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4.4.2. Bare infinitivals
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[+]  I.  The infinitive verb is not preceded by te

Bare infinitivals are characterized by the fact that they contain neither the complementizer-like element om nor the infinitival marker te, that is, the infinitive is bare in the sense of not being accompanied by any of the elements that we may find in the two other types of infinitival clauses. The question as to whether a verbal complement may appear as a bare infinitival depends on the matrix verb; a verb like willen'to want', for example, may take a finite clause or a bare infinitival, but not an ( om +) te-infinitival. Note in passing that English to want crucially differs from Dutch willen in selecting a to-infinitival, not a bare infinitival.

Example 35
a. Jan wil [dat Peter het boek naar Els stuurt].
  Jan wants  that  Peter the book  to Els  sends
  'Jan wishes that Peter will bring the book to Els.'
b. * Jan wil [(om) PRO het boek naar Els te sturen].
  Jan wants  comp  the book  to Els  to send
c. Jan wil [PRO het boek naar Els sturen].
  Jan wants  the book  to Els  send
  'Jan wants to send the book to Els.'
[+]  II.  Verb clustering

Customarily, the bare infinitive forms a verb cluster with the verb selecting the bare infinitival complement. This is clear from the fact that the two verbs cluster in clause-final position and that, as a result, the infinitival clause may be split: example (36a) shows that whereas the bare infinitive follows the matrix verb in clause-final position, all other constituents of the infinitival clause must precede it. For convenience, we italicize the infinitival clauses in the examples below.

Example 36
a. dat Jan het boek naar Els wil sturen.
  that  Jan the book  to Els  wants  send
  'that Jan wants to send the book to Els.'
b. % dat Jan het boek wil naar Elssturen.
b'. % dat Jan wil het boek naar Elssturen.

The percentage signs in the two (b)-examples in (36) are added to indicate that certain southern varieties of Dutch also allow parts of the remaining part of the embedded infinitival clause to follow the matrix verb; we will ignore this for the moment and refer the reader to Section 5.2.3 for an extensive discussion of this.

[+]  III.  The infinitivus-pro-participio (IPP) effect

Monoclausal behavior in the sense indicated in the previous subsection is typically signaled by the so-called infinitivus-pro-participio effect, that is, the phenomenon that a verb does not surface in its expected past participial form when governed by a perfect auxiliary, but as an infinitive. That constructions with bare infinitival complements exhibit monoclausal behavior can be shown by comparing the perfect-tense constructions in (37): if the matrix verb willen selects a finite clause, as in (37a), it behaves as expected by appearing as a past participle in perfect-tense constructions, but when it selects a bare infinitival complement, it must appear as an infinitive in such constructions.

Example 37
a. Jan had gewild/*willen [dat Peter het boek naar Els had gestuurd].
  Jan had wanted/want   that  Peter the book  to Els  had sent
  'Jan had wished that Peter would have sent the book to Els.'
b. Jan had het boek naar Els willen/*gewild sturen.
  Jan had  the book  to Els  want/wanted  send
  'Jan had wanted to send the book to Els.'
[+]  IV.  Three subtypes of bare infinitival clauses

Bare infinitival complements may occur in at least three different syntactic environments, which differ in the way their subject is realized in the surface structure: the subject can be realized as an accusative noun phrase in an AcI-construction, the phonetically empty element PRO in a control construction, or as the subject of the matrix clause in a subject raising construction. In the following examples the infinitival clauses are italicized and their subjects are underlined.

Example 38
a. Jan zag Marie/haar op de hei lopen.
AcI-infinitival
  Jan saw  Marie/her  on the heath  walk
  'Jan saw Marie/her walk on the heath.'
b. Jan wil PRO een boek kopen.
control infinitival
  Jan wants  a book  buy
  'Jan wants to buy a book.'
c. Marie/Zij kan vertraagd zijn.
subject raising infinitival
  Marie/she  may  delayed   be
  'Marie/She may be delayed.'

We will refer to these infinitival constructions by means of the names given in straight brackets, for reasons that will become clear in the following subsections.

[+]  A.  Accusativus-cum-infinitivo infinitivals

Bare infinitival complement clauses selected by perception verbs like zien'to see' or the causative/permissive verb laten'to make/let' exhibit an accusativus-cum-infinitivo effect: the subjects of the bare infinitival clauses do not appear as the phonetically empty element PRO, as would normally be the case in infinitival clauses, but as an accusative noun phrase. This is illustrated in (39), in which the subject of the infinitival clause is underlined.

Example 39
a. dat Jan het meisje/haar een lied hoorde zingen.
  that  Jan  the girl/her  a song  heard  sing
  'that Jan heard the girl/her sing a song.'
b. dat Jan het meisje/haar een lied liet zingen.
  that  Jan  the girl/her  a song  made/let  sing
  'that Jan made/let the girl/her sing a song.'

It is generally assumed that the subject of the infinitival complement is case-marked by the matrix verb, that is, that we are dealing with so-called exceptional case-marking across the boundary of an infinitival clause. That it is the matrix verb which assigns case to the subject of the embedded clause is, however, not so easy to prove for Dutch because the examples in (40) show that matrix verbs of AcI-constructions cannot be passivized. We are therefore not able to provide evidence that the underlined noun phrases in (39) are indeed assigned accusative case by the active matrix verbs. This claim must therefore be motivated by appealing to the fact that there is simply no other element available that could be held responsible for case-assignment.

Example 40
a. * dat het meisje/zij een lied werd gehoord/horen zingen.
  that  the girl/she  a song  was  heard/hear  sing
b. * dat het meisje/zij een lied werd gelaten/let zingen.
  that  the girl/she  a song  was  made/make  sing

That the underlined phrases in (39) are not selected by the matrix verbs but function as the subjects of the bare infinitival clauses seems undisputed and can be supported by means of pronominalization; the fact that the accusative noun phrase cannot be realized in (41a) shows that it is not selected by the matrix verb horen'to hear' but must be part of the infinitival clause pronominalized by dat'that'. Unfortunately, (41b) shows that pronominalization cannot readily be used as a test in the case of the verb laten'to make/let', as it is at best marginally acceptable with this verb under its permissive reading and completely excluded under its causative reading.

Example 41
a. dat Jan (*het meisje/*haar) dat hoorde.
perception verb
  that  Jan    the girl/her  that  heard
  'that Jan heard that.'
b. dat Jan ??(*het meisje/*haar) dat liet.
permissive verb
  that  Jan        the girl/her  that  let
b'. * dat Jan (het meisje/haar) dat liet.
causative verb
  that  Jan   the girl/her  that  let

Accusativus-cum-infinitivo constructions of the type discussed here exhibit monoclausal behavior. First, as is indicated by italics in (39) above, the bare infinitival complements are normally split; whereas the bare infinitives normally follow the matrix verbs in clause-final position, their arguments must precede them. Second, the examples in (42) show that they exhibit the IPP-effect; the matrix verb cannot surface as a past participle in perfect-tense constructions, but must be realized as an infinitive.

Example 42
a. dat Jan het meisje/haar een lied heeft horen/*gehoord zingen.
  that  Jan  the girl/her  a song  has  hear/heard  sing
  'that Jan has heard the girl/her sing a song.'
b. dat Jan het meisje/haar een lied heeft laten/*gelaten zingen.
  that  Jan  the girl/her  a song  has  make/made  sing
  'that Jan has made/let the girl/her sing a song.'
[+]  B.  Control infinitivals

A bare infinitival clause selected by a so-called root/deontic modal like kunnen'to be able', mogen'to be allowed' or willen'to want', or a verb like leren'to teach/learn' has its subject realized as the phonetically empty pronominal-like element PRO. As in the case of ( om +) te-infinitivals, the PRO-subject of a bare infinitival can be either controlled by the subject or by the object of the matrix clause. The choice again depends on the matrix verb: whereas de deontic modals and intransitive leren'to learn' require PRO to be controlled by their subjects, transitive leren'to teach' requires PRO to be controlled by its object. Again, we have italicized the bare infinitival clause and underlined its subject.

Example 43
a. dat JaniPROi het boek naar Marie kan brengen.
  that  Jan  the book  to Marie  is.able  bring
  'Jan is able to bring the book to Marie.'
b. dat [zijn dochtertje]iPROi piano leert spelen.
  that  his daughter   piano learns  play
  'that his daughter is learning to play the piano.'
b'. dat Jani [zijn dochtertje]jPROj/*i piano leert spelen.
  that  Jan   his daughter  piano  teaches  play
  'that Jan teaches his daughter to play the piano.'

Control constructions of the kind discussed here exhibit monoclausal behavior. First, the constructions in (43) show once more that the bare infinitival can be split; as is indicated by italics, the arguments of the bare infinitival precede the matrix verb in clause-final position, whereas the bare infinitive normally follows it. Second, the examples in (44) show that the construction exhibits the IPP-effect; the matrix verbs cannot appear as past participles in perfect-tense constructions, but must surface as infinitives.

Example 44
a. dat Jan PRO het boek naar Marie heeft kunnen/*gekund brengen.
  that  Jan  the book  to Marie  has  be.able/been.able  bring
  'that Jan has been able to bring the book to Marie.'
b. dat zijn dochtertje PRO piano heeft leren/*geleerd spelen.
  that  his daughter   piano has  learn/learned  play
  'that his daughter has learnt to play the piano.'
b'. dat Jan zijn dochtertje PRO piano heeft leren/*geleerd spelen.
  that  Jan his daughter  piano has  teach/taught  play
  'that Jan has taught his daughter to play the piano.'

That the noun phrases Jan in (43a) and zijn dochtertje in (43b&b') do not function as subjects of the bare infinitivals is clear from the fact illustrated in (45) that they must also be present when the infinitival clauses are pronominalized; this shows that these noun phrases are assigned thematic roles by the matrix verbs. The agent role of the bare infinitive must therefore be assigned to some independent argument, which motivates the postulation of a PRO-subject in these examples.

Example 45
a. Jan kan dat.
  Jan  is.able  that
  'Jan is able to do that.'
b. Zijn dochtertje leert dat.
  his daughter  learns  that
  'His daughter is learning that.'
b'. Jan leert zijn dochtertje dat.
  Jan teaches  his daughter  that
  'Jan is teaching that to his daughter.'

Note in passing that, if we adopt the conclusion from Section 4.6 that the quality of being predicational is a defining property of main verbs, the fact that the root modal kunnen'to be able' in the (a)-examples above is able to license the noun phrase Jan independently of the embedded infinitival shows that the traditional assumption that root modal verbs are non-main verbs cannot be maintained and that they must instead be seen as regular transitive verbs; cf. Klooster (1984/2001). We return to this issue in Section 4.5.

[+]  C.  Subject raising infinitivals

The previous subsection has put on hold the fact that examples such as (43a) are actually ambiguous: the matrix verb can not only receive a deontic/root reading but also a so-called epistemic reading. Although the most prominent reading of (43a) is the deontic one, the ambiguity can be brought out by putting this example in the perfect tense; if the modal verb is realized as a non-finite verb, it can only be interpreted deontically as "to be able to", but if it is realized as the finite verb it can only be interpreted epistemically as "may".

Example 46
a. dat Jan PRO het boek naar Marie heeft kunnen brengen.
deontic
  that  Jan  the book  to Marie  has  be.able   bring
  'that Jan has been able to bring the book to Marie.'
b. dat Jan het boek naar Marie kan hebben gebracht.
epistemic
  that  Jan the book  to Marie  may  have  brought
  'that Jan may have brought the book to Marie.'

That constructions with epistemic modals exhibit monoclausal behavior cannot be demonstrated by the IPP-effect as the perfect auxiliary is now part of the infinitival complement of the modal verb (see below), but it is still clear from the fact that the bare infinitival can be split: the arguments of the infinitival clause precede the modal verb in clause-final position whereas the bare infinitive normally follows it. The underlining in (46) suggests entirely different structures for the two constructions: if the modal verb has a deontic interpretation, the subject of the infinitival clause is realized as the phonetically empty pronominal element PRO; if the modal verb has an epistemic interpretation. the subject surfaces as nominative subject of the entire sentence by being promoted to subject ("raised to the subject position") of the matrix clause. Grounds for this assumption are again related to pronominalization of the infinitival clause; example (47a) illustrates again that the nominative subject is not affected by pronominalization if the modal verb is deontic, whereas (47b) shows that the nominative argument cannot be realized if the modal is epistemic and should therefore be assumed to belong to the pronominalized infinitival clause. We have added example (47b') in order to support our earlier claim that the perfect auxiliary in the epistemic constructions in (46b) is part of the infinitival complement, which is pronominalized by dat in the (b)-examples in (47).

Example 47
a. Jan heeft dat gekund.
deontic/*epistemic
  Jan has  that  been.able
  'Jan has been able to do that.'
b. Dat kan.
epistemic/*deontic
  that  may.be.the.case
b'. * Dat kan hebben.
  that  may.be.the.case  have

There is another good reason for assuming that the nominative subject in the epistemic example in (46b) originates as the subject of the infinitival complement clause. This immediately accounts for the fact that in passive constructions such as (48b) the internal argument of the bare infinitive stelen'to steal' surfaces as the nominative subject of the sentence; passivization of the bare infinitive first promotes the noun phrase die auto'that car' to subject of the infinitival clause, and subject raising subsequently promotes it to subject of the matrix clause.

Example 48
a. Jan kan de auto/hem gestolen hebben.
  Jan may  that car/him  stolen  have
  'Jan may have stolen that car/it.'
b. Die auto/Hij kan gestolen zijn.
  that car/he  may  stolen  have.been
  'That car/It may have been stolen.'

Under the alternative hypothesis that the nominative noun phrases in the examples in (48) originate as arguments of the epistemic modal kunnen, we can only account for the pattern in (48) by adopting the highly unlikely assumption that passivization of the embedded verb affects the selectional properties of the matrix verb.
      A final argument we mention here is that example (49a), with a subject clause introduced by the anticipatory pronoun het'it', is semantically more or lesss equivalent to (49b), at least with respect to the thematic relations between the italicized elements. If we assume that the nominative subject in (49b) originates as the subject of the infinitival clause and is subsequently promoted to subject of the matrix clause, the observed semantic equivalence follows straightforwardly.

Example 49
a. Het kan dat Jan gevallen is.
  it  may.be.the.case  that  Jan fallen  is
  'It may be the case that Jan has fallen.'
b. Jan kan gevallen zijn
  Jan  may  fallen  be
  'Jan may have fallen.'

      Each of the examples in (47) to (49) strongly suggests that nominative subjects in epistemic constructions such as (46b) originate as the subject of the infinitival clause and are subsequently "raised" to the subject position of the matrix clause. We can formally derive this by assuming that the subject of the infinitival clause cannot be assigned accusative case and must therefore be assigned nominative case by being promoted to subject of the matrix clause in a fashion similar to objects in passive constructions.

Example 50
a. ___ Vepistemic [NP .... Vinfinitive ]
underlying structure
b. NPi Vepistemic [ti .... Vinfinitive ]
Subject Raising

Note that the analysis in (50) implies that epistemic modals do not assign an external thematic role. They must be able to assign an internal thematic role, however, which is clear from the fact that the finite complement clause in (49a), or the anticipatory pronoun in subject position introducing it, must be semantically licensed. Given the similarity in meaning between the two constructions in (49), we may also assume that the infinitival clause in (49b) must likewise be assigned an internal thematic role. If we adopt the conclusion from Section 4.6 that being predicational is a defining property of main verbs, the conclusion that epistemic modal verbs assign an internal thematic role would imply that the traditional view that epistemic modal verbs are non-main verbs cannot be maintained; we should, instead, consider them as unaccusative main verbs.

[+]  D.  Conclusion

The previous subsections have shown that bare infinitival clauses may occur in at least three types of syntactic environment which affect the way their subject is realized: the subject can be realized as an accusative noun phrase, the phonetically empty element PRO, or it may be "raised", that is, be promoted to subject of the matrix clause and be assigned nominative case. What we did not discuss, and what is in fact a still largely unresolved issue, is what the syntactic mechanisms are that determine the form of the subject of the infinitival clause. For example, why is it that the modal verb willen'want' lacks the ability of perception verbs to assign accusative case to the subject of their infinitival complement. Is this simply a lexical property of the verbs involved, or are we dealing with different syntactic structures? And, why is it that the subject of the infinitival clause is realized as PRO when the modal verb moeten is deontic but not when it is epistemic; cf. Klooster (1986)?

Example 51
a. * Jan wil [Marie komen].
  Jan wants   Marie come
  Intended reading: 'Jan wants Marie to come.'
b. Jan moet [PRO om drie uur aanwezig zijn].
deontic
  Jan must  at three oʼclock  present  be
  'Jan must be present at 3.p.m.'
c. Jani moet [ti om drie uur aanwezig geweest zijn].
epistemic
  Jan must  at three oʼclock  present  been  be
  'Jan must have been present at 3.p.m.'

Since we do not have anything insightful to offer on the first question, we leave it as an unsolved issue for future research. The second question poses a severe problem for the traditional formulation of control theory in Chomsky (1981), which in effect states that traces of movement and PRO cannot occur in the same syntactic configuration. The answer may lie in an appeal to the alternative proposal in Koster (1978:ch.2) and, more specifically, Koster (1984a/1984b) that the difference is a property of the antecedent of the empty category (trace/PRO); we will briefly return to this issue in the conclusion of Section 5.2.2.1.

References:
  • Chomsky, Noam1981Lectures on government and bindingStudies in generative grammar 9DordrechtForis Publications
  • Klooster, Wim1984Ontkenning en noodzakelijkheid. Observaties met betrekking tot negatie en <i>moeten</i>GLOT763-120
  • Klooster, Wim1986Problemen met complementenTabu16122-132
  • Klooster, Wim2001Grammatica van het hedendaags Nederlands. Een volledig overzichtDen HaagSDU Uitgeverij
  • Koster, Jan1978Locality principles in syntaxDordrechtForis Publications
  • Koster, Jan1984Infinitival complements in DutchGeest, Wim de & Putseys, Yvan (eds.)Sentential complementationForis Publications141-150
  • Koster, Jan1984Anaphoric and non-anaphoric controlLinguistic Inquiry15417-459
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