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Verbs and Verb Phrases in Frisian

The Verb Phrase (VP) is a structure built around a verb. Most verbs denote a process involving participants bearing designated thematic roles. For example, in the sentence below, the Noun Phrase (NP) Jouke carries the thematic role of involuntary agent:

Example 1

Jouke lake
Jouke laughed
Jouke laughed

The verb is a complex syntactic category, and the structural representation of the verb and its arguments is a subject of ongoing syntactic investigation. Arguments of a verb may exhibit specific forms of behaviour, which correlate with the semantic subclass to which a verb in its usage belongs.


More details about the verbs and VPs can be found by following the corresponding links:

  • Characteristics and classification of verbs

    The classification of verb forms is closely related to the type of constructions in which they may occur. In addition, the relation between semantic subdivision and syntactic behaviour of VPs is briefly discussed.

  • Unergative and unaccusative subjects and the auxiliary of the perfect

    The syntactic relation of a verb to its arguments correlates with its meaning. A basic distinction is that between unergative verbs and unaccusative verbs. Unaccusative verbs such as oankomme to arrive are non-agentive and they tend to select wêze to be as the auxiliary of the perfect, in contrast with unergative verbs such as laitsje to laugh:

    Example 2

    a. De trein is oankommen
    the train is arrived
    The train has arrived
    b. Doutzen hat lang lake
    Doutzen has long laughed
    Doutzen has laughed for a long time
  • Evidentiality in relation to perception and epistemicity

    Perception verbs such as sjen to see and hearre to hear form a coherent semantic class. An example of a sentence with a perception verb is given below:

    Example 3

    Edzard heart dat allegear
    Edzard hears that all
    Edzard hears it all
    Transitive perception verbs may participate in a verb frame alternation. They may be detransitivised, more specifically, they may lose their subject argument and be used as evidential copulas, as in the following example:
    Example 4

    Dat heart allegear goed
    that hears all good
    It all sounds good
  • Types of to-infinitival clauses

    Non-finite clauses involving a to-infinitive do not show uniform behaviour. They may be further classified depending on their similarity to syntactic categories such as APs, PPs and clauses. Infinitives may also be classified depending on whether or not they exhibit incorporation of the verbal arguments and on the basis of their semantic interpretation. The following is an example of an incorporating to-infinitival clause:

    Example 5

    Omdat er hjoed te hierknippen is
    because he today to hair.cut is
    Because he is having his hair cut today
  • Predication and noun incorporation

    Auxiliary verbs are verbs with a very abstract, unspecific meaning, such as wêze be and gean go. Auxiliaries comprise both modals verbs like kinne can and various types of copula verbs, such as the copula of being, wêze be and the copula of going, gean go. Auxiliary verbs may select a predication that is headed by a bare infinitive or a to-infinitive, among others. There are selection restrictions on the type of infinitive that may appear in such a predication. An example is given in (6), where the auxiliary verb bliuwe stay selects bare infinitives. These bare infinitives must have the form of a gerund and they must belong to the semantic class of verbs of body posture:

    Example 6

    Yn oare blommen bliuwt dat dan oan de plakkerige gnodze sitten
    in other flowers stays that then to the sticky pistil sit
    Then it stays and sticks to the sticky pistil of other flowers

    Verbal complements are selected by various types of auxiliary verbs, and they are subject to varying selection restrictions. Supplementive and appositive constructions instantiate another structural realization of predication structures.

  • Ellipsis of ordinary infinitives and to-infinitives

    Light verbs are auxiliary verbs which are not modals. They may be left out if they function as the main verb in certain types of infinitival complements, that is, in the verb position of the complement to auxiliary verbs, as in the following example:

    Example 7

    a. Jouke soe nei Grins ta
    Jouke should to Grins to
    Jouke intended to go to Grins
    b. Jouke soe nei Grins ta gean
    Jouke should to Grins to go
    Jouke intended to go to Grins

    Syntactic and semantic factors are involved in the description of the distribution of light verb ellipsis.

  • The Imperativus-pro-Infinitivo construction

    The Imperativus-pro-Infinitivo construction (IPI) features a bare verb occuring in the first position of the clause. An example is given below:

    Example 8

    Heerd doarde it net oan en rin it hiem op
    Heerd dared it not AdP and walk the premises up
    Heerd did not dare to go and set foot on the premises

    The IPI functions either as the second conjunct of a coordination or as a selected infinitival complement, as in the example in (8). The IPI is atypical in that normal infinitives are head-final and feature a verb that has the form of an infinitive. The verb of the IPI occurs in head-initial position and it is homophonous to the imperative form of the verb.

  • The expression of irrealis in nineteenth-century Frisian and in Modern Frisian

    The verb cluster features a special type of instantiation that is referred to as the B-construction. An example is given below:

    Example 9

    Hja moast him earder fuortstjoerd hawwe
    she must him earlier away.sent.PfP have.OI
    She should have sent him away earlier

    The B-construction has recently been replaced with the A-construction, that is also current in Dutch. An example is given below:

    Example 10

    Hja hie him earder fuortstjoere moatten
    she had him earlier away.sent.OI must.PfP
    She should have sent him away earlier

    The B-construction has some interesting properties. It is, for example, by and large restricted to main clauses.

  • Embedded Verb-Second with and without complementiser

    Embedded tensed clauses may exhibit variation with respect to the question word, the complementiser and the position of the finite verb. They may feature main clause word order under certain conditions involving both direct and indirect speech. The complementiser may be present or absent, as shown below:

    Example 11

    a. Hy sei dat hy hie it net witten
    he said that he had it not known
    He said that he had not known it
    b. Hy sei hy hie it net witten
    he said he had it not known
    He said he had not known it

    The variant with the complementiser is subject to intricate restrictions. In addition, direct and indirect speech may follow the marker fan like, as in the example below:

    Example 12

    En doe't jim seinen fan jim soene nei it boekebal
    and when you said like you should to the book.ball
    And when you said like you were going to the ball of books

    Finally, long distance questions may be formed by duplicating the question word, as in the following example:

    Example 13

    Wa tinkst wa't ik sjoen ha?
    who think.2SG who.that I seen have
    Who do you think that I saw?

    The first question word may also be replaced with the unmarked question word wat what, as shown below:

    Example 14

    Wat tinkst wa't ik sjoen ha?
    what think.2SG who.that I seen have
    Who do you think that I saw?
  • Agreement on verbs and complementisers

    The 2SG ending is found on both verbs and complementisers, and it licenses pro-drop, that is, the subject may remain absent. An example of pro-drop is given below:

    Example 15

    Moatst dy noait fan in faam belêze litte
    must.2SG you.OBJ never of a girl lecture let
    You should never let yourself be lectured by a girl

    The 2SG ending shows some remarkable properties. For example, the pronominal subject must cliticise onto the 2SG agreement marker in inversion.

  • Negation, scrambling and polarity

    Two quantifiers which occur within the VP may be subject to syntactic restrictions. For example, Frisian has the option of putting the pronominal adverb of manner and degree in the position before negation, as in the following example:

    Example 16

    Dat is sa net
    that is so not
    That is not the case

    This order is marked in the sense that it presupposes that the discourse participant may have a contrary opinion, which is contradicted by the utterance above. Another example of quantifier interaction involves double negation.