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2.3.3. NP-PP alternations

Section 2.3.2 discussed PO-verbs that can be viewed as regular intransitive, transitive and unaccusative verbs taking a PP-complement in addition to their nominal arguments. This section discusses cases in which the PP-complement substitutes for a direct object. Since the alternation involves a direct object, it only arises with transitive and ditransitive verbs, which will be discussed in Subsection I and II, respectively. The discussion below will be relatively brief, given that the alternations under discussion will also be dealt with in Section

[+]  I.  Alternations between transitive verbs and intransitive PO-verbs

The examples in (367) show that PP-complements sometimes alternate with direct objects of transitive verbs. Although this alternation normally involves a shift in meaning, it seems that the semantic roles of the two complements are more or lesss the same; in all cases we seem to be dealing with themes.

Example 367
a. Jan schiet (op) de eend.
  Jan shoot   at  the duck
  'Jan is shooting (at) the duck.'
c. Jan gelooft (in) Marie.
  Jan believes   in  Marie
  'Jan believes/has faith (in) Marie.'
b. Jan eet (van) zijn broodje.
  Jan eats  from  his roll
  'Jan is eating (from) his roll.'
d. Jan verlangt (naar) een broodje.
  Jan desires  naar  a roll
  'Jan requests/longs for a roll.'

The shifts in meaning can be of various types. In (367a), the shift involves the affectedness of the theme: if the theme is realized as a noun phrase, it is affected by the act denoted by the verb, that is, the duck has been hit by Jan; if the theme is realized as a PP, on the other hand, it need not be affected by the action, that is, the duck may or may not have been hit by Jan. In (367b), the shift in meaning concerns whether or not the theme is totally affected. This change of meaning comes out clearly with sentences in the perfect tense: (368a) implies that Jan has finished his roll, whereas (368b) suggests that the roll has not been completely eaten.

Example 368
a. Jan heeft zijn broodje gegeten.
  Jan has  his roll  eaten
b. Jan heeft van zijn broodje gegeten.
  Jan has  from his roll  eaten

In (367c), the addition of the preposition makes more interpretations available: whereas Jan gelooft Marie can only mean that Jan believes Marie, Jan gelooft in Marie can also mean that Jan has faith in Marie. In (367d), the meanings of the two constructions do not really overlap: verlangen naar means something like "to long for", whereas verlangen is rather rendered like "to request".
      Syntactically, the PO-verbs in (367) behave more or lesss like the other intransitive PO-verbs discussed in Section 2.3.2, sub II. We will show this on the basis of er-nominalization, auxiliary selection, attributive use of the past/passive participle, and passivization.

[+]  A.  Er-nominalization

Section 2.3.2, sub II, has shown that er-nominalization of intransitive PO-verbs is less common than that of regular intransitive verbs. It will therefore not come as a big surprise that the primed examples in (369) show that the PO-verbs in (367) do not allow er-nominalization. It should be noted, however, that this need not be entirely due to the presence of the PP-complement given that the primeless examples of (369) show that er-nominalizations of the corresponding regular transitive verbs are often unacceptable as well. A contrast only arises in the case of the verb eten'to eat', as is clear from the fact that the nominalizations in the (b)-examples only have the total affectedness reading of the regular transitive verb. The contrast between eten'to eat' and the other verbs with respect to er-nominalization may reflect the fact that the transitive use of eten is also more common.

Example 369
a. * een schieter van konijnen
  shooter  of  rabbits
a'. * een schieter op konijnen
  shooter  at  rabbits
b. een eter van kaas
  an  eater  of  cheese
b'. # een eter van kaas
  an  eater  from  cheese
c. * een gelover van Marie
  believer  of  Marie
c'. * een gelover in Marie
  believer  in Marie
d. * een verlanger van broodjes
  desirer  of  rolls
d'. * een verlanger van/naar broodjes
  desirer  of/naar  rolls
[+]  B.  Auxiliary selection

Like the intransitive PO-verbs discussed in Section 2.3.2, sub II, the PO-verbs in (367) all take the auxiliary hebben, which is consistent with assuming unergative status for these verbs; the examples in (370) show that in this respect these verbs behave like the corresponding transitive verbs.

Example 370
a. Jan heeft (op) de eend geschoten.
  Jan has   at  the duck  shot
  'Jan has shot (at) the duck.'
b. Jan heeft (van) zijn broodje gegeten.
  Jan has  from  his roll  eaten
  'Jan has eaten (from) his roll.'
c. Jan heeft (in) Marie geloofd.
  Jan has   in  Marie believed
  'Jan has believed/had trust (in) Marie.'
d. Jan heeft (naar) een broodje verlangd.
  Jan has  naar  a roll  desired
  'Jan has requested/longed for a roll.'
[+]  C.  Attributive use of the past/passive participle

The past/passive participles of the PO-verbs in (367) cannot be used attributively to modify the subject of the corresponding verbal construction, whereas their present participles can. In this respect they behave like the intransitive PO-verbs discussed in Section 2.3.2, sub II. The ungrammaticality of the examples in (371) with a past/passive participle is compatible with assuming unergative status for the PO-verbs in (367).

Example 371
a. de op de eend schietende/*geschoten man
  the  at the duck  shooting/shot  man
b. de van zijn broodje etende/*gegeten man
  the  from his roll  eating/eaten  man
c. de in Marie gelovende/*geloofde man
  the  in Marie  believing/believed  man
d. de naar een broodje verlangende/*verlangde man
  the  naar  a roll  desiring/desired  man
[+]  D.  Impersonal passive

All PO-verbs in (367) seem to allow passivization, which is sufficient for assuming unergative status for these verbs.

Example 372
a. Er werd op de eend geschoten.
  there  was  at the duck  shot
b. Er werd van zijn broodje gegeten.
  there  was  from his roll  eaten
c. Er werd in Marie geloofd.
  there  was  in Marie believed
d. (?) Er wordt naar een broodje verlangd.
  there  is  naar a roll  desired
[+]  E.  Conclusion

The data in the previous subsections show that in all relevant respects the PO-verbs in (367) behave like the intransitive PO-verbs discussed in Section 2.3.2, sub II. Therefore, apart from the fact that PP-complements of these verbs alternate with nominal complements, nothing special need be said about these verbs.

[+]  II.  PO-verbs with an indirect object

There is a relatively small set of verbs taking both a dative noun phrase and a PP-complement. Some examples are given in (373); a quick inspection of this list reveals that most verbs are verbs of communication.

Example 373
Prepositional object verbs with a dative object: berichten over'inform about', smeken om'to beg for', vertellen over'to tell about', vertellen van'to tell about', verzoeken om'to request', vragen naar'to ask about', vragen om'to ask for', vragen over'to ask about'

That we are dealing with an alternation of the same type as in Subsection I is clear from the fact that most of these verbs can also be used as ditransitive verbs with a clausal complement; cases in which the PP alternates with a non-pronominal noun phrase are less common, however, which is related to the fact that verbs of communication prefer a complement with propositional content. The examples in (374) show that, like in most regular ditransitive constructions, the dative object cannot be used without the second complement.

Example 374
a. Jan vraagt Peter *((om) een koekje).
  Jan asks  Peter      om  a cookie
  'Jan is asking (for) a cookie.'
b. Marie vertelt Peter *((over) het probleem).
  Marie tells  Peter      about  the problem
  'Jan is telling Peter (about) the problem.'

In the following subsections, we will briefly discuss the syntactic properties of these PO-verbs.

[+]  A.  Er-nominalization

Although the PO-verbs in (373) take an agentive subject, er-nominalization seems to give rise to a marginal result.

Example 375
a. vragers ?(??om een koekje)
  askers       for a cookie
b. vertellers (*?over het probleem)
  tellers     about the problem
[+]  B.  Auxiliary selection

The PO-verbs in (373) select the auxiliary verb hebben'to have', just like their ditransitive counterparts. This is compatible with assuming unergative status for these verbs.

Example 376
a. Jan heeft/*is Peter (om) een koekje gevraagd.
  Jan has/is  Peter for  a cookie  asked
  'Jan has asked Peter for a cookie.'
b. Marie heeft Peter (over) het probleem verteld.
  Marie has  Peter   about the problem  told
  'Marie has told Peter about the problem.'
[+]  C.  Attributive use of the participles

Past/passive participles of the PO-verbs in (373) cannot be used attributively with a noun corresponding to the nominative argument of the corresponding verbal construction. It is marginally possible, however, to use it if the modified noun corresponds to the dative object; this is also the case if the PO-object is replaced by a direct object, although some speakers seem to like this option (even) less.

Example 377
a. ? de (om) een koekje gevraagde jongen
jongen ≠ agent
  the  for  a cookie  asked  boy
b. ?? de (over) het probleem vertelde jongen
jongen ≠ agent
  the  about the problem  told  boy

Replacing the past participle by a present participle triggers an agentive reading on the modified noun.

Example 378
a. ? de (om) een koekje vragende jongen
jongen = agent
  the  for  a cookie  asking  boy
b. ? de (over) het probleem vertellende jongen
jongen = agent
  the  about the problem  telling  boy
[+]  D.  (Impersonal) passive

The PO-verbs in (373) allow passivization. The assumption that the nominal complements are datives is motivated by the fact that it is often claimed that they cannot be promoted to subject; passivization is taken to result in the impersonal passive in the primeless examples in (379). It should be noted, however, that some speakers at least marginally allow the nominal complement to become the subject of the clause with the PO-verb in (373): for these speakers the primed examples are also more or lesss acceptable.

Example 379
a. Er wordt Peter/hem om een koekje gevraagd.
  there  is  Peter/him for a cookie  asked
a'. % Peter/Hij wordt om een koekje gevraagd.
  Peter/he  is  for a cookie  asked
b. Er werd Peter/hem over het probleem verteld.
  there  was  Peter/him  about the problem  told
b'. % Peter/Hij werd over het probleem verteld.
  Peter/he  was  about the problem  told

The passivization test provides a good tool to distinguish PO-verbs with a dative object from the transitive PO-verbs discussed in Section 2.3.2, which do not allow impersonal passivization; the contrast between the two (b)-examples shows that the object must be promoted to subject; the impersonal passives in (380b) are excluded.

Example 380
a. Jan betrok zijn studenten/hen bij de workshop.
  Jan involved  his students/them  in the workshop
b. * Er werd zijn studenten/hen betrokken bij de workshop.
  there  was   his students/them  involved  in the workshop
b'. Zijn studenten/zij werden betrokken bij de workshop.
  his students/they  were   involved  in the workshop

The passivization test, however, is not always easy to use. For example, normative grammarians have claimed that the PO-verb wijzen op in (381a) takes an indirect object, and that the passive construction in (381b) consequently is an impersonal passive; the noun phrase does not function as a subject and the finite verb should therefore exhibit (default) singular agreement; we refer the reader to the taaladvies.net/taal/advies/vraag/917 and onzetaal.nl/taaladvies/advies/de-luisteraars-werd-werden-erop-gewezen for discussion. This claim goes against our intuitions, according to which example (381b) is only possible with plural agreement (the form normally found in speech). This strongly suggests that we are not dealing with an impersonal but with a regular passive, which is confirmed by the fact that using the object form of the pronoun gives rise to a severely degraded result in (381c). We believe that this unequivocally shows that normative grammar is wrong and that we are not dealing with a PO-verb with a dative object but with a transitive PO-verb, which perhaps receives further support from the fact that the German translation of wijzen op (hindeuten/hinweisen auf) also takes an accusative object.

Example 381
a. Wij wijzen de kijkers erop dat deze film ongeschikt is voor kinderen.
  we  point  the viewers  at.it  that  this movie  unsuitable  is for children
  'We inform the viewers that this movie is unsuitable for children.'
b. De kijkers worden/*?wordt erop gewezen dat ...
  the viewers  are/is  at.it · pointed  that
c. Hij/*hem wordt erop gewezen dat ...
  he/him was  at.it  pointed   that

      For completeness' sake, we want to note that ditransitive verbs selecting an indirect object and a clausal direct object often have a similar choice between impersonal and regular passivization, as is illustrated by (382). Apparently, some speakers allow a dative object to be promoted to subject if no accusative object is present; see Section, sub II, for more discussion.

Example 382
a. De conducteur verzoekt alle reizigers/hun om uit te stappen.
  the conductor  requests  all travelers/them comp  prt.  to step
  'The conductor asks all travelers/them to get down.'
b. Er wordt de reizigers/hun verzocht om uit te stappen.
  there  is  the travelers/them  requested  comp  prt.  to step
c. % De reizigers/Zij worden verzocht om uit te stappen.
  the travelers/they  are  requested  comp  prt.  to step

For our present purposes, the contrast between the types of passivization is not that important: the mere fact that the PO-verbs under discussion allow (impersonal) passivization is sufficient to conclude that they are unergative verbs.

[+]  E.  The order of the complements

For completeness' sake, it can be noted that the dative argument normally precedes the prepositional complement; the PP-complement can only precede the dative object if it is moved into clause-initial position as the result of topicalization or wh-movement.

Example 383
a. dat Jan <Peter> om een koekje <*Peter> vroeg.
  that  Jan Peter  for cigarettes  asked
b. dat Marie <Peter> over het probleem *<Peter> verteld heeft.
  that  Marie Peter  about the problem  told  has
[+]  F.  Conclusion

The data in the previous subsections show that the PO-verbs in (374) are unergative, which is especially clear from the fact that they allow passivization. Passivization is different from what is found in the corresponding transitive constructions, of course, given that the theme is not realized as an accusative object. As a result of this, it is the impersonal passive that is normally found. For some speakers a passive construction in which the dative argument of the active construction is promoted to subject is also possible.

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