used as a passive participle is clear from the fact that a passive door-PP can be added, as shown in the examples in (9): since the door-phrase requires the participle to be verbal in nature, only the verbal/activity reading is available in these examples, and, accordingly, only the adverb gisteren'yesterday' can be used.

Example 9
a. De muur is (gisteren/*al jaren) door een kunstenaar versierd.
  the wall  is  yesterday/for years  by an artist  decorated
  Passive construction only: 'The wall was decorated by an artist (yesterday).'
b. De ham is door Peter gerookt.
  the ham  is by Peter  smoked
  Passive construction only: 'The ham has been smoked by Peter.'

That the participle can also be used as an adjective is clear from the fact that it can be prefixed with the negative affix on-, as in the examples in (10). This is not possible with verbs, as will be clear from the contrast between, e.g., *onbreken'lit: to un-break' and onbreekbaar'unbreakable'; cf. Section 1.3.1, sub II. As a result, only the adverbial phrase al jaren'for years' can be used in the examples in (10).

Example 10
a. De muur is (al jaren/ ??vandaag) onversierd.
  the wall  is  for years/today  not.decorated
  Copular construction only: 'The wall hasnʼt been in a decorated state (for years).'
b. De ham is ongerookt.
  the ham  is not.smoked
  Copular construction only: 'The ham hasnʼt been smoked.'

The examples in (11) show that on-prefixation and use of the passive door-phrase are incompatible; this follows, of course, from the conflicting requirements on the participles that these elements induce.

Example 11
a. * De muur is door een kunstenaar onversierd.
  the wall  is by an artist  not.decorated
b. * De ham is door Peter ongerookt.
  the ham  is by Peter  not.smoked
[+]  4.  Position of the participle

The two uses of the past/passive participles can also be distinguished by considering their position relative to the clause-final verb(s). Consider the two embedded counterparts of the main clauses in (3a) in (12). The fact that both types of temporal adverbial phrase can be used in (12a) shows that participles that precede the clause-final finite verb(s) are compatible both with the verbal/activity and the adjectival/state reading. Example (12b) shows that participles that follow the finite verb(s) cannot be modified by an adverbial phrase that indicates a long time interval and thus only have the verbal/activity reading.

Example 12
a. dat de muur (gisteren/al jaren) versierd is.
  that  the wall   yesterday/for years  decorated  is
  Copular construction: 'The wall has been decorated (for years).'
  Passive construction: 'The wall was decorated (yesterday).'
b. dat de muur (gisteren/*?al jaren) is versierd.
  that  the wall   yesterday/for years  is decorated
  Passive construction only: 'The wall was decorated (yesterday).'

The fact that (12b) does not allow the adjectival/state reading follows from the fact discussed in Section 6.2.2 that adjectives always precede the verb(s) in clause-final position, whereas past/passive participles can either precede or follow it/them; cf. V6.2 This is illustrated again in, respectively, the copular construction in (13a) and the perfect tense/passive examples in (13b&b').

Example 13
a. dat de muur <saai/onversierd> is <*saai/onversierd>.
  that  the wall  dull/undecorated  is
  'that the wall is boring/undecorated.'
b. dat de kunstenaar de muur <versierd> heeft <versierd>.
  that  the artist  the wall   decorated  has
  'that the artist has decorated the wall.'
b'. dat de muur door een kunstenaar <versierd> is <versierd>.
  that  the wall  by an artist   decorated  is
  'that the wall was decorated by an artist.'
[+]  5.  Summary

Table 2 summarizes the properties of the verbal and adjectival past/passive participles discussed in this subsection. These properties will play an important role in our more detailed discussion of the adjectival use of the past/passive participle in Sections 9.2 and 9.3.

Table 2: Properties of the verbal and adjectival past/passive participle
  verbal participle adjectival participle
adverbial phrases of time interval/point point interval
expletive er-construction +
door-phrase +
on- prefixation +
precedes/follows clause-final verb(s) precedes or follows precedes
[+]  C.  A note on pseudo-participles

Verbs and (gradable) adjectives differ in that only the latter can be modified by means of an intensifier like heel'very' or used as the input for comparative and superlative formation (although a potential counterexample to this claim is constituted by the past/passive participles of object experiencer psych-verbs; cf. the discussion of (59a)). These generalizations unfortunately cannot be used to distinguish adjectival past/passive participles from their verbal counterparts due to the fact that they are not gradable. Nevertheless, the generalizations can be used to distinguish verbal participles from so-called pseudo-participles, that is, adjectives that have the appearance of a participle, but do not have a verbal counterpart.
      This can be illustrated by means of the form bekend in (14a), which means “confessed" if it functions as a passive participle, but “well-known" if it is used as an adjective. The two interpretations of (14a) can be distinguished by means of the generalizations given above. Due to the presence of a door-phrase, example (14b) can only be interpreted as a passive construction (see Table 2 in the previous subsection) and, as expected, the verbal participle cannot be modified by heel'very' or undergo comparative/superlative formation. In example (14c) the participle is modified by heel and has undergone comparative formation and, as a result, can only be interpreted as an adjectival predicate of a copular construction. We refer the reader to Section 4.1.2 for a more extensive discussion of comparative formation of participles and pseudo-participles.

Example 14
a. Zijn misdaad is bekend.
  his crime  is confessed/well-known
  Passive construction: 'His crime has been confessed.'
  Copular construction: 'His crime is famous.'
b. Zijn misdaad is door hem (*heel) bekend/*bekender.
  his crime  is by him  very confessed/more.confessed
  Passive construction only: 'His crime has been confessed by him.'
c. Zijn misdaad is heel bekend/bekender dan die van haar.
  his crime  is very  well-known/better.known than that of her
  Copular construction only: 'His crime is very famous/more famous than hers.'

For completeness’ sake, note that example (14b) is perhaps marginally acceptable if we construe the door-phrase as causative, an option that becomes more salient if we use the copular worden'to become'; Zijn misdaad wordt door hem heel bekend/bekender'The crime is becoming famous/more famous due to him.' The meaning assigned to the participle makes it clear that we are dealing with a copular construction in this case.

[+]  II.  Present participles

Subsection I has shown that adjectival past/passive participles can be used both attributively and predicatively. This subsection briefly introduces the adjectival use of present participles. Table 3 shows that present participles can also be used attributively.

Table 3: The inflection of attributively used present participles
de-nouns singular plural
definite de vechtende jongen
the fighting boy
de vechtende jongens
the fighting boys
indefinite een vechtende jongen
a fighting boy
vechtende jongens
fighting boys
het-nouns singular plural
definite het vechtende kind
the fighting child
de vechtende kinderen
the fighting children
indefinite een vechtend- kind
a fighting child
vechtende kinderen
fighting children

Therefore, we would expect them to occur in copular constructions as well, and the examples in (15) show that this indeed seems to be the case. Section 9.3.1, sub II, will show, however, this option is restricted to an extremely small set of verbs.

Example 15
a. De argumentatie overtuigde ons.
  the reasoning  convinced  us
b. de overtuigende argumentatie
  the  convincing  reasoning
c. De argumentatie is/leek overtuigend.
  the reasoning  is/seemed  convincing
[+]  III.  Modal infinitives

The examples in (16) show that the so-called modal infinitives are used both in attributive and predicative position. The use of the term modal is motivated by the fact, which will be discussed more extensively later, that these infinitives inherently express some notion of “ability" or “obligation".

Example 16
a. de te lezen boeken
  the  to read  books
  'the books that must/can be read'
b. De boeken zijn/blijken (gemakkelijk/goed) te lezen.
  the books  are/appear   easily/well  to read
  'The books are/appear (easily) accessible.'

The modal infinitive in example (16a) does not have the attributive -e, which is probably due to the fact that the en ending is pronounced as a schwa; see Section 5.1.1, sub II, and also the discussion of the examples in (2) from Subsection IA. Nevertheless, the fact, illustrated by the examples in (17), that modal infinitives can be coordinated with attributively and predicatively used adjectives strongly suggests that they do have the same syntactic status/function as the adjectives in the first conjunct.

Example 17
a. een interessant en in alle opzichten aan te bevelen boek
  an  interesting  and  in all ways  prt. to recommend  book
  'an interesting book that can be recommended in all respects'
b. Dit boek is interessant en in alle opzichten aan te bevelen.
  this book  is interesting  and  in all ways  prt. to recommend
  'This book is interesting and can be recommended in all respects.'
References:
  • Verrips, Maaike1996Potatoes must peel. The acquisition of the Dutch passiveUniversity of AmsterdamThesis
  • Vikner, Sten2006Object ShiftEveraert, Martin & Riemsdijk, Henk van (eds.)The Blackwell companion to syntax3Malden, MA/OxfordBlackwell Publishing392-436
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