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2.3.1. Finite clauses

This section discusses finite clausal complements of nouns. Complement clauses are mostly selected by nouns that denote abstract content, and their function is to specify this content. This means that complement clauses are normally only found in combination with speech-act and proposition nouns: since these nouns are typically deverbal, complement clauses can normally be regarded as the inherited complement of the input verb, which immediately implies that the deverbal noun inherits the selectional properties of the base verb. We will discuss the speech-act nouns and the proposition nouns in separate subsections. After that we will show that there is a small set of non-derived nouns that may take a finite clause as their complement. Although it is disputable whether adjectives take clausal complements, we will conclude this section with a discussion of a number of deadjectival nouns.

[+]  I.  Deverbal speech-act nouns

Speech-act nouns take the same kind of complement as their corresponding verb. Finite declarative clauses are always introduced by the complementizer dat'that', just like declarative complement clauses of verbs.

Example 619
a. Hij deelde mee [dat zij zou komen].
declarative clause
  he  announced  prt. that  she  shall  come
b. de mededeling [dat zij zou komen]
declarative clause
  the announcement  that  she  shall  come

The behavior of the interrogative complement clauses of the speech-act nouns is also completely on a par with the complements of the corresponding verbs: if the speech-act noun takes a yes/no question, the complementizer of'whether' is used, and if the speech-act noun takes a wh-question, a wh-word is used.

Example 620
a. Ik vroeg [of zij zou komen].
yes/ no-question
  asked whether  she  would  come
a'. de vraag [of zij zou komen]
  the question  whether  she  would  come
b. Ik vroeg [waarom zij vertrok].
  asked   why  she  left
b'. de vraag [waarom zij vertrok]
  the question   why  she  left

Speech-act nouns denoting a request also take a complement introduced by the complementizer of, although it should be noted that the result is better with indirect requests (with the verb vragen'to ask'), than with direct requests (with the verzoeken'to request').

Example 621
a. Ik vroeg/?verzocht hem [of het raam dicht kon].
  asked/requested  him  whether  the window  closed  could
  'I requested whether the window could be closed.'
b. de vraag/?het verzoek [of het raam dicht kon]
  the  question/request  whether  the window  closed  could

      The examples above therefore show that all the properties of the complements of the corresponding verbs can be found in these examples. The examples in (622) show that this includes the fact found in colloquial speech that embedded wh-clauses may contain the complementizer of (dat) after the wh-phrase; see Section V11.3.1.1, sub IV for discussion.

Example 622
a. de vraag [wie (of (dat)) er morgen komt]
  the question   who  comp  there  tomorrow  comes
  'the question who will come tomorrow'
b. de vraag [wat (of (dat)) ik lekker vind]
  the question  what  comp  nice  find
  'the question what I like'
c. de vraag [waar (of (dat)) hij woont]
  the question  where  comp  he  lives
  'the question where he lives'

If the complement clause is a wh-question and the content of the proposition is (partly) recoverable from the context it is often possible to reduce the clause to the constituent containing the wh-element (so-called sluicing). This again holds both for the input verb and the derived noun.

Example 623
a. Ik vroeg [waarom zij vertrok].
  asked   why  she  left
a'. de vraag [waarom zij vertrok]
  the question   why  she  left
b. Jan vroeg [welk boek hij moet lezen].
  Jan asked  which book  he  must  read
b'. de vraag [welk boek hij moet lezen]
  the question  which book  he  must  read

Speech-act verbs can sometimes appear with a main clause as a direct quote. Again, this property is inherited by the speech-acts nouns; the examples in (624) show that the felicitousness of the result largely depends on the property of the base verb.

Example 624
a. ? Hij deelde mee: “Zij komt”.
  he  announced  prt. “she will come”
a'. ?? de mededeling “Zij komt”
  the announcement  “she will come”
b. Ik vroeg: “Komt zij?”.
yes/ no-question
  asked  “Will she come?”
b'. de vraag “Komt zij?”
  the question  “Will she come?”
c. Ik vroeg: “Waarom vertrekt zij?”
  asked  “Why does she leave?”
c'. de vraag “Waarom vertrekt zij?”
  the question  “Why does she leave?”
d. Ik vroeg/??verzocht: “Kan het raam dicht?”.
  asked/request  “Can the window be closed?”
d'. de vraag/??het verzoek “Kan het raam dicht?”
  the  question/the request  “Can the window be closed?”

The findings of the discussion so far are summarized in Table 14. All speech-act nouns may take a finite complement in subclause order; as with the corresponding verbs, declarative clauses are introduced by the complementizer dat'that', whereas all other clause types are introduced by of'whether'. The acceptability of a clausal complement in main clause order depends on whether the input verb can take a direct quote as its complement.

Table 14: Finite complement clauses of speech-act nouns
  subclause main clause
  possible example possible example
declarative + (619a) ?? (624a)
question yes/no + (619b) + (624b)
  Wh-word + (619c) + (624c)
request/order +/? (624d) +/?? (624d)

      For some speakers, the clausal complement of speech-act nouns can be preceded by the preposition van'of' (cf. English the question of who ...). The (a)- and (b)-examples in (625), which are taken from the internet, illustrate this for respectively declarative and interrogative clauses. Especially examples such as (625b') with an interrogative clause introduced by a wh-word seem common.

Example 625
a. % een mededeling van dat ik geen verbinding met de server kan maken
  an  announcement  of  that  no connection  to the server  can make
  'an announcement that I cannot connect to the external computer'
b. % de vraag van of hij werkelijk denkt dat dit hem zal helpen
  the question  of  whether  he  really  thinks  that  this  him  will  help
b'. % de vraag van wie er gaat betalen
  the question  of  who  there  goes  pay
  'the question who is going to pay'

The occurrence of van perhaps simply reflects the fact that postnominal themes are normally introduced by the functional preposition van. However, there may be more going on given that the clausal complement of nouns like bewering can also be preceded by als, which is again illustrated by means of an example taken from the internet. To our knowledge structures like (625) and (626) have not been investigated so far, and we therefore leave them to future research.

Example 626
% jouw bewering als dat er geen onderzoek meer mag gebeuren
  your assertion  als  that  there  no research  anymore  allow  happen
'your assertion that research should no longer be allowed'
[+]  II.  Deverbal proposition nouns

A proposition noun like verwachting'expectation' takes a declarative clause introduced by the complementizer dat'that', just like the verb verwachten'to expect'.

Example 627
a. Ik verwacht [dat zij zal komen].
  expect   that  she  will  come
b. de verwachting [dat zij zal komen]
  the expectation   that  she  will  come

      Sometimes complement clauses follow nouns that are normally used as state-of-affairs nouns, such as ontdekking'discovery' in (628): (628a') illustrates its normal use as a state-of-affairs noun, in which it refers to the event of discovering something; (628b) illustrates its more special use as a proposition noun, in which the complement clause specifies the nature of the discovery. This means that the noun ontdekking is ambiguous, not only in meaning but also with regard to the type of entity denoted, just like the corresponding verb ontdekken'discover'; see Section, sub I, for a more extensive discussion of ing-nouns.

Example 628
a. Willem Janszoon ontdekte Australië al in 1605.
  Willem Janszoon discovered  Australia  already  in 1605
  'Willem Janszoon already discovered Australia in 1605.'
a'. De ontdekking van Australië vond al in 1605 plaats.
  the discovery of Australia  took  already  in 1605  place
  'The discovery of Australia took place in 1605.'
b. Men ontdekte in de 15e eeuw dat de aarde rond is.
  one  discovered  in the 15th century  that the earth round is
  'It was discovered in the 15th century that the earth is round.'
b'. De ontdekking dat de aarde rond is dateert uit de 15e eeuw.
  the discovery  that the earth round is  dates  from the 15th century
  'The discovery that the earth is round dates from the 15th century.'

That it is, indeed, the type of derived noun that determines whether complementation by means of a clause is possible is shown by the fact illustrated in (629a&b) that concrete deverbal nouns like ontdekker'discoverer' cannot take a clausal complement; despite the fact that it is also derived from the verb ontdekking, the er-noun can only take the original theme argument in the form of a PP or a genitive noun phrase, as shown by (629a'&b'); cf. Section Note that some speakers accept the variant of example (629b) with the preposition van introducing the clausal complement, but such constructions probably involve ellipsis of the noun phrase het feit'the fact'.

Example 629
a. de ontdekker van Amerika/Amerikaʼs ontdekker
  the discoverer of America/Americaʼs discoverer
b. * de ontdekker dat de aarde rond is
  the discoverer  that the earth round is
b'. de ontdekker van %(het feit) dat de aarde rond is
  the discoverer  of  the fact  comp  the earth  round  is
  'the discoverer of the fact that the earth is round'
[+]  III.  Non-derived nouns

There are only a few instances of complement clauses following head nouns that are not derived, that is, where the head noun is a relational noun (cf. Section 1.2.3) whose argument takes the form of a clause. Some examples are given in (630).

Example 630
a. Het idee dat zij gauw zou komen, vrolijkte hem op.
  the idea  that she soon would come  cheered  him  up
  'The idea that she would come soon cheered him up.'
b. Het feit dat de kandidaat een vrouw was, speelde geen rol.
  the fact  that the candidate a woman was  played  no role
  'The fact that the candidate was a woman didnʼt play a role.'
c. Het probleem dat het programma steeds vastloopt, is niet te verhelpen.
  the problem  that the program  all the time jams  is not  to remedy
  'The problem that the program keeps jamming canʼt be helped.'
d. Het gevaar/de kans dat het plan mislukt, blijft bestaan.
  the danger/the chance  that the plan fails  remains  exist
  'The danger/chance that the plan fails will remain.'
e. Het risico dat hij betrapt zou worden, wilde hij niet lopen.
  the risk  that he caught would be  wanted  he  not  run
  'He didnʼt want to run the risk of being caught.'

For some speakers, use of van preceding the clause is (marginally) possible in spoken language: (631a) illustrates this by means of an example adapted from the internet.

Example 631
a. het idee van dat hij waarschijnlijk eerder sterft dan ik
  the idea  of  that  he  probably  sooner  dies  than I
  'the idea that he will probably die before me'
b. het risico van dat het niet meer steriel zou zijn
  the risk  of  that  it  no longer sterile  would  be
  'the risk that it would no longer be sterile'

      Another special (but common) construction can be found in (632), which is very productive with nouns like gerucht'rumor' and stelling'thesis' (as well as with derived speech act nouns like bewering'assertion' and proposition nouns like verwachting'expectation'). By using this construction, the speaker expresses doubt as to the truth or the correctness of the claim contained in the complement clause. The construction is characterized by the remarkable fact that the dependent clause has main clause order: the finite verb occupies the second position of the clause. Further, the finite verb is preceded by the element als, and must be a past tense form (possibly an old subjunctive) of the modal verb zullen'will'.

Example 632
a. het gerucht als zou er leven zijn op Mars
  the rumor  as  would  there  life  be  on Mars
  'the rumor that there would be life on Mars'
b. de stelling als zou slaan minder erg zijn dan schelden
  the thesis  as  would  hitting  less  bad  be  than scolding
  'the thesis that hitting would be less bad than scolding'
[+]  IV.  Deadjectival nouns

Adjectives sometimes seem to take a clausal complement due to the fact that the anticipatory pronominal PP er + P can often be left unpronounced; illustration of this is given in the (a)-examples of (633) and (634). It seems that the corresponding deadjectival nouns do not inherit the complement of the input adjective: the primeless (b)-examples are definitely marked without, and completely unacceptable with, an anticipatory pronominal PP. The primed (b)-examples show, however, that such constructions are possible (although slightly marked) if the clause follows the preposition. It still remains to be seen whether we are dealing here with a preposition complemented by a clause, which would imply that inheritance is possible after all, or whether we are dealing with ellipsis of a proposition noun phrase like het feit'the fact'.

Example 633
a. Jan is (er) boos (over) dat Peter niet uitgenodigd is.
  Jan is there  angry  about  that Peter not invited is
  'Jan is angry because Peter hasnʼt been invited.'
b. Jans boosheid ??(*erover) dat Peter niet uitgenodigd is
  Janʼs  anger  there-about  that Peter not invited is
b'. Jans boosheid over ?(het feit) dat Peter niet uitgenodigd is
  Janʼs  anger  about    the fact  that Peter not invited is
Example 634
a. Jan is (er) tevreden (over) dat Peter uitgenodigd is.
  Jan is there  satisfied  about  that Peter invited is
  'Jan is pleased because Peter has been invited.'
b. Jans tevredenheid ??(*erover) dat Peter uitgenodigd is
  Janʼs  satisfaction  there-about  that Peter invited is
b'. Jans tevredenheid over ?(het feit) dat Peter uitgenodigd is
  Janʼs  satisfaction  about    the fact  that Peter invited is

The suggestion that the doubly-primed examples in (633) and (634) involve ellipsis seems to be supported by the fact, illustrated in (635b&b'), that interrogative clausal complements cannot be part of the prepositional phrase. Example (635b') can be saved to some extent, however, by adding the noun phrase de vraag, since in that case it is the content noun vraag which functions as the complement of the preposition naar, with the interrogative clause functioning as the complement of the noun vraag.

Example 635
a. Jan is (er) nieuwsgierig (naar) of Peter uitgenodigd is.
  Jan is there  curious   to  whether Peter invited is
  'Jan is curious whether Peter has been invited.'
b. * Jans nieuwsgierigheid (ernaar) of Peter uitgenodigd is
  Janʼs  curiosity  there-to  whether Peter invited is
b'. Jans nieuwsgierigheid naar *(??de vraag) of Peter uitgenodigd is
  Janʼs  curiosity  to the question  whether Peter invited is

The (high degree of) unacceptability of clausal complements with deadjectival nouns follows from the overall generalization that clauses referring to a proposition can only follow a certain group of nouns, namely those that denote abstract content: in the case of deadjectival nouns, the clause does not specify the contents of the head noun, but instead serves to indicate the cause or source of the property or emotion in question.

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