Chapter 98: Complements of 'think' and 'want'

Feature information for this chapter can be found in feature 98.

1. Introduction

In the present chapter, we consider the similarities and differences between two complement clause types. On the one hand, we consider complement clauses which depend on the verb ‘think’ and where the subject of the main clause is different from the subject in the complement clause (e.g. English She thinks that her son is at home). On the other hand, we look at complement clauses of ‘want’ where the subject of the matrix clause is again different from the subject in the complement clause (e.g. English She wants her son to come home). For same-subject complements of ‘want’, see Chapter 97 (“Want complement subjects”).

In comparing these two complement clause types, two separate parameters are relevant:

(i) whether there is an overt complementizer, and

(ii) if so, whether both complement types show the same complementizer or different complementizers.

We distinguish five feature values:

Identical complementizer15
Different complementizer14
Only 'think' complement has a complementizer19
Only 'want' complement has a complementizer1
No complementizer24
Representation:73

If several different ‘think’ complement constructions or several different ‘want’ constructions are possible, the contributors were asked to choose the dominant construction.

2. The values

Fifteen APiCS languages show value 1, where the ‘think’ and ‘want’ complement clauses show the same complementizer.

(1)
a.
Sy
3sg.f.nom
glo
thinks
dat
[that
haar
3sg.f.poss
seun
son
by
by
die
def.art
huis
house
is.
is]
She thinks that her son is at home.
b.
Anna
Anna
wil
wants
dat
[that
haar
3sg.f.poss
seun
son
huis
house
toe
to
gaan.
go]
Anne wants her son to go home.
(2)
a.
mi
1sg
ting
think
se
[comp
bae
irr
mi
1sg
lukaotem
look.out]
I think that I'll go find [one].
b.
plante
planty
taem
time
hem
3sg
i
agr
wantem
want
se
[comp
man
man
i
agr
mas
must
folem
follow
ting~ting
think~think
blong
poss
hem
3sg]
There are lots of times when she wants everyone to do what she thinks.

The fourteen languages displaying value 2 show different complementizers.

(3)
a.
I
3sg
pensa
think
kuma
[comp
si
poss
fidju
son
sta
cop
na
at
kasa.
home]
She thinks that her son is at home.
b.
I
3sg
misti
want
pa
[comp
si
poss
fidju
son
bay
go
kasa.
home]
She wants her son to go home.

The third value comprises languages in which the two complement types differ in that only ‘think’ complements have a complementizer (perhaps optionally), while ‘want’ complements lack one. This type is fairly widespread, too. One example comes from Pichi (cf. 4a-b), where we find the complementizer se in the ‘think’ construction, whereas in the ‘want’ construction there is no complementizer.

(4)
a.
À
1sg.sbj
bìn
pst
chɛk
think
se
[comp
ren
rain
pot
fɔ.
rain]
I thought it might rain.
b.
À
1sg.sbj
want
want
mek
[sbjv
2sg
du
do
mi
1sg.emph
sɔ̀n
some
febɔ.
favour]
I want you to do me a favour.

Likewise, the examples from Ambon Malay in (5a-b) show an optional complementizer (kata) introducing the ‘think’ complement clause, whereas the ‘want’-complement clause does not allow any complementizer.

(5)
a.
De
3sg
piker
think
(kata)
[comp
mo
fut
ka
to
Natsepa
Natsepa
par
for
peknek
picnic
kalo
if
seng
neg
ujang.
rain]
He thought he would go to Natsepa for a picnic if it didn't rain.
b.
De
3sg
mau
want
de
[3sg
pung
poss
ana
child
pulang.
go.home]
She wants her son to go home.

In Berbice Dutch, the verb glofu ‘believe’ can introduce complement clauses marked by the complementizer dati ‘that’, by the serial complementizer bi(fi) ‘say’, or by a zero complementizer. However, in complement clauses depending on the verb suku ‘want’, no complementizer position is available.

The fourth value is the mirror image of value 3, i.e. ‘want’ complements have a complementizer, while ‘think’ complements lack one. But this type is found only in Louisiana Creole, where the verb ole ‘want’ optionally has the complementizer ke, whereas krwar ‘believe’ generally shows no complementizer.

In 24 APiCS languages both complement clause types have no overt complementizer (value 5). Examples come from Papiá Kristang and Kinubi.

(6)
a.
eli
3sg
lembrá
think
bos
[2sg
pfv
bai
go
kaza
home]
He thinks you have gone home.
b.
eli
3sg
kere
want
bos
[2sg
bai
bai
kaza
home]
He wants you to go home.
(7)
a.
ána
I
féker
think
lúga
[language
de
det
bi-já
tam-come
wóduru
disappear]
I think that this language will disappear.
b.
ána
I
ázu
want
íta
[you
rúo
go]
I want you to go.

3. Other differences between the two complement types

Think’ complements and ‘want’ complements often differ in ways that are unrelated to the presence, absence or form of the complementizer. In particular, the ‘want’ complements often carry a “subjunctive” or “infinitive” marker of some sort, which is lacking in ‘think’ complements. In this way, there can be a fairly striking difference between the two clause types even when the language has value 1 (same complementizer) or 5 (no complementizer in both cases).

Thus, in Nigerian Pidgin, different-subject ‘think’ and ‘want’ complement clauses are introduced by the same complementizer se, but the ‘want’ complement clause (cf. 8b) shows the subjunctive marker mek (from English make; cf. Ihemere 2006 for the use of mek in Nigerian Pidgin, and Yakpo 2009 for a similar situation in Pichi, see (4) above).

(8)
a.
À
1sg.sbj
tink
think
se
[comp
dè̤m
3pl.sbj
go
go
tawn.
town]
I think that they went to town.
b.
À
1sg.sbj
want
want
se
[comp
mek
sbjv
dè̤m
3pl.sbj
go
go
tawn.
town]
I want them to go to town.

And in quite a few Atlantic English-based languages, the ‘want’ complement clause has a marker such as fi, fo or fu (deriving from for), corresponding to the infinitival marker to in English:

(9)
Ihn
3sg
waahn
want
evribady
[everybody
fi
to
get
get
hapi.
happy]
He wants everybody to become happy.
See example 10-228

See also ex. (6)-(7) in Chapter 97. Such markers have often been called “infinitival” markers (cf. Mufwene & Dijkhoff 1989) or even “complementizers”, but we do not consider them complementizers here, as they do not occur in a clause-peripheral position. Their immediately preverbal position makes them more similar to modality markers. We did not single them out as a special type because one cannot readily distinguish such markers from other modality markers such as in (10).

(10)
à
1sg
wɔn
want
se
[comp
3pl
fut
kam
come
fiks
fix
àm
3sg.obj]
I want them to come and fix it.

Another way in which ‘want’ complements may be distinct from ‘think’ complements is that they may lack person marking, as in Seychelles Creole in (11), where the 3rd person marker i is missing (see also Michaelis 1994: 82-91).

(11)
Mari
Mari
ti
pst
a
fut
oule
want
son
[poss.3sg
garson
son
al
go
kot
at
lakour.
house]
Mari would like her son to go home.

Since most of the APiCS languages lack such agreement markers, this criterion cannot be used generally to classify the languages either.