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6.6 Infinitival clauses with a gap appearing in an AP predication

Some adjectives combine with infinitival clauses containing an object gap. The argument functioning as object of the infinitival clause appears in the subject position of the copula accompanying the adjective. Infinitival clauses with a gap may also be directly predicated of an argument, so without a selecting adjective.


Certain adjectives may combine with an infinitival clause containing an object gap to form a complex AP which may be predicated of an argument. Observationally, the missing direct object in the infinitival clause shows up in the subject position of the tensed verb accompanying the AP. An example is given below:

‘n Äkker ful Stene is nit mäkkelk tou bebauen.
a field full stones is not easy to cultivate
A field full of stones is not easy to cultivate.

The NP built on the noun Äkker ‘field’ occurs in the subject position of the main clause, while being interpreted as the direct object of bebauen ‘cultivate’. Correspondingly, the sentence can also be formulated as an infinitival clause with the NP built on the noun Äcker ‘field’ as a direct object inside the infinitival clause, as below:

Et is nit mäkkelk ‘n Äkker ful Stene tou bebauen.
it is not easy a field full stones to cultivate
It is not easy to cultivate a field full of stones.

Some more examples are given below similarly featuring an object gap in the infinitival clause:

Dät Ruur is licht tou dregen.
the gun is easy to carry
The gun is light to carry.
‘n Kielstuk is stuur tou plougjen.
a triangular.field is difficult to plough
A triangular field is difficult to plough.
Sin Nome is stuur tou undhoolden.
his name is difficult to remember
His name is difficult to remember.

Adjectives characteristically occurring in this construction are evaluative adjectives indicating whether the action described in the infinitive is easy or difficult. The person for whom it is easy or difficult can be the speaker, but it need not be. Semantically it may be described as an evaluator (or experiencer). Evaluators are usually syntactically realised as indirect objects.

Note that the evaluator, whether overtly expressed or not, controls the subject of the infinitive. Put differently, the (possibly silent) evaluator corefers obligatorily with the (obligatorily silent) subject of the infinitive. Furthermore, it can be shown that the clause-initial constituent in the examples above really is the subject, seeing that it agrees with the tensed verb. This is made clear by the example below, showing that the relevant argument participates in subject-verb agreement:

Do Rotten in’t Skäin sunt stuur tou fertilgjen.
the rats.PL in.the barn are.PL hard to exterminate
The rats in the barn are hard to exterminate.

This combination of adjective and infinitival clause has the appearance of a predicative structure. It is not normally found in an attributive construction, though it is possible to construct such an example.

Sin stuur tou undhooldene Name.
his difficult to remember name
His name, difficult to remember.

Such examples sound artificial and contrived, yet they do not seem to be ungrammatical. The combination of adjective and infinitival clause can occur as an appositive:

Sin Nome, stuur tou undhoolden, is tou loange.
his name difficult to remember is too long
His name, difficult to remember, is too long.

This suggests that the combination of adjective and infinitival clause functions as a complex AP discharging a thematic role to the subject position. See also: 9.3 To-infinitives containing an object gap.

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