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Show all alternation with bij-phrases (possessors)

This section discusses the alternation of dative phrases with periphrastic bij-PPs; cf. Van den Toorn (1971). In constructions like these the indirect object functions as an inalienable possessor of some other noun phrase in the clause (the possessee). The possessee normally occurs as the complement of some complementive locational PP. Typical examples are given in (367a&b), in which the dative and the bij-PP function as possessors of the nominal part of the PP headed by the preposition op. Example (367c) further shows that the indirect objects can readily be omitted, in which case the intended possessive meaning can simply be expressed by means of an NP-internal possessor in the form of a genitive noun phrase, a possessive pronoun or (not shown) a postnominal van-PP.

a. Marie zet Peter/hem het kind op de knie.
possessive dative
  Marie puts  Peter/him  the child  onto the knee
b. Marie zet het kind bij Peter/hem op de knie.
possessive bij-PP
  Marie puts  the child  with Peter/him  on the knee
c. Marie zet het kind op Peters/zijn knie.
NP-internal possessor
  Marie puts  the child  onto Peterʼs/his knee
  'Marie puts the child on Peterʼs/his knee.'

Although standard speakers normally accept all forms in (367), they may differ in their actual preference. The main division line seems to be between the (a&b)-examples and the (c)-example; the latter is acceptable to all speakers whereas the former are sometimes considered marked. It further seems that speakers vary with respect to the question as to whether the (a)-example with a dative noun phrase is to be preferred over the (b)-example with a bij-phrase, or vice versa. Finally, speakers’ judgments may vary from construction to construction. In what follows we will abstract away from these issues, which we leave for future research.
      It is important to note that the possessive dative/bij-PP and the NP-internal possessor are normally not mutually exclusive in Standard Dutch: example (368) shows that they can be simultaneously expressed despite the fact that this seems to introduce a certain amount of redundancy.

a. Marie zet Peter/hem het kind op zijn knie.
  Marie puts  Peter/him  the child  on his knee
b. Marie zet het kind bij Peter/hem op zijn knie.
  Marie puts  the child  with Peter/him  on his knee
  'Marie puts the child on Peterʼs/his knee.'

In the discussion that follows, we will ignore this remarkable fact, which has led Janssen (1976) to the conclusion that there is in fact no category of possessive dative; he claims that we are simply dealing with recipients and that their possessive interpretation is due to extra-linguistic factors. We will not follow this suggestion given that there is no independent evidence for claiming that the verb zetten'to put' in the examples above selects a recipient, whereas there is evidence that the dative/bij-PP is licensed by virtue of its relationship with the possessee; see also Van Bree (1981) and Schermer-Vermeer (1991/1996). The examples in (369), for instance, show that the verb zetten cannot be combined with a dative when the complementive does not contain a noun phrase that can be inalienably possessed. See Subsection IV for more extensive discussion.

a. Marie zet (*Peter/*hem) het kind op de tafel.
  Marie puts    Peter/him  the child  on the table
b. Marie zet (*Peter/*hem) het kind hier.
  Marie puts     Peter/him  the child  here

      Although the following subsections will focus on constructions with a possessive dative/bij-PP, we will occasionally also discuss the corresponding constructions with an NP-internal possessor. Subsections I and II start with a discussion of a number of characteristic properties of the dative and the periphrastic bij-PP. Section III continues with a discussion of the locational PP that contains the possessee. Subsection IV focuses more specifically on the relation between the possessive bij-phrase and the locational PP and will show that the two form a constituent. Subsection V provides a discussion of the verb types that allow the dative/PP alternation. Although the nominal possessor is normally assigned dative case, Subsection VI shows that there are some special cases in which an accusative or nominative possessor can be used; this subsection also discusses a number of cases which only seemingly involve a nominative possessor.

[+]  I.  The dative possessor

This subsection discusses a number of characteristic properties of the dative possessor and contrasts these with the properties of the periphrastic bij-phrase and the NP-internal possessor.

[+]  A.  The possessive dative requires the presence of a predicative locational PP

The distribution of the Standard Dutch possessive dative construction is quite restricted and normally requires the possessee to be embedded in a complementive locational PP, as in (367); if the locational PP has an adverbial function, as in (370), the possessive dative is excluded. This does not hold for the corresponding possessive bij-phrase or the NP-internal possessor, which are perfectly acceptable in such cases.

a. * Het kind sliep Peter/hem in de armen.
possessive dative
  the child  slept  Peter/him  in the arms
b. Het kind sliep bij Peter/hem in de armen.
possessive bij-PP
  the child  slept  with Peter/him  in the arms
c. Het kind sliep in Peters/zijn armen.
NP-internal possessor
  the child  slept  in Peterʼs/his arms
  'The child slept in Peterʼs/his arms.'

Double object constructions such as (371a), in which the indirect object functions as the possessor of a direct object, are normally excluded in Standard Dutch as well; since the same thing holds for the possessive bij-phrase in (371b), the normal way of expressing the intended meaning is by using an NP-internal possessor, as in (371c). The percentage sign in (371a) is used to indicate that this state of affairs does not hold for all varieties of Dutch–possessive dative constructions such as (371a) are common in many southern and eastern dialects of Dutch; we refer the reader to Van Bree (1981) and Cornips (1994) for a description of the dialect data and also to Barbiers et al. (2005:78) who describe the distribution of this possessive construction with a reflexive indirect object. The number sign in example (371b) indicates that it is marginally acceptable if the bij-phrase functions as an adverbial locational phrase (under this reading, the example is fully acceptable with the direct object zijn handen'his hands'); see Subsection II for a discussion of this adverbial use of the bij-phrase.

a. % Hij wast Peter de handen.
possessive dative
  he washes  Peter  the hands
b. # Hij wast bij Peter de handen.
possessive bij-PP
  he washes  with Peter  the hands
c. Hij wast Peters handen.
NP-internal possessor
  he  washes  Peterʼs  hands
  'Heʼs washing Peterʼs hands.'

There are exceptions to the general rule that an indirect object cannot function as the inalienable possessor of a direct object; the examples in (372), for instance, show that possessive constructions of the type in (371a) are possible in certain idiomatic expressions. Possessive datives in examples of this type normally do not alternate with a possessive bij-PP.

a. Jan waste Marie de oren.
  Jan washed  Marie  the ears
  'Jan told Marie the truth/gave Marie a piece of his mind.'
b. Marie drukte/schudde Peter de hand.
  Marie pressed/shook  Peter the hand
  'Marie shook Peterʼs hand.'
c. De graaf kuste de gravin de hand.
  the count  kissed  the countess  the hand
  'The count kissed the countesshand.'

In other cases, the possessive relation between the indirect and the direct object may be triggered by our knowledge of the world. In (373a), the dative phrase functions as the syntactically encoded possessor of the nominal part of the predicative locational PP op de rug, but the fact that the dative phrase is also construed as the possessor of the direct object de handen is related to our knowledge of the world; see also Schermer-Vermeer (1991:205ff) for a more general discussion. Knowledge of the world may also be relevant for example (373b) with an optional adverbial PP; this example is given as a case of (inalienable) possession in Janssen (1976:43), but we believe that the hotel context evoked by the noun piccolo'bellhop' simply favors the interpretation that the room in question is the room rented by Karel.

a. De agent bond de verdachte de handen op de rug.
  the cop  bound  the suspect  the hands  on the back
  'The cop bound the suspectʼs hands on his back.'
b. De piccolo bracht Karel de krant (op de kamer).
  the bellhop  brought  Karel the newspaper   on the room
  'The bellhop brought Karel the newspaper in his room.'
[+]  B.  The dative phrase expresses inalienable possession

Standard Dutch possessive datives are associated with entities that are inalienably possessed, like body parts or certain pieces of clothing (provided they are actually worn during the event time); the primeless examples in (374) illustrate that the use of possessive datives results in degraded sentences if the possessee is not inalienably possessed. The primed and doubly-primed examples show that possessive datives crucially differ in this respect from periphrastic bij-PPs and NP-internal possessors. The percentage signs in the primeless examples again indicate that these examples are fully acceptable in some southern and eastern varieties of Dutch; cf. Cornips (1994:153).

a. % Marie zette Peter het kind in de auto.
  Marie put  Peter  the child  into the car
a'. Marie zette het kind bij Peter in de auto.
  Marie puts  the child  with Peter  into the car
a''. Marie zette het kind in Peters auto.
  Marie put  the child  into Peterʼs car
  'Marie put the child into Peterʼs car.'
b. % Ze hebben Peter een agent voor de deur gezet.
  they  have  Peter  a cop  in.front.of  the door  put
b'. Ze hebben een agent bij Peter voor de deur gezet.
  they  have  a cop  with Peter  in.front.of  the door  put
b'. Ze hebben een agent voor Peters deur gezet.
  they  have  a cop  in.front.of  Peterʼs door  put
  'The have put a cop in front of Peterʼs door.'

Some Standard Dutch examples that may be on the borderline between alienable and inalienable possession are given in (375), in which the possessed entity is a location that is in a sense inherently associated with the possessor.

a. We bezorgen <u> de boodschappen <bij u> thuis.
  we deliver  you  the shopping  with you  home
  'We deliver your shopping at your home.'
b. Jan bracht <Peter> het boek <bij Peter> op het werk.
  Jan brought    Peter  the book   with Peter  at the work
  'Jan brought the book at Peterʼs office.'

Note in passing that it has been claimed that dative objects cannot be interpreted as inalienable possessors if the possessed noun phrase is modified by a non-restrictive modifier; cf. Vergnaud & Zubizarreta (1992:603) and references cited there. The examples in (376) show, however, that this does not hold for Dutch: the dative phrase can be interpreted as the possessor, regardless of whether the modifier of the possessee is restrictive or non-restrictive.

a. Marie zette Peter het kind op de gewonde knie.
  Marie put  Peter  the child  onto the wounded knee
  'Marie put the child on Peterʼs wounded knee.'
b. Marie trok Jan een haar uit de grijze baard
  Marie pulled  Jan a hair  out.of  the grey beard
  'Peter pulled a hair out of Janʼs grey beard.'
[+]  C.  The dative possessor is animate

The examples in (377) show that dative possessors differ from their corresponding possessive bij-phrases and NP-internal possessors in that they must be animate.

a. Marie zet Peter/hem de kinderen op de knie.
possessive dative
  Marie puts  Peter/him  the children  onto the knee
a'. Marie zet de kinderen bij Peter/hem op de knie.
possessive bij-PP
  Marie puts  the children  with Peter/him  on the knee
a''. Marie zet de kinderen op Peters/zijn knie.
NP-internal possessor
  Marie put  the children  onto Peterʼs/his knee
  'Marie puts the children on Peterʼs/his knee.'
b. * Jan zette het huis een antenne op het dak.
possessive dative
  Jan put  the house  an antenna  on the roof
b'. Jan zette een antenne bij het huis op het dak.
possessive bij-PP
  Jan put  an antenna  with the house  on the roof
b''. Jan zette een antenne op het dak van het huis.
NP-internal possessor
  Jan put an antenna  on the roof of the house

The set of examples in (378) simply illustrates the same point.

a. Peter plakte Marie een briefje op het voorhoofd.
possessive dative
  Peter stuck  Marie  a note  on the forehead
a'. Peter plakte een briefje bij Marie op het voorhoofd.
possessive bij-PP
  Peter stuck  a note  with Marie  on the forehead
a''. Peter plakte een briefje op het voorhoofd van Marie.
NP-internal poss.
  Peter stuck  a note  on the forehead of Marie
b. * Peter plakte de auto een briefje op de voorruit.
possessive dative
  Peter stuck  the car  a note  on the windscreen
b'. Peter plakte een briefje bij de auto op de voorruit.
possessive bij-PP
  Peter stuck  a note  with the car  on the windscreen
b''. Peter plakte een briefje op de voorruit van de auto.
NP-internal poss.
  Peter stuck  a note  on the windscreen of the car
[+]  II.  The possessive bij-phrase

Subsection I has already shown that possessive bij-phrases differ from possessive datives in three ways: they can also be used (i) if the possessee is part of an adverbial phrase, (ii) in contexts that do not involve inalienable possession, and (iii) if they are inanimate. This subsection therefore confines itself to showing how the possessive bij-phrase can be distinguished from bij-phrases with other syntactic functions.
      The examples in (379) show that bij-phrases are not only used to express possession but can also be used as locational adverbial phrases or complementives. The actual function of the bij-phrase will often be clear from its locational or possessive meaning, but can sometimes also be made visible by replacing the bij-phrase by an adverbial pro-form like hier'here' or daar'there'; this is possible with adverbial phrases and complementives, but not with possessive bij-phrases.

a. Jan speelt vandaag bij zijn tante/daar.
adverbial bij-PP
  Jan plays  today  at his aunt/there
  'Jan is playing today at his auntʼs place.'
b. Jan zet de theepot bij zijn tante/daar.
complementive bij-PP
  Jan puts  the tea pot  near his aunt/there
  'Jan put the tea pot close to his aunt.'
c. Jan legde de baby bij zijn tante/*daar in de armen.
possessive bij-PP
  Jan put  the baby  with his aunt/there  in the arms
  'Jan put the baby in his auntʼs arms.'

Example (380a) shows that the fact that bij-phrases can have these three functions may lead to a three-way ambiguity. The first reading of this example expresses that Jan put the baby to bed when he was at his aunt’s place; on this reading the bij-phrase functions as an adverbial phrase of place as is also clear from the fact that it can be omitted or replaced by the pro-form daar'there', as in (380b). The second reading expresses that Jan put the baby with his aunt (who happened to be in bed); in this case the bij-phrase functions as the (obligatory) complementive of the locational verb zetten'to put' and the PP in the bed functions as some kind of modifier, which can be omitted or be replaced by the pro-form daar, as in (380b'). The third reading is the possessive one, which requires both PPs to be present and to be realized in their non-pronominalized form, as in (380b'').

a. Jan stopte de baby bij zijn tante in bed.
  Jan put the baby  at/with his aunt  in bed
  'Jan put his baby in his auntʼs bed.'
b. Jan stopte de baby (daar) in bed.
adverbial bij-PP
  Jan put  the baby   there  to bed
  'Jan put the baby to bed (there).'
b'. Jan stopte de baby bij zijn tante (daar).
complementive bij-PP
  Jan put  the baby  with his aunt   there
  'Jan put the baby with his aunt (over there).'
b''. Jan stopte de baby bij zijn tante/#daar/#Ø in bed/#daar/#Ø.
poss. bij-PP
  Jan put  the baby  with his aunt/there/Ø  in bed/there/Ø
  'Jan put the baby in his auntʼs bed.'

      The adverbial reading of the bij-phrase can often be eliminated by adding an additional locational adverbial phrase like the pro-form daar in example (381a); as a result, the bij-phrase can only be interpreted as a complementive or a possessor. Example (381b) shows that the first option gives rise to a somewhat marked result, which may be due to the fact that, like spatial adverbial phrases, prepositional complementives can also be replaced by an adverbial pro-form; that the bij-phrase allows a possessive interpretation is clear from the fact illustrated in (381b') that it can be dropped (with the concomitant effect of losing the possessive reading) or replaced by a possessive pronoun.

a. Jan legde de baby daar bij zijn tante in bed.
  Jan put  the baby  there  with his aunt  in bed
  'Jan put his baby in his auntʼs bed.'
b. (?) Jan legde de baby daar bij zijn tante.
  Jan  put  the baby  there  with his aunt
b'. Jan legde de baby daar in (haar) bed.
  Jan put  the baby  there  in her bed

It is normally not so easy to block the complementive reading of the bij-phrase. Nevertheless, in examples like (382a&b) it is immediately clear that we are not dealing with a complementive given that the primed examples show that the complementive cannot be headed by the preposition bij in the given context. This leaves open, however, the possibility that the bij-phrase has an adverbial function in these cases.

a. Jan hing de ketting bij Marie om de hals.
  Jan hung the necklace  with Marie  around the neck
  'Jan hung the necklace around Marieʼs neck.'
a'. Jan hing de ketting om de/Maries hals.
a''. * Jan hing de ketting bij Marie.
b. De arts stak de naald bij Marie in de arm.
  the doctor  put  the needle with Marie  into the arm
  'The doctor put the needle into Marieʼs arm.'
b'. De arts stak de naald in de/Maries arm.
b''. * De arts stak de naald bij Marie.

The discussion above has shown that bij-phrases can be used in at least three different ways, which may cause ambiguity. We will do our best to avoid such ambiguities in the examples below, but where it does arise we will normally ignore it unless we consider it relevant for our discussion.

[+]  III.  The predicative locational PP

The complementives in the examples discussed so far are all prepositional phrases. The reason is that the examples in (383) show that the use of possessive datives/bij-phrases is impossible if the complementive is postpositional: it seems that in such cases possession can only be expressed by means of an NP-internal possessor.

a. * Marie duwde Peter het kind de armen in.
  Marie  pushed  Peter  the child  the arms  into
b. ?? Marie duwde het kind bij Peter de armen in.
  Marie  pushed  the child  with Peter  the arms  into
c. Marie duwde het kind Peters armen in.
  Marie  pushed  the child  Peterʼs arms  into

The same thing might be illustrated by means of the examples in (384) although the case is somewhat obscured by the fact that (384b), which is the postpositional counterpart of example (380a) from Subsection II, does allow an adverbial reading of the bij-phrase; the complementive reading of the bij-PP is also marginally possible if there is a comma intonation between the two PPs, that is, if the postpositional phrase functions as an apposition to the bij-phrase.

a. * Jan stopte zijn tante de baby het bed in.
  Jan put his aunt  the baby  the bed into
b. Jan stopte de baby bij zijn tante het bed in.
  Jan put the baby  at/with his aunt  the bed into
  'At his auntʼs place, Jan put the baby into the bed.'
  'Jan put the baby with his aunt, into the bed.'
  Impossible reading: 'Jan put the baby into his auntʼs bed.'

Providing reliable judgments may also prove difficult in other cases. The postpositional counterpart of example (382b) in (385b), for instance, is acceptable despite the fact that Subsection II has shown that a complementive reading of the bij-phrase is not possible. It is not clear, however, whether we are dealing with a possessive bij-phrase in this case given that this possessive reading seems less prominent than in other cases: the bij-phrase instead seems to act as a restrictor on the assertion expressed by the remainder of the clause and we may therefore be dealing with a restrictive adverbial phrase. This suggestion seems to be supported by the fact illustrated in (385a) that the bij-phrase does not alternate with the possessive dative.

a. * De arts stak Marie de naald de arm in.
  the doctor  put  Marie the needle  the arm  into
b. # De arts stak de naald bij Marie de arm in.
  the doctor  put  the needle  with Marie  the arm  into
  Intended reading: 'The doctor put the needle into Marieʼs arm.'

The discussion of the examples in (384) and (385) shows that we should be careful not to jump to conclusions. Another reason to be careful is that postpositional phrases are possible, and in fact obligatory, in idiomatic constructions like (386a&b). Note in passing that these constructions are unaccusative and that we are thus dealing with nom-dat constructions; see Subsection V for more examples of this type.

a. Dat gezeur hangt Peter/hem de keel uit.
  that nagging  hangs  Peter/him  the throat  out.of
  'Heʼs fed up with that nagging.'
a'. * Dat gezeur hangt bij Peter/hem de keel uit.
a''. * Dat gezeur hangt Peters/zijn keel uit.
b. Dat gevlei komt Peter/hem de neus uit.
  the flattery  comes  Peter/him  the nose out.of
  'Peter is fed up with that flattery.'
b'. * Dat gevlei komt bij Peter/hem de neus uit.
b''. * Dat gevlei komt Peters/zijn neus uit.

Setting these idiomatic examples aside, the discussion above nevertheless suggests that possessive datives/bij-phrases cannot be used if the complementive is a postpositional phrase. Since such PPs are always directional, this may lead to the expectation that directional phrases are categorically blocked. The (a)-examples in (387) show that this expectation is not completely borne out: although naar-phrases are inherently directional, it is nevertheless possible to use a possessive dative; constructions with a possessive bij-phrase, on the other hand, are indeed marked.

a. Jan gooide Marie een schoen naar het hoofd.
  Jan threw  Marie a shoe  to the head
b. ?? Jan gooide een schoen bij Marie naar het hoofd.
  Jan threw  a shoe  with Marie  to the head
c. Jan gooide een schoen naar Maries hoofd.
  Jan threw  a shoe  to Marieʼs head
  'Jan threw a shoe at Marieʼs head.'
[+]  IV.  The syntactic structure of possessive bij-phrase constructions

This subsection discusses the syntactic structure of constructions with a possessive bij-phrase. The fact that possessive bij-phrases are normally optional suggests that analyses according to which the possessive bij-phrase is an internal argument of the verb are not the most obvious ones to pursue: it seems that possessive bij-phrases are instead licensed by being in some relation with the possessee, that is, the nominal part of the locational phrase. Subsection A will support the intuition that possessive bij-phrases are not internal arguments of verbs by showing that they form a constituent with the locational PP: [PPbij-PP loc-PP]. Subsection B continues by investigating the internal organization of this structure and will provisionally conclude that the bij-phrase functions as a(n optional) modifier of the locational PP. Subsection C discusses some potential problems for this proposal and slightly revises the proposal from Subsection B to overcome at least some of them; this revision will also enable us to formally express the aforementioned intuition that the possessive bij