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Expletive derthere and two types of wh-phrases
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The R-pronoun derthere has the additional function of being an expletive introducing sentences with indefinite subjects. On some accounts, the presence of the expletive is motivated by pragmatics: derthere is viewed as a discourse pronoun that is inserted if the clause does not contain presuppositional material, that is, material referring back to the discourse context. This is characteristically the case with indefinite subjects:

Example 1

Der gûlt ien
there cries one
Someone is crying

Derthere is incompatible with wh-phrases that can be resumed by definite pronouns, unlike its Dutch equivalent. An example of of this incompatibility is given below:

Example 2

a. Wa rint no neaken troch it hûs op ljochtskyndei?
who walks DcP naked through the house on light.day
Who would walk in the broad daylight through the house naked?
b. *Wa rint der no neaken troch it hûs op ljochtskyndei?
who walks there DcP naked through the house on light.day
Who would walk in the broad daylight through the house naked?

A word-by-word translation of the last sentence is perfect in Dutch.

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Some wh-phrases can optionally be resumed by definite pronouns in Frisian. Examples include wawho and hokker Nwhich N The resumptive pronoun strategy is illustrated by sentences like the following:

Example 3

a. Wa miendest dat se dy skille hie?
who thought.you that she you called had
Who did you think that she had called you
b. Hokker famke miendest dat se dy skille hie?
which girl thought.you that she you called had
Which girl did you think that she had called you

In both cases, the wh-phrase is able to bind the definite resumptive pronoun. The pronoun is optional since both sentence are also grammatical in case it is left out:

Example 4

a. Wa miendest dat dy skille hie?
who thought.you that you called had
Who did you think that she had called you
b. Hokker famke miendest dat dy skille hie?
which girl thought.you that you called had
Which girl did you think that she had called you

These Wh-phrases may be referred to as quasi-definites, since they can be resumed by definite pronouns. It is these quasi-definite pronouns which are incompatible with derthere. The other type of wh-phrase may not be resumed by definite pronouns. Examples of these wh-phrases include watwhat, hoefollehow much and hoe'nwhat kind of. The following sentences illustrate that they may not be resumed by definite pronouns:

Example 5

a. *Wat miendest dat it bard wie?
what thought.you that it happened was
What did you think happened?
b. *Hoe'n auto miendest dat er foarhûs stie?
what kind of car thought.you that he in.front.of.the.house stood
What kind of car did you think was standing in front of the house?
c. *Hoefolle lju miendest dat se meidien hiene?
how.many people thought.you that they joined had
How many people did you think had joined in?

Incidentally, these wh-phrases may in certain constructions be optionally resumed by indefinite pronouns, provided that an appropriate pronoun exists in the language. This is illustrated below for hoe'nwhat kind of:

Example 6

a. Hoe'n auto miendest dat der ien foarhûs stie?
what kind of car thought.you that there one in.front.of.the.house stood
What kind of car did you think was standing in front of the house?
b. Hoe'n auto miendest dat der foarhûs stie?
what kind of car thought.you that there in.front.of.the.house stood
What kind of car did you think was standing in front of the house?

As is clear from the pair above, the presence of the indefinite pronoun is optional. This type of indefinite resumption is also optionally found in certain comparative clauses, as below:

Example 7

a. Grutter smjunt as dat hy ien is, is der net
bigger rogue than that he one is is there not
Greater rogue than he is, there is not
b. Berber siket krekt sokke skuon as dat Hiltsje guon hat
Berber looks.for exactly such shoes as that Hiltsje some has
Berber is looking for exactly such shoes as Hiltsje has
c. It waard in feest sa't der nea earder ien west hie
it became a party such.that there never before one been had
It turned into a party as there had never been before
d. It wie in fûgel sa't ik fan myn libben gjint sjoen hie
it was a bird such.that i of my life none seen had
It was a kind of bird such as I had seen never before in my life

Incidentally, English there is similarly sensitive to the distinction between the two kinds of wh-phrases, as the contrast below shows:

Example 8

a. *Who is there in the garden?
b. How many fish are there in the garden?

There does not co-occur with quasi-definites, only with quasi-indefinites. Outside the domain of wh-subjects, there are some differences as well between Dutch and Frisian with respect to the use of derthere. First, Frisian tends to use more derthere with verbs involving location in the world and existence, such as bliuwestay and wêzebe. An example is given below:

Example 9

Spoeken besteane der net
ghosts exist there not
Ghosts do not exist

Second, the expletive is preferably absent in transitive sentences:

Example 10

a. ?Der hie ien it ljocht baarne litten
there had one the light burn let
Someone had left the light burning
b. Ien hie it ljocht baarne litten
one had the light burn let
Someone had left the light burning

The effect is stronger if the expletive follows the tensed verb or the complementiser:

Example 11

a. ?*Juster hie der ien it ljocht baarne litten
yesterday had there one the light burn let
Someone had left the light burning yesterday
b. Juster hie ien it ljocht baarne litten
yesterday had one the light burn let
Someone had left the light burning yesterday
c. ?*Hy frege oft der ien it ljocht baarne litten hie
yesterday had there one the light burn let had
He asked if someone had left the light burning
d. Hy frege oft ien it ljocht baarne litten hie
yesterday had one the light burn let had
He asked if someone had left the light burning

The differences between Frisian and Dutch may in some cases be relative rather absolute. To conclude, Dutch erthere is also found with indefinite objects of which the noun is absent. This is referred to as the quantitative function. The quantitive function is illustrated by the following contrast from Dutch:

Example 12

a. Ik zie er drie (Dutch)
I see there three
I am seeing three of them
b. *Ik zie er drie geiten (Dutch)
I see there three goats
I am seeing three of them

In Frisian, derthere is preferably absent, that is to say, Frisian lacks the quantitative use:

Example 13

a. ?*Ik sjoch der trije
I see there three
I am seeing three of them
b. Ik sjoch trije
I see three
I am seeing three of them

Due to interference, Frisian exhibits the quantitative use of the expletive with increasing frequency.

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More details can be found in Hoekstra (1991).

References:
  • Hoekstra, Jarich1991Expletive der and Resumptive pro in FrisianLeuvense bijdragen8061-80
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