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3.2.2.3. The adjunct middle construction
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Section 3.2.2.2 has shown that regular middles are characterized by the fact that their subjects correspond to the direct objects of the corresponding transitive verbs. This does not hold for adjunct middles; the primed examples in (230) show that their subjects correspond to entities that are normally expressed by means of adjuncts, like instrumental met-PPs or adverbial phrases of place or time. Like regular middles, adjunct middles must contain an evaluative modifier like lekker'nicely' or prettig'pleasantly' in (230).

Example 230
a. Els snijdt altijd met dat mes.
instrument
  Els  cuts  always  with that knife
a'. Dat mes snijdt lekker/prettig.
  that knife  cuts  nicely/pleasantly
  'It is nice/pleasant to cut with that knife.'
b. Peter rijdt graag op deze stille wegen.
location
  Peter drives  readily  on these quiet roads
  'Peter likes to drive on these quiet roads.'
b'. Deze stille wegen rijden lekker/prettig.
  these quiet roads  drive  nicely/pleasantly
  'It is nice/pleasant to drive on these quiet roads.'
c. Jan werkt het liefst op rustige middagen.
time
  Jan works  preferably  on quiet afternoons
  'Jan prefers to work on quiet afternoons.'
c'. Rustige middagen werken het prettigst.
  quiet afternoons  work  the most.pleasant
  'It is the most pleasant to work on quiet afternoons.'

Before we discuss the adjunct middle in more detail, it should be noted that Ackema & Schoorlemmer (2006:147-8) suggest that the instrumental middles should be distinguished from the locational/temporal ones given that the former, in contrast to the latter, are quite common across languages. Since there is little language-internal evidence from Dutch in favor of this claim, we will leave this as a topic for future research and simply assume a uniform analysis for the three types of adjunct middle in (230).
      The following subsections discuss the properties of the adjunct middle construction in more detail, subsection I starts with the syntactic verb types that can be used as input for adjunct middle formation, subsections II and III continue with a discussion of some properties of the subject and the evaluative modifier, subsection IV discusses the attributive and predicative use of past and present participles of adjunct middle verbs, subsection V concludes by suggesting a number of topics for future research.

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[+]  I.  The input verb is (pseudo-)intransitive

The primed examples in (231) show that adjunct middle formation differs from regular middle formation in that it can readily take intransitive verbs as input. This difference is of course related to another difference: whereas subjects of regular middles correspond to the direct object of the input verbs, those of adjunct middles correspond to adverbial phrases of various types.

Example 231
a. Peter fietst graag op het fietspad.
  Peter cycles  gladly  on the bikeway
  'Peter likes to cycle on the bikeway.'
a'. Het fietspad fietst lekker.
  the bikeway  cycles  nicely
  'It is nice to cycle on the bikeway.'
b. Peter fietst graag op zijn nieuwe fiets.
  Peter cycles  gladly  on his new bicycle
  'Peter likes to cycle on his new bicycle.'
b'. Deze nieuwe fiets fietst lekker.
  this new bicycle  cycles  nicely
  'It is nice to cycle on this new bicycle.'

The examples in (232) show that adjunct middles behave like regular middles and unlike passives in that the subject of the input verb cannot be expressed by means of an agentive door-phrase. Nevertheless, some notion of agentivity still seems to be implied; this is due to the fact that the evaluative modifier provides an assessment of some property of the subject in relation to the activity denoted by the verb, and thus indirectly evokes the notion of agent.

Example 232
a. * Het fietspad fietst lekker door Peter.
  the bikeway  cycles  nicely  by Peter
b. * Deze nieuwe fiets fietst lekker door Peter.
  this new bicycle  cycles  nicely  by Peter

      Transitive verbs can only be used as input for adjunct middle formation if they can be used as pseudo-intransitives; overtly realizing the object in the middle constructions in the primed examples in (233) leads to unacceptability (but see Subsection VA below, which discusses some potential cases of adjunct middles in which the object is realized).

Example 233
a. Peter eet (zijn lunch) in een hoog tempo.
  Peter eats    his lunch  at a high speed
  'Peter is eating his lunch at high speed.'
a'. Een hoog tempo eet (*lunch) niet prettig.
  a high speed  eats     lunch  not pleasantly
  'It isnʼt pleasant to eat at high speed.'
b. Jan leest graag (romans) op rustige middagen.
  Jan  reads  gladly   novels  on quiet afternoons
  'Jan likes to read (novels) on quiet afternoons.'
b'. Rustige middagen lezen (*romans) het prettigst.
  quiet afternoons  read     novels  the most pleasant
  'It is the most pleasant to read on quiet afternoons.'

The fact that direct objects cannot be overtly realized in adjunct middles may also account for the fact that ditransitive verbs normally cannot be the input verb for adjunct middle formation; the (b)-examples in (234) show that the result is unacceptable, regardless of whether the recipient is realized as a dative phrase or as the complement of a periphrastic aan-PP.

Example 234
a. Peter geeft <Jan> boeken <aan Jan> op zijn verjaardag.
  Peter  gives    Jan  books    to Jan  on his birthday
  'Peter is presenting Jan books on his birthday.'
b. * Zijn verjaardag geeft gemakkelijk Jan boeken.
  his birthday  gives  easily  Jan  books
b'. * Zijn verjaardag geeft gemakkelijk boeken aan Jan.
  his birthday  gives  easily  books  to Jan

The primed examples in (235) show that adjunct middles differ from regular middles in that the former can marginally be found with unaccusative verbs if the internal argument is able to control the process; cf. the contrast between vallen'to fall' and sterven'to die'. The acceptability of examples such as (235a') is somewhat surprising given that it suggests that the subject of the input verb need not be an external argument (agent) but can also be an internal argument (theme). It seems, however, that we are dealing here with the so-called stage context reading, which was shown in Section 3.2.1.2, sub II, to also license passivization of unaccusative verbs; cf. Ackema & Schoorlemmer (2006:175).

Example 235
a. Marie valt op de judomat.
  Marie  falls  onto the judo.mat
a'. ? Een judomat valt prettiger dan de vloer.
  a judo.mat  falls  more.pleasantly  than  the floor
  'It is more pleasant to fall on a judo mat than on the floor.'
b. Oude officieren sterven in het bejaardenhuis.
  old officers  die  in an old.peopleʼs.home
b'. *? Een bejaardenhuis sterft prettiger dan het slagveld.
  an old.peopleʼs.home  dies  more.pleasantly  than  the battlefield
  'It is more pleasant to die in an old peopleʼs home than on the battlefield.'

The examples in (236) show that adjunct middle verbs take the auxiliary hebben'to have' in the perfect tense; this also holds for middle verbs derived from unaccusative verbs like vallen, which normally take zijn.

Example 236
a. Dit fietspad heeft altijd al lekker gefietst.
  this bikeway  has  all along  nicely  cycled
  'It has always been nice to cycle on this bikeway.'
b. Een hoog tempo heeft nog nooit prettig gegeten.
  a high speed  has  prt  never  pleasantly  eaten
  'It has never been pleasant to eat at high speed.'
c. Een judomat ??heeft/*is altijd al beter gevallen dan de vloer.
  a judo.mat    has/is  all along  better  fallen  than  the floor
  'It has always been more pleasant to fall on a judo mat than on the floor.'
[+]  II.  The derived subject

The examples in (230) to (235) have already shown that subjects of adjunct middles can correspond to the nominal complement of a wide range of adverbial phrases. The examples in (237) further show that the subject can at least marginally correspond to a benefactive if the direct object is omitted. Note in passing that this supports our earlier suggestion that it is the obligatory presence of direct objects in examples such as (234a) that blocks adjunct middle formation of ditransitive verbs.

Example 237
a. Jan schenkt voor zulke rustige gasten graag in.
  Jan pours  for such quiet guests  readily  prt.
  'Jan likes to pour out (drinks) for such quiet guests.'
b. ?? Zulke rustige gasten schenken prettig in.
  such quiet guests  pour  nicely  prt.
  'It is nice to pour out (drinks) for such quiet guests.'

Subjects of adjunct middles are non-agentive and non-volitional. This is clear from the fact that they are normally inanimate and (therefore) cannot control a purpose clause or co-occur with agent oriented adverbial phrases, as shown in (238).

Example 238
a. * Het fietspad fietst lekker om Peter een plezier te doen.
  the bikeway  cycles  nicely  comp  Peter  a pleasure  to do
a'. * Het fietspad fietst opzettelijk/met opzet lekker.
  the bikeway  cycles  deliberately/on purpose  nicely
b. * Dit mes snijdt lekker om het Els gemakkelijk te maken.
  this knife  cuts  nicely  comp  it  Els  easy  to make
b'. * Dit mes snijdt opzettelijk/met opzet lekker.
  this knife  cuts  deliberately/on purpose  nicely
[+]  III.  The evaluative modifier

The examples in (239) show that the evaluative modifiers found in adjunct middles are of the gemakkelijk-type; they are normally compulsory.

Example 239
a. Deze stoel zit *(lekker/prettig/gemakkelijk).
  this chair  sits     nicely/pleasantly/easily
b. Dit mes snijdt *(prettig/lekker/gemakkelijk/moeilijk).
  this knife cuts     pleasantly/nicely/easily/with.difficulty

The primeless examples in (240) show that the evaluative modifier can at least marginally be left out if the negative adverb niet'not' is present. In such cases the evaluation normally expressed by the evaluative modifiers is implied; (240a) expresses that the chair is uncomfortable and (240b) that the knife is blunt or has some other deficiency. The primed examples show that the adverb may also be omitted if the verb is emphatically accented; the continuations in the primed examples show that the evaluation intended varies from case to case: heerlijk provides a positive, afgrijselijk a negative, and En hoe a positive, high degree evaluation.

Example 240
a. % Deze stoel zit niet.
  this chair  sits  not
a'. Deze stoel zit. Heerlijk/Afgrijselijk!
  this chair  sits  wonderful/horrible
b. Dit mes snijdt niet.
  this knife  cuts  not
b'. Dit mes snijdt. En hoe!
  this knife  cuts and how

The examples in (241), finally, show that the implicit experiencer of the evaluative modifier cannot be overtly realized (with the same proviso made in Section 3.2.2.2, sub IC, for the regular middle).

Example 241
a. # Deze stoel zit voor iedereen lekker.
  this chair  sits  for everybody  nicely
b. # Dit mes snijdt voor iedereen prettig.
  this knife  cuts  for everybody  pleasantly
[+]  IV.  Attributive and predicative use of past/present participles

The examples in (242) show that adjunct middles do not allow attributive and predicative use of their past participles, whereas attributive use of their present participles is fully acceptable. In this respect adjunct middles behave like regular middles; cf. Section 3.2.2.2, sub IIB.

Example 242
a. Deze weg rijdt lekker.
  this road  drives  nicely
  'It is nice to drive on this road.'
a'. Dit mes snijdt prettig.
  this knife  cuts  pleasantly
  'It is pleasant to cut with this knife.'
b. * Een lekker gereden weg
  nicely  driven  road
b'. * een prettig gesneden mes
  pleasantly  cut  knife
c. * De weg blijkt lekker gereden.
  the road  turns.out  nicely driven
c'. * Dit mes blijkt prettig gesneden.
  this knife  turns.out pleasantly cut
d. een lekker rijdende weg
  nicely  driving  road
  'a road comfortable for driving'
d'. een prettig snijdend mes
  a   pleasantly  cutting  knife
  'a knife pleasant for cutting'

There are, however, two facts that deserve to be mentioned. First, the attributive constructions in the (d)-examples of (242) seem to allow omission of the present participles while retaining more or lesss the same meaning. In the resulting structures the adjectives no longer behave as adverbial phrases, but as regular attributive modifiers. This is clear from the fact illustrated in the (a)- and (b)-examples in (243) that they exhibit attributive inflection; cf. Section A5.1. Observe from the (c)-examples that the adjectives cannot be used predicatively; insofar as the copular example in (243c) is acceptable, lekker receives the (inappropriate) property denoting meaning "tasty".

Example 243
a. een lekker-e weg
  nice  road
a'. een prettig-Ø mes
  pleasant  knife
b. de lekker-e weg
  the  nice  road
b'. het prettig-e mes
  the  nice  knife
c. # De weg blijkt lekker.
  the road  turns.out  tasty
c'. *? Dit mes blijkt prettig.
  this knife  turns.out  tasty

Second, there are a number of not -well-understood restrictions on the attributive use of present participles. The examples in (244a&b), for instance, show that the adjunct middles derived from the pseudo-intransitives in (233) do not allow attributive use of their present participles. However, there is clearly not a general ban on the attributive use of present participles of adjunct middle verbs derived from pseudo-intransitive verbs; the examples in (244c&d) are fully acceptable.

Example 244
a. * een hoog etend tempo
  high eating  speed
b. * prettig lezende rustige middagen
  pleasantly  reading  quiet afternoons
c. een prettig dansende vloer
  pleasantly  dancing  floor
d. een gemakkelijk vervende kwast
  an  easily  painting  brush
[+]  V.  Miscellaneous topics

This subsection discusses a number of issues that may be subjects for future research, subsection A starts by taking issue with our earlier claim that adjunct middle formation requires the input verb to be intransitive by suggesting that there in fact do exist adjunct middles based on transitive verbs, subsection B will show that there are adjunct middle-like constructions in which the obligatory adjunct is not (or at least less clearly) evaluative in nature, subsection C concludes by briefly comparing adjunct middles to easy-to-please constructions.

[+]  A.  Adjunct middles with objects?

Although the primeless examples in (245) look structurally similar, they differ in that the latter allows for the addition of a direct object. The primed examples show the same thing for the corresponding constructions with attributively used present participles.

Example 245
a. Dit mes snijdt (*?het vlees) lekker.
  this knife  cuts      the meat  nicely
a'. een (*het vlees) lekker snijdend mes
     the meat  nicely cutting  knife
b. Dit mes snijdt (het vlees) goed/beter.
  this knife  cuts   the meat  well/better
b'. een (het vlees) goed snijdend mes
   the meat  well  cutting  knife

The claim in Subsection I that adjunct middles do not allow the presence of a direct object suggests that the two constructions are different, and that example (245b) is not an adjunct middle construction. Another possibility, however, is to assume that this claim was wrong and to investigate whether the contrast between the (a)- and (b)-examples can be accounted for in some other way. One reason to follow this track is that there is in fact no a priori reason to expect that a direct object cannot occur in this type of middle construction.
      Now, consider the examples in (246) with the transitive verb snijden. These examples show that the realization of the direct object gives rise to a rather odd result if the adverbially used adjective lekker is present, but is easily possible if the adverb is goed'well'.

Example 246
a. Ik snijd lekker ( met dit mes).
a'. Ik snijd het vlees lekker *(??met dit mes).
  cut  the meat  nicely       with this knife
b. Ik snijd goed/beter (met dit mes).
b'. Ik snijd het vlees goed/beter (met dit mes).
  cut  the meat  well/better   with this knife

If lekker and goed differ in that the former, but not the latter, favors the pseudo-intransitive use of snijden, this may provide an alternative account for the contrast found in (245). If so, the two constructions in (245) can both be taken as instances of the adjunct middle construction. For completeness' sake, observe that the two examples in (245) both have an easy-to-please counterpart, illustrated in (247).

Example 247
a. Dit mes is lekker om mee te snijden.
  this knife  is nice  comp  with  to cut
b. Dit mes is goed/beter om (het vlees) mee te snijden.
  this knife  is good/better  comp   the meat  with  to cut

The discussion above suggests that the claim in Subsection I that adjunct middles do not allow the presence of a direct object may be wrong and that this restriction may be related to the choice of evaluative modifier. We leave it to future research to investigate whether this suggestion is on the right track.

[+]  B.  Adjunct middles with modifiers that do not take an experiencer?

This subsection discusses a second construction that looks quite similar to the adjunct middle, but nevertheless may have to be analyzed differently. Consider the primeless examples in (248), which look structurally similar but differ with respect to the question as to whether they have an easy-to-please counterpart.

Example 248
a. Deze weg rijdt lekker.
  this road  drives  nicely
a'. Deze weg is lekker [om PRO op te rijden].
  this road  is nice  comp  on  to drive
b. Deze weg rijdt snel/vlot.
  this road  drives  fast/smoothly
b'. * Deze weg is snel/vlot [om PRO op te rijden].
  this road  is fast/smooth  comp  on  to drive

The impossibility of (248b') seems related to the inability of the adjectives snel'fast' and vlot'smoothly' to take an experiencer voor-PP: * snel/vlot voor mij. The explanation for this is that the easy-to-please construction requires the phonetically empty subject PRO of the infinitival clause to be controlled by the (implicit) experiencer of the evaluative adjective; if the experiencer is left implicit, as in (248a'), it receives an arbitrary interpretation, which results in the generic meaning of the complete sentence. The ungrammaticality of (248b') can now be accounted for by appealing to the fact that adjectives like snel/vlot do not select an experiencer and that the phonetically empty subject PRO of the infinitival clause is therefore not controlled, as a result of which it cannot be assigned an appropriate interpretation.
      Since adjunct middle constructions normally also require an adjective that selects an experiencer voor-PP, it remains to be seen whether (248b) can be analyzed as a middle construction or whether we are dealing with some other construction type. Adjunct middle-like constructions without an easy-to-please counterpart are quite common but do not seem to have received much attention so far. Example (249) presents two other cases based on the pseudo-intransitive verb verven'to paint' and the adverb gelijkmatig'evenly', which again lacks an implicit experiencer; the (a)- and (b)-example closely resemble, respectively, the regular middle and the adjunct middle construction.

Example 249
a. Deze muur verft gelijkmatig.
  this wall  paints  evenly
a'. * Deze muur is gelijkmatig om te verven.
  this wall  is evenly  comp  to paint
b. Deze kwast verft gelijkmatig.
  this brush  paints  evenly
b'. * Deze kwast is gelijkmatig om te verven.
  this brush  is evenly  comp  to paint

As noted, it remains to be seen whether the constructions without an easy-to-please counterpart can be analyzed as run-of-the-mill adjunct middle constructions. We leave this to future research while noting one fact that favors a middle analysis, namely, that these constructions have the typical middle semantic characteristic that they refer to inherent properties of their subjects.

[+]  C.  Easy-to-please construction

We have mentioned a number of times that adjunct middles like the primeless examples in (250) often have easy-to-please counterparts, which express more or lesss the same meanings and in which the subjects of the matrix clause also correspond to the complement of some adverbial PP; the subjects in the (a)-examples correspond to the nominal part of the instrumental PP met dit mes'with this knife' and the subjects in the (b)-examples correspond to the nominal part of a locational PP.

Example 250
a. Dit mes snijdt lekker/prettig.
  this knife  cuts  nicely/pleasantly
  'It is nice/pleasant to cut with this knife.'
a'. Dit mes is lekker/prettig om mee te snijden.
  this knife  is nice  comp  with  to cut
  'It is nice to cut with this knife.'
b. Deze stille wegen rijden lekker/prettig.
  these quiet roads  drive  nicely/pleasantly
  'It is nice/pleasant to drive on these quiet roads.'
b'. Deze stille wegen zijn prettig om op te rijden.
  these quiet roads  are  pleasant  comp  on to drive
  'It is pleasant to drive on these quiet roads.'

The correlation breaks down, however, if the subject corresponds to the nominal part of an adverbial PP that does not allow R-extraction; the primed examples in (251) are excluded because adverbial phrases of time and manner like op rustige middagen'in quit afternoons' and in een hoog tempo'at high speed' normally do not allow R-extraction.

Example 251
a. Rustige middagen werken het prettigst.
  quiet afternoons  work  the most pleasant
  'It is the most pleasant to work on quiet afternoons.'
a'. * Rustige middagen zijn het prettigst om op te werken.
  quiet afternoons  are  the most pleasant  comp  on  to work
b. Een hoog tempo eet niet prettig.
  a high speed  eats  not pleasantly
b. * Een hoog tempo is niet prettig om in te eten.
  a high speed  is not pleasantly  comp  in  to eat

The contrast between the examples in (250) and (251) can be related directly to this difference with respect to R-extraction. Section A6.5, sub IVA3, argues that easy-to-please constructions involve wh-movement of an empty operator into the initial position of the infinitival clause. This means that the structures of the easy-to-please constructions above are as given in (252); note in passing that the prepositional mee'with' in (252a) only occurs if R-extraction has applied, which of course provides strong support for the proposed movement analysis.

Example 252
a. Dit mes is lekker/prettig [OPi om PRO [mee ti] te snijden].
cf. ( 250a)
b. Stille wegen zijn prettig [OPi om PRO [op ti] te rijden].
cf. ( 250b)
c. * Rustige middagen zijn het prettigst [OPi om [op ti] te werken].
cf. ( 251a)
d. * Een hoog tempo is niet prettig [OPi om [in ti] te eten].
cf. ( 251b)

The unacceptability of the easy-to-please constructions in (251) now follows straightforwardly from the fact that adverbial phrases of time and manner normally do not allow R-extraction; the indicated movement of the operators in (252c&d) is excluded. Note that this account of the contrast between the easy-to-please constructions in (250) and (251) strongly suggests that the adjunct middles cannot be derived from the corresponding non-middle constructions by syntactic movement, since we would then expect the adjunct middles in (251) to be excluded for the same reason as the corresponding easy-to-please constructions.
      The examples in (253) show that adjunct middles and easy-to-please constructions also differ in that subjects of adjunct middles cannot correspond to the nominal parts of PP-complements, whereas subjects of easy-to-please constructions can. The acceptability of the easy-to-please construction in (253c), of course, follows from the fact that R-extraction from complement-PPs is allowed.

Example 253
a. Jan kijkt graag naar schilderijen.
  Jan looks  readily  to paintings
  'Jan likes to look at paintings.'
b. * Schilderijen kijken prettig.
  paintings  look  pleasantly
c. Schilderijen zijn prettig [OPi om PRO [naar ti] te kijken].
  paintings  are  pleasant  comp   at  to look
  'It is nice to look at paintings.'

The examples in (254) show that subjects of easy-to-please constructions can also correspond to the nominal parts of predicative PPs, which is again in accordance with the R-extraction analysis.

Example 254
a. Jan stopt zijn CDs in speciale dozen.
  Jan puts  his CDs  into special boxes
a'. Die speciale dozen zijn handig [OPi om PRO je CDs [in ti] te stoppen].
  these special boxes  are  handy  comp  your CDs  into  to put
  'These boxes, it is handy to put your CDs into them.'
b. Jan springt over de hordes heen.
  Jan jumps  over the hurdles  heen
b'. Deze hordes zijn moeilijk om overheen te springen.
  these hurdles  are  difficult  comp  over  to jump
  'These hurdles are difficult to jump over.'

Comparable adjunct middles are not expected to arise given that we have seen in Subsection I that transitive and unaccusative verbs normally cannot be used as input for adjunct middle formation. That unaccusative verbs with a predicative PP cannot be the input of adjunct middle formation can be nicely illustrated by the examples in (255) and (256). The examples in (255) show that movement verbs like springen'to jump' have two uses: an intransitive use, in which case the verb selects hebben in the perfect tense and the PP functions as a regular adverbial phrase of place, and an unaccusative use, in which case the verb selects zijn in the perfect tense and the PP functions as a complementive indicating a change of location.

Example 255
a. Jan heeft op de trampoline gesprongen.
  Jan has  on the trampoline  jumped
  'Jan has jumped on the trampoline.'
b. Jan is op de trampoline gesprongen.
  Jan is onto the trampoline  jumped
  'Jan has jumped onto the trampoline.'

Semantically, the adjunct middle construction in (256) is clearly related to the intransitive construction in (255a), and not to the unaccusative construction in (255b): it is the jumping on the trampoline that is claimed to be nice, not the jumping onto the trampoline.

Example 256
De trampoline springt lekker.
  the trampoline jumped  nicely
Available reading: 'It is nice to jump on the trampoline.'
Impossible reading: 'It is nice to jump onto the trampoline.'

The discussion in this subsection has shown that adjunct middles and easy-to-please constructions differ in that the subject of the latter may correspond to the nominal part of any PP that allows R-extraction; adjunct middles, on the other hand, take subjects that correspond to the nominal part of a wide range of adverbial PPs, regardless of whether these PPs allow R-extraction. Furthermore, adjunct middles do justice to their name by never taking a subject that corresponds to the nominal part of a PP-complement or a predicative PP.

References:
  • Ackema, Peter & Schoorlemmer, Maaike2006MiddlesEveraert, Martin & Riemsdijk, Henk van (eds.)The Blackwell companion to syntax3Malden, MA/OxfordBlackwell Publishing131-203
  • Ackema, Peter & Schoorlemmer, Maaike2006MiddlesEveraert, Martin & Riemsdijk, Henk van (eds.)The Blackwell companion to syntax3Malden, MA/OxfordBlackwell Publishing131-203
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