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5.3.Attributively used complex adjective phrases

The previous sections have only discussed examples with isolated adjectives for reasons of simplicity, but, of course, these examples in fact involve full APs, which incidentally do not contain any complements or adjuncts. This section will have a closer look at the attributive use of more complex APs that do contain a complement or an adjunct.

[+]  I.  Adjectival phrases with a complement

This subsection discusses the attributive use of APs containing a complement. We start in Subsection A by discussing APs with nominal complements, which is followed in Subsection B by a discussion of APs with PP-complements.

[+]  A.  Adjectives with a nominal complement

Section 2.2 has shown that a limited set of adjectives take a nominal complement, which (at least in German) may appear either with genitive or with dative case. For convenience, we repeat the enumeration of these adjectives in (76). This subsection considers the question of what happens if these adjectives are used attributively.

Example 76
a. Genitive: bewust'conscious', deelachtig'partaking', gewend'used', indachtig'mindful', moe/ zat/ beu'weary', machtig'in command of'
b. Dative: aangeboren'innate', beschoren'given', bespaard'spared', duidelijk/ helder'clear', goedgezind'well disposed', ( on) bekend'known', toegewijd/ toegedaan'devoted', vertrouwd'familiar', vreemd'foreign'
[+]  1.  Adjectives that take a dative complement

If adjectives with a dative complement are used attributively, the head noun must correspond to the subject of the corresponding copular construction, while the dative shows up as a complement of the adjective. This is illustrated in the examples in (77); example (77b') perhaps becomes slightly marked if the pronoun is replaced by a non-pronominal phrase like Jan or de directeur'the manager'.

Example 77
a. Het taalvermogen is (de mens) aangeboren.
  the linguistic.competence  is  the man  innate
  'Linguistic competence is innate (to man).'
a'. het (de mens) aangeboren taalvermogen
  the   the man  innate  linguistic.competence
  'linguistic competence, innate to man'
b. Dit probleem is (hem/de directeur) bekend.
  this problem  is  him/the manager  known
b'. het (hem/?de directeur) bekende probleem
  the   him/the manager known  problem

The examples in (77) also show that if the dative object is optional in the copular construction, it is also optional in the attributive construction. The examples in (78) show that if the dative object is obligatory in the copular construction, it must also appear in the attributive construction. Note that. like (77b'), (78b') becomes marked if the pronoun is replaced by a non-pronominal phrase like Jan or de directeur'the manager'.

Example 78
a. Dat lot was *(hem) beschoren.
  that destiny  was   him  given
a'. het *(hem) beschoren lot
  the   him  given  destiny
b. Dat lot bleef *(hem) niet bespaard.
  that destiny  remained    him  not  spared
  'He has been spared that destiny.'
b'. het *(hem) bespaarde lot
  the    him  spared  destiny

If the dative noun phrase alternates with an aan-PP, this is also possible if the AP is used attributively. Although judgments are subtle, it seems that the dative phrase if the noun phrase is pronominal, and that the PP is preferred if it is non-pronominal; the judgments given are ours. The doubly-primed examples show that, just like the dative noun phrases, the aan-PPs must precede the modified noun.

Example 79
a. de hem/?Peter gehoorzame hond
  the  him/Peter  obedient  dog
a'. de aan Peter/(?)hem gehoorzame hond
  the  to Peter/him  obedient  dog
a''. * de gehoorzame hond aan Peter/hem
b. de hem/?Peter trouwe hond
  the  him/Peter  loyal  dog
b'. de aan Peter/(?)hem trouwe hond
  the  to Peter/him  loyal  dog
b''. * de trouwe hond aan Peter/hem

The examples in (80) provide cases in which the dative phrase is licensed by the evaluative degree element te'too'. The primed examples show that the dative noun phrase (given in the primeless examples) alternates with a voor-PP, which again seems to be preferred if the dative phrase is non-pronominal. The doubly-primed examples show that, just like the dative noun phrase, the voor-PP must precede the noun.

Example 80
a. een (mij/?Peter) te moeilijk boek
   me/Peter  too difficult  book
  'a book too difficult for me/Peter'
a'. een voor Peter/mij te moeilijk boek
  for Peter/me  too difficult book
a''. ?? een te moeilijk boek voor Peter/mij
b. een (mij/?Peter) te koud zwembad
   me/Peter too cold  swimming.pool
  'a swimming pool too cold for me'
b'. een voor Peter/mij te koud zwembad
  for Peter/me  too cold  swimming.pool
b''. ?? een te koud zwembad voor Peter/mij
[+]  2.  Adjectives that take a genitive complement

The examples in (81) show that adjectives cannot readily be used attributively if they take a genitive argument (although German has been reported to be more permissive in this respect). The marked status of these examples may be related to the observation in the previous subsection that dative phrases also seem less acceptable if they are non-pronominal: given that genitive phrases typically express new information, they normally cannot be pronominalized.

Example 81
a. ? de (zich) het probleem bewuste jongen
  the  refl  the problem  conscious  boy
b. ?? de het geluk deelachtige jongen
  the  the happiness  partaking  boy
c. ?? het de doden indachtige meisje
  the  the dead  mindful  girl
d. ?? het de opera moeie/zatte/beue meisje
  the  the opera  weary  girl
e. ? het de Franse taal machtige meisje
  the  the French language  in.command.of  girl

Unlike what we found with the dative phrases, the examples in (81) cannot be saved by realizing the genitive phrase as a van-PP, which is illustrated in (82) for those examples that allow the alternation. For completeness’ sake, note that placing the van-PP in postnominal position has a further deteriorating effect.

Example 82
a. de (zich) <?van het probleem> bewuste jongen <*van het probleem>
  the  refl      of the problem  conscious  boy
b. het <*?van de opera> moeie/zatte/beue meisje <*van de opera>
  the     of the opera  weary  girl
[+]  3.  Fixed expressions

Attributive use of fixed expressions like het spoor bijster zijn'to be lost/confused', de stad meester zijn'to be in command of the city' or iets kwijt zijn'to have lost something' is excluded. The only way to express the intended idea is by using the present participle of the copular verb zijn'to be', as shown in (83).

Example 83
a. de het spoor bijster zijnde/*bijstere jongen
  the  the track  lost being/lost  boy
  'the boy that has lost his way'
b. het de stad meester zijnde/*meestere leger
  the  the city  in.command.of being/in.command.of  army
  'the army that is in command of the city'
c. de zijn sleutels kwijt zijnde/*kwijte jongen
  the  his keys  lost being/lost  boy
  'the boy that has lost his keys'
[+]  B.  Adjectives with a PP-complement

This subsection discusses the attributive use of APs with a PP-complement, subsection 1 starts with cases in which the preposition is complemented by a regular noun phrase. This is followed in Subsection 2 by a discussion of anticipatory pronominal PPs introducing a complement clause.

[+]  1.  P - NP

The examples in (84) and (85) show that, unlike most adjectives, pseudo-participles like verliefd'in-love' and deverbal adjectives like afhankelijk'dependent' can be either preceded or followed by their PP-complement. The PP-complement is part of the AP, as is clear from the fact that the PP can be pied-piped by topicalization of the AP (the constituency test) and from the fact that the pre-adjectival PP is situated between the modifier erg'very'/ volkomen'completely' and the adjective; cf. Sections 2.3.1, sub III, and 4.3.1 for discussion.

Example 84
a. De man is zeker erg verliefd op zijn vrouw.
  the man  is certainly  very  in.love  with his wife
a'. [Erg verliefd op zijn vrouw] is de man zeker.
b. De man is zeker erg op zijn vrouw verliefd.
b'. [Erg op zijn vrouw verliefd] is de man zeker.
Example 85
a. De student is niet volkomen afhankelijk van zijn beurs.
  the student  is not  completely  dependent  on his grant
a'. [Volkomen afhankelijk van zijn beurs] is de student niet.
b. De student is niet volkomen van zijn beurs afhankelijk.
b'. [Volkomen van zijn beurs afhankelijk] is de student niet.

We conclude from this that in both orders the adjective and the PP are part of a single AP, and, consequently, we expect that the APs in (84) and (85) can be used attributively on both orders. The examples in (86) show, however, that this expectation is not fully borne out: the APs can only be used attributively if the PP precedes the adjective.

Example 86
a. * een erg verliefde op zijn vrouw man
a'. een erg op zijn vrouw verliefde man
  very  with  his wife  in.love  man
  'a man who is very in love with his wife'
b. * een volkomen afhankelijke van zijn beurs student
b'. een volkomen van zijn beurs afhankelijke student
  completely  on his grant  dependent  student
  'a student who is entirely dependent on his grant'

This has led to the conclusion that attributively used adjectives must be immediately adjacent to the nominal projection N# they modify, that is, that the configuration [.. [AP XP .. XP] N#] is excluded if the string XP between the attributive adjective and the head noun is non-null. This constraint is known as the Head-final Filter, since, in effect, it requires that the adjective be the rightmost element in its own projection. Note that we cannot simply say that the adjective must be immediately adjacent to the noun it modifies given that this would incorrectly exclude the stacking of adjectives, as in de mooie, blauwe stoel'the beautiful, blue chair'; see Section 5.5 for discussion.

Example 87
Head-Final Filter on attributive adjectives: The structure [NP [AP ADJ XP] N#] is unacceptable, if XP is phonetically non-null and N# is a bare head noun or a noun preceded by an adjective phrase: [(AP) N].

      As can be seen in (88), the adjective gek'fond' must be followed by the PP op zijn vrouw'of his wife'. The constituency test in the primed examples shows that the string gek op zijn vrouw must again be considered one constituent, namely an AP.

Example 88
a. De man is zeker gek op zijn vrouw.
  the man  is certainly  fond  of his wife
a'. [Gek op zijn vrouw] is de man zeker.
b. * De man is zeker op zijn vrouw gek.
b'. * [Op zijn vrouw gek] is de man zeker.

Given the Head-final Filter in (87), we expect that this AP cannot be used attributively: the order gek op zijn vrouw violates (87), and the order op zijn vrouw gek is impossible under any circumstance. That this expectation is borne out is illustrated in (89).

Example 89
a. * een gekke op zijn vrouw man
b. * een op zijn vrouw gekke man

      Adjectives such as trots'proud', tevreden'satisfied' and bang'afraid' give rise to a slightly degraded result in constructions comparable to (88b'); cf. Section 2.3.1, sub IIB. These adjectives also give rise to a marked result in attributive position if they are preceded by their PP-complement; the result is ungrammatical if the PP-complement follows the adjective, which of course follows from the filter in (87). This is illustrated in (90).

Example 90
a. de <(?)op zijn kinderen> trotse <*op zijn kinderen> man
  the      of his children  proud  man
b. de <(?)over het resultaat> tevreden <*over het resultaat> jongen
  the       about the result  satisfied  boy
c. het <(?)voor de hond> bange <*voor de hond> meisje
  the       of the dog  afraid  girl

Insofar as the examples in (90) are acceptable, this is the result of movement into some AP-external position. A first indication of this is the fact that the PP must precede the intensifier of the adjective, as shown by the examples in (91).

Example 91
a. de <*erg> op zijn kinderen <(?)erg> trotse man
  the      very  of his children  fond  man
b. de <*erg> over het resultaat <(?)erg> tevreden jongen
  the      very  about the result  satisfied  boy
c. het <*erg> voor de hond <(?)erg> bange meisje
  the      very  of the dog  afraid  girl

The examples in (92) provide more support for the claim that the PPs in (90) are external to the AP by showing that they must also precede AP-external adverbial material.

Example 92
a. de <*altijd> op zijn kinderen <?altijd> trotse man
  the     always  of his children  fond  man
b. de <*voortdurend> over het resultaat <?voordurend> tevreden jongen
  the      continuously   about the result  satisfied  boy
c. het <*nog steeds> voor de hond <?nog steeds> bange meisje
  the      prt still  of the dog afraid  girl
[+]  2.  P - Clause

Section 2.1, sub II, has discussed that some adjectives may take a clausal prepositional complement. Consider the two primeless examples in (93), which require that the anticipatory pronominal PP-complement of the adjective be present. The primed examples show that these adjectives cannot be used attributively. Of course, the ungrammaticality of (93a') may be due to the Head-final Filter in (87), since the adjective ziek is separated from the head-noun by the stranded preposition van. However, since this filter does not account for the ungrammaticality of (93b'), in which the stranded preposition precedes the attributively used pseudo-participle gekant, the ungrammaticality is apparently due to the presence of the (in this case finite) clausal complement.

Example 93
a. Jan is er ziek van dat jij steeds zeurt.
  Jan is there  fed.up  with  that  you  continually  nag
  'Jan is fed up with it that you are nagging all the time.'
a'. * de er ziek(e) van jongen dat jij steeds zeurt
  the  there  fed.up  with  boy  that  you  continually  nag
b. Jan is er tegen gekant dat Marie uitgenodigd wordt.
  Jan is there  against  opposed  that  Marie invited  is
  'Jan is opposed to it that Marie is invited.'
b'. * de er tegen gekante jongen dat Marie uitgenodigd wordt
  the  there  against  opposed  boy  that  Marie invited  is

      Adjectives such as boos'angry' and tevreden'satisfied' in (94) may also appear without the anticipatory pronominal PP. The fact that attributive use of these adjectives is excluded, regardless of the presence or absence of the pronominal prepositional phrase, shows again that the impossibility of using these adjectives attributively is apparently due to the presence of the clausal complement.

Example 94
a. Jan is (er) boos (over) dat hij niet uitgenodigd is.
  Jan is there  angry  about  that  he  not  prt.-invited  is
  'Jan is angry (about it) that he isnʼt invited.'
a'. * de (er) boze (over) jongen dat hij niet uitgenodigd is
  the  there  angry  about  boy  that  he  not  prt.-invited  is
b. Jan is (er) tevreden (over) dat hij uitgenodigd is.
  Jan is there  satisfied  about  that  he  invited  is
  'Jan is satisfied (about it) that heʼs invited.'
b'. * de (er) tevreden (over) jongen dat hij uitgenodigd is
  the  there  satisfied  about  boy  that  he  prt.-invited  is

      Although it is tempting to attribute the ungrammaticality of the primed examples in (93) and (94) to the presence of the clausal complement, it should be noted that the examples with the split anticipatory pronominal PP are also ungrammatical if the clauses are dropped; adjectives such as boos and tevreden can only be used in attributive position if the split anticipatory pronominal PP is absent, as in (95a). The fact that (95b), in which the pronominal PP is moved leftward, is acceptable does not bear on the issue at hand, given that anticipatory pronominal PPs invariantly have the form er + P; consequently we are dealing in this example with a pronominalized PP-complement of the form discussed in Subsection 1 above.

Example 95
a. de boze/tevreden jongen
  the  angry/satisfied  boy
b. de daarover zeer boze/tevreden jongen
  the  about.that  very angry/satisfied  boy
[+]  II.  Modified adjectival phrases

There are no special restrictions on the attributive use of APs containing pre-adjectival modifiers like erg in een erg beleefde jongen'a very polite boy'. Modifiers that follow the adjective, on the other hand, do show special behavior if the adjective is used attributively. This will be discussed in this subsection: Subsection A will start with a discussion of equative, comparative, and superlative adjectives followed by an als/dan-phrase and of adjectives modified by zo + degree clause; Subsection B concludes with a discussion of adjectives modified by genoeg'enough' and zo ... mogelijk'as ... as possible'.

[+]  A.  Postadjectival als/dan-phrases and degree clauses

We have seen in Subsection I that the Head-final Filter on attributive adjectives in (87) prohibits the placement of lexical material between attributively used adjectives and the head noun. Given this, we would expect that modifiers that obligatorily follow the modified adjective are excluded if the latter is used attributively. However, such examples are sometimes saved by a “repair" strategy that consists in placing the offending element after the noun. This holds especially for als/dan/van-phrases associated with equative/comparative and superlative adjectives, discussed in Chapter 4, and degree modifiers like net zo'(just) as', discussed in Section 3.1.3. This is illustrated in (96); for completeness’ sake, the primed examples demonstrate again that the adjective and the als/dan/van-phrase constitute a single AP.

Example 96
a. Jouw begeleider is zeker niet even/net zo vriendelijk als de mijne.
  your supervisor  is certainly  not  as/just as  friendly  as the mine
  'Your supervisor is certainly not as friendly as mine.'
a'. [Even/net zo vriendelijk als de mijne] is jouw begeleider zeker niet.
b. Jouw begeleider is zeker niet vriendelijker dan de mijne.
  your supervisor  is certainly  not  friendlier  than the mine
  'Your supervisor is certainly not friendlier than mine.'
b'. [Vriendelijker dan de mijne] is jouw begeleider zeker niet.
c. Die jongen is beslist het leukst van deze groep.
  that boy  is definitely  the nicest  of this group
c'. [Het leukst van deze groep] is die jongen beslist.

The examples in (97) show that, as predicted by the Head-final Filter, the als/dan/van-phrases cannot be placed in between the adjective and the head noun, but also that these examples can be saved from this filter by placing the als/dan/van-phrase after the modified head noun.

Example 97
a. * een even/net zo vriendelijke als de mijne begeleider
  as/just as  friendly  as the mine  supervisor
a'. een even/net zo vriendelijke begeleider als de mijne (is een zegen.)
  as/just as  friendly  supervisor  as the mine   is a bless
  'A supervisor as friendly as I have, (is a blessing).'
b. * een vriendelijkere dan de mijne begeleider
  friendlier  than the mine  supervisor
b'. een vriendelijkere begeleider dan de mijne (bestaat niet.)
  friendlier  supervisor  than the mine    exists not
  'A friendlier supervisor than mine doesnʼt exist.'
c. * de leukste van deze groep jongen
  the  nicest  of this group  boy
c'. de leukste jongen van deze groep
  the  nicest boy  of this group

The “repair" strategy does not work for the PP-complement of adjectives: example (98) shows that placement of the PP-complement op zijn vrouw after the modified head noun man does not improve the result. Possibly, the difference between the examples in (97), on the one hand, and the examples in (98), on the other, is related to the fact that in (97) the als/dan-phrase is not a complement of the adjective itself, but depends on the presence of the intensifier even/net zo or the comparative/superlative morpheme, whereas the PP op zijn vrouw is directly selected by the adjectives verliefd and gek.

Example 98
a. * een verliefde <op zijn vrouw> man <op zijn vrouw>
  an  in.love     with his wife  man
b. * een gekke <op zijn vrouw> man <op zijn vrouw>
  fond    of his wife  man

Possibly, the difference between the examples in (97), on the one hand, and the examples in (98), on the other, is related to the fact that in (97) the als/dan-phrase is not a complement of the adjective itself, but depends on the presence of the intensifier even/net zo or the comparative/superlative morpheme, whereas the PP op zijn vrouw is directly selected by the adjectives verliefd and gek.
      That this suggestion might be on the right track is also suggested by the contrast between the (a)- and (b)-examples in (99), which involve clauses. In the former, the clause dat de bom zal vallen is directly selected by the adjective bang, and cannot be placed in postnominal position. In the latter, on the other hand, the clause dat je er meer van lust depends on the intensifier zo, which is clear from the fact that the clause can only be used if this adverb is present, and in this case the clause can be placed postnominally.

Example 99
a. De man is niet bang dat de bom zal vallen.
  the man  is not afraid  that  the bomb  will  fall
  'The man doesnʼt fear that the bomb will fall.'
a'. * een bange man dat de bom zal vallen
b. De wijn is zeker *(zo) lekker dat je er meer van lust.
  the wine  is certainly    so appetizing  that  you  there  more  of  like
  'The wine is certainly so appetizing that one likes more of it.'
b'. een zo lekkere wijn dat je er meer van lust
  so appetizing wine  that  you  there  more  of  like
  'a wine, so appetizing that one likes more of it'

For completeness’ sake, note that there is an alternative “repair" strategy that involves placement of the complete AP in postnominal position, and which can be applied to adjectives with a complement and with a modifier alike, provided that the resulting AP is “heavy" enough. We will discuss cases like these more extensively in Section 6.4.

[+]  B.  Intensifiers: genoeg'enough', zo ... mogelijk'as ... as possible'

Section 5.2, sub IV, has shown that, as a general rule, intensifiers do not get the inflectional -e ending. This is illustrated again in (100).

Example 100
a. een zeer grote inzet
b. * een zere grote inzet
  very  large  dedication

Further, we have seen that the inflected adjective must be adjacent to the noun; cf. the Head-final Filter in (87). From this, we would correctly predict that the examples in (101a-d) are impossible, regardless of whether the intensifier genoeg'enough' is inflected or not. The only way to express the intended notion is by using an appositive phrase, as in (101e); cf. Section 6.4.

Example 101
a. * een groot genoeg inzet (om ...)
b. ?? een groot genoege inzet (om ...)
c. * een grote genoeg inzet (om ...)
d. * een grote genoege inzet (om ...)
  large  enough  dedication  (to ...)
e. een inzet, groot genoeg om ...
  a dedication  big enough to ...

Given the unacceptability of the examples in (101a-d), it is perhaps surprising that the discontinuous intensifying phrase zo ... mogelijk'as ... as possible' can be used in the prenominal attributive position, as is shown in (102b). This possibility is certainly due to the fact that the inflectional ending must appear on mogelijk, and cannot appear on the adjective itself. In passing, observe that (102b) has no appositive alternant: (102e) is ungrammatical.

Example 102
a. * een zo groot mogelijk inzet
b. een zo groot mogelijke inzet
c. * een zo grote mogelijk inzet
d. * een zo grote mogelijke inzet
  an  as large as.possible  dedication
e. * een inzet, zo groot mogelijk
  a dedication  as large  as.possible

      A fully satisfactory explanation for the contrast between the examples in (101) and (102) seems beyond reach at this moment. One observation that may bear on the issue is that mogelijk, but not genoeg, can itself be used as an attributive adjective. But perhaps this is not the right direction given that examples such as (101b), although generally judged unacceptable by native speakers, can be observed both in spontaneous speech and in written language on the internet. A Google search (April 2009) on the string [ een groot genoege], for example, resulted in 376 hits, which is of course negligible in comparison to the more than 500,000 hits for the string [ een zo groot mogelijke], but perhaps substantial enough to hesitate to dismiss these cases as simple performance errors. That more is going on is also suggested by the fact that for many speakers, the constituent A + genoeg can be used with singular, neuter, indefinite noun phrases, that is, if the attributive ending -e is missing; cf. Van Riemsdijk (1998).

Example 103
a. % een voor mij groot genoeg huis
b. * het voor mij groot/grote genoeg huis
  a/the  for me  big enough  house

That (103a) is more acceptable than (101b) is also reflected in that our Google search on the string [ een groot genoeg] resulted in over 1,500 hits. For comparison, note that the string [ een zo groot mogelijk] resulted in less than 200,000 hits.

  • Riemsdijk, Henk van1998Head movement and adjacencyNatural Language and Linguistic Theory16633-678