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Traditional grammar distinguishes between several types of demonstratives. A first distinction that is normally made is that between demonstratives functioning as modifiers and demonstratives functioning as independent arguments. In the former case, the demonstrative functions as a determiner in a noun phrase. In the latter case, the demonstrative is used independently as an argument, that is, in a way comparable to that of a personal pronoun. The most common demonstratives like dit'this' and dat'that' in (475) can have both functions, but some forms can only be used as arguments.

Example 475
a. Dit boek is spannend, maar dat boek is saai.
demonstrative modifier
  this book  is exciting  but  that book  is dull
b. Dit is spannend, maar dat is saai.
demonstrative argument
  this  is exciting  but  that  is dull

Subsection I discusses the demonstrative modifiers, followed in Subsection II by a discussion of the demonstrative arguments. Subsection III concludes with some brief remarks on the use of demonstratives as predicates.

[+]  I.  Demonstratives as modifiers

The main reason for assuming that demonstratives function as determiners is that they are in complementary distribution with the articles; cf. (476). This follows immediately if the two compete for the same position in the structure: the head position of the DP. As in the case of the possessive pronouns, we should add that the claim that demonstratives are determiners is not cross-linguistically valid given that in some languages demonstrative pronouns do co-occur with articles; see Alexiadou et al. (2007: 106) for some examples.

Example 476
a. * de deze man
  the this man
b. * het dat kind
  the that child
c. * de die kinderen
  the those children
a'. * deze de man
  this the man
b'. * dat het kind
  that the child
c'. * die de kinderen
  those the children

We can distinguish four main classes of demonstrative modifiers. A first distinction that can be made is that between non-interrogative and interrogative demonstratives. Following the tradition in Dutch linguistics, we will divide the two classes further into definite and indefinite demonstratives, although we will replace the term (in)definiteness by the term D-linking. Finally, we will see that the form of the demonstratives depends on the nominal features of the modified head noun.

[+]  A.  Non-interrogative demonstratives

The class of D-linked (definite) non-interrogative demonstratives consists of the pronouns deze'this/these', die that/those, dit'this', and dat'that'; noun phrases headed by these determiners are definite in the sense that they can be used to refer to certain entities in the domain of discourse. The Dutch tradition furthermore assumes that the demonstratives zoʼn'such a' and zulk(e)'such' head indefinite DPs. Table 12 provides the full paradigm of non-interrogative demonstrative pronouns.

Table 12: Non-interrogative demonstrative pronouns
  count nouns non-count nouns
  singular plural  
D-linked [-neuter] proximate deze vrouw
this woman
deze vrouwen
these women
deze wijn
this wine
    distal die vrouw
that woman
die vrouwen
those women
die wijn
that wine
  [+neuter] proximate dit meisje
this girl
deze meisjes
these girls
dit bier
this beer
    distal dat meisje
that girl
die meisjes
those girls
dat bier
that beer
non-D-linked [-neuter] zoʼn vrouw
such a woman
zulke vrouwen
such women
zulke wijn
such wine
  [+neuter] zoʼn meisje
such a girl
zulke meisjes
such girls
zulk bier
such beer

Table 12 shows that the form of the D-linked demonstrative modifiers also depends on the nominal features of the head noun. The pair deze/die has the same distribution as the definite article de'the'; these demonstratives are used in singular non-neuter and plural noun phrases. The pair dit/dat has the same distribution as the definite article het; these demonstratives are only used in singular neuter noun phrases. Both pairs can also be used with non-count nouns; since non-count nouns do not have a plural form, the choice in these cases depends on the gender of the noun only. The choice between the non-D-linked demonstratives zoʼn and zulke depends on number: zoʼn is only used with singular nouns (although, according to De Rooij 1989, some Dutch dialects also allow it with plural nouns), whereas zulke requires a plural noun. Non-count nouns always take zulk(e), where the presence of the inflection ending -e depends on the gender of the head noun: zulk is used with neuter non-count nouns and zulke with the non-neuter ones. For completeness’ sake, note that besides zulke wijn/zulk bier, it is also possible to have zoʼn wijn/bier. Given the fact that it is also possible to have zulke wijnen/bieren, it seems plausible that the nouns in zoʼn wijn/bier are actually functioning as count nouns (cf. example (54) in Section, sub III), although it must be admitted that the difference in meaning between the two singular cases is not easy to pinpoint.
      The remainder of this subsection is divided into two parts in which we discuss, respectively, the non-D-linked and D-linked demonstratives. We start with the latter since this will enable us to introduce the term D-linking.

[+]  1.  Non-D-linked demonstratives

As was already mentioned above Table 12, the Dutch tradition refers to zoʼn'such a' and zulk(e)'such' as indefinite demonstratives, thus suggesting a similarity in meaning with the indefinite articles een'a' and Ø. It should be noted, however, that DPs headed by these demonstratives do not refer in the same sense as a DP headed by an indefinite article: whereas an indefinite noun phrase like een vrouw introduces a new entity into domain D or refers to some entity unknown to the addressee, a noun phrase like zoʼn vrouw rather invokes some notion of comparison, which is clear from the fact that it can be paraphrased as “a woman like that”. Another way of expressing this would be to say that a noun phrase like een vrouw refers to a token, whereas zoʼn vrouw refers to a type. Since DPs headed by the demonstratives zoʼn and zulke are not referring expressions in the same sense as DPs headed by an indefinite article, using the term indefiniteness may be confusing. For this reason, we will introduce two new terms here: DPs headed by demonstratives like deze/die and dit/dat will be said to be D-linked (linked to the discourse), whereas DPs headed by demonstratives like zoʼn and zulke will be said to be non-D-linked (not linked to the discourse).
      Although the non-D-linked demonstrative modifiers zoʼn'such a' and zulk(e)'such' are considered determiners in traditional grammar, it should be noted that zoʼn is a contracted form of zo een. Therefore, it could also be claimed that we are dealing here with the indefinite article een'a', which is premodified by the adverb zo'so'.

[+]  2.  D-linked demonstratives

The demonstrative pronouns are typically used deictically, that is, they refer to a referent that is physically present in the situation in which the utterance is made. The proximate and distal demonstratives indicate different relative distances between the referent of the noun phrase and the speaker; the proximate ones indicate that the referent is close to the speaker, whereas the distal ones indicate that the referent is more remote from the speaker. The notion of distance can be interpreted literally and metaphorically; cf. Alexiadou (2007: 100/1) and references cited there. In examples such as (477), involving literal distance, the relevance of relative distance can be stressed by modifying the noun phrase by means of the locational pro-forms hier and daar. The former is more readily used with the proximate demonstratives, whereas the latter is preferably used with the distal ones.

Example 477
a. Dit boek over WO II hier/*?daar is erg indrukwekkend.
  this book  about WW II  here/there  is very impressive
b. Dat boek over WO II daar/*?hier is erg indrukwekkend.
  that book  about WW II  there/here  is very impressive

Note that the pro-forms normally are at the right edge of the noun phrase, and given that they are related to the reference of the noun phrase, it seems plausible that they are directly modifying the demonstrative. In this context it might be interesting to note that Afrikaans has the demonstratives hierdie'this' and daardie'that', which are apparently formed by combining the Standard Dutch demonstrative die and the locational pro-forms; see Alexiadou (2007: 117) for similar observations in Swedish, and examples like This here dog is a good hunter and That there cat has been with me fifteen years in certain Southern U.S. dialects (Carole Boster, p.c.).
      The notion of distance can also be interpreted temporally. For example, the noun phrase deze week'this week' in (478a) will normally include the speech time, which is clear from the fact that the past tense gives rise to an infelicitous result, whereas the noun phrase die week will normally be contextually determined. So in a report on the flood in Zeeland in 1954 the noun phrase die week will refer to the week the flood occurred, which can be stressed by the more specialized form diezelfde'the very same'.

Example 478
a. De koningin gaat/*?ging deze week nog naar Zeeland.
  the Queen  goes/went  this week  prt  to Zeeland
b. De koningin ging/#gaat die(zelfde) week nog naar Zeeland.
  the Queen  goes/went  the.very.same  week  prt  to Zeeland

      Furthermore, the notion of distance may be taken more metaphorically as “relatedness” to the speaker. There seems to be a tendency for the speaker to use the distal demonstrative to refer to an object belonging to the addressee and the proximate demonstrative if he is the owner himself. So, with two people at a table with a book on it, the speaker will prefer the use of the distal demonstrative if he is asking permission to browse someone elseʼs book, and the proximate demonstrative if he is granting that person permission to browse his book.

Example 479
a. Mag ik dat boek even in kijken?
  may  that book  for.a.moment  into  look
  'Can I browse that book?'
b. Wil je dit boek even bekijken?
  want  you  this book  for.a.moment  look.at
  'Do you want to browse this book?'

However, other considerations can readily overrule this tendency. For example, if the speaker is already holding the book, it is more likely that he will use the proximate pronoun to ask permission, and if the addressee is already holding the book, he will probably use the distal one to grant permission to browse the book.
      On its deictic use, the demonstratives are typically used to partition the denotation set of the modified head noun. This is particularly clear in contrastive contexts like (480), where the speaker explicitly refers to two subsets of books, but the same thing holds for non-contrastive contexts (although in those cases the evoked alternative referent set may be empty, as in the context sketched for the examples in (479)).

Example 480
a. Je moet niet dit maar dat boek lezen.
  you  must  not  this  but  that book  read
b. Je moet niet deze maar die boeken lezen.
  you  must  not  these  but  those books  read
[+]  B.  Interrogative demonstratives

Seen semantically, the pronoun welk(e) can be considered the interrogative counterpart of the D-linked demonstrative pronouns in Table 12. The non-D-linked demonstratives zoʼn'such a' and zulk(e)'such' also seem to have an interrogative counterpart: wat voor (een)'what kind of'.

Table 13: Interrogative demonstrative pronouns
  count nouns non-count nouns
  singular plural  
D-linked [-neuter] welke vrouw
which woman
welke vrouwen
which women
welke wijn
which wine
  [+neuter] welk meisje
which girl
welke meisjes
which girls
welk bier
which beer
non-D-linked [-neuter] wat voor vrouw
what kind of woman
wat voor vrouwen
what kind of women
wat voor wijn
what kind of wine
  [+neuter] wat voor meisje
what kind of girl
wat voor meisjes
what kind of girls
wat voor bier
what kind of beer

The table shows that the form of the D-linked interrogative demonstrative welke depends on the gender and number of the head noun in the same way as the attributive adjectives. With count nouns, welk'which' is used with singular neuter nouns, whereas welke'which' is used in the remaining cases. With non-count nouns, the form depends on the gender of the noun: welk is used with neuter, and welke is used with non-neuter nouns. The interrogative counterpart of the non-D-linked demonstratives is the same for all genders and numbers: wat voor (een)'what kind of'. The semantic difference between the two interrogative forms is again related to D-Linking: the D-linked demonstrative solicits an answer like “this or that N”, which fully identifies the relevant token(s), whereas the non-D-linked one rather solicits an answer like “an N like this or that”, which provides a description of the relevant type(s).
      The conclusion that welke and wat voor (een) are the interrogative counterparts of the demonstratives in Table 12 can be used to justify our earlier decision to characterize noun phrases headed by demonstratives by means of the term D-linking rather than by means of the term definiteness. The fact that (nonspecific) definite noun phrases normally cannot be used as the subject in an expletive construction shows that it would be improper to call the interrogative demonstrative welke'which' definite: the optional presence of er in (481) shows that noun phrases headed by this demonstrative can be indefinite.

Example 481
a. Welke vrouw heeft (er) tegen die wet geprotesteerd?
  which woman  has  there  against that bill  protested
  'Which woman protested against that bill?'
b. Welke kinderen zijn (er) nog niet ingeënt?
  which children  are  there  not  yet  vaccinated
  'Which children havenʼt been vaccinated yet?'

      The preceding discussion of the interrogative forms in Table 13 suffices for our present purposes. It should be noted, however, that the wat voor phrases have received (relatively) much attention in the literature. For a more extensive discussion of the construction, see Section 4.2.2.

[+]  II.  Demonstratives as arguments

This subsection discusses demonstrative pronouns that can be used as arguments. We will start by showing that the demonstrative modifiers discussed in Subsection I can also be used without being followed by a noun. After that, we will discuss some demonstrative pronouns that cannot be used as modifiers.

[+]  A.  Demonstrative pronouns that can be used as modifiers and as arguments

This subsection discusses demonstratives that can be used both as modifiers and as arguments. We start with a discussion of the non-interrogative pronouns, which is followed by a discussion of the interrogative ones.

[+]  1.  Non-interrogative demonstrative pronouns

Non-interrogative demonstrative pronouns can be used as arguments, in which case the referent of the demonstrative is fully determined by the context. The form of the D-linked demonstratives is determined by the same factors as the modifiers in Subsection I: dit'this' and dat'that' are singular and only refer to entities that would normally be referred to by means of a neuter noun phrase; deze'this/these' and die'that/those' are either singular, in which case they refer to entities that would normally be referred to by means of a non-neuter noun phrase, or plural. This is illustrated in Table 14, where the demonstratives function as the subject of the clause, so that their number can be determined by inspecting the number of the verb.

Table 14: D-linked demonstratives used as arguments
  singular plural
non-neuter proximate Deze is leuk.
this one is nice
Deze zijn leuk.
these are nice
  distal Die is leuk.
that one is nice
Die zijn leuk.
those are nice
neuter proximate Dit is mooi.
this one is beautiful
Deze zijn mooi.
these are beautiful
  distal Dat is mooi.
that one is beautiful
Die zijn mooi.
those are beautiful

In question-answer pairs, the neuter D-linked demonstratives dit and dat may (optionally) have an -e ending in spoken language. These forms cannot be used as modifiers, and are only used deictically, that is, while showing or pointing at the entity in question. A similar “inflected” form is possible with the first person singular personal pronoun ik; Wie is daar? Ik(ke)'Whoʼs there? Me'.

Example 482
a. Wat heb je gekocht?
  what  have  you  bought
b. Dit(te)/Dat(te).

      The fact that the demonstratives in Table 14 are rendered in English by appealing to the pro-form one in the singular suggests that the Dutch examples contain an empty noun with the same function as English one. Support in favor of this suggestion is provided by the fact illustrated in (483a&b) that an attributive adjective may follow the demonstrative; see Section A5.4 for a more extensive discussion of this kind of reduced noun phrases. It should be noted, however, that the neuter singular demonstratives in (483c) do not have this option: the neuter noun in, for instance, dit/dat grote boek'this/that big book' cannot be omitted.

Example 483
a. Deze/Die grote is leuk.
singular non-neuter
  this/that  big.one  is nice
b. Die grote zijn leuk.
  those  big.ones  are  nice
c. *? Dit/Dat grote is leuk.
singular neuter
  this/that  big.one  is nice

      If used deictically, the forms in Table 14 are mainly used to refer to -human entities. Using these demonstratives to refer to a person generally leads to a pejorative connotation: a speaker uttering examples such as (484) leaves no doubt that he does not have a high opinion of the person he is referring to. The neutral (non-pejorative) counterparts of the examples in (484) will involve a referential personal pronoun.

Example 484
a. Die is helemaal gek geworden.
  that.one  is totally nuts  become
  'That one has become totally nuts.'
b. Die komt mijn huis niet meer in!
  that.one  comes  my house  not  anymore  into
  'I wonʼt let that one enter my house anymore.'

This pejorative meaning aspect is absent if these demonstratives are used anaphorically to refer to a person, that is, if the referent has been mentioned in the discourse immediately before the demonstrative is used, as in (485). We will return to this use of the demonstrative in Section, sub IIA.

Example 485
a. Heb je Jan/Marie gezien? Nee, die is ziek.
  have  you  Jan/Marie  seen  no  (s)he  is  ill
  'Did you see Jan? No, heʼs ill.'
b. Jan/Marie, die schijnt al weken ziek te zijn.
  Jan/Marie  (s)he  seems  already  weeks  ill  to be
  'Marie, she seems to have been ill for weeks.'

      Non-D-linked demonstratives can also be used as arguments. It must, however, be noted that the form zoʼn must then be realized as zo één. As before, the two forms differ in number: zo één is singular whereas zulke is plural, as is clear from the number agreement with the finite verb in (486).

Example 486
a. Zo één is hier nog nooit eerder geweest.
  such one  is here  prt  never  before  been
  'One like that has never been here before.'
b. Zulke zijn het mooiste.
  such ones  are  the most beautiful
[+]  2.  Interrogative demonstrative pronouns

The examples in (487) show that the D-linked interrogative demonstrative pronouns can also be used as arguments, although the use of the neuter singular pronoun is marked. The pattern in (487) is therefore similar to that in (483), which involves non-interrogative pronouns.

Example 487
a. Welke is het lekkerste?
singular non-neuter
  which one  is  the tastiest
b. Welke zijn het lekkerste?
  which ones  are  the tastiest
c. ?? Welk is het lekkerste?
singular neuter
  which one  is the tastiest

It is not entirely clear whether non-D-linked interrogative demonstrative wat voor een can be used in this way. Example (488) is acceptable, but obligatorily contains an occurrence of what seems to be quantitative er, which suggests that we are instead dealing with a construction comparable to Jan heeft er drie'Jan has three of them', where quantitative er replaces the nominal head of the object noun phrase.

Example 488
a. Wat voor een [e] heeft hij *?(er)?
  what for a  has  he      er
b. Wat heeft hij *?(er) voor een [e]?
  what  has  he      er  for a
  'What kind does he have?'
[+]  B.  Demonstrative pronouns that can only be used as arguments

The demonstrative pronouns degene, diegene and datgene can only be used as arguments, that is, can never be used as modifiers. These forms are always followed by a restrictive relative clause. The first two forms refer to +human entities. In orthography, they are inflected with the plural affix -n if they refer to more than one person, as is shown in (489a'); this ending is, however, normally not pronounced. The form datgene can only be singular and refers to a -human entity.

Example 489
a. (?) Degene/Diegene die het eerst klaar is, is de winnaar.
  the one  who  the first  finished  is  is the winner
  'The one that is finished first is the winner.'
a'. (?) Degenen/Diegenen die klaar zijn, mogen vertrekken.
  those  who  finished  are  may  leave
  'Those who are finished may leave.'
b. (?) Datgene wat je me nu vertelt, wist ik niet.
  that  what  you  me now  tell  knew  not
  'I didnʼt know what youʼre telling me now.'

Seen diachronically, the forms in (489) are probably compounds. In archaic language the form gene'yonder' can be used as a distal demonstrative, as in aan gene zijde van de rivier'on yonder side of the river' or aan gene zijde van het graf'in the hereafter' (lit.: on yonder side of the grave). In present-day language it is also used in the fixed combinations deze of gene'some/someone' and deze(n) en gene(n)'some' (which are respectively singular and plural).
      The constructions in (489) are semantically more or lesss equivalent to the free relative constructions in (490). The former are perhaps somewhat marked and mainly found in written language, hence the question marks within parentheses in (489).

Example 490
a. Wie het eerst klaar is, is de winnaar.
  who  the first  finished  is  is the winner
  'The one that is finished first, is the winner.'
a'. Wie klaar zijn, mogen vertrekken.
  who  finished  are  may  leave
  'Those who are finished may leave.'
b. Wat je me nu vertelt, wist ik niet.
  what  you  me now  tell  knew  not
  'I didnʼt know what youʼre telling me now.'
[+]  III.  The demonstrative dat as a predicate

The examples in (491) show that the demonstrative dat can also be used to refer to an adjectival or nominal predicate. The (b)-examples show that the form does not agree in gender or number with the nominal predicate. As is shown in (491c), dat can also be used to refer to a verb phrase. Given the fact that the form of the demonstrative is invariant we may conclude that the form dat is the default form of the demonstrative, which shows up if the referent is not marked for the features gender and number. We will return to this use of the demonstrative dat in Section, sub IIA.

Example 491
a. Aardig, dat is Jan niet.
  nice  that  is  Jan  not
b. Een aardige jongen, dat is Piet niet.
  a nice boy  that  is Piet not
b'. Aardige jongens, dat zijn Jan en Piet niet.
  nice boys  that  are  Jan and Piet  not
c. Jan wil het boek lezen en Marie wil dat ook.
  Jan wants  the book  read  and  Marie  wants  that  too
  • Alexiadou, Artemis, Haegeman, Liliane & Stavrou, Melita2007Noun phrases in the generative perspectiveBerlin/New YorkMouton de Gruyter
  • Alexiadou, Artemis, Haegeman, Liliane & Stavrou, Melita2007Noun phrases in the generative perspectiveBerlin/New YorkMouton de Gruyter
  • Alexiadou, Artemis, Haegeman, Liliane & Stavrou, Melita2007Noun phrases in the generative perspectiveBerlin/New YorkMouton de Gruyter
  • Rooij, Jaap de1989Zo'n dingen zeggen ze hier (niet)Theissen, S. & Vromans, J. (eds.)Album Moors. Een bundel opstellen aangeboden aan Joseph Moors ter gelegenheid van zijn 75e verjaardagLuikCIPL181-201
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