Thursday May 7

Speaker: Aliza Glasbergen-Plas (Leiden University)

Title:Het/er gaat eraan vooraf: adjunction of an apparent complement clause

Date: Thursday May 7                      

Venue: Huizinga 4

Time: 15:15 – 16:30 hrs


In Dutch, when a lexical head takes a CP-complement, sometimes a pronoun needs to be added. This pronoun is het ‘it’ if the head is a verb (1) and er ‘there’ if the head is a preposition (2) (Van Riemsdijk 1978). With most lexical heads there is no added pronoun.

Ik betreur het [ dat… ].

I   regret   it    that…

‘I regret [ that… ].’

Ik vertrouw erop [ dat…. ].

I   trust   there:on that…

‘I trust [ that… ].’

The form er is used much more frequently in this construction than het. With most heads that use either het or er, the pronoun is obligatorily inserted, but with some it can be left out.

In this talk I address the following questions: Why is the pronoun added? Why with some heads and not with others? Why is this strategy for er more frequent than for het? Why is insertion sometimes obligatory and sometimes optional?

I propose that insertion of het/er offers a solution for those lexical heads that are semantically compatible with, but do not C-select for a CP. The head selects the DP het/er, with the CP as an adjunct rather than an extraposed clausal complement. The CP is coindexed with the pronoun for the desired interpretation (cf. Doetjes et al. 2004 for clefts).

I show that the predictions made by this proposal are largely borne out. The lexical heads that take het/er can also take another DP-complement. The difference in frequency of the structures with het and er will be shown to follow from independently motivated properties of verbs and prepositions. Optionality of the pronoun results from a change in the valency of some heads (cf. Vandeweghe & Devos 2003). Finally, extraction facts (Bennis 1986) support the idea that the embedded clause is an adjunct.

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