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10.3.1. No Verb-first/second in main clauses?
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This subsection discusses cases in which verb-second fails to apply in main clauses. The focus will be on clausal comparative correlative constructions of the form hoe A1 -er ... hoe A2 -er'the more A1 ... the more A2'; example (105a) shows that such constructions have the finite verb of the main clause, which is given in italics, in clause-final position. In more formal language, the modifier hoe is sometimes substituted by des te; we will briefly discuss the fact that this is not always possible.We also pay some attention to cases such as (105b), which only occur as proverbs.

Example 105
a. Hoe eerder je komt, hoe beter het natuurlijk is.
  how sooner  you  come  how better  it  of.course  is
  'The sooner you come, the better it is of course.'
b. Wat niet weet, wat niet deert.
  what  not  knows,  what  not  hurts
  'What one doesnʼt know canʼt hurt.'

      Comparative correlative constructions express a positive correlation between two or more entities, properties, events etc. Two idiomatic examples are given in (106): example (106a) expresses a correlation between the number of people and the degree of enjoyment, and (106b) relates the time in the evening to the quality of the people present (normally used in jest, that is, as an ironic way of expressing a negative correlation between the two).

Example 106
a. Hoe meer zielen, hoe meer vreugd.
idiom
  how more souls  how more joy
  'The more, the merrier.'
b. Hoe later op de avond, hoe schoner volk.
idiom
  how later  in the evening  how more.beautiful folk
  'The best guests always come late.'

Clausal comparative correlatives such as (107) are problematic in the light of the hypothesis that main clauses require the finite verb to be in first or second position. If the examples in (107) are complete (that is, non-reduced) sentences, we should conclude that at least one of the two constituting clauses functions as a main clause. Nevertheless, both clauses have the finite verb in clause-final position.

Example 107
a. Hoe langer ik ernaar kijk, hoe meer ik erin ontdek.
  how longer  at.it  look  how more  in.it  discover
  'The more I look at it, the more I discover in it.'
b. Hoe groter een telescoop is, hoe meer licht hij opvangt.
  how bigger  a telescope  is  how more light  he  prt.-catches
  'The bigger a telescope is, the more light it catches.'

According to Haeseryn et al. (1997:566), examples such as (107) alternate with examples such as (108), in which the second clause exhibits verb-second: the finite verb occurs right-adjacent to the clause-initial phrase hoe meer N. For this reason the first clause is analyzed as an adverbial phrase.

Example 108
a. % Hoe langer ik ernaar kijk, hoe meer ontdek ik erin.
  how longer  at.it  look  how more  discover  in.it
  'The longer I look at it, the more I discover in it.'
b. % Hoe groter een telescoop is, hoe meer licht vangt hij op.
  how bigger  a telescope  is  how more light  catches  he  prt.
  'The bigger a telescope is, the more light it catches.'

The percentage signs in (108) indicate that according to us these examples are infelicitous; see Den Dikken (2003) for similar judgments. This might in fact be in line with the claim in Haeseryn et al. (1997) that verb-second is the less favored option in the case of hoe'how'; it is fully acceptable only if the modifier hoe'how' is replaced by the more formal form des te (in which des is the old genitive form of the definite article), as in (109).

Example 109
a. Hoe langer ik ernaar kijk, des te meer <ontdek> ik erin <ontdek>.
  how longer  at.it  look  the te more    discover  in.it
  'The longer I look at it, the more I discover in it.'
b. Hoe groter een telescoop is, des te meer licht <vangt> hij op <vangt>.
  how bigger  a telescope  is  the te more light   catches  he  prt.
  'The bigger a telescope is, the more light it catches.'

It is worth noting that, although both Haeseryn et al. and Den Dikken claim that the verb-second orders in (109) are the preferred ones, a Google search (1/6/2014) on the string [ hoe meer je * des te meer] has revealed that the verb-final order is actually the more frequent one: we found 10 cases with and 17 cases without verb-second. This, in tandem with the fact that the verb-second order is often given as the preferred one in the more prescriptive literature (which is summarized at taaladvies.net/taal/advies/vraag/1238), suggests that this order does not belong to Dutch core grammar (the automatically required part of the language) but is part of the periphery (the consciously learned part); this would, of course, also be consistent with the fact that des te meer is part of the formal register. Because we do not have sufficient information for boosting this idea, we will leave the issue for future research and simply assume here that both orders in (109) are fully acceptable. Since the verb-second order is normally restricted to main clauses, its availability in (109) makes it plausible that the second clause functions as the main clause. This is also supported by the fact, illustrated in (110), that embedding such examples blocks verb-second; see Den Dikken (2003), who also notices that embedded constructions such as (109) are possible only with bridge verbs like zeggen'to say', denken'to think', vinden'to find', etc.

Example 110
a. dat hoe langer ik ernaar kijk, des te meer <*ontdek> ik erin <ontdek>.
  that  how longer  at.it  look  the te more    discover  in.it
  'that the more I look at it, the more I discover.'
b. dat hoe groter een telescoop is, des te meer licht <*vangt> hij op <vangt>.
  that  how bigger  a telescope  is  the te more light   catches  he  prt.
  'that the bigger a telescope is, the more light it catches.'

In this connection it should be added that verb-second is restricted to the second clause; it is categorically rejected in the first clause. We refer the reader to Den Dikken (2003) for data that reveal a similar contrast between the two parts of the English comparative correlative construction the more A1 ... the more A2.
      The conclusion that the second clause is the actual main clause seems firmly grounded, but it also raises the question of the precise structure of the construction as a whole. That the phrase des te meer is left-adjacent to the finite verb in verb-second position in examples such as (109) suggests that this phrase occupies the initial position of the main clause. If correct, this would imply that the first clause is external to the main clause (and thus belongs to the class of elements to be discussed in Chapter 14); this is schematically represented in (111).

Example 111
[clause hoe A-er ...], [main clause [hoe/des te A-er] ....]

Being external to the main clause is in fact not exceptional for adverbial-like clauses, as we also find this in conditional and concessive clauses like (112a&b), which will be discussed in more detail in Section 10.3.2. Such examples are also similar to comparative correlatives in that the main clauses are introduced by (or at least contain) some element that establishes a relation between the material external to the main clause and the main clause itself; the linking elements dan'then' and toch'still/nevertheless'.

Example 112
a. Als je wil komen, dan ben je welkom.
  if  you  want  come  then  are  you  welcome
  'If you want to come, then youʼre welcome.'
b. Ook al ben je sterk, toch ben je niet slim.
  even  though  are  you  strong  still  are  you  not  smart
  'Even though youʼre strong, youʼre still not smart.'

It should be noted, however, that the similarity between comparative correlative and conditional/concessive constructions is not perfect: the linking elements dan'then' and toch are resumptive in nature, so that we may be dealing with left dislocation (cf. Section 14.2); the linking element in comparative correlatives ( hoe A2-er'the more A2'), on the other hand, does not have any obvious resumptive function, so that a left-dislocation analysis seems less plausible.
      The analysis suggested in (111) raises at least two non-trivial problems. The first problem is that we have to account for the fact that verb-second is not obligatory in the comparative correlative construction with des te meer in initial position (cf. (109)), and is even impossible in the corresponding constructions with hoe (cf. (108)). The second problem, which is probably related to the first one, involves the option of adding complementizers to the examples in (107). The resulting examples in (113) are perhaps less favored than those in (107), but seem grammatical and can all readily be found on the internet, as the reader can verify himself by performing a Google search on the string [ hoe meer (dat) je * hoe meer (dat) je]; examples such as (113) are also accepted by Den Dikken (2003) and Paardekooper (1986:350/658); the latter reports to accept the complementizer of in this context as well.

Example 113
a. Hoe langer dat ik ernaar kijk, hoe meer Ø ik erin ontdek.
a'. Hoe langer Ø ik ernaar kijk, hoe meer dat ik erin ontdek.
a''. Hoe langer dat ik ernaar kijk, hoe meer dat ik erin ontdek.
  how longer  that  at.it  look  how more  that  in.it  discover
  'The longer I look at it, the more I discover in it.'
b. Hoe groter dat een telescoop is, hoe meer licht Ø hij opvangt.
b'. Hoe groter Ø een telescoop is, hoe meer licht dat hij opvangt.
b''. Hoe groter dat een telescoop is, hoe meer licht dat hij opvangt.
  how bigger  that  a telescope  is, how more light that  he prt-catches
  'The bigger the telescope, the more light it catches.'

Note in passing that Den Dikken (2003:9) claims that the primeless and doubly-primed examples in (113) cannot be replicated in the corresponding constructions with des te; his claim is, more specifically, that the complementizer dat cannot follow a des te-phrase in the first clause. However, this seems to be refuted by our Google search (2/7/2014), which came up with the pattern in (114), with "$" indicating that we did not find this sentence type. Our search on the string [ des te meer dat * des te] resulted in 30 cases of the type in (114a), but did not yield cases of the type in (114c). The latter is in fact somewhat surprising given that the string [ des te * des te meer dat] did come up in various instances of the type in (114b). Due to the fact that des te is part of the formal register, it is somewhat difficult to provide acceptability judgments on these cases, and we will therefore not digress on these examples here.

Example 114
a. Des te langer dat ik ernaar kijk, des te meer Ø ik erin ontdek.
b. Des te langer Ø ik ernaar kijk, des te meer dat ik erin ontdek.
c. $ Des te langer dat ik ernaar kijk, des te meer dat ik erin ontdek.
  the te longer  that  at.it  look  the te more  that  in.it  discover
  'The longer I look at it, the more I discover in it.'

      To the two problems for the analysis in (111), respectively, verb-second and the use of the complementizer, the fact that the complementizer need not be present in the verb-final construction should be added. The presumed main clause may thus occur in three different forms; the form in (115b) is the expected one, whereas the forms in (115a&c) are the unexpected, deviant ones.

Example 115
a. [clause hoe A-er ...], [main clause [hoe/des te A-er] .... Vfinite]
b. [clause hoe A-er ... ], [main clause [des te/*hoe A-er] Vfinite ... tV]
c. [clause hoe A-er ...], [main clause [hoe/des te A-er] dat .... Vfinite]

Den Dikken (2003) relates the grammaticality contrast between hoe and des te in the verb-second construction in (115b) to the fact that the phrase hoe A- er cannot normally occur in main-clause initial position, whereas des te A- er can. This is demonstrated in (116) by means of coordinate constructions with the adversative conjunction maar'but', which expresses a negative correlation.

Example 116
a. [main clause De boot vaart langzaam], maar [main clause des te/*hoe meer kan je genieten van het uitzicht].
  the boat  sails  slow  but the te/how more  can  you  enjoy  of the view
  'The boat is sailing slowly but this allows you to enjoy the view all the more.'

If this line of thinking is correct, the availability of the structures in (115a&c) might be considered the result of a repair strategy for the comparative correlative construction with hoe, which has subsequently been extended by analogy to the corresponding construction with des te. We will not digress on this suggestion here, but leave it to future research.
      As far as we know, the theoretical literature has been silent so far on the fact that comparative correlatives can sometimes be reduced. It seems at least plausible to provide a sluicing-like analysis to account for the similarity between the (a)- and (b)-examples in (117): the fact that the two hoe-phrases may precede the complementizer dat (if present) shows that they occupy the main-clause initial position (that is, SpecCP) as the result of wh-movement, and we may therefore be able to derive the (b)-examples from (117a) by means of deletion of the remainder of the clause (that is, IP). We leave this issue for future research, and refer the reader to Section 5.1.5 for the general outline of such an analysis.

Example 117
a. Hoe eerder (dat) je het af hebt, hoe beter (dat) het is.
  how sooner   that  you  it  completed  have  how better  that  it  is
  'The sooner youʼve finished it, the better it is.'
b. Hoe eerder (dat) je het af hebt, hoe beter.
  how sooner   that  you  it  completed  have  how better
b'. Hoe eerder, hoe beter (dat) het is.
  how sooner  how better  that  it  is
b''. Hoe eerder, hoe beter.
  how sooner  how better

      The discussion above has shown that comparative correlative constructions of the type in (115a&c) are indeed problematic for the otherwise robust generalization that main clauses have obligatory verb-second. To our knowledge there are no other productive constructions that violate this generalization but there are idiomatic constructions that systematically go against it. Some examples are given in (118).

Example 118
a. Wat niet weet, wat niet deert.
proverb
  what  not  knows  what  not  bothers
  'What the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over.'
b. Wie dan leeft, wie dan zorgt.
proverb
  who  then  lives  who  then  worries
  'Weʼll cross that bridge when we get to it.'
c. Wie niet waagt, wie niet wint.
proverb
  who  not  tries  who  not  wins
  'Nothing ventured, nothing gained.'
d. Wie het eerst komt, wie het eerst maalt.
proverb
  who  the first  comes  who  the first  grinds
  'First come, first served.'

The examples in (118), which can probably be seen as historical relics, all have the same overall structure: the first clause is a free relative and the second clause is introduced by a resumptive (demonstrative) pronoun that links the free relative to the main clause. The parallel form of the two clauses may suggest that they have the same internal structure, but this is actually not the case given that the non-idiomatic present-day counterpart of the examples in (118) would have verb-second in the second clause; this is illustrated for (118d) in (119) with and without a resumptive pronoun.

Example 119
a. Wie het eerst komt, die <maalt> het eerst <*maalt>.
literal
  who  the first  comes  who   grinds  the first
  'Who comes first gets the first shot at grinding.'
b. Wie het eerst komt <maalt> het eerst <*maalt>.
literal
  who  the first  comes   grinds  the first
  'Who comes first gets the first shot at grinding.'

The examples in (119) suggest that the second clauses in the proverbs in (118) should be analyzed as main clauses too. We refer the reader to Den Dikken (2003) for the claim that the analyses of examples such as (118) and comparative correlatives can be unified by assuming that the non-main clauses in the latter construction are also free relatives, a property he claims to be characteristic for comparative correlatives cross-linguistically; cf. Den Dikken (2005).
      To complete our discussion of the comparative correlative construction, we want to point out that comparative correlatives such as (117b'') should not be confused with hoe ... hoe-phrases of the type in (120a), which can be used as complementives in, e.g., copular constructions; cf. A4.3.2, sub IB. Since (120a') shows that finite clauses cannot used as complementives in copular constructions, the suggested sluicing-analysis for (117b'') would not be suitable for such hoe ... hoe-phrases.

Example 120
a. Het wordt hoe langer hoe beter.
  it  becomes  how longer  how better
  'It is getting better and better.'
b. * Het wordt [dat het beter is].
  it  becomes   that  it  better  is
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References:
  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Dikken, Marcel den2003Comparative correlatives and verb secondKoster, Jan & Riemdijk, Henk van (eds.)Germania et alia. A Linguistic website for Hans den Besten
  • Dikken, Marcel den2005Comparative correlatives comparativelyLinguistic Inquiry36497-532
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Paardekooper, P.C1986Beknopte ABN-syntaksisEindhovenP.C. Paardekooper
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