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Show full table of contents Subject experiencer psych-verbs

This section discusses subject experiencer verbs; intransitive verbs like wanhopen'to despair' in (428a), transitive verbs like haten'to hate' in (428b) and unaccusative verbs like schrikken'to get frightened' in (428c) will be discussed in separate subsections. We will also briefly discuss examples such as (428d) with more or lesss fixed collocations with the verbs hebben'to have' and krijgen'to get', which may be cases of undative psych-constructions.

Example 428
Types of subject experiencer psych-verbs
a. ElsExp wanhoopt (aan het slagen van de onderneming).
  Els  despairs   of the success of the enterprise
b. JanExp haat dat huiswerk.
  Jan  hates  that homework
c. MarieExp schrok.
  Marie  got.frightened
d. JanExp heeft/krijgt een hekel aan computers.
  Jan  has/gets  an aversion  to computers
  'Jan dislikes/is getting to dislike computers.'

The following question will be a leitmotiv in the discussion to follow: Should the psych-verbs in the constructions in (428) be considered special syntactic subclasses or are they simply a semantic subtype of the earlier established syntactic types? We will conclude that the latter is correct.

[+]  I.  Intransitive subject experiencer psych-verbs

The class of monadic intransitive psych-verbs is very small; the only clear candidate is the archaic verb versagen'to despond', which is mainly used in combination with the negative adverb niet'not'.

Example 429
Versaag niet!
  despond not
'Donʼt despair/be afraid!'

That monadic intransitive verbs are virtually non-existent strongly suggests that psych-verbs normally require the presence of an additional argument besides the obligatory experiencer. This additional argument may take the form of a PP-complement, that is, the psych-verb can have the form of an intransitive PO-verb. A sample of such verbs is given in (430). The PP-complement expresses the object (target/subject matter) of emotion.

Example 430
Intransitive psychological PO-verbs: gruwen van'to abhor', genieten van'to enjoy', houden van'to like/love', hunkeren naar'to hanker for', lijden aan/onder'to suffer from', rouwen'to mourn', smachten naar'to yearn for', snakken naar'to crave', treuren om/over'to grieve over', verlangen naar'to long for', walgen van'to abhor', wanhopen aan'to despair of'

In some cases, like rouwen'to mourn' and treuren'to grieve' in (431a), the PP-complement is optional, but if the PP is dropped, the object of the emotion is semantically implied. In most cases, however, the PP-complement is obligatory, as is exemplified by the PO-verbs hunkeren'to hanker', smachten'to yearn' and verlangen'to desire' in (431b).

Example 431
a. Zij rouwen/treuren (om dit grote verlies).
  they  mourn/grieve   for this great loss
b. De mensen hunkeren/smachten/verlangen *(naar vrede).
  the people  hanker/yearn/desire     for peace

Psych-verbs that normally require a PP-complement may/must sometimes occur without a PP-complement if they appear with an adjunct-PP or an als-clause. This is illustrated in (432) for the verb gruwen'to abhor'; the implied object (subject matter/target) of emotion in these examples can be recovered from the content of the adjunct, viz. al die ellende'all that misery'.

Example 432
a. Peter gruwt bij de gedachte aan al die ellende.
  Peter abhors  at the thought  of all that misery
  'Peter is horrified by the thought of all that misery.'
b. Peter gruwt als hij al die ellende ziet.
  Peter abhors  if  he  all that misery  sees
  'Peter is horrified when he sees all that misery.'

The complement of the PP can sometimes be a clause, in which case the PP is realized as an anticipatory pronominal PP. This PP can be obligatory or optional depending on properties of the verb; cf. Section 2.3.1, sub VI.

Example 433
a. Jan walgt *(ervan) dat Marie altijd in haar neus peutert.
  Jan is.disgusted     by.it  that  Marie always  in her nose  picks
  'It disgusts Jan that Marie is always picking her nose.'
b. Els wanhoopt (eraan) [of de onderneming zal slagen].
  Els despairs   of.it  whether the enterprise will succeed

      The syntactic behavior of intransitive psychological PO-verbs seems to be on a par with that of non-psychological ones. The subjects in (431), for example, are external arguments, which is clear from the fact that these experiencer subject constructions can be passivized; cf. (434).

Example 434
a. Er wordt getreurd/gerouwd om de vele doden.
  there  is  mourned/grieved  over the many dead
  'The many deceased are mourned over.'
b. Er wordt gehunkerd/verlangd/gesmacht naar vrede.
  there  is  hankered/longed/yearned  for peace
  'Peace is hankered/longed/yearned for.'

A potential problem is that there are a number of reasons for assuming that intransitive psychological PO-verbs are not agentive. First, these verbs cannot be the input for agentive er-nominalization. although one can readily counter this argument by saying that er-nominalization is rare with PO-verbs in general; cf. Section 2.3.2.

Example 435
a. * treurders/rouwers om grote verliezen
  mourners/grievers  for great losses
b. *smachters/*verlangers/?hunkeraars naar vrede
  yearners/longers/hankerers  for peace

A more convincing argument for claiming that subjects of intransitive psych-verbs are non-agentive is that psych-verbs normally denote involuntary actions; the subjects of these verbs seem unable to control the event. This can be made clear by embedding these intransitive psych-verbs under the causative verb laten'to make'; whereas this is fully acceptable with regular intransitive PO-verbs, it is normally impossible with intransitive psych-verbs. See Section for a more detailed discussion.

Example 436
a. JanCauser laat [PeterAgent op zijn vader wachten].
  Jan  makes   Peter  for his father  wait
  'Jan makes Peter waits for his father.'
b. # JanCauser laat [PeterExp naar vrede verlangen].
  Jan  makes   Peter  for peace  long

Note in passing that embedding of an intransitive psych-verb under causative laten is possible if the subject of the latter functions as a cause; this does not affect the argument above given that examples such as (437a) do not imply that the experiencer is able to control the state of affairs denoted by the psych-verb. Embedding of intransitive psych-verbs is also possible if laten has a permissive reading corresponding to "let" or "to not hamper", as in (437b).

Example 437
a. Zijn gedragCause laat [mij gruwen van alle mannen].
  his behavior  makes   me  abhor  van  all men
  'His behavior makes me abhor all men.'
b. Jan laat [haar treuren om haar verlies].
  Jan lets   her  mourn  for her loss

That the subject of an intransitive psychological PO-verb is unable to control the event is also suggested by the fact, illustrated by the examples in (438), that psych-verbs cannot co-occur with agent-oriented adverbial phrases like opzettelijk'deliberately'. They normally cannot be in the scope of the volitional verb willen'to want' either–this is only possible if willen is contrastively stressed: Ik wil wel van je houden, maar ik kan het niet'I do want to love you, but I cannot'.

Example 438
a. Jan wil op zijn vader wachten.
  Jan wants  for his father  wait
  'Jan wants to wait for his father.'
a'. Jan wacht opzettelijk op zijn vader.
  Jan waits  deliberately  for his father
b. * Jan wil verlangen naar vrede.
  Jan wants  long  for peace
b'. * Jan verlangt opzettelijk naar vrede.
  Jan longs  deliberately  for peace

An important argument against the claim that subjects of intransitive psych-verbs are (necessarily) non-agentive is that there are a number of cases in which they seem to be able to control the event. A clear example is the verb genieten van'to enjoy': the examples in (439) show that this verb can be the input of er-nominalization (provided that the object of emotion is also incorporated), and that it can readily be embedded under the volitional verb willen.

Example 439
a. een levensgenieter
  a life.enjoyer
  'a bon vivant'
b. Ik wil graag genieten van het leven.
  want  gladly  enjoy  van the life
  'I want to enjoy life.'

The discussion above has shown that intransitive psychological PO-verbs behave more or lesss like regular PO-verbs. This suggests that they are simply agentive PO-verbs, so, from a syntactic point of view, nothing special needs to be said about them. Much may depend, however, on the weight one would like to attribute to the semantic property of controllability of the event; since we have argued in Section 1.2.3, sub IIIB, that the feature ±control is not a defining property of agentivity but simply superimposed on subjects of various types, we believe that we can dismiss the data in (436) to (438) as irrelevant for the issue at hand.

[+]  II.  Transitive subject experiencer psych-verbs

Direct objects of transitive subject experiencer verbs always function as the target of emotion, that is, the entity that receives a positive or negative evaluation from the subject experiencer. Two examples involving a negative and a positive evaluation, respectively, are given in (440).

Example 440
a. JanExp haat zijn leraarTarget.
  Jan  hates  his teacher
b. JanExp waardeert dat televisieprogrammaTarget.
  Jan  appreciates  that television program

A sample of the transitive subject experiencer verbs is given in (441).

Example 441
Transitive psych-verbs with a subject experiencer: aanbidden'to adore', beminnen'to love', benijden'to envy', betreuren'to regret', bewonderen'to admire', dulden'to tolerate', haten'to hate', missen'to miss', respecteren'to respect', verachten'to despise', verafschuwen'to loathe', verdragen'to bear', verfoeien'to detest', vrezen'to fear', waarderen'to appreciate'

The set in (441) should probably also include fixed collocations like hoogachten'to have esteem for'. Although hoogachten is special in involving a predicative adjective, and probably originates as a vinden-construction comparable to Jan vindt Peter aardig'Jan considers Peter nice', in modern parlance it seems on the verge of acting like a complex (separable) verb. That hoogachten may be halfway through the process of becoming a complex verb is clear from the fact that its antonym minachten'to despise' has been fully reanalyzed as a verb: the fact that min is pied-piped under verb-second shows that it has become part of the verb. Another example involving a predicative adjective is the (separable) collocation liefhebben'to love'.

Example 442
a. JanExp acht PeterTarget hoog.
  Jan  considers  Peter  high
  'Jan esteems Peter.'
a'. * Jan hoogacht Peter.
b. JanExp minacht PeterTarget.
  Jan  disdains Peter
  'Jan disdains Peter.'
b'. * Jan acht Peter min.

      As in the case of intransitive PO-verbs, there does not seem to be much reason to syntactically distinguish transitive psych-verbs from the non-psychological ones. Passivization of a psych-verb, for example, gives rise to a fully grammatical result.

Example 443
a. Deze leraar wordt (door iedereen) gehaat.
  this teacher  is  by everyone  hated
b. Dat televisieprogramma wordt (vooral door intellectuelen) gewaardeerd.
  that television program  is   especially by intellectuals  appreciated

The transitive subject experiencer verb mogen'to like' in (444a) is special in that it does not seem to allow passivization—although a Google search (7/18/2012) on the string [ gemogen worden] did result in about twenty cases.

Example 444
a. MarieExp mag PeterTarget graag.
  Marie  likes  Peter  gladly
  'Marie likes Peter very much.'
b. * Peter wordt (door Marie) graag gemogen.
  Peter  is   by Marie  readily  liked

      It is also easily possible to find transitive psych-verbs that can be the input for er-nominalization. The examples in (445a&b) are fully acceptable if the target of emotion is incorporated or expressed by means of a van-PP. The examples in (445c) show, however, that there are also psych-verbs that do not allow er-nominalization (the result improves somewhat if an adverb like echt'truly' precedes the noun phrase: ??Dat is echt een sportwaardeerder'that is truly someone who appreciates sports').

Example 445
a. een vrouwenhater/??hater van vrouwen
  woman.hater/hater  of women
b. een bewonderaar ??(van Elvis Presley)
  an  admirer      of Elvis Presley
c. * een waardeerder van sport/sportwaardeerder
  an  appreciator  of sports/sport.appreciator

      The acceptability of the er-nominalizations in (445a&b) suggests that the external argument is a true agent. However, like intransitive psych-verbs, the transitive psych-verbs in (441) normally cannot be embedded under the causative verb laten'to make' with an external causer argument, which indicates that these verbs also denote involuntary actions; we return to this issue in Section

Example 446
a. * PeterCauser laat [Jan zijn leraar haten].
  Peter  makes   Jan  his teacher  hate
b. * ElsCauser laat [Jan dat televisieprogramma waarderen].
  Els  makes   Jan  that television program  appreciate

That the subject of a transitive psych-verb is unable to control the event is also suggested by the facts, illustrated by the examples in (447), that psych-verbs cannot readily be in the scope of the volitional verb willen'to want', and cannot co-occur with agent-oriented adverbial phrases like opzettelijk'deliberately'.

Example 447
a. * Jan wil zijn leraar haten.
  Jan wants  his teacher  hate
a'. * Jan haat zijn leraar met opzet/opzettelijk.
  Jan hates  his teacher  on purpose/purposely
b. * Jan wil dat televisieprogramma waarderen.
  Jan wants  that television program  appreciate
b'. * Jan waardeert dat televisieprogramma met opzet/opzettelijk.
  Jan appreciates  that television program  on purpose/purposely
[+]  III.  Unaccusative subject experiencer psych-verbs

There are only a small number of unaccusative subject experiencer verbs. Some examples are the simplex verbs bedaren'to calm down', kalmeren'to calm down' and schrikken'to be frightened' in the primeless, and the particle verbs opmonteren'to cheer up', opfleuren'to cheer up' and opkikkeren'to cheer up' in the primed examples of (448).

Example 448
a. MarieExp bedaarde snel.
  Marie  calmed.down  quickly
a'. JanExp montert helemaal op.
  Jan  cheers  completely  up
b. Zijn boze vriendExp kalmeert.
  his angry friend  calms.down
b'. PeterExp fleurt helemaal op.
  Peter  cheers  completely  up
c. PeterExp schrikt.
  Peter  is.startled
  'Peter is startled.'
c'. JanExp kikkert helemaal op.
  Jan  cheers completely  up

That the verbs in (448) are unaccusative is clear from the following facts: they take the auxiliary zijn'to be' in the perfect tense; the past/passive participle of the verbs can be used attributively to modify a noun corresponding to the experiencer subject; impersonal passivization of these verbs is excluded; er-nominalization is never possible. This is illustrated for the verb schrikken by (449); the facts in (449a&b) are sufficient for assuming unaccusative status.

Example 449
a. Peter is/*heeft geschrokken.
  Peter is/has  get.frightened
  'Peter has become frightened.'
b. de geschrokken man
  the  startled  man
c. * Er werd geschrokken (door de man).
  there  was  frightened   by the man
d. * schrikker

      The examples in (450) show that clauses containing an unaccusative psych-verb may contain an adverbial door-PP expressing the cause of the emotion. Note that the referent of the cause must be inanimate; if it refers to an animate entity, the sentence becomes degraded. Example (450c') shows that the cause can sometimes also be expressed by means of a van-PP; the complement of this PP can either be animate or inanimate. We conclude from this that the door-PP invariably refers to a cause, whereas the van-PP may also refer to a causer.

Example 450
a. MarieExp bedaarde door zijn rustige optredenCause/*JanCauser.
  Marie  calmed.down  by his quiet attitude/Jan
b. Zijn boze vriendExp kalmeerde door zijn woordenCause/*JanCauser.
  his angry friend  calmed.down  by his words/Jan
c. PeterExp schrok door het plotselinge lawaaiCause/*JanCauser.
  Peter  got.frightened  by that sudden noise/Jan
c'. PeterExp schrok van het plotselinge lawaaiCause/JanCauser.
  Peter  got.frightened  by that sudden noise/Jan

With particle verbs, a van-PP can also be used to refer to a cause of emotion, but, in such cases, the complement of the PP is invariably inanimate.

Example 451
a. JanExp montert helemaal op van dat goede planCause/*MarieCauser.
  Jan  cheers  completely  up  by that good plan/Marie
b. PeterExp fleurt helemaal op van Maries opmerkingCause/*MarieCauser.
  Peter  cheers  completely  up  by Marieʼs remark/Marie
c. JanExp kikkert helemaal op van die warme soepCause/*PeterCauser.
  Jan  cheers  completely  up  by that warm soup/Peter

      Like the subjects of the other subject experiencer verbs, subjects of unaccusative psych-verbs normally do not control the event denoted by the verb. This is not really surprising in this case since this is common with other unaccusative verbs as well. But, for completeness' sake, we show here that a verb like schrikken normally can neither be embedded under volitional willen'to want' nor license agent oriented adverbial phrases like opzettelijk'purposely'. Note that schrikken cannot occur in positive imperatives either; in this respect it differs from bedaren and kalmeren, which do allow imperative forms: Bedaar/Kalmeer!'Calm down!'. Note in passing that the negative imperative Schrik niet!'Do not be scared!', which is normally not used as an order but as a warning or a reassurance, is easily possible.

Example 452
a. * Peter wil schrikken.
  Peter  wants  frighten
b. * Peter schrikt opzettelijk.
  Peter is.frightened  purposely
c. * Schrik!
  be frightened

For completeness' sake, note that the verb bedaren'to calm down' is special in that it may appear as the object of a predicative tot-PP; this is illustrated in the examples in (453).

Example 453
a. MarieAgent brengt PeterExp tot bedaren.
  Marie  brings  Peter  to calm.down
  'Marie calms Peter down.'
b. PeterExp komt tot bedaren.
  Peter  comes  to calm.down
  'Peter is calming down.'
[+]  IV.  Undative subject experiencer psych-constructions

To our knowledge, there are no clear cases of undative psych-verbs (although it might be interesting to investigate whether some of the presumed intransitive psych-verbs discussed in Subsection I would be candidates for such an analysis). It can be noted, however, that the verbs hebben'to have', krijgen'to get', and houden'to keep' can enter more or lesss fixed collocations with certain nouns that denote a psychological state; some examples are given in (454). Given that we have argued in Section 2.1.4 that hebben, krijgen and houden are undative, we are arguably dealing with constructions in which the experiencer is an internal argument that is promoted to subject.

Example 454
a. PeterExp heeft/krijgt/houdt een hekel aan huiswerk.
  Peter  has/gets/keeps  a grudge  at homework
  'Peter detests/starts to detest/keeps detesting homework.'
b. ElsExp heeft/krijgt/houdt (een) afkeer van dat gepraat over politiek.
  Els  has/gets/keeps  an aversion  of that talking about politics
  'Els is having/getting/maintaining an aversion to all that talk about politics.'
c. JanExp heeft/krijgt/houdt berouw over zijn laffe daad.
  Jan  has/gets/keeps  regret  of his cowardly deed
  'Jan regrets/starts to regret/keeps regretting his cowardly deed.'

The objects of emotion in these constructions can be part of the noun phrase, as is clear from the fact illustrated in (455) that it can be (optionally) pied-piped under topicalization.

Example 455
a. Een hekel aan huiswerk heeft Peter niet.
  a disgust  at homework  has  Peter  not
b. Een afkeer van dat gepraat over politiek heeft Els niet.
  an aversion  of that talking about politics  has  Els not
c. Berouw over zijn laffe daad heeft Jan niet.
  regret  of his cowardly deed  has  Jan not

Undative psych-constructions of the type in (454) are sometimes also formed with taboo words like de pest'the plague', and they can also be completely idiomatic; this is shown in example (456).

Example 456
a. Peter heeft/krijgt/houdt de pest aan huiswerk.
  Peter has/gets/keeps  the plague  at homework
  'Peter detests/starts to detest/keeps detesting homework.'
b. MarieExp heeft/krijgt/houdt het land aan voetbal.
  Marie  has/gets/keeps  the land  at soccer
  'Marie hates/starts to hate/keeps hating soccer.'

We want to conclude this subsection by noting that example (454c) is also possible with the verb voelen'to feel': Jan voelt berouw over zijn laffe daad'Jan regrets his cowardly deed'. It is therefore tempting to take this as evidence for assuming that this verb is undative as well, especially because it also behaves like an undative verb in not allowing passivization and er-nominalization.

[+]  V.  Conclusion

The previous subsections have discussed three types of subject experiencer verbs and has shown that from a syntactic point of view these verbs can simply be considered regular intransitive, transitive and unaccusative verbs. These psych-verbs are, however, of a special semantic subtype in that they normally seem to denote involuntary actions.
      The fact that there are intransitive and transitive subject experiencer verbs raises the question as to whether we should assume two types of external arguments with, respectively, the thematic role of agent and the thematic role of experiencer. The answer seems to depend on whether the semantic property of controllability of the event is relevant for distinguishing between thematic roles; since Section 1.2.3, sub IIIB, argues that the answer to this question is negative, we provisionally conclude that there is no need to postulate external arguments with the thematic role of experiencer.
      The fact that there are unaccusative subject experiencer verbs shows that the experiencer need not be an external argument of the verb but can also be an internal argument. This conclusion seems to be confirmed by the fact that there also appear to be psych-constructions based on the undative verb hebben'to have', krijgen'to get', and houden'to keep' in combination with a psychological noun like een hekel hebben aan'to dislike'. From this perspective, it does not come as a surprise that experiencers need not appear as subjects but can also be realized as (dative or accusative) objects. We discuss such cases in Section

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