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9.3.4. The partitive genitive construction

This section discusses the partitive genitive use of participles and modal infinitives. In the previous sections, we have amply demonstrated that a distinction should be made between verbal and truly adjectival participles/modal infinitives, and that participles and modal infinitives can only be used in predicative position if they are truly adjectival. Section 7.2.3 has shown that partitive genitive adjectives constitute a subset of the adjectives that can be used predicatively; cf. the observational generalization from Section 7.2.3, repeated here as (147) and (148).

Example 147
Adjectives in the partitive genitive construction:
The set of partitive genitive adjectives is a proper subset of the adjectives that can be used as predicative complements.
Example 148
Predicative adjectives that cannot occur as partitive genitives include:
a. adjectives that can only be predicated of +animate noun phrases;
b. adjectives that take a proposition as their subject;
c. adjectives that take weather het as their subject;
d. adjectives that take a nominal complement;
e. superlatives;
f. adjective that end in /a/, /o/, /i/, /e/, /y/ or /ə/.

Consequently, we predict that only truly adjectival participles/modal infinitives can enter into a partitive genitive construction. This section will show that this prediction is borne out, albeit that the partitive genitive construction is much more restricted than one might expect on the basis of the generalizations in (147) and (148).

[+]  I.  Past/passive participles

Section 9.3 has shown that only past/passive participles of transitive, unaccusative and object experiencer psych-verbs can be used in predicative position. The generalization in (147) consequently limits the potential candidates for the partitive genitive construction to (a subset of) these verbs. The examples in (149) through (151) show, however, that past/passive participles normally do not seem to occur in the partitive genitive construction at all, although some speakers seem to marginally accept the transitive examples in (149a&c).

Example 149
a. ? iets gekookts
  something  cooked
b. * iets besprokens
   something  discussed
c. *? iets gestolens
  something  stolen
d. * iets gelezens
   something  read
Example 150
a. * iets gekrompens
  something  shrunk
b. * iets gevallens
   something  left
Example 151
a. * iets opgewondens
  something  excited
b. * iets overtuigds
   something  convinced
c. * iets verontrusts
  something  upset

We need not be surprised at the ungrammaticality of the examples with object experiencer psych-verbs in (151): truly adjectival participles of psychological verbs are predicated of +human entities only (cf. the primed examples in (112)), and these examples are therefore excluded by clause (148a). Since this does not hold for the examples in (149) and (150), the reason for their degraded status remains mysterious. Observe that if the participle is prefixed with on-, which is only possible if we are dealing with true adjectives, the result is still not very felicitous; the primed examples are added to show that these prefixed participles can be used in copular constructions. For completeness’ sake, the examples in (153) show that pseudo-participles can also be used in the partitive genitive construction.

Example 152
a. (?) iets ongekookts
a'. Het ei bleek nog ongekookt.
  the egg  turned.out  still  un-boiled
b. *? iets onbesprokens
b'. Dit onderwerp bleef onbesproken.
  this topic remained  un-discussed
c. *? iets ongelezens
c'. Het boek bleef ongelezen.
  the book  remained  unread
Example 153
a. iets bekends
  something  well-known
b. iets gekleurds
  something  colored
c. iets geschikts
  something  fit
[+]  II.  Present participles

Section 9.3.1, sub II, has shown that the predicative use of present participles is restricted to object experiencer psych-verbs and possibly certain subsets of the unaccusative verbs; cf. Table 7 in Section 9.3.1, sub IIE. We will discuss these cases in Subsections A-C, subsection D concludes with a number of potentially problematic cases.

[+]  A.  Object experiencer psych-verbs

The generalization in (147) correctly predicts that the present participles of object experiencer psych-verbs can also be felicitously used in the partitive genitive; this is shown in the primed examples in (154).

Example 154
a. Zijn avontuur was heel opwindend.
  his adventure  was very exciting
a'. iets opwindends
  something  exciting
b. Die mededeling was heel verontrustend.
  that announcement  was very disturbing
b'. iets verontrustends
  something  disturbing
c. Zijn argumenten zijn erg onovertuigend.
  his arguments  are  very unconvincing
c'. iets overtuigends
  something  convincing

Section 9.3.1, sub II, has shown that the present participles of psych-verbs like irriteren'to irritate' and interesseren'to interest' cannot be used predicatively; they are blocked in this context by the existence of genuine adjectives like irritant'irritating' and interessant'interesting'. The same thing can be observed in the partitive genitive constructions in (155).

Example 155
Present participles
a. ?? iets irriterends
  something  annoying
a'. iets irritants
  something  annoying
b. * iets interesserends
  something  interesting
b'. iets interessants
  something  interesting
c. ?? iets bekorends
  something  beguiling
c'. iets bekoorlijks
  something  beguiling
[+]  B.  Present participles of unaccusative verbs ending in -e

The primeless examples of (156) show again that the present participles of a limited number of unaccusative verbs can be used predicatively, provided they are affixed with the ending -e; such cases are exceptional, given that predicatively used adjectives are normally not inflected; cf. Section 9.3.1, sub IIB. The primed examples show that partitive genitive use of these present participles is possible as well; note that the -e ending is absent in these cases.

Example 156
a. Het schip is zinkende.
  the ship  is sinking
a'. iets zinkends/*zinkendes
  something  sinking
b. Het verzet is groeiende.
  the resistance  is growing
b'. iets groeiends/*groeiendes
  something  growing
[+]  C.  Unaccusative motion verbs

Another subset of the unaccusative verbs that allow predicative use of their present participle is constituted by the motion verbs; cf. (157). However, given that these present participles are always predicated of +human entities, generalization (147a) correctly predicts that they cannot be used in the partitive genitive construction.

Example 157
a. De jongen bleek lopend.
  the boy  turned.out  walking
a'. * iets lopends
   something  walking
b. Het meisje bleek liftend.
  the girl  turned.out  hitchhiking
b'. * iets liftends
   something  hitchhiking
[+]  D.  Problematic cases

This subsection concludes with a number of problematic cases for the generalization in (147), according to which the set of adjectives that may enter the partitive genitive construction is a proper subset of the set of adjectives that can be used as predicative complements. The (a)-examples in (158) involve intransitive motion verbs, the second (b)- and (c)-examples involve verbs expressing transmission of, respectively, sound and light, and the (d)-examples involve verbs that denote certain natural processes. In all cases, the partitive genitive constructions in the primeless examples are at least marginally acceptable, whereas the corresponding copular constructions in the primed examples are not.

Example 158
a. ? iets bewegends/wapperends/vliegends
  something moving/waving/flying
a'. * De vlag is bewegend/wapperend.
  the flag is moving/waving
a''. * Het toestel is vliegend.
   the machine  is flying
b. iets zoemends/ruizends
  something  buzzing/rustling
b'. * the wekker is zoemend
  the alarm clock is  buzzing
b''. * De bladeren zijn ruizend.
   the leaves  are rustling
c. ? iets flikkerends/glinsterends
  something  glittering
c'. * Het glas is flikkerend/glinsterend.
   the glass  is glittering
d. ? iets rottends/bloeiends
  something  rotting/flowering
d'. * Die appel is rottend.
  that apple  is rotting
d''. * Die boom is bloeiend.
   that tree  is flowering

The verbs in (158) do not take an object but differ from normal intransitive verbs in that their subject can be inanimate and that impersonal passivization gives rise to a degraded result. For this reason it has been suggested that verbs like these constitute a special unaccusativity type, which differs from the more familiar type in that its members select the perfect auxiliary hebben; see Section V2.1 for discussion. The question why the primeless examples in (158) are acceptable must be left to future research.

[+]  III.  Modal infinitives

Section 9.3.1, sub III, has shown that modal infinitives of transitive verbs can be used in the copular construction on their ability reading. The generalization in (147) therefore predicts that truly adjectival predicatively used modal infinitives can be used in the partitive genitive construction, but the primed examples in (159) show that this prediction is incorrect. As in the case of the past/passive participles in Subsection I, there is no obvious explanation for the unacceptability of the partitive genitive constructions.

Example 159
a. Dat boek is gemakkelijk te lezen.
  that book  is easily  to read
  'This book is easily accessible.'
a'. * iets te lezens
   something  to read
b. Deze afstand is gemakkelijk af te leggen.
  this distance  is easily  prt.  to cover
  'This distance can be covered easily.'
b'. * iets af te leggens
   something  prt.  to cover
c. Dit probleem is gemakkelijk te begrijpen.
  this problem  is easily  to understand
  'This problem can be understood easily.'
c'. * iets te begrijpens
   something  to understand
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