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5.2.1.1. The distribution of om + te-infinitivals
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Infinitival argument clauses preceded by om have more or lesss the same distribution as finite argument clauses (cf. Section 5.1); they can occur as direct objects, subjects and prepositional objects, but indirect object clauses are rare given that these usually refer to animate objects and/or institutions. Furthermore, om + te-infinitivals normally follow the verb(s) in clause-final position, although there are limited possibilities for them to be topicalized or left-dislocated.

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[+]  I.  Direct object clauses

Object clauses normally follow the verb(s) in clause-final position and can be optionally preceded by the anticipatory object pronoun het'it'; placing the object clause in the middle field of the clause generally leads to a highly degraded result. This is illustrated in the (a)-examples in (347) for finite and by the (b)-examples for infinitival clauses.

Example 347
a. dat Jan (het) besloot [dat hij het boek zou kopen].
  that  Jan   it  decided   that  he  the book  would  buy
  'that Jan decided (it) that he would buy the book.'
a'. *? dat Jan [dat hij het boek zou kopen] besloot.
b. dat Jan (het) besloot [(om) PRO het boek te kopen].
  that  Jan   it  decided  comp  the book  to buy
  'that Jan decided to buy the book.'
b'. * dat Jan [(om) PRO het boek te kopen] besloot.

For completeness' sake, the examples in (348) show that the object clauses of the verb besluiten'to decide' can also appear as the complement of the corresponding nominalization besluit'decision'.

Example 348
a. het besluit [dat hij het boek zou kopen]
  the decision   that  he  the book  would  buy
  'the decision that he would buy the book'
b. het besluit [(om) PRO het boek te kopen]
  the decision  comp  the book  to buy
  'the decision to buy the book'

In (347), the object clause is an internal argument of the verb besluiten'to decide'. Direct object clauses can, however, also function as logical subjects (external arguments) of adjectival complementives. This is illustrated by means of the vinden-construction in (349); in these examples the anticipatory pronoun het is obligatory and the object clause normally follows the verb(s) in clause-final position—placement of the object clause in the middle field leads to a severely degraded result.

Example 349
a. dat Jan *(het) vervelend vindt [dat hij niet kan komen].
  that  Jan     it  annoying  considers   that  he  not  is.able  come
  'that Jan considers it annoying that he isnʼt able to come.'
a'. *? dat Jan [dat hij niet kan to komen] vervelend vindt.
b. dat Jan *(het) vervelend vindt [(om) PRO niet te kunnen komen].
  that  Jan     it  annoying  considers  comp  not  to be.able  come
  'that Jan considers it annoying not to be able to come.'
b'. * dat Jan [(om) PRO niet te kunnen komen] vervelend vindt.
[+]  II.  Subject clauses

Subject clauses are possible if they originate as internal arguments of the matrix verb, as is clear from the fact illustrated in (350) that the primeless examples of the transitive constructions in (347) can be passivized. The passive construction can be impersonal, that is, introduced by the expletive er'there', or personal, that is, contain the anticipatory subject pronoun het'it'. The primed examples in (350) show that subject clauses must follow the verb(s) in clause-final position; they cannot be placed in the regular subject position right-adjacent to the complementizer.

Example 350
a. dat er/het besloten werd [dat hij het boek zou kopen].
  that  there/it decided was   that  he  the book  would  buy
  'that it was decided that he would buy the book.'
a'. *? dat [dat hij het boek zou kopen] besloten werd.
b. dat er/het besloten werd [(om) PRO het boek te kopen].
  that  there/it  decided  was  comp  the book  to buy
  'that it was decided to buy the book.'
b'. * dat [(om) PRO het boek te kopen] besloten werd.

Subject clauses also occur in dyadic unaccusative constructions, in which they likewise originate as internal arguments of the verb. This is illustrated by means of the nom-dat object experiencer psych-verb bevallen'to please' in (351); the primed examples show again that subject clauses cannot occur in the regular subject position. In these examples the anticipatory pronoun is obligatory and the expletive er cannot be used.

Example 351
a. dat het me niet bevalt [dat hij steeds dezelfde vraag stelt].
  that  it  me not  pleases   that  he  constantly  the.same question  poses
  'that it displeases me that heʼs asking the same question all the time.'
a'. *? dat [dat hij steeds dezelfde vraag stelt] me niet bevalt.
b. dat het me niet bevalt [(om) PRO steeds dezelfde vraag te stellen].
  that  it  me not pleases  comp  constantly  the.same question  to pose
  'that it displeases me to ask the same question all the time.'
b'. *? dat [om PRO steeds dezelfde vraag te stellen] me niet bevalt.

The examples in (352) show that the same thing holds for the nom-acc object experiencer psych-verb vervelen'to annoy', provided that the subject functions as a cause (and not as a causer) argument; see Section 2.5.1.3 for an extensive discussion of these psych-verbs.

Example 352
a. dat het me verveelt [dat hij steeds dezelfde vraag stelt]cause.
  that  it  me annoys   that  he  constantly  the.same  question  poses
  'that it annoys me that heʼs asking the same question all the time.'
a'. *? dat [dat hij steeds dezelfde vraag stelt] me verveelt.
b. dat het me verveelt [(om) PRO steeds dezelfde vraag te stellen].
  that  it  me annoys  comp  constantly  the.same question  to pose
  'that it annoys me to ask the same question all the time.'
b'. * dat [om PRO steeds dezelfde vraag te stellen] me verveelt.

      In the examples above, the subject clause is an argument of the matrix verb, subject clauses can, however, also function as logical subjects (external arguments) of adjectival complementives, which is clear from the fact illustrated in (353) that the vinden-constructions in (349) can be passivized. The anticipatory pronoun het is normally obligatory and surfaces as the subject of the construction; placement of the subject clause in the regular subject position is impossible. Again, the expletive er cannot be used.

Example 353
a. dat het vervelend gevonden wordt [dat hij niet kan komen].
  that  it  annoying  considered  is   that  he  not  is.able.to  come
  'that it is considered annoying that he isnʼt able to come.'
a'. *? dat [dat hij niet kan komen] vervelend gevonden wordt.
b. dat het vervelend gevonden wordt [(om) PRO niet te kunnen komen].
  that  it  annoying  considered is  comp  not  to be.able.to  come
  'that it is considered annoying not to be able to come.'
b'. * dat [(om) PRO niet te kunnen komen] vervelend gevonden wordt.

The same thing is illustrated by the copular constructions in (349); again, the anticipatory pronoun het is normally obligatory and it is impossible to place the subject clause in the regular subject position.

Example 354
a. dat het vervelend is [dat hij niet kan komen].
  that  it  annoying  is   that  he  not  is.able.to  come
  'that it is annoying that he isnʼt able to come.'
a'. *? dat [dat hij niet kan komen] vervelend is.
b. dat het vervelend is [(om) PRO niet te kunnen komen].
  that  it  annoying  is  comp not  to be.able.to  come
  'that it is annoying not to be able to come.'
b'. * dat [(om) PRO niet te kunnen komen] vervelend is.
[+]  III.  Prepositional object clauses

The examples in (355) show that finite and infinitival clauses can also be used as PO-clauses, in which case they can be introduced by an anticipatory pronominal PP er + P. This pronominal PP can be omitted with certain verbs but not with all; see Section 2.3.1, sub VI, for detailed discussion. The primed examples show that complement clauses cannot appear in the middle field of the clause, regardless of whether or not ernaar is present.

Example 355
a. dat Jan (ernaar) verlangt [dat hij weer thuis is].
  that  Jan   for.it  craves   that  he  again  home  is
  'that Jan wishes that heʼs home again.'
a'. *? dat Jan (naar) [dat hij weer thuis is] verlangt.
b. dat Jan (ernaar) verlangt [(om) PRO weer thuis te zijn].
  that  Jan   for.it  craves  comp  again  home  to be
  'that Jan longs to be home again.'
b'. * dat Jan (naar) [om PRO weer thuis te zijn] verlangt.

For completeness' sake, the examples in (356) show that finite and infinitival clauses can also be used as prepositional complements of adjectives. The pronominal PP can be omitted with certain adjectives but not with all, and the complement clause cannot appear in the middle field of the clause.

Example 356
a. dat Jan (er) bang (voor) is [dat hij te laat komt].
  that  Jan there  afraid   of  is   that  he  too late  comes
  'that Jan is afraid (of it) that heʼll be late.'
a'. * dat Jan bang (voor) [dat hij te laat komt] is.
b. Jan is (er) bang (voor) [(om) PRO te laat te komen].
  Jan is there  afraid   of   comp too late  to come
  'Jan is afraid (of it) to be late.'
b'. * dat Jan bang (voor) [(om) PRO te laat te komen] is.

Interestingly, anticipatory pronominal PPs do not occur in noun phrases. The nominalizations of the primeless examples in (357) can only be combined with the pronominal PP ernaar if the clause is not realized. For completeness' sake, note that for some reason, nominalization gives rise to a somewhat marked result when the complement is a finite clause.

Example 357
a. het verlangen ?(*ernaar) [dat hij weer thuis is]
  the craving      for.it   that  he  again  at.home  is
b. het verlangen (*ernaar) [(om) PRO weer thuis te zijn]
  the craving   for.it   comp  again  at.home  to be
c. het verlangen (ernaar)
  the craving  for.it
[+]  IV.  Topicalization and left dislocation

The previous subsections have shown that infinitival argument clauses preceded by om behave like their finite counterparts in that they normally follow the verb(s) in clause-final position, that is, that they cannot occur in the middle field of the clause. It is, however, possible to topicalize or left-dislocate the infinitival clause, although the options seem a bit more limited than in the case of finite argument clauses.

[+]  A.  Object Clauses

Example (358a) shows that topicalizing a finite object clause is quite normal (provided that the anticipatory pronoun het is omitted), but that this leads to a marked result in the case of an infinitival clause; for some speakers examples such as (358b) improve when emphatic accent is assigned to some element in the infinitival clause, in this case boek'book'.

Example 358
a. [Dat hij het boek zou kopen] besloot hij snel.
  that  he  the book  would  buy decided  he  quickly
  'That he would buy the book he decided quickly.'
b. *? [(Om) PRO het boek te kopen] besloot hij snel.
  comp  the book  to buy  decided  he  quickly

The contrast disappears, however, in left-dislocation constructions, especially if there is some contrastively focused element in the left-dislocated clause. We illustrate this in (359) by means of contrastive accent on the direct object het boek'the book', but it might equally well have been on the main verb kopen'to buy'.

Example 359
a. [Dat hij het boek zou kopen], dat besloot hij snel.
  that he  the book  would  buy that  decided  he  quickly
  'That he would buy the book, that he decided quickly.'
b. [(om) PRO het boek te kopen], dat besloot hij snel.
  comp  the book  to buy  that  decided  he  quickly

A problem for passing judgments on the examples in (358) is that the resumptive pronoun dat in (359) is optional, as a result of which the distinction between topicalization and left dislocation rests entirely on intonation and meaning. First, topicalized phrases are typically part of a larger prosodic unit, including the finite verb in second position, while left-dislocated phrases typically constitute a prosodic unit on their own. Second, topicalized phrases typically refer to known information, whereas left-dislocated phrases typically refer to new or contrastively focused information.

[+]  B.  Subject clauses

Subsection II has shown that subject clauses cannot occur in the regular subject position. This was illustrated by showing that such clauses cannot follow the complementizer in embedded clauses, and in (360) we show that they cannot follow the finite verb in second position either.

Example 360
a. Vaak verveelt het me [dat hij steeds dezelfde vraag stelt].
  often  annoys  it  me   that  he  constantly  the.same question  poses
  'It often annoys me that he always asks the same question.'
a'. *? Vaak verveelt [dat hij steeds dezelfde vraag stelt] me.
b. Vaak verveelt het me [(om) PRO steeds dezelfde vraag te stellen].
  often annoys it  me  comp  constantly  the.same question  to pose
  'It often annoys me to always ask the same question.'
b'. * Vaak verveelt [(om) PRO steeds dezelfde vraag te stellen] me.

In the literature we find different evaluations of examples in which infinitival subject clauses preceded by om occur in sentence-initial, that is, in topicalized position. Paardekooper (1986: 358) provides examples of the type in (361b) without any comment and it seems, indeed, that these are just as acceptable as examples such as (361a) with a finite subject clause.

Example 361
a. [Dat hij steeds dezelfde vraag stelt]cause verveelt me.
  that  he  constantly  the.same  question  poses  annoys  me
  'That he always asks the same question annoys me.'
b. [(Om) PRO steeds dezelfde vraag te moeten stellen] verveelt me.
  comp  constantly  the.same question  to have.to pose  annoys  me
  'Always having to ask the same question annoys me.'

Dik (1985:35), on the other hand, claims that om + te-infinitivals of the type in (362b) are quite marked, especially if the linker element om is present. It is, however, not so clear whether this observation is valid for all speakers since some of our informants do accept examples like these.

Example 362
a. [Dat hij hier zwemt] is gevaarlijk.
  that  he  here  swims  is dangerous
  'That he swims here is dangerous.'
b. % [(Om) hier te zwemmen] is gevaarlijk.
  comp  here  to swim is dangerous

In order to account for the contrast between the (b)-examples in (361) and (362), we might of course hypothesize that the prohibition against topicalization of infinitival subject clauses is restricted to cases in which the nominative subject is not an argument of the verb but the logical subject of a complementive adjective. However, this seems to go against Paardekooper's (1985:117) judgment of example (363b), which does seem to have a similar status as example (363a) with a finite subject clause.

Example 363
a. [Dat ik even moest wachten] was niet zo vervelend.
  that  a.while  had.to  wait  was  not  so annoying
  'That I had to wait a while wasnʼt so annoying.'
b. [Om even te moeten wachten] was niet zo vervelend.
  comp  a.while  to have.to  wait  was not  so annoying
  'To have to wait a while wasnʼt so annoying.'

For the moment, we therefore have to conclude that Dik's categorical statement that infinitival clauses preceded by om cannot occupy the sentence-initial position is not supported by judgments of other speakers, and that infinitival subject clauses can in fact occupy this position (although they are cases which are judged as somewhat marked for unknown reasons). For completeness' sake, the examples in (364) show that left dislocation of infinitival subject clauses always gives rise to an impeccable result.

Example 364
a. [(Om) PRO steeds dezelfde vragen te stellen], dat verveelt me.
  comp  constantly  the.same questions  to pose  that  annoys  me
  'To ask the same questions all the time, that annoys me.'
b. [(Om) hier te zwemmen], dat is gevaarlijk.
  comp  here  to swim that  is dangerous
  'To swim here, that is dangerous.'
c. [Om even te moeten wachten], dat was niet zo vervelend.
  comp  a.while  to must  wait  that  was not  so annoying
  'To have to wait a while, that wasnʼt so annoying.'
[+]  C.  Prepositional object clauses

The primeless examples show that topicalization of PO-clauses is impossible, regardless of whether they are finite or infinitival. Left dislocation, on the other hand, gives rise to an impeccable result, as is shown by the primed examples.

Example 365
a. * [Dat hij weer thuis is] verlangt Jan (ernaar).
  that  he  again  at.home  is  craves  Jan   for.it
a'. [Dat hij weer thuis is], daar verlangt Jan naar.
  that  he  again  at.home  is  there  craves  Jan for
  'That heʼs home again, Jan longs for it.'
b. * [(Om) PRO weer thuis te zijn] verlangt Jan (ernaar).
  comp  again  at.home  to be  craves  Jan   for.it
b'. [(Om) PRO weer thuis te zijn], daar verlangt Jan naar.
  comp  again  at.home  to be  there  craves  Jan for
  'To be home again, Jan longs for it.'
[+]  V.  Conclusion

The previous subsections have shown that infinitival argument clauses exhibit syntactic behavior similar to finite argument clauses. First, they may function as subject, direct object and prepositional object. Second, they normally appear after the verb(s) in clause-final position and can be introduced by an anticipatory pronominal element in the middle field of the clause. The only difference seems to be related to topicalization; whereas topicalization of finite object clauses is easily possible, topicalization of object om + te infinitivals gives rise to degraded results. The same contrast has been claimed to hold for subject clauses but we have seen that there are many cases in which subject clauses can quite felicitously occur in sentence-initial position, and we therefore provisionally assumed that the reported contrast is not real. Finite and infinitival prepositional object clauses also behave in the same way in that they both resist topicalization. We also discussed left dislocation and showed that in this area there are no differences at all between finite clause and infinitival clauses preceded by om; left dislocation is always possible.

References:
  • Dik, Simon C1985Infinitief-konstrukties met <i>om</i> in een functionele grammatikaGLOT825-46
  • Paardekooper, P.C1985Indeling van de <i>om</i>-zinnen en indelingen met behulp daarvanGLOT8127-128
  • Paardekooper, P.C1986Beknopte ABN-syntaksisEindhovenP.C. Paardekooper
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