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3.1.2. Modification by an intensifier
quickinfo

Three different types of intensifiers can be distinguished: amplifiers like zeer'very', which scale upwards from some tacitly assumed standard value or norm, downtoners like vrij'rather', which scale downwards from some tacitly assumed standard value or norm, and neutral intensifiers like min of meer'more or lesss', which are neutral in this respect.

Example 6
Three types of intensifiers
a. Amplifiers scale upwards from a tacitly assumed standard value/norm
b. Downtoners scale downwards from a tacitly assumed standard value/norm
c. Neutral intensifiers are neutral with regard to the tacitly assumed standard value/norm.

The implied norm can be represented as an interval of the range indicated by the two scalar adjectives, as in (7). The downtoners refer to a certain point or interval on the implied between the neutral zone and the norm, whereas the amplifiers refer to a point/interval at the opposite site of the norm. The neutral intensifiers indicate a point/interval in or in the vicinity of the norm.

Example 7
Scale of “goodness":

      The semantic effect of the use of a downtoner can be expressed by making use of the semantic representations introduced in 3.1.1. First, let us assume that of two degrees d1 and d2, d1 is lower than d2 (d1 < d2), if d1 is closer to the neutral zone than d2. And, further, let us refer to the implied norm by means of dn. Now, consider the examples in (8), along with their semantic representations in the primed examples.

Example 8
a. Jan is zeer goed.
amplifier
  Jan is very good
a'. ∃d [ GOED (Jan,d) & d > dn]
b. Jan is vrij goed.
downtoner
  Jan is rather good
b'. ∃d [ GOED (Jan,d) & d < dn]
c. Jan is min of meer goed.
neutral
  Jan is more or less good
c'. ∃d [ GOED (Jan,d) & d ≈ dn]

The semantic effect of the amplifier zeer'very' can then be described by means of the semantic representation in (8a'). This representation is similar to the semantic representation in (5a) with the addition of the part that expresses that the degree to which Jan is good exceeds the implied norm (d > dn). The semantic effect of the downtoner is expressed in the semantic representation in (8b') by the addition of the part that expresses that the degree to which Jan is good is lower than the implied norm (d < dn). The effect of the neutral intensifier, finally, is expressed by the addition of the part that states that the degree to which Jan is good is approximately equal to the norm (d ≈ dn).
      Intensifiers can be of several categories: they can be APs, NPs or PPs. Their categorial status may be clear from their internal structure, their morphological behavior, or from the fact that the same forms can be used in positions that are typical of APs, NPs, or PPs. The intensifier ernstig'seriously' in (9a), for example, is an adjective, which is clear from the following two facts: it can be modified by means of the adverbial intensifiers zeer'very' and vrij'rather', which are never used to modify a noun (cf. the examples in (9a) and (9b)), and it may undergo comparative formation, as in (9a'). Given the presence of the indefinite determiner een'a' and the possibility of adding an attributive adjective such as klein'little', the intensifier een beetje'a bit' in (9b) clearly has the internal makeup of a noun phrase. The presence of the preposition in in example (9c) clearly indicates that the intensifier in hoge mate'to a high degree' is a PP.

Example 9
a. Jan is (zeer/vrij) ernstig ziek.
  Jan is   very/rather  seriously  ill
a'. Jan is ernstiger ziek dan Peter.
  Jan is more seriously  ill  than Peter
b. Jan is een (klein/*zeer/*vrij) beetje ziek.
  Jan is a   little/very/rather  bit  ill
c. Jan is in hoge mate ziek.
  Jan is to high degree  ill
  'Jan is ill to a high degree.'

Many intensifiers cannot easily be classified as belonging to one of the three categories AP, NP, or PP, because the possibilities for modifying them are themselves limited, and their morphological behavior and their internal makeup provide few clues. Following tradition, we call these intensifiers adverbs, although it may be the case that we are in fact dealing with regular adjectives; cf. Chapter 8.
      The remainder of this section is organized as follows. We will start the discussion on intensification with the amplifiers (Subsection I), downtoners (Subsection II), and neutral intensifiers (Subsection III). This is followed by a discussion of the interrogative intensifier hoe'how' in Subsection IV. The exclamative element wat, which constitutes a category in its own right, will be discussed in Subsection V.

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[+]  I.  Amplification

Amplifiers scale upwards from a tacitly assumed norm. In order for an intensifier to be characterized as an amplifier, we should be able to infer from the combination intensifier + adjective that the state described by the adjective exceeds the assumed norm. This can be tested by placing the modified scalar adjective in the frame shown in (10a), in which co-indexation expresses that the subject of the first clause is coreferential with the subject of the second clause. The element zelfs'even' requires that the following AP scale upwards: the degree d2 implied by the second clause must be higher than the degree d1 implied by the first clause (d2 > d1). If the result is acceptable, we are dealing with an amplifier; if it is not, the modifier is most likely a downtoner. This is illustrated for the amplifier zeer'very' in (10b), and for the downtoner vrij'rather' in (10c).

Example 10
Amplifier test
a.   NPi is A; pronouni is zelfs MODIFIER A
    NP is A   is even    
b.   Jan is aardig; hij is zelfs zeer aardig.
    Jan is nice he is even very nice
c. % Jan is aardig; hij is zelfs vrij aardig.
    Jan is nice he is even rather nice

The following subsections discuss the categories that may function as an amplifier. Adverbs apart, amplifiers belong to the categories AP and PP.

[+]  A.  Adverbs

There are a limited number of elements that function as amplifiers for which it cannot readily be established whether they are APs, NPs or PPs, and which we will refer to as adverbs for convenience. Some examples are given in (11).

Example 11
a. heel goed 'very good'
b. hogelijk verbaasd 'highly amazed'
c. hoogst interessant 'most interesting'
d. uitermate gevaarlijk 'extremely dangerous'
e. uiterst belangrijk 'extremely important'
f. zeer zacht 'very soft'

The adverb heel'very' is special in that, at least in colloquial speech, it optionally gets the attributive -e ending if it modifies an attributively used adjective ending in -e. This is completely excluded with the other adverbs in (11). This contrast is illustrated in (12).

Example 12
a. een heel/hel-e aardig-e jongen
  very  nice  boy
b. een uiterst/*uiterst-e aardig-e jongen
  an  extremely  nice  boy

      The examples in (13) show that the adverbs in (11) cannot be modified themselves, and are normally not used in negative clauses (except in denials of some previously made assertion). In that respect, they differ from the adjectival amplifiers in (20) in Subsection B below.

Example 13
a. * zeer heel goed
  very  very  good
a'. Dat boek is (?niet) heel goed.
  that book  is   not  very  good
b. * zeer hogelijk verbaasd
  very  highly  amazed
b'. Jan is (*niet) hogelijk verbaasd.
  Jan is    not  highly  amazed
c. * zeer hoogst interessant
  very most  interesting
c'. Dat artikel is (*niet) hoogst interessant.
  that article  is    not  most interesting
d. * heel uitermate gevaarlijk
  very  extremely  dangerous
d'. Vuurwerk is (*niet) uitermate gevaarlijk.
  Firework  is    not extremely  dangerous
e. * heel uiterst belangrijk
  very  extremely  important
e'. Het probleem is (*niet) uiterst belangrijk.
  the problem  is    not  extremely important
f. * heel zeer zacht
  very  very  soft
f'. De deken is (?niet) zeer zacht.
  the blanket  is    not  very soft

      The adverbs typisch'typically', specifiek'specifically' and echt'truly' may also belong to this group, but they have the distinguishing property that they combine with relational adjectives, not with scalar set-denoting adjectives (cf. *typisch groot'typically big'). Although as a rule the relational adjectives do not occur in predicative position, addition of these amplifiers generally makes this possible due to the fact that the modified adjective is then construed as a set-denoting adjective referring to some typical property or set of properties; cf. Section 1.3.3. Example (14), for instance, expresses that the cheese under discussion has properties that are characteristic of Dutch cheese.

Example 14
Deze kaas is typisch Nederlands.
  this cheese  is typically  Dutch
[+]  B.  APs

The group of adjectival amplifiers is extremely large and seems to constitute an open class to which new forms can be readily added. The adjectival amplifiers can be divided into two groups on the basis of whether the have retained their original meaning.

[+]  1.  Adjectival amplifiers that have lost their original meaning

The adjectival amplifiers in (15) resemble the adverbs in (11) in that they only have an amplifying effect; their original meaning, which is given in the glosses, has more or lesss disappeared.

Example 15
a. knap moeilijk
  handsomely  difficult
e. verschrikkelijk geinig
  terribly  funny
b. flink sterk
  firmly  strong
f. vreselijk aardig
  terribly  nice
c. oneindig klein
  infinitely  small
g. waanzinnig goed
  insanely  good
d. ontzettend aardig
  terribly  nice
h. geweldig lief
  tremendously  sweet

Like the adverbs in (11), the amplifiers in (15) cannot be amplified themselves, and cannot occur in negative clauses. Two examples are given in (16).

Example 16
a. * heel vreselijk geinig
  very  terribly  funny
a'. Jan is (*niet) vreselijk geinig.
  Jan is    not  terribly  funny
b. * erg waanzinnig goed
  very insanely good
b'. Jan is (*niet) waanzinnig goed.
  Jan is    not  insanely  good

We can probably include the evaluative adjectives in (17) in the same group as the adjectives in (15): the examples in (18) show that they cannot be amplified or occur in negative clauses either.

Example 17
a. jammerlijk slecht
  deplorably  bad
c. verduiveld goed
  devilishly  good
b. verdomd leuk
  damned  nice
d. verrekt moeilijk
  damned  difficult
Example 18
a. * erg jammerlijk slecht
  very deplorably bad
a'. Dat boek is (*niet) jammerlijk slecht.
  that book is    not  deplorably  bad
b. * zeer verdomd leuk
  very  damned  nice
b'. Dat boek is (*niet) verdomd leuk.
  that book is    not  damned  nice

However, example (17d) is somewhat special since the amplifier verrekt can be intensified by the addition of an -e ending, as illustrated in (19a). As the AP verrekte moeilijk is used in predicative position, this ending on verrekte cannot, of course, be an attributive ending. Actually, the use of the additional schwa has a degrading effect if the AP is used attributively, as is shown in (19b).

Example 19
a. Dit is verrekte moeilijk.
  this  is damned  difficult
b. *? de verrekte moeilijke opgave
  the  damned  difficult  exercise
[+]  2.  Adjectival amplifiers that have retained their original meaning

The adjectival amplifiers of the second group have more or lesss retained the meaning they have in attributive or predicative position. As a result of this, giving a satisfactory translation in English is occasionally quite difficult. Some examples are given in (20) and (21).

Example 20
a. druk bezig
  lively  busy
c. hard nodig
  badly  needed
b. erg ziek
  badly  ill
d. hartstochtelijk verliefd
  passionately  in.love
Example 21
a. absurd klein
  absurdly  small
f. buitengewoon groot
  extraordinarily  big
b. afgrijselijk lelijk
  atrociously  ugly
g. enorm groot
  enormously  big
c. behoorlijk dronken
  quite  drunk
h. extra goedkoop
  extra  cheap
d. belachelijk groot
  absurdly  big
i. ongelofelijk mooi
  unbelievably  handsome
e. bijzonder groot
  especially  big
j. opmerkelijk mooi
  strikingly  beautiful

      The use of the adjectival amplifiers in (20) and (21) is very productive, although it should be observed that they cannot be used to modify an adjective of the same form. This is illustrated in (22).

Example 22
a. erg/*bijzonder bijzonder
  very special
b. bijzonder/*erg erg
  very bad

Note also that there are also adjectival modifiers that have fully retained their lexical meaning, but whose main function is not intensification; cf. Section 8.3. Some examples are given in (23).

Example 23
a. De tafel is onherstelbaar beschadigd.
  the table  is irreparably  damaged
b. De soep is lekker zout.
  the soup  is tastily salty

      The main semantic difference between the two sets of amplifiers in (20) and (21) is that amplification is less strong with the former than with the latter: the amplifiers in (20) express that the state denoted by the modified adjective holds to a high degree, whereas the amplifiers in (21) express that the state holds to an extremely high or even the highest degree. In other words, the amplifiers in (20) are more or lesss on a par with the prototypical amplifier zeer'very', whereas the amplifying force of the amplifiers in (21) exceeds the amplifying force of zeer. This can be made clear by means of the frame in (24a), in which the element zelfs'even' requires that the second AP scale upward with respect to the first one; cf. the discussion of (10). Given that the amplifiers in (20) cannot be felicitously used in this frame, we may conclude that their amplifying force does not surpass the amplifying force of zeer. The fact that the amplifiers in (21) can be readily used in this frame, on the other hand, shows that their amplifying force is stronger than that of zeer.

Example 24
Strength of amplifier
a.   NPi is zeer A;
NP is very
pronouni is zelfs
is even
MODIFIER A.
b. % Jan is zeer ziek.
Jan is very ill
Hij
he
is zelfs
is even
erg
very
ziek.
ill
c.   Gebouw B is zeer lelijk.
building B is very ugly
Het
it
is zelfs
is even
afgrijselijk
atrociously
lelijk.
ugly

This difference between the amplifiers in (20) and (21) is also reflected in their gradability. The examples in (25) show that the amplifiers in (20) can themselves be amplified by, e.g., the adverbs in (11) and undergo comparative/superlative formation.

Example 25
a. een heel erg zieke jongen
  very  very/badly  ill  boy
a'. Jan is erger ziek dan Peter.
  Jan is more.very/worse  ill  than Peter
a''. Jan is hetergst ziek.
  Jan is the worst  ill
b. Een nieuwe computer is heel hard nodig.
  a new computer  is very badly  needed
b'. Een nieuwe computer is harder nodig dan een nieuwe printer.
  a new computer  is more.badly  needed  than a new printer
b''. Een nieuwe computer is het hardst nodig.
  a new computer is the most.badly  needed

The examples in (26), on the other hand, show that amplification of the amplifiers in (21) is excluded and that the same thing holds for comparative and superlative formation.

Example 26
a. *? een heel afgrijselijk lelijk gebouw
  a very atrociously  ugly  building
a'. * Gebouw B is afgrijselijker lelijk dan gebouw C.
  building B  is more atrociously  ugly  than building C
a''. * Gebouw B is het afgrijselijkst lelijk.
  building B  is the most atrociously  ugly
b. * Dit boek is uiterst opmerkelijk mooi.
  this book  is extremely strikingly  beautiful
b'. * Dit boek is opmerkelijker mooi dan dat boek.
  this book  is more strikingly  beautiful  than that book
b''. * Dit boek is het opmerkelijkst mooi.
  this book  is the most strikingly  beautiful

It is important to note that the unacceptability of the examples in (26) is not due to some idiosyncratic property of the adjectives; modification and comparative and superlative formation are both possible if these adjectives are used attributively or predicatively, as is demonstrated in (27).

Example 27
a. een heel afgrijselijk gebouw
  very atrocious  building
a'. Gebouw B is afgrijselijker dan gebouw C.
  building B  is more atrocious  than building C
a''. Gebouw B is het afgrijselijkst.
  building B is the most atrocious
b. een uiterst opmerkelijk boek
  an  extremely remarkable  book
b'. Dit boek is opmerkelijker dan dat boek.
  this book  is more remarkable  than that book
b''. Dit boek is het opmerkelijkst.
  this book  is the most remarkable

Finally, amplification can often be enhanced in the case of the amplifiers in (20) by means of reduplication of the amplifier, whereas this is categorically excluded with the amplifiers in (21). This is illustrated by the examples in (28).

Example 28
a. Een nieuwe computer is hard, hard nodig.
  a new computer  is badly  badly  needed
  'A new computer is very badly needed.'
b. * Dit boek is opmerkelijk, opmerkelijk mooi.
  this book  is strikingly  strikingly  beautiful

      Although there seem to be differences between the individual members of the two sets of amplifiers in (20) and (21), they all seem possible in negative clauses (see Section 3.3, sub I, for more discussion of negation). This is shown in (29) and (30).

Example 29
a. Jan is niet erg groot.
  Jan is not  very  big
b. Jan is niet bepaald hartstochtelijk verliefd.
  Jan is not  exactly  passionately in.love
Example 30
a. Jan is niet bijzonder/buitengewoon groot.
  Jan is not  especially/extraordinarily  big
b. Jan is niet opmerkelijk mooi.
  Jan is not  strikingly  beautiful

      The amplifier erg'very' is special in that, at least in colloquial speech, it optionally receives an attributive -e ending if it modifies an attributively used adjective ending in -e, just like the adverb heel in (12a). This is not readily possible with the other adjectival amplifiers. This contrast is illustrated in (31); note that enorme is acceptable if it is interpreted as an attributive adjective modifying the noun phrase donkere kamer, that is, under the interpretation “an enormous dark room".

Example 31
a. een erg/erg-e donker-e kamer
  very dark  room
b. een behoorlijk/??behoorlijk-e zwar-e klus
  pretty  difficult  job
c. een enorm/#enorm-e donker-e kamer
  an  extremely  dark  room

When the adverb heel'very' and the adjectival modifier erg are combined, the adverb must precede the adjective, and the following possibilities with respect to inflection arise; the percentage sign in (32b) indicates that speakers seem to differ in their judgments on this example.

Example 32
a. een heel erg donker-e kamer
b. % een heel erg-e donker-e kamer
c. een hel-e erg-e donker-e kamer
d. * een hel-e erg donker-e kamer
[+]  C.  Noun phrases

Noun phrases do not occur as amplifiers with the possible exception of exclamative wat'how', which is discussed in Subsection V.

[+]  D.  PPs

The prepositional phrase in .... mate'to a .... degree', where the dots indicate an adjective modifying the noun mate'degree', can also be used as an intensifier. Depending on the nature of the adjective, the PP is interpreted either as an amplifier or as a downtoner. The former is the case in example (33a). Another PP that can be used as an amplifier is given in (33b).

Example 33
a. in hoge/ruime mate ongelukkig
  'unhappy to a high degree'
b. bij uitstek geschikt
  'suitable par excellence'

Special cases are the use of the coordinated prepositions illustrated in the examples in (34a&b); cf. also the examples in (37a) in Subsection E below. The isolated preposition in in (34a') can also be used to express amplification, in which case it must receive heavy accent.

Example 34
a. een in en in schone was
  'a through and through clean laundry'
a'. een ìn schone was
  'a thoroughly clean laundry'
b. een door en door bedorven kind
  'a through and through spoiled child'

Finally, the examples in (35) show that there are a number compound-like adverbs, the first member of which seems to be a preposition.

Example 35
a. boven: bovengemiddeld intelligent 'more than averagely intelligent'; bovenmate mooi 'extraordinarily beautiful'
b. buiten: buitengemeen knap 'unusually handsome'; buitengewoon groot 'extraordinarily large'
c. over: overmatig ijverig 'overly diligent'

If the preposition over occurs as the first member of a compound adjective, it may also have an amplifying effect and sometimes even expresses that a certain standard value or norm has been exceeded; some examples taken from the Van Dale dictionary are overactief'hyperactive', overmooi'very beautiful', overheerlijk'delicious', and overstil'very/too calm'.

[+]  E.  Other means of amplification

Amplification need not involve the use of an amplifier but can also be obtained by various other means, which we will briefly discuss in the following subsections.

[+]  1.  Morphological

Some adjectives are morphologically amplified. This is the case with complex adjectives, such as beeldschoon'gorgeous' (lit.: statue-beautiful), doodeng'really scary' (lit.: death-scaring), oliedom'extremely stupid' (lit.: oil-stupid), and beregoed'terrific' (lit: bear-good), in which the first part of the compound expresses the amplification. As is illustrated in (36), these complex adjectives cannot be modified by additional downtoners or amplifiers.

Example 36
a. een (*vrij/erg) beeldschoon schilderij
  rather/very  gorgeous  painting
b. een (*nogal/ontzettend) doodenge film
     rather/terribly  really.scary  movie
c. * een (*vrij/zeer) oliedomme jongen
  a rather/very  extremely.stupid  boy
d. * een (*nogal/zeer) beregoed optreden
     rather/very  terrific  act

However, further amplification can often be obtained by reduplication of the first morpheme, as in (37). If the first morpheme of the compound is monosyllabic, use of the coordinator en'and' seems preferred. If the first morpheme is disyllabic, the reduplicated morphemes can be separated by means of a comma intonation. We are dealing with tendencies here, as is clear from the fact that all forms in (37) can be found on the internet.

Example 37
a. Dat schilderij is beeld- en beeldschoon.
?beeld-, beeldschoon
  'That painting is gorgeous.'
b. Die film is dood- en doodeng.
?dood-, doodeng
  'That movie is really scary.'
c. Die jongen is olie-, oliedom.
?olie- en oliedom
  'That boy is extremely stupid.'
d. Dat optreden was bere-, beregoed.
?bere- en beregoed
  'That performance was terrific.'

The compounds in (36) are generally idiomatic, that is, it is not the case that the first member of the compound can be productively used to form inherently amplified adjectives. On the basis of the morphemes in (36) no other compounds can be formed: *olieschoon, *doodschoon, * bereschoon, *beelddood, #oliedood, * beredood, *beelddom, *dooddom, * beredom, *beeldgoed, *doodgoed, *oliegoed. The possible combinations are listed in the lexicon as separate lexical elements. It should be noted, however, that in certain circles of young people the amplifying affixes dood- and bere- are more generally used (which is clear from the fact that some of the starred examples can in fact be found on the internet); this shows that this morphological process of amplification is an easy locus of language change.

[+]  2.  The comparative meer dan A'more than A' construction

The primeless examples in (38) show that amplification can also be expressed by the meer dan A construction, which involves the comparative form of the adjective veel'much/many'. Observe that, as is illustrated in the primed examples, the comparative form of weinig'little/few' cannot enter a similar construction.

Example 38
a. Jan is meer dan tevreden.
  Jan is more  than satisfied
a'. *? Jan is minder dan tevreden.
  Jan is less  than satisfied
b. Dit boek is meer dan alleen maar aardig.
  this book  is more  than  just  prt  nice
b'. * Dit boek is minder dan aardig.
  this book  is less  than nice

It is not entirely clear what the internal structure of the predicative phrases is in the primeless examples. Normally, it is the comparative that functions as the semantic head of the construction, which is clear from the fact that the dan-phrase can be omitted: cf. Jan is aardiger (dan Peter)'Jan is nicer (than Peter)'. In the primed examples in (38), on the other hand, it is the adjective that is part of the dan-phrase that acts as the semantic head, which is clear from the fact that dropping the dan-phrase results in an uninterpretable result. To our knowledge it has not been investigated whether this semantic difference is reflected in the syntactic structure of the predicative phrase.
      To conclude, note that occasionally you will find special adjectives that are more or lesss equivalent to the comparative meer dan A construction. Some examples are given in (39). This shows that in principle one scale can be relevant for more than one adjective, as is illustrated in (40).

Example 39
a. meer dan intelligent
  more  than intelligent
a'. geniaal
  brilliant
b. meer dan goed
  more  than good
b'. uitstekend/uitmuntend
  excellent
c. meer dan alleen maar lekker
  more  than  just  prt  tasty
c'. zalig/verrukkelijk
  delicious
Example 40
Scale of intelligence

Although it does not seem entirely impossible to amplify the special adjectives in the primed examples of (39), amplification often gives rise to an ironic or hyperbolic connotation; modification by means of a downtoner does not give rise to a very felicitous result either, and comparative/superlative formation also yields a degraded result.

Example 41
Modification and comparison of inherent “high-scale" adjectives
example amplification downtoning comparative superlative
geniaal
brilliant
%zeer geniaal
very brilliant
??vrij geniaal
rather brilliant
??genialer
more brilliant
??het geniaalst
the most brilliant
uitstekend
excellent
%zeer uitstekend
very excellent
*vrij uitstekend
rather excellent
*uitstekende
more excellent
*het uitstekendst
the most excellent
zalig
delicious
%zeer zalig
very delicious
*vrij zalig
rather delicious
*zaliger
more delicious
*het zaligst
the most delicious
[+]  3.  The equative construction

In the equative construction in (42), two properties can be compared: example (42a), for instance, indicates that the length and width of the table are equal. Note that this example does not imply that the table under discussion is actually long or wide; it may actually be quite short and narrow. This shows that the measure adjectives that enter this construction are neutral in the sense of Section 1.3.2.2, sub ID. This is also supported by the fact that the use of the non-neutral forms in (42b) is marked.

Example 42
a. De tafel is even lang als breed.
  the table  is as  long  as wide
b. ?? De tafel is even kort als smal.
  the table  is as  short  as narrow

However, when we compare two adjectives of which at least one is not a measure adjective, it is implied that both properties exceed the neutral norm: example (43a) implies that Jan is both quite old and quite cunning, and (43b) implies that Jan is both quite intelligent and quite crazy. The constructions in (43) are therefore amplifying in nature. See Section 4.1.4 for more discussion of these constructions.

Example 43
a. Jan is even doortrapt als oud.
  Jan is as  cunning  as  old
b. Jan is even intelligent als gek.
  Jan is as  intelligent  as crazy
[+]  4.  Nog + Comparative

Both comparative constructions in (44) express that Jan exceeds Marie in height. However, example (44a) need not express that Jan is actually tall; he can in fact be rather small. Similarly, (44b) need not express that Marie is actually small; she can be rather tall.

Example 44
a. Jan is groter dan/als Marie.
  Jan is taller  than Marie
b. Marie is kleiner dan/als Jan.
  Marie is smaller  than Jan

If we add the adverb nog'even' to the examples in (44), as in (45), the meaning changes radically. Example (45a) expresses that both Jan and Marie are (quite) tall, and (45b) expresses that both Marie and Jan are (quite) small. In other words, the addition of nog leads to an amplifying effect.

Example 45
a. Jan is nog groter dan/als Marie.
  Jan is even  taller  than Marie
b. Marie is nog kleiner dan/als Jan.
  Marie is even  smaller  than Jan
[+]  5.  Exclamative constructions

An amplifying effect can also be obtained by stressing the adjective, as in the primeless examples of (46), an effect that can even be enhanced by means of reduplication of the adjective, as in the primed examples. The (a)-examples involve complementives, the (b)-examples attributive adjectives, and the (c)-examples adverbially used adjectives.

Example 46
a. Dat boek is mooi!
predicative
  that book is beautiful
a'. Dat boek is mooi, MOOI!
b. Hij heeft een groot huis gekocht!
attributive
  he  has  big  house  bought
b'. Hij heeft een groot, GROOT huis gekocht!
c. Jan heeft hard gewerkt!
adverbial
  Jan has  hard  worked
  'Jan has worked hard!'
c'. Jan heeft hard, HARD gewerkt!

The examples in (46) are exclamative. Other exclamative constructions may have a similar amplifying effect. This is illustrated in (47) for the exclamative constructions involving the exclamative element wat, which is discussed more extensively in Subsection V.

Example 47
a. Wat is dat boek mooi!
predicative
  what  is that book  beautiful
b. Wat is dat een groot huis!
attributive
  what  is that  a big house
c. Wat heeft Jan hard gewerkt!
adverbial
  what  has  Jan hard worked

The same thing holds for the exclamative dat constructions in (48). In these constructions, the (phrase containing the) adjective is immediately followed by a clause introduced by the complementizer dat'that' with the finite verb in clause-final position. The construction as a whole cannot be used as a clausal constituent. The attributive construction in (48b') is added to show that dat is not a relative pronoun; the neuter relative pronoun dat cannot take the non-neuter noun vader'father' as its antecedent, and the use of the correct relative form die leads to ungrammaticality.

Example 48
a. Mooi dat dat boek is!
predicative
  beautiful  that  that book  is
b. Een groot huis dat hij gekocht heeft!
attributive
  a big house that  he  bought  has
b'. Een aardige vader dat/*die hij heeft!
attributive
  a nice father  that/who  he has
c. Hard dat Jan gewerkt heeft!
adverbial
  hard  that Jan worked has
[+]  II.  Downtoning

Downtoners scale downwards from some tacitly assumed norm. In order for an intensifier to be characterized as a downtoner, we should be able to infer from the combination intensifier + adjective that the state described by the adjective does not hold to the extent of the implicit norm. This can be tested by placing the modified scalar adjective in the frame in (49a), in which the co-indexation expresses that the subject of the first clause is coreferential with the pronominal subject of the second clause. The phrase in ieder geval'in any case' requires that the following AP scales downward: the degree d2 implied by the second clause must be lower than the degree d1 implied by the first clause (d2 < d1). If the result is acceptable, we are dealing with a downtoner; if it is not possible, the modifier is most likely an amplifier. This is illustrated for the downtoner vrij'rather' in (49b), and for the amplifier zeer'very' in (49c).

Example 49
Downtoner test
a.   NPi is A;
NP is A
Pronouni is in ieder geval
is in any case
MODIFIER A
b.   Jan is aardig;
Jan is nice
hij
he
is in ieder geval
is in any case
vrij
rather
aardig.
nice
c. * Jan is aardig;
Jan is nice
hij
he
is in ieder geval
is in any case
zeer
very
aardig.
nice

On the whole, there seem to be fewer options for downtoning than for amplification: amplifiers are typically adverbs and noun phrases; the use of PPs is limited, and adjectival downtoners are extremely rare, perhaps even non-existent.

[+]  A.  Adverbs

There are a limited number of adverbs that function as downtoners. Some examples are given in (50). Like adverbial amplifiers, the adverbial downtoners cannot be intensified or undergo comparative/superlative formation.

Example 50
a. enigszins nerveus
  somewhat  nervous
b. lichtelijk overdreven
  somewhat  exaggerated
c. tamelijk pretentieus
  fairly  pretentious
d. vrij saai
  rather  boring
[+]  B.  APs

Adjectival downtoners seem rare and are certainly far outnumbered by the adjectival amplifiers, which implies that most adjectival amplifiers in (20) and (21) do not have antonyms. A possible exception is aardig, which can perhaps be seen as the antonym of the amplifier knap; the examples in (51a&b) show that, for at least some speakers, they both preferably combine with negatively valued adjectives. The examples in (51b') show, however, that the correspondence does not hold in full: examples such as aardig actief are easily possible and certainly feel less marked than examples such as knap actief. That the contrast indicated in (51) does not hold for all speakers is clear from the fact that most examples marked by a percentage sign can be readily found on the internet.

Example 51
a. Hij is knap/aardig brutaal/moeilijk/lastig/ongehoorzaam.
  he  is quite/rather  cheeky/difficult/troublesome/disobedient
b. % Hij is knap/aardig beleefd/makkelijk/eenvoudig/gehoorzaam.
  he  is quite/rather  polite/easy/simple/obedient
b'. Hij is aardig/%knap actief/rijk/verbeterd.
  he  is rather/quite  active/rich/improved

Although the acceptability of the examples in (52) unambiguously shows that the amplifying force of knap exceeds the amplifying force of aardig, it is not entirely clear whether aardig is really a downtoner: speakers of Dutch seem to differ with respect to their judgments on the downtoner/amplifier test in (53). Therefore, it may be the case that aardig is actually not a downtoner, but a neutral intensifier; cf. Subsection III.

Example 52
a. Jan is aardig brutaal. Hij is zelfs knap brutaal.
  Jan is rather cheeky  he  is even  quite  cheeky
b. Jan is knap brutaal. Hij is in ieder geval aardig brutaal.
  Jan is quite cheeky  he  is in any case  rather cheeky
Example 53
Jan is brutaal.
a. % Hij is in ieder geval aardig brutaal.
b. % Hij is zelfs aardig brutaal.

      Another possible example of an adjectival downtoner is redelijk'reasonably'. For at least some speakers, this intensifier seems to prefer a positively valued adjective, although it should be noted again that the examples in (54b) can readily be found on the internet.

Example 54
a. redelijk beleefd/makkelijk/eenvoudig/gehoorzaam
  reasonably  polite/easy/simple/obedient
b. % redelijk brutaal/moeilijk/lastig/ongehoorzaam
  reasonably  cheeky/difficult/troublesome/disobedient

If the modified adjective is not inherently positively or negatively valued, the use of redelijk may have the effect that a positive value is assigned to the adjective. Whether the examples in (55) can be felicitously used therefore depends on the context: when Jan is looking for a big TV set, he would most likely use (55a) to indicate that the TV set comes close to what he is looking for; when he is looking for a small device, on the other hand, he would use (55b) to refer to a TV set of more or lesss the correct size.

Example 55
a. Die televisie is redelijk groot.
  that TV.set  is reasonably  big
b. Die televisie is redelijk klein.
  that TV.set is reasonably  small

As is shown in (56a), redelijk seems to pass the downtoner test. However, given that the use of zelfs'even' is not as marked as one would expect in the case of a downtoner, it may again be the case that we are dealing with a neutral intensifier. This would also be in accordance with the examples in (56b&c), which show that the downtoning/amplifying force of redelijk is exceeded by that of unambiguous downtoners and amplifiers like vrij'quite' and erg'very'.

Example 56
a. Die televisie is groot. Hij is in ieder geval/?zelfs redelijk groot.
  that TV.set  is big  he  is in any case/even  reasonably big
b. Die televisie is vrij groot. Hij is zelfs redelijk groot.
  that TV.set  is quite big  he  is even reasonably big
c. Die televisie is erg groot. Hij is in ieder geval redelijk groot.
  that TV.set  is very big  he  is in any case  reasonably big

      This subsection has discussed two adjectival intensifiers that can possibly be used as downtoners. The evidence in favor of downtoner status is, however, scant and it may well be the case that these adjectives are actually neutral intensifiers.

[+]  C.  Noun phrases

Although noun phrases do not occur as amplifiers (see Subsection I), they are easily possible as downtoners. This holds especially for the noun phrase een beetje'a little' in (57). As is also demonstrated in these examples, the noun beetje can be modified by the attributive adjective klein'little'.

Example 57
a. een (klein) beetje gek
   little  bit  strange
b. een (klein) beetje verliefd
   little  bit  in.love
c. een (klein) beetje zout
   little  bit  salty

The modifiers in (58) do not occur as regular noun phrases, and the nouns cannot be modified by means of an attributively used adjective. Still, the presence of the indefinite determiner een'a' strongly suggests that we are dealing with noun phrases. Observe further that each of the nominal downtoners in (58a-c) must appear in the shape of a diminutive, and that the downtoner een weinig in (58d) has an archaic flavor. Noun phrases are also very common as modifiers of measure adjectives and comparatives, but we will postpone the discussion of these to, respectively, Section 3.1.3, sub II, and Section 4.3.2.

Example 58
a. een tikkeltje saai
  tiny.bit  boring
b. een ietsje kouder/?koud
  little.bit  colder/cold
c. een (ietsie)pietsie kouder/?koud
  tiny.bit  colder/cold
d. Jan is een weinig verwaand/onzeker.
  Jan is a little  vain/insecure

The element wat'somewhat' in (59), which may also appear in the form ietwat, should probably also be seen as a nominal downtoner; see Subsection V, for a discussion of so-called exclamative wat.

Example 59
wat/ietwat vreemd
  somewhat  odd

      The use of nominal downtoners often has a negative connotation if combined with an adjective in the positive degree. As is shown in (60a), they readily combine with negatively, but not with positively valued adjectives. If they are used with a positively or neutrally valued adjective, the adjective may receive a negative value: (60b) expresses that the cold/warmth is not appreciated by the speaker. This negative connotation can be stressed by adding the particle wel to the clause.

Example 60
a. Hij is (wel) een beetje vervelend/??aardig.
  he  is wel  a bit  nasty/nice
b. Het is daar (wel) een beetje koud/warm.
  it  is there  wel  a bit  cold/warm

It should be noted, though, that these negative connotations are typical for factive, declarative contexts; they are absent in, e.g., the questions and imperative constructions in (61).

Example 61
a. Is hij een beetje aardig?
  is he  a bit  nice
a'. Wees een beetje aardig!
  be  a bit  nice
b. Is het daar een beetje warm?
  Is it  there  a bit  warm
b'. Maak het eens een beetje warm!
  make  it  prt  a bit  warm
[+]  D.  PPs

The prepositional phrase in .... mate'to a .... degree', where the dots indicate the position of an adjective, can also be used as an intensifier. Depending on the nature of the adjective, the PP is interpreted as an amplifier or a downtoner. The latter is the case in (62).

Example 62
a. in geringe mate nieuw
  'new to a low degree'
b. in zekere mate nieuw
  'new to a certain degree'
[+]  E.  Other means of downtoning

With non-derived adjectives, a downtoning effect can also be obtained by affixation with the suffix -tjes (and its allomorphs -jes, -pjes and -etjes). Some examples are given in (63). Note that these adjectives cannot be used attributively.

Example 63
a. bleekjes 'a bit pale'
e. stijfjes 'slightly stiff'
b. gladjes 'a bit slippery'
f. stilletjes 'a bit quiet'
c. frisjes 'a bit cold'
g. witjes 'a bit white'
d. natjes 'a bit wet'
h. zwakjes 'somewhat feeble'

Formations like these differ from the inherently amplified adjectives in (36) in Subsection IE, such as beeldschoon'gorgeous' and oliedom'extremely stupid', in that the addition of an intensifier is possible. The examples in (64) show that the intensifier can be either a downtoner or an amplifier, provided at least that the latter do not indicate an extremely high degree; whereas amplifiers like heel'quite' and zeer'very' are easily possible, those of the type in (21) give rise to a marked result at best.

Example 64
a. nogal/heel/??ontzettend bleekjes
  rather/quite/extremely  pale
b. vrij/zeer/??vreselijk stilletjes
  rather/very/terribly  quiet
c. een beetje/heel/??afgrijselijk zwakjes
  a bit/very/*atrociously  feeble

      The examples in (65), finally, show that downtoners cannot be modified themselves and cannot occur in negative clauses; see Section 3.3, sub I, for more discussion of negation. This need not surprise us given that amplifiers can only be modified or occur in negative contexts if they are adjectival in nature; cf, subsection I. The lack of these options can therefore be attributed to the fact that there are no adjectival downtoners.

Example 65
a. * Die jongen is enigszins vrij nerveus.
  that boy  is slightly  rather nervous
a'. * Die jongen is vrij enigszins nerveus.
b. * Die jongen is niet enigszins/vrij/een beetje nerveus.
  that boy  is not  slightly/rather/a bit  nervous
[+]  III.  Neutral intensification

Subsections I and II gave two tests for determining whether an intensifier must be considered an amplifier or a downtoner: if an intensifier can be placed in the frame in (66a), it is an amplifier; if it can be placed in the frame in (66b), it is a downtoner. The (c)-examples in (66) show that some intensifiers, like nogal'fairly', cannot readily be placed in either of the frames. We will call these modifiers neutral intensifiers.

Example 66
a. NPi is A; pronouni is zelfs MODIFIER A.
  NP is A  is even
b. NPi is A; pronouni is in ieder geval MODIFIER A.
  NP is A  is in any case
c. ?? Jan is aardig; hij is zelfs nogal aardig.
  Jan is nice  he  is even  fairly nice
c'. ?? Jan is aardig; hij is in ieder geval nogal aardig.
  Jan is nice  he  is in any case  fairly nice

Other intensifiers that may belong to this group are given in (67), although it should be noted that speakers tend to differ in their judgments with respect to the result of the tests in (66). For example, for some speakers the intensifier betrekkelijk'relatively' can be used as a downtoner, and the intensifier tamelijk'fairly' can be used as an amplifier with the meaning “quite" in at least some contexts: dat is tamelijk beledigend'that is fairly/quite insulting'. See in this connection also the discussion of aardig in the examples in (51) to (53).

Example 67
a. betrekkelijk tevreden
  relatively  satisfied
d. redelijk tevreden
  reasonably  satisfied
b. nogal aardig
  fairly  nice
e. tamelijk koud
  fairly  cold
c. min of meer bang
  less or more  afraid
  'more or lesss afraid'

The examples in (68) show that neutral intensifiers resemble downtoners in that they cannot be modified and cannot occur in negative clauses. But given that the neutral intensifier redelijk'reasonably' is clearly adjectival in nature, we cannot account for this in this case by appealing to their categorial status.

Example 68
a. * Jan is nogal redelijk tevreden.
  Jan is fairly  reasonably  satisfied
a'. * Jan is niet redelijk tevreden.
   Jan is not  reasonably  satisfied
b. * Jan is redelijk nogal tevreden.
  Jan is reasonably  fairly  satisfied
b'. * Jan is niet nogal tevreden.
   Jan is not  fairly  satisfied
[+]  IV.  The interrogative intensifier hoe'how'

This subsection discusses the interrogative intensifier hoe. This element can be used in all contexts where we can find intensifiers, that is, as a modifier of a gradable set-denoting adjective or as the modifier of an intensifier of a set-denoting adjective. We will discuss the two cases in separate subsections.

[+]  A.  Interrogative hoe as modifier of a set-denoting adjective

The interrogative intensifier hoe may occur with all adjectives that can be modified by an intensifier. Semantically, the intensifier hoe can be characterized as a question operator, which leads to the semantic representation of (69a) in (69b). The answer to a question like (69a) will provide an amplifier (d > dn), a downtoner (d < dn), a neutral intensifier (d ≈ dn), or some other element like the deictic element zo, which is discussed in Section 3.1.3, sub I, that can determine more precisely what position on the implied scale is intended.

Example 69
a. Hoe goed is Jan?
  how good is Jan
b. ? d [ GOED (Jan,d)]

The examples in (70) show that in the case of attributively used adjectives, the modified adjective must always follow the determiner een; constructions of the English type how big a computer are not acceptable in Dutch.

Example 70
a. Een hoe grote computer heeft hij gekocht?
  how  big  computer  has  he  bought
  'How big a computer did he buy?'
b. * Hoe groot een computer heeft hij gekocht?
  how big  a computer  has  he  bought
[+]  B.  Interrogative hoe as modifier of an intensifier

Interrogative hoe can also be used as an interrogative modifier of adverbially used gradable adjectives like druk in druk bezig'very busy'; cf. example (20). A remarkable fact is that the resulting interrogative adverbial phrase is often placed in clause-initial position in isolation, that is, that wh-movement may strand the modified adjective and thus give rise to discontinuous APs. In fact, movement of the full AP often yields a less felicitous result. This is shown in (71).

Example 71
a. [Hoe druk]i is Jan [APti bezig]?
  how lively  is Jan  busy
a'. ?? [AP Hoe druk bezig]i is Jan ti?
b. [Hoe erg]i is Jan [APti ziek]?
  how badly  is Jan  ill
b'. ?? [AP Hoe erg ziek]i is Jan ti?
c. [Hoe hard]i is die nieuwe computer [APti nodig]?
  how badly  is that new computer  needed
c'. ?? [AP Hoe hard nodig]i is die nieuwe computer ti?

The examples in (72) show, however, that the modifier hoe itself can never be wh-moved in isolation but must pied-pipe the adjective it modifies: (72a) corresponds to (69a), in which hoe directly modifies the adjective, and (72b) corresponds to (71a), in which hoe modifies the amplifier of the adjective.

Example 72
a. * Hoe is Jan goed?
b. * Hoe is Jan druk bezig?

      The primeless examples in (73) show that extraction of the adjectival amplifier is also possible if it is preceded by the deictic element zo (cf. Section 3.1.3, sub IA), but in this case movement of the complete AP is possible as well, as is illustrated by the primed examples of (73). The acceptability of these primed examples is important given that it unambiguously shows that the adverbial phrase is part of the adjectival phrase (the constituency test), as was already suggested by the representations in (71).

Example 73
a. [Zo druk]i is Jan nou ook weer niet [APti bezig].
  so lively  is Jan now  also  again  not  busy
  'It isnʼt precisely the case that Jan is that busy.'
a'. [AP Zo druk bezig]i is Jan nou ook weer niet ti.
b. [Zo erg]i is Jan nou ook weer niet [APti ziek].
  so badly  is Jan now  also  again  not  ill
  'It isnʼt precisely the case that Jan is that ill.'
b'. [AP Zo erg ziek]i is Jan nou ook weer niet ti.
c. [Zo hard]i is die nieuwe computer nou ook weer niet [APti nodig].
  so badly  is that new computer  now  also  again  not  needed
  'It isnʼt precisely the case that we need that computer that badly.'
c'. [AP Zo hard nodig]i is die nieuwe computer nou ook weer niet ti.

      The examples in (74) show that the interrogative intensifier can be extracted from an embedded clause and put in clause-initial position of the matrix clause, just as in the case of regular wh-movement.

Example 74
a. [Hoe druk]i denk je [dat Jan [APti bezig] is]?
  how lively  think you   that  Jan  busy  is
b. [Hoe erg]i denk je [dat Jan [AP ziek ti] is]?
  how badly  think  you   that  Jan  ill  is
c. [Hoe hard]i denk je [dat die nieuwe computer [APti nodig] is]?
  how badly  think  you   that  a new computer  needed  is

For completeness’ sake, the primeless examples in (75) show that extraction of the adjectival intensifier from an embedded clause is also possible if it is modified by the deictic element zo. The primed examples show, however, that extraction of the complete adjectival phrase gives rise to a degraded result.

Example 75
a. [Zo druk]i denk ik nou ook weer niet [dat Jan [APti bezig] is].
  so lively  think  now  also  again  not   that  Jan  busy  is
  'It isnʼt precisely the case that I think that Jan is that busy.'
a'. ?? [AP Zo druk bezig]i denk ik nou ook weer niet [dat Jan ti is].
b. [Zo erg]i denk ik nou ook weer niet [dat Jan [AP ziek ti] is].
  so badly  think  now  also  again  not   that  Jan  ill  is
  'It isnʼt precisely the case that I think that Jan is that ill.'
b'. ?? [AP Zo erg ziek]i denk ik nou ook weer niet [dat Jan ti is].
c. [Zo hard]i denk ik nou ook weer niet [dat die nieuwe computer [APti nodig] is].
  so badly  think  now also again not that  that new computer  needed  is
  'It isnʼt precisely the case that I think that that new computer is that essential.'
c'. ?? [Zo hard nodig]i denk ik nou ook weer niet [dat die nieuwe computer ti is].

      The movement behavior of the interrogative intensifiers and the intensifiers modified by deictic zo is special, given that the primeless examples in (76) show that in other cases splitting the AP gives rise to a degraded result. Preposing of the complete AP, as in the primed examples, is clearly preferred in these cases.

Example 76
a. *? Druk/(?)Erg druk is Jan niet bezig.
  lively/very lively  is Jan not  busy
a'. (Erg) druk bezig is Jan niet.
b. *Erg/*?Heel erg is Jan niet ziek.
  badly/very badly  is Jan not ill
b'. (Heel) erg ziek is Jan niet.
c. *? Hard/(?)Heel hard hebben we die nieuwe computer niet nodig.
  badly/very badly  have  we that new computer  not  needed
c'. (Heel) hard nodig hebben we die nieuwe computer niet.

      The examples in (77) show that intensifiers can only be modified by interrogative hoe if they can be modified by other intensifiers as well; adverbial intensifiers like zeer'very' and vrij'rather' in (77a) are not gradable and therefore resist modification by intensifiers and interrogative hoe alike. Examples (77b&c) show that the same thing holds for the non-gradable adverbially used adjectives in (21).

Example 77
a. * Hoe/erg zeer/vrij ziek is hij?
  how/very  very/rather  ill  is he
b. * Hoe/erg afgrijselijk lelijk is dat gebouw?
  how/very  atrociously  ugly  is that building
c. * Hoe/erg opmerkelijk mooi is dat boek?
  how/very  strikingly  beautiful  is that book

The examples in (78) show, finally, that the morphologically amplified adjectives in (36) in Subsection IE likewise reject modification both by intensifiers and by interrogative hoe.

Example 78
a. * Hoe/erg beeldschoon is dat schilderij?
  how/very  gorgeous  is that painting
b. * Hoe/erg doodeng is die film?
  how/very  really.scary  is that movie
c. * Hoe/erg oliedom is die jongen?
  how/very  extremely.stupid  is that boy
d. * Hoe/erg beregoed is dat optreden?
  how/very  terrific  is that act
[+]  V.  The exclamative element wat'how'

We conclude this section on intensification with a discussion of the exclamative marker wat. As we have seen in (59), the element wat can be used as a downtoner, in which case it can be replaced by the element ietwat. This is illustrated again in (79).

Example 79
a. Jan is wat/ietwat vreemd.
complementive
  Jan is somewhat  weird
b. Jan is een wat/ietwat vreemde jongen.
attributive
  Jan is a  somewhat  weird  boy
c. Jan loopt wat/ietwat vreemd.
adverbial
  Jan walks  somewhat  weird

As is illustrated in (80a), preposing the adjectival complementive in (79a) into clause-initial position leads to a marginal result. Example (80a) with wat becomes completely acceptable, however, if we give the sentence an exclamative intonation contour, as in (80b), in which case wat no longer functions as a downtoner, but as an amplifier: see Section V11.3.4 for a detailed discussion of the meaning contribution of exclamative wat. Alternatively, the construction as a whole may express emotional involvement or surprise on the part of the speaker. Observe that the downtoner wat and the exclamative element wat differ in that the former cannot, whereas the latter must receive an accent.

Example 80
a. ?? Wat vreemd is Jan.
downtoner
b. Wàt vréémd is Jan!
exclamative

The following subsections will show that the use of the exclamative element wat is not restricted to complementive adjectives such as vreemd in (80b), but is also possible with supplementives and attributively or adverbially used adjectives. We will start the discussion of exclamative wat in complementive constructions.

[+]  A.  Complementives

The exclamative element wat should probably be considered an intensifier (or more precisely: an amplifier), which is clear from the fact illustrated by the examples in (81) that it seems to block the presence of other intensifiers; see (112) for potential counterexamples; See Section V11.3.4, sub I, for a more formal approach to this observation.

Example 81
a. Wàt (*zeer/*vrij) vréémd is Jan!
  what     very/rather  weird  is Jan
  'How weird Jan is!'
b. Wàt (*erg/*nogal) áárdig is jouw vader!
  what     very/rather  nice  is your father
  'How nice your father is!'

The examples in (82) show that the modified adjective cannot occur in the comparative/superlative form either. This need not surprise us, given that Section 4.3 will argue that comparative/superlative formation can be considered on a par with modification and is therefore likewise blocked by the presence of an intensifier; cf. the unacceptability of * zeer vreemder'very stranger'.

Example 82
a. * Wàt vréémder/het vreemdst is Jan!
  what  weirder/the weirdest  is Jan
b. * Wàt áárdiger/het aardigst is jouw vader!
  what  nicer/the nicest  is your father

      A noteworthy property of the exclamative element wat is that it need not be adjacent to the adjective it modifies, but also allows the split pattern in (83). Observe that in these cases the presence of an additional intensifier is also blocked.

Example 83
a. Wàt is Jan (*zeer/*vrij) vréémd!
b. Wàt is jouw vader (*erg/*nogal) áárdig!

The examples in (84) show that extraction of the exclamative element from its clause is never possible, either with pied piping of the adjective or in isolation.

Example 84
a. * Wàt vréémdi zei Marie [dat Jan ti is]!
  what weird  said Marie  that  Jan  is
a'. * Wàt zei Marie [dat Jan vréémd is]!
b. * Wàt áárdigi zei Jan [dat jouw vader ti is]!
  what nice  said  Jan that  your father  is
b'. * Wàt zei Jan [dat jouw vader áárdig is]!

The exclamative cannot be placed in clause-initial position of an embedded clause either. The examples in (85) show that this holds again irrespective of whether the modified adjective is stranded or pied-piped. In this respect, the exclamative phrase wat vreemd/aardig differs from the interrogative phrase hoe vreemd/aardig'how weird/nice', which can replace the wat-phrases in the primeless examples in (84) and (85) without any problem. The split pattern in the primed examples, of course, does not occur with the interrogative phrase given that this pattern is categorically blocked with these phrases; see Subsection IV for examples.

Example 85
a. * Marie vertelde wàt vréémd Jan is.
  Marie told  what weird  Jan  is
a'. * Marie vertelde wàt Jan vréémd is.
b. * Ik vertelde wàt áárdig jouw vader is.
  told  what nice  your father  is
b'. * Ik vertelde wàt jouw vader áárdig is.

The examples in (86) show that the result is generally marginal if the exclamative element wat appears clause-internally, although it should be observed that the result improves considerably if the exclamative phrase is preceded by the particle maar.

Example 86
a. Jan is ??(maar) wàt vréémd!
b. Jouw vader is ??(maar) wàt áárdig!
c. Je gezicht is ??(maar) wàt róód!

      The examples above all involve copular constructions, but exclamative wat is also possible in vinden- and resultative constructions. The split pattern is marked in the former case, though, and the same thing holds for the unsplit pattern in the latter case.

Example 87
a. ?? Wàt vind ik jouw vader vréémd!
  what  consider  your father  strange
a'. Ik vind jouw vader maar wàt vréémd!
b. Wàt maak je die deur víes, zeg!
  what  make  you  that door  dirty  hey
b'. ?? Je maakt die deur maar wàt víes, zeg!

      The examples in (88) show that the split pattern is also excluded in imperative constructions with perception verbs like kijken'to look', but there are various reasons to consider this construction as special. First, the phrase containing exclamative wat can be placed in the initial position of a dependent clause, which is normally excluded; cf. example (85). That the complement of the imperative kijk'look' is indeed an embedded clause is shown by the fact that the finite copular verb is is placed in clause-final position. Second, the construction is special because hoe'how' can replace exclamative wat without any notable change in meaning; more specifically, the embedded clause with hoe does not receive the interpretation of an embedded question. For completeness’ sake, note that the embedded clause in (88a) can also be reduced: Kijk (eens) wat/hoe mooi!

Example 88
a. Kijk (eens) [S wàt/hoe móói die tafel is]!
  look  prt  what  beautiful  that table  is
  'Look how beautiful that table is!'
b. * Kijk (eens) [S wat/hoe die tafel mooi is]!
[+]  B.  Supplementives

In (89), some examples are given with supplementives. In this case the split pattern is strongly preferred over the unsplit pattern.

Example 89
a. Wàt liep Jan bóós weg!
  what  walked  Jan angry  away
a'. ?? Wàt bóós liep Jan weg!
b. Wàt ging Jan tréurig naar huis, zeg!
  what  went  Jan sad  to home hey
b'. ?? Wàt tréurig ging Jan naar huis, zeg!

The fact that the split pattern is possible suggests that exclamative wat does not originate within the adjectival phrase but can be base-generated in clause-initial position. This is because extraction from a supplementive adjectival phrase is normally blocked, which is demonstrated in (90): whereas R-extraction is possible from the complementive in (90a), it is excluded from the supplementive in (90b). In other words, supplementives are islands for extraction, so that it seems unlikely that wat has been extracted from the supplementives in (89a&b). As we will see, similar conclusions can be reached on the basis of the data in C and D below.

Example 90
a. Jan is [AP boos over de afwijzing].
complementive
  Jan is  angry  about the rejection
a'. Jan is daari [AP boos over ti ].
b. Jan liep [AP boos over de afwijzing] weg.
supplementive
  Jan walked  angry  about the rejection  away
b'. * Jan liep daari [AP boos over ti ] weg.

A problem for the assumption that exclamative wat does not originate within the adjectival phrase, however, is that if the exclamative is placed clause-internally, it must be adjacent to the adjective, which suggests that they do form a constituent. The examples in (91) show that, just as in (86), the clause-internal placement of wat requires the presence of the particle maar.

Example 91
a. Jan liep *(maar) wàt bóós weg!
b. Jan ging *(maar) wàt tréurig naar huis!

      The unsplit pattern is also possible in imperative constructions with perception verbs like kijken'to look' like those in (92), but again these constructions are special in that the phrase containing exclamative wat can be placed in the initial position of an embedded clause, hoe'how' can be substituted for exclamative wat without any notable change in meaning, and the split pattern is entirely blocked. Note that (92a) cannot be reduced while maintaining the supplementive reading of the AP: *Kijk (eens) wat/hoe boos! can at best be marginally construed as a reduced copular construction.

Example 92
a. Kijk (eens) [S wàt/hoe bóós Jan weg loopt]!
  look   prt what angry  Jan away  walks
  'Look how angry Jan walks away!'
b. * Kijk (eens) [S wàt/hoe Jan bóós weg loopt]!
[+]  C.  Attributively used adjectives

The exclamative element wat can also be used with attributively used adjectives. The examples in (93) show that, unlike the downtoner wat in (79b), exclamative wat need not immediately precede the adjective, but can be separated from the adjective by the indefinite article een'a'. The two construction types differ slightly in meaning: placement of wat after the article een enhances the amplifying effect, whereas the split pattern emphasizes emotional involvement or surprise on the part of the speaker.

Example 93
a. Een wàt vreemde jongen!
  what  strange  boy
a'. Wàt een vréémde jongen!
  what  strange  boy
b. Een wàt aardige vader!
  what  nice  father
b'. Wàt een áárdige vader!
  what  nice  father

Observe in passing that a definite article is not possible; the primeless examples of (94) are possible with the definite article if wat is interpreted as a downtoner, but then wat cannot have accent.

Example 94
a. * De wàt vreemde jongen!
a'. * Wàt de vréémde jongen!
b. * De wàt aardige vader!
b'. * Wàt de áárdige vader!

The examples in (95) show that the primeless and primed examples in (93) differ syntactically in that only the former can appear in clause-internal position; the orders in the primed examples of (95) are entirely impossible.

Example 95
a. Jan is een wàt vreemde jongen!
  Jan is a  what  strange  boy
a'. * Jan is wàt een vreemde jongen.
b. Jij hebt een wàt aardige vader!
  you  have.got  what  kind  father
b'. * Je hebt wàt een áárdige vader!

The examples in (96) show that primed examples in (95) improve somewhat if exclamative wat is preceded by the particle maar, but certainly not to the same extent as in the complementive and supplementive constructions in (86) and (91). For completeness’ sake the primeless examples in (96) show that the particle maar can also be used with the primeless examples of (95); the particle must follow the indefinite article and be left adjacent to exclamative wat.

Example 96
a. Jan is een maar wàt vreemde jongen!
a'. ?? Jan is maar wàt een vréémde jongen!
b. Jij hebt een maar wàt aardige vader!
b'. ?? Je hebt maar wàt een áárdige vader!

The ungrammatical primed examples in (95) become fully acceptable if the complete exclamative phrase or the exclamative element wat is placed in clause-initial position, as shown in (97).

Example 97
a. Wàt een vréémde jongen is Jan!
a'. Wàt is Jan een vréémde jongen!
b. Wàt een áárdige vader heb jij!
b'. Wàt heb jij een áárdige vader!

      Another difference between the primed and primeless examples in (93) concerns the status of the element een. In the primeless example een must be construed as the indefinite article. This is clear from the fact that it must be replaced by the phonetically empty article if the noun is plural, as is shown in (98).

Example 98
a. Dat zijn Ø/*een wàt vreemde jongens!
  that  are  Ø/a  what  strange  boys
b. Je hebt Ø/*een wàt aardige ouders!
  you  have  Ø/a  what  nice  parents

      In the primed examples in (93), on the other hand, the element een is a spurious article, given that it can be maintained if the noun is plural. This is obligatory if the full noun phrase is placed in clause-initial position, but optional if we are dealing with the split pattern. It is not clear what causes this difference.

Example 99
a. Wàt een/*Ø vréémde jongens zijn dat!
  what  a/Ø  strange  boys  are  that
a'. Wàt zijn dat een/Ø vréémde jongens!
b. Wàt een/*Ø áárdige ouders heb jij!
  what  a/Ø  nice  parents  have  you
b'. Wàt heb jij een/Ø áárdige ouders!

That een is a spurious article is also clear from the fact that it does not determine number agreement on the verb in (99a&a'); verb agreement is triggered by the number of the subject noun jongens'boys'. This is illustrated again in (100) by means of a construction with the lexical, intransitive verb lopen'to walk'.

Example 100
a. Wàt looptsg daar een vréémde jongensg!
  what  walks  there  a weird boy
b. Wàt lopenpl daar een vréémde jongenspl!
  what  walk  there  a weird boys

      It is very unlikely that clause-initial exclamative wat in (100) originates within the attributively used adjectival phrase, given that extraction from a noun phrase is generally blocked. The idea that wat is base-generated in clause-initial position is also consistent with the fact, illustrated in (101), that the noun phrase associate can function as the complement of a prepositional phrase; subextraction from PPs is normally impossible.

Example 101
a. Wàt ga jij met een ráre mensen om, zeg!
  what  go  you  with a weird people  prt.  hey
  'You are meeting such weird people!'
b. Wàt zit jij op een móóie stoel, zeg!
  what  sit  you  on a nice chair  hey

      Occasionally, it seems possible to have exclamative wat in the absence of an attributively used adjective. Example (102a) implies that Jan works in an impressive manner, and (102b) implies that we are dealing with heavy rains.

Example 102
a. Wat is Jan een werker, zeg!
  what  is Jan a worker  hey
b. Wat een regen, zeg!
  what  a rain  hey

The examples in (102) may be instances of the nominal exclamative construction, which behaves quite similarly to the primed examples in (93): the (a)-examples in (103) show that the modified nominal construction cannot occur in clause-internal position, but must be preposed as a whole or be split, and the (b)-examples that een is a spurious article and that number agreement is determined by the noun.

Example 103
a. * Jan heeft wat een boeken!
  Jan has  what a books
a'. Wàt <een bóeken> heeft Jan <een bóeken>!
  'What a lot/a nice set of books John has got!'
b. Wàt een bóeksg issg dat!
  what a book  is  that
  'What a nice/weird/... book is that.'
b'. Wàt een bóekenpl zijnpl dat!
  what a books  are  that

The exclamatives in the examples in (103) may express that the books have some contextually determined extraordinary property (they are magnificent, worn-out, etc.), or, if the noun is plural, that there was an extraordinary number of books. Consequently, examples such as (104) are ambiguous: the exclamative may be associated with the attributive modifier, in which case the sentence expresses that there were a number of magnificent books for sale, or with the number marking on the noun, in which case the sentence expresses that there were loads of beautiful books for sale.

Example 104
Wat waren er een mooie boeken te koop!
  what  were  there  a beautiful books  for sale
'There were a number of magnificent books for sale.'
'There were loads of beautiful books for sale.'

      For completeness’ sake, we want to conclude by noting that the attributive construction can also be used in imperative constructions with perception verbs like kijken'to look'. The examples in (105) differ in various ways, however, from the corresponding complementive and supplementive constructions in (88) and (92): first, the unsplit and the split pattern are both fully acceptable and, second, hoe'how' cannot be substituted for exclamative wat.

Example 105
a. Kijk (eens) [S wat/*hoe een mooie jurk ik gekocht heb]!
  look   prt  what  a beautiful dress  bought  have
  'Look how beautiful a dress Iʼve bought!'
b. * Kijk (eens) [S wat/hoe ik een mooie jurk gekocht heb]!

The embedded clause in (105a) can also be reduced provided that the context provides sufficient clues to identify the semantic content of the elided verb: If not, an example such as Kijk (eens) wat een mooie jurk! will typically be interpreted as a copular construction.

[+]  D.  Adverbially used adjectives

Some examples of exclamative constructions with adverbially used adjectives are given in (106). As in the case of the supplementives in Subsection B, the split pattern seems to be preferred over the unsplit pattern. The possibility of the split patterns shows again that the exclamative must be base-generated in clause-initial position given that adverbial phrases are normally islands for extraction.

Example 106
a. Wàt loop jij ráár!
  what  walk  you  weird
a'. ? Wàt ráár loop jij!
b. Wàt werk jij hárd!
  what  work  you  hard
b'. ? Wàt hárd werk jij!

The examples in (107) show that, as in the case of the complementive and supplementive adjectives, exclamative wat can only be placed in clause-internal position if it is preceded by the particle maar.

Example 107
a. Jij loopt ??(maar) wàt ráár!
b. Jij werkt ??(maar) wàt hárd!

It can further be noted that exclamative wat seems to be able to perform an adverbial function if used in isolation. Example (108) implies that Jan has been working very hard; cf. the discussion of the attributive examples in (102).

Example 108
Wat heeft Jan gewerkt, zeg!
  what  has  Jan  worked  hey

      In accordance with the fact that the adverbially used adjectives in (20) behave like gradable adjectives, the primeless examples in (109) show that it is normally possible to combine them with exclamative wat. The primed and doubly-primed examples show that the unsplit patterns are not possible; placement of the complete adverbial modifier or the complete adjectival phrase in clause-initial position leads to a severely degraded result.

Example 109
a. Wàt is Jan drùk bezig!
  what  is Jan  lively  busy
a'. *? Wàt druk is Jan bezig!
a''. ?? Wàt druk bezig is Jan!
b. Wàt is die nieuwe computer hàrd nodig!
  what  is that new computer  badly  needed
b'. *? Wàt hard is die nieuwe computer nodig!
b''. ?? Wàt hard nodig is die nieuwe computer!

It should be noted that exclamative wat cannot be used to amplify the amplifier erg, despite the fact that this modifier can normally be preceded by an amplifier itself.

Example 110
a. Jan is heel erg ziek.
  Jan is very very ill
b. ?? Wàt is Jan erg ziek!

      The examples in (111) show that exclamative wat blocks modification and comparative/superlative formation of the intensifier; cf. (81) and (82). Whereas the intensifier hard allows modification and comparative/superlative formation in the primeless examples, this is blocked in the exclamative primed examples.

Example 111
a. Die nieuwe computer is zeer hárd nodig.
  that new computer  is very badly  needed
a'. * Wàt is die nieuwe computer zeer hárd nodig!
b. Die nieuwe computer is hárder/het hárdst nodig.
  that new computer  is harder/the hardest  needed
b'. * Wàt is die nieuwe computer hárder/het hárdst nodig!

      Despite the fact that the adverbially used adjectives in (21) from Subsection IB cannot be modified by an intensifier, the primeless examples in (112) show that they do occur in the exclamative construction. The primed and doubly-primed examples show that the unsplit patterns are degraded; placement of the intensifier phrase in clause-initial position is unacceptable, and placement of the complete adjectival phrase is at least marked.

Example 112
a. Wàt is dat gebouw afgríjselijk lelijk!
  what  is that building  atrociously ugly
a'. * Wàt afgrijselijk is dat gebouw lelijk!
a''. ? Wàt afgrijselijk lelijk is dat gebouw!
b. Wàt is dat boek opmèrkelijk mooi!
  what  is that book  strikingly beautiful
b'. * Wàt opmerkelijk is dat boek mooi!
b''. ? Wàt opmerkelijk mooi is dat boek!

      Exclamative adverbial phrases can also occur in imperative constructions with perception verbs like kijken'to look'. Like the attributive construction, but unlike the complementive and supplementive constructions, both the unsplit and the split pattern seem acceptable. Exclamative wat again alternates with hoe, but only in the unsplit pattern.

Example 113
a. Kijk [S wat/hoe hard die jongen rent]!
  look  what  fast  that boy  runs
  'Look how fast that boy is running!'
b. Kijk [S wat/*hoe die jongen hard rent]!
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