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5.4. N-ellipsis
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Under certain circumstances, the head of a noun phrase need not be overtly expressed. This is possible if the remainder of the noun phrase consists of a definite or indefinite determiner combined with an attributive adjective or an ordinal numeral, as in (104).

Example 104
a. Jan kocht een/de blauwe vaas en Peter een/de groene [e].
  Jan bought  a/the blue vase  and  Peter a/the green (one)
b. Jan kreeg de eerste prijs. De tweede [e] ging naar Peter.
  Jan got  the first prize  the second  went  to Peter
  'Jan got the first prize. The second (prize) was given to Peter.'

N-ellipsis of this sort does not occur with other modifiers of the noun. This is illustrated in (105) by means of a postnominal PP-modifier. Examples such as (105) become acceptable, of course, if an attributive adjective is added: een/de groene [e] met blauwe strepen.

Example 105
* Marie kocht een/de jurk met groene stippen en Els kocht een/de [e] met blauwe strepen.
  Marie bought  a/the dress  with green spots and  Els bought a/the  with blue stripes

Note that the term N-ellipsis is somewhat misleading given that the ellipsis may involve a larger projection of the noun. Two examples are given in (106): (106a) is interpreted in such a way that Peter has a blue American car and (106b) that Peter tells the long version of the story.

Example 106
a. Jan heeft een groene Amerikaanse wagen en Peter een blauwe [e].
  Jan has  green  American  car  and  Peter a blue (one)
b. Jan vertelde de korte versie van het verhaal en Peter de lange [e].
  Jan told  the short version of the story  and  Peter the long (one)

      N-ellipsis is also possible without the presence of an attributive modifier provided that the remainder of the noun phrase is a cardinal number or a demonstrative pronoun, as in (107). In these examples, the empty noun is represented by [e].

Example 107
a. Jan kocht vier vazen en Peter drie [e].
  Jan bought  four vases  and  Peter three
b. Jan kocht deze vaas en Peter die [e].
  Jan bought  this vase  and  Peter that (one)

Given the acceptability of the examples in (107) it does not come as a surprise that the primeless examples in (108) with postnominal PP-modifiers are possible as well. Interestingly, examples such as (108a) seem to require that the second adjunct is reduced. If the second conjunct is not reduced, the construction in (109) with so-called quantitative er seems much preferred.

Example 108
a. Jan kocht vier vazen uit China en Peter drie [e] uit Chili.
  Jan bought  four vases from China  and  Peter three from Chile
b. Jan kocht deze vaas uit China en Peter die [e] uit Chili.
  Jan bought  this vase from China  and  Peter that (one)  from Chile
Example 109
a. * Jan kocht vier vazen uit China en Peter kocht drie [e] uit Chili.
  Jan bought  four vases from China  and  Peter bought  three  from Chile
b. Jan kocht vier vazen uit China en Peter kocht er drie [e] uit Chili.
  Jan bought  four vases from China and  Peter bought  er  three  from Chile

      This section focuses on cases such as (104a), that is, on cases in which an attributive adjective is present. As is already indicated in the examples above, we will assume that the reduced noun phrase has the structure [NP een groene [e]], where [ e] indicates an empty projection of the noun. The nominal projection [ e] receives an interpretation, which may either be reconstructed from the (linguistic or non-linguistic) context or be established independently; the two cases will be discussed in, respectively, Subsection I and II. Before we do this, we want to point out that for some (but not all) speakers, N-ellipsis is only allowed if the adjective has the attributive -e ending. In other words, for these speakers N-ellipsis is excluded in singular indefinite noun phrases headed by a neuter noun. This gives rise to the contrast in (110), where the empty noun in (110a) is interpreted as the non-neuter noun fiets'bike', and in (110b) as the neuter noun boek'book'.

Example 110
a. Mijn fiets is gestolen en ik heb daarom een nieuwe [e] gekocht.
  my bike  is stolen  and  have  therefore  a new (one)  bought
  'My bike has been stolen, and therefore Iʼve bought a new one.'
b. % Mijn boek is gestolen en ik heb daarom een nieuw [e] gekocht.
  my book  is stolen  and  have  therefore  a new (one)  bought
  'My book has been stolen, and therefore Iʼve bought a new one.'

Further, even those speakers who do accept (110b) occasionally reject cases in which the attributive -e is absent. This is especially the case with adjectives that cannot take the attributive -e ending; cf. Section 5.1.2. The judgments in (111) are of an idiosyncratic nature and may vary from speaker to speaker.

Example 111
a. Jan heeft zijn zilveren ring verkocht en een gouden [e] gekocht.
  Jan has  his silver ring  sold  and  a golden  bought
  'Jan has sold his silver ring and has bought a golden one.'
b. *? Ik heb hem de geprinte brief gegeven en zelf de handgeschreven [e] gehouden.
  have  him  the printed letter  given  and  myself  the hand.written  kept
  'I gave him the printed letter and have kept the hand-written one myself.'
c. * Hij heeft een luxe huis en ik een van alle franje ontdaan [e].
  he  has  a luxurious home and  an  of all luxury  deposed
  'He has a luxurious home and I have [a house] that is deprived of all luxury.'

Given these problems with uninflected attributive adjectives, which deserve more attention in the future, the following subsections will only provide examples in which the adjective is inflected.

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[+]  I.  Context sensitive N-ellipsis: een/de/het groene'lit: a/the green'

This subsection discusses N-ellipsis that is sensitive to the context, which may be of a non-linguistic or a linguistic nature. These two contexts are discussed in, respectively, Subsections A and B. Since N-ellipsis can be confused with backward conjunction reduction, the differences between the two constructions will be discussed in Subsection C.

[+]  A.  N-ellipsis triggered by the non-linguistic context

N-ellipsis triggered by the non-linguistic context is quite a common phenomenon. When two persons are in the zoo watching the penguins being fed, one could easily say something like (112a). Similarly, while looking at some dolls on display in a shop window, one can say something like (112b-c). Observe that N-ellipsis can apply to several types of arguments: in (112a), we are dealing with a subject, in (112b) with an object, and in (112c) with a prepositional complement.

Example 112
a. De kleine [e] heeft nog geen vis gekregen.
  the small  has  yet  no fish  received
  'The small one didnʼt get any fish yet.'
b. Ik ga de grote [e] met de blauwe jurk kopen.
  go  the big with the blue dress  buy
  'Iʼll buy that big one with the blue dress.'
c. Kijk eens naar de grote [e] met de blauwe jurk!
  look  prt  at  the big  with the blue dress

The examples in (113) show that N-ellipsis triggered by the non-linguistic context is marked if the adjective is preceded by the definite neuter determiner het. For example, when we are looking at a number of CDs, it would be perfectly acceptable to use (113a) with the definite determiner de, but it would be awkward to use (113b) when we are looking at number of books.

Example 113
a. Ik heb net de nieuwe [e] van Lou Reed gekocht.
de CD
  have  just  the new  by Lou reed  bought
  'I just bought the new one.'
b. % Ik heb net het nieuwe [e] van Jeroen Brouwers gekocht.
het boek
  have  just  the new  by Jeroen Brouwers  bought
  'I just bought the new one.'
[+]  B.  N-ellipsis triggered by the linguistic context

The context from which the content of the empty noun can be recovered can also be provided by the linguistic environment. The following subsections discuss some restrictions on the antecedent of the elided nominal projection.

[+]  1.  N-ellipsis licensed by an element in a preceding sentence

      The primeless examples in (114) show that N-ellipsis can be licensed by some syntactically realized noun in a preceding sentence, whereas the primed examples show that N-ellipsis is excluded if [ e]precedes the overtly realized noun. The unacceptability of the singly-primed examples is not due to the empty element but to the overtly realized one, which will be clear from the fact that applying N-ellipsis to the latter, as in the doubly-primed examples, will give rise to a fully acceptable result if the discourse provides a suitable antecedent for both empty nouns.

Example 114
a. Ik heb een nieuwe stoel gekocht. Jij mag de oude [e] meenemen.
  have  a new chair  bought  you  may  the old  away.take
  'I bought a new chair. You may take the old one.'
a'. *? Ik heb een nieuwe [e] gekocht. Jij mag de oude stoel meenemen.
a''. Ik heb een nieuwe [e] gekocht. Jij mag de oude [e] meenemen.
b. Ik heb de nieuwe postzegels gezien. De mooiste [e] komt uit Finland.
  I have the new stamps  seen  the most.beautiful  comes  from Finland
  'Iʼve seen the new stamps. The most beautiful one comes from Finland.'
b'. *? Ik heb de nieuwe [e] gezien. De mooiste postzegel komt uit Finland.
b''. Ik heb de nieuwe [e] gezien. De mooiste [e] komt uit Finland.

The conditions on the interpretation of [ e]resemble those on the interpretation of referential personal pronouns. This will become clear when we compare the examples in (114) with those in (115), in which coreference is indicated by italics. Just like [ e]in the primeless examples in (114), the pronoun hij in (115a) is dependent for its interpretation on the direct object in the preceding sentence, and like the empty noun in the primed examples of (114), the pronoun in (115b) cannot precede its antecedent. This becomes possible, however, if the antecedent itself is an empty noun or a pronoun, as in the doubly-primed examples in (114) and example (115c).

Example 115
a. Ik belde Peter gisteren. Hij is ontslagen.
  I called  Peter  yesterday  he  has.been  dismissed
b. *? Ik belde hem gisteren. Peter is ontslagen.
  I called  him  yesterday  Peter  has.been  dismissed
c. Ik belde hem gisteren. Hij is ontslagen.
  called  him  yesterday he  has.been  dismissed

      Note that N-ellipsis discourse is also possible if the syntactically realized antecedent is neuter, in contrast to what is the case if the antecedent is determined by the non-linguistic context. This will become clear by comparing the examples in (116) with the one in (113b).

Example 116
a. Ik heb een nieuw woordenboek gekocht. Jij mag het oude [e] hebben.
  have  a new dictionary  bought  you  may  the old  have
  'I bought a new dictionary. You may take the old one.'
b. Ik heb de nieuwe boeken gezien. Het gele [e] komt uit Finland.
  have  the new books  seen  the yellow  comes  from Finland
  'Iʼve seen the new books. The yellow one comes from Finland.'
[+]  2.  N-ellipsis and coordination

If the sentences in (114) are coordinated by means of the conjunction en'and', the judgments remain the same. More cases of N-ellipsis in coordinated clauses are given in (117) to (119). These examples show that N-ellipsis may apply both in full and in reduced clauses; in (118) the subject of the second conjunct is not expressed, and in (119) the verb of the second conjunct is absent as the result of gapping.

Example 117
Coordinated full clauses
a. dat Jan [NP de grote tent] opzet en Piet [NP de kleine [e]] neerhaalt.
  that  Jan  the big tent  puts.up  and  Piet  the small  pulls.down
  'that Jan is putting up the big tent and Piet is pulling down the small one.'
b. dat Jan [NP het sterke paard] roskamt en Piet [NP het zieke [e]] knuffelt.
  that  Jan  the strong horse  curries  and  Piet  the sick cuddles
  'that Jan is currying the strong horse and Piet is cuddling the sick one.'
Example 118
Forward conjunction reduction
a. dat Jan [NP de grote tent] opzet en [NP de kleine [e]] neerhaalt.
  that  Jan  the big tent  puts.up  and  the small  pulls.down
  'that Jan is putting up the big tent and pulling down the small one.'
b. dat Jan [NP het sterke paard] roskamt en [NP het zieke [e]] knuffelt.
  that  Jan  the strong horse  curries  and  the sick  cuddles
  'that Jan is currying the strong horse and cuddling the sick one.'
Example 119
Gapping
a. dat Jan [NP de grote tent] opzet en Piet [NP de kleine [e]]
  that  Jan  the big tent  puts.up  and  Piet  the small
  'that Jan is putting up the big tent and Piet (is putting up) the small one.'
b. dat Jan [NP het sterke paard] roskamt en Piet [NP het zieke [e]]
  that  Jan  the strong horse  curries  and  Piet  the sick
  'that Jan is currying the strong horse and Piet (is currying) the sick one.'

      Although N-ellipsis leads to a fully acceptable result in coordinated sentences, this seems not to be the case in coordinated noun phrases. The examples in (120) and (121), which involve subjects and objects, respectively, are not acceptable for most speakers, and even for those speakers that accept these examples, the preferred option will still be backward conjunction reduction, which results in structures where the interpretative gap precedes the overtly realized noun; cf, subsection IC.

Example 120
Coordinated noun phrases (in subject position)
a. % dat [NP [de grote tent] en [de lichte [e]]] worden gebruikt.
  that   the big tent  and   the light  are  used
b. % dat [NP [het sterke paard] en [het lieve [e]]] worden geroskamd.
  that   the strong horse  and   the kind  are  curried
Example 121
Coordinated noun phrases (in object position)
a. % dat Jan [NP [de grote tent] en [de lichte [e]]] gebruikt.
  that Jan   the big tent  and   the light  uses
b. % dat Jan [NP [het sterke paard] en [het lieve [e]]] roskamt.
  that Jan   the strong horse  and   the kind  curries
[+]  3.  N-ellipsis and subordination

In addition to occurring in successive and coordinated sentences, N-ellipsis may also occur in the case of subordination. This is demonstrated in the primeless examples in (122). Although some speakers accept the primed examples under the intended interpretation, for most speakers the overt noun must precede the empty one.

Example 122
a. De domme student dacht dat de slimme [e] hem wel zou helpen.
  the silly student  thought  that  the smart  him  prt  would  help
  'The silly student thought that the smart one would help him.'
a'. % De domme [e] dacht dat de slimme student hem wel zou helpen.
b. De rode druiven waren te zoet, hoewel de witte [e] lekker waren.
  the red grapes  were  too sweet  although  the white  appetizing  were
  'The red grapes were too sweet, although the white ones were appetizing.'
b'. % De rode [e]waren te zoet, hoewel de witte druiven lekker waren.
c. Ik wil eerst de oude auto kwijt voordat ik een nieuwe [e] koop.
  want  first  the old car  get.rid.of  before  a new  buy
  'I want to get rid of my old car, before I buy a new one.'
c'. % Ik wil eerst de oude [e] kwijt voordat ik een nieuwe auto koop.

The interpretation of the empty noun again resembles the interpretation of a personal pronoun in this respect; cf. the discussion of (115). This is illustrated in (123), in which coreference is again indicated by italics.

Example 123
a. Jan denkt dat hij wel geholpen zal worden.
  Jan thinks  that  he  prt  helped  will  be
a'. * Hij denkt dat Jan wel geholpen zal worden.
b. Jan kwam langs, hoewel hij ziek was.
  Jan dropped  in  although  he  ill  was
b'. * Hij kwam langs, hoewel Jan ziek was.
c. Jan ontbijt altijd, voordat hij vertrekt.
  Jan  has.breakfast  always  before  he  departs
c. * Hij ontbijt altijd, voordat Jan vertrekt.

The order restriction on the overt and the empty noun is not a surface phenomenon. For example, the primeless examples in (124) show that topicalization of the complement/adjunct clauses in (122) does not block N-ellipsis in the subordinate clause. However, topicalization of the subordinated clauses renders N-ellipsis in the main clause fully acceptable too; this is illustrated in the primed examples in (124), which should be compared with the primed examples in (122).

Example 124
a. Dat de slimme [e] hem wel zal helpen, denkt alleen de domme student.
  that the smart  him  prt  would help  thinks  only  the silly student
a'. Dat de slimme student hem wel zal helpen, denkt alleen de domme [e].
b. Hoewel de witte [e] lekker waren, waren de rode druiven te zoet.
  although  the white  appetizing  were  were  the red grapes  too sweet
b'. Hoewel de witte druiven lekker waren, waren de rode [e] te zoet.
c. Voordat ik een nieuwe [e] koop, wil ik eerst de oude auto kwijt.
  before  a new  buy  want  first  the old car  get.rid.of
c'. Voordat ik een nieuwe auto koop, wil ik eerst de oude [e] kwijt.

The examples in (125) show that the interpretation of [ e] again resembles the interpretation of the referential personal pronouns in this respect: we refer the reader to N5.2.1.5, sub III, for more discussion of the conditions on the interpretation of the personal pronouns.

Example 125
a. Dat hij wel geholpen zal worden, denkt alleen Jan zelf.
  that  he  prt  helped will  be  thinks  only  Jan himself
  'Only Jan himself thinks that heʼll be helped.'
a'. Dat Jan wel geholpen zal worden, denkt alleen hij zelf.
b. Hoewel hij ziek was, kwam Jan langs.
  although  he  ill  was  came  Jan  along
  'Although he was ill, Jan came along.'
b'. Hoewel Jan ziek was, kwam hij langs.
c. Voordat hij vertrekt, ontbijt Jan altijd.
  before  he  leaves  has.breakfast  Jan always
  'Jan is always having breakfast, before he leaves.'
c'. Voordat Jan vertrekt, ontbijt hij altijd.
[+]  4.  N-ellipsis in simple Clauses

N-ellipsis can also apply within simple clauses. This is illustrated in the primeless examples in (126), in which N-ellipsis on a direct/prepositional object is triggered by the subject. Unlike what is the case in the complex sentences in (122), it occasionally seems to be possible for the empty noun to precede the overtly realized one in simple clauses, as shown in the primed examples.

Example 126
a. Het oude paard trapte (naar) het jonge [e].
  the old horse  kicked  towards  the young
  'The old horse kicked (in the direction of) the young one.'
a'. Het oude [e] trapte (naar) het jonge paard.
b. Het oude paard staat naast het jonge [e].
  the old horse  stands  next.to  the young
b'. Het oude [e] staat naast het jonge paard.

The cases of N-ellipsis in the primeless and primed examples of (126) seem to behave differently in various respects. For example, the primed examples require a special intonation contour; contrastive accent (indicated by small capitals) must be placed on the attributive adjectives. Another conspicuous difference is that the overt and empty noun need not have the same number in the primeless examples, whereas this seems to be required in the primed examples. This can easily be demonstrated in (127) by means of the neuter noun paard'horse', which takes the determiner het in the singular and the determiner de in the plural.

Example 127
a. Het oude paard trapte (naar) de jonge [e].
  the old horse  kicked  towards  the young
  'The old horse kicked (in the direction of) the young ones.'
a'. ?? Het oude [e] trapte (naar) de jonge paarden.
b. Het oude paard staat tussen de jonge [e].
  the old horse  stands  between  the young (ones)
b'. ?? Het oude [e] staat tussen de jonge paarden.
[+]  C.  N-ellipsis versus backward conjunction reduction

Although the primed examples in (126) are fully acceptable, we have seen that N-ellipsis normally requires that the empty pronoun be preceded by the overtly realized one. There are, however, examples such as (128) that seem to violate this restriction on N-ellipsis. Such examples always involve coordination; example (128a) involves coordinated clauses, and (128b) involves coordinated noun phrases (as is evident from the plural agreement on the finite verb).

Example 128
a. [[Jan gebruikt de grote —] en [Piet gebruikt de kleine tent]].
   Jan uses  the big  and   Piet uses  the small tent
b. [[De grote —] en [de kleine tent]] staan in de gang.
   the  big  and   the small tent  stand in the corridor

These cases are, however, only apparent counter-examples as they are not cases of N-ellipsis but of backward conjunction reduction, which, as the name already indicates, occurs in coordinated structures only. backward conjunction reduction involves deletion of material at the immediate right edge of the first conjunct under phonological identity with material on the immediate right edge of the second conjunct. Schematically, this deletion operation can be represented as in (129).

Example 129
Backward conjunction reduction:
[[X Z] conjunction [Y Z]] ⇒
[[X ∅] conjunction [Y Z]]

In (129), X, Y and Z stand for random strings of words, with the only restriction that the final constituents of X and Y are accented (i.e., form a contrast with each other). A typical example is given in (130a), in which the deletion is represented by means of double strikethrough. Observe that the deleted string does not make up a constituent; it consists of the main verb gehad, the direct object een gesprek, the adverbial phrase met de directeur, and a subpart of the adverbial phrase of time voor de lunch; see also the impossibility of topicalization of this string in *De lunch een gesprek met de directeur gehad heeft Jan voor. In this example, the prepositions voor and na must receive accent. That the deleted string must be at the immediate right edge of the first conjunct is clear from the fact that the embedded counterpart of (130a) in (130b) is only acceptable if the finite verb heeft, which is overtly realized in (130a), is also omitted.

Example 130
a. [Jan heeft voorde lunch een gesprek met de directeur gehad] en [Piet heeft na de lunch een gesprek met de directeur gehad].
  Jan  has  before  and  Piet has  after  the lunch  a talk  with the director  had
b. dat [Jan voorde lunch een gesprek met de directeur gehad heeft] en [Piet na de lunch een gesprek met de directeur gehad heeft].
  that   Jan before  and  Piet after  the lunch  a talk  with the director  had  has

      Given that we have established that the deleted string must be at the immediate right edge of the first conjunct, we are now able to test whether the examples in (128) involve N-ellipsis or backward conjunction reduction. Let us start with example (128a), which involves coordination of clauses; if this example involves N-ellipsis, we would expect that the noun could also be left out if the noun phrase is followed by other lexical material (cf. example (112b)), whereas we would expect this to be impossible if it involves backward conjunction reduction. The predictions can be tested by putting the example in the perfect tense, as a result of which the participle is placed in clause-final position, as in (131a). Since most speakers consider this sentence unacceptable, we may conclude that we are not dealing with N-ellipsis in (128a), but with backward conjunction reduction. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the sentence becomes fully acceptable if the participle in the first conjunct is deleted as well, as is shown in (131b).

Example 131
a. % Jan heeft de grote — gebruikt en Piet heeft de lichte tent gebruikt.
  Jan has  the big  used  and  Piet has  the light tent  used
b. Jan heeft de grote tent gebruikt en Piet heeft de lichte tent gebruikt.
  Jan has  the big and  Piet has  the light tent  used

      Something similar arises in the case of (128b), which involves coordination of noun phrases: as soon as something follows the interpretative gap in the first conjunct, the structure becomes unacceptable for most speakers. This is brought about in (132a) by adding a possessive van-PP. Example (132b) illustrates that N-ellipsis is not sensitive to the addition of a van-PP, which suggests that example (128b) is also a case of backward conjunction reduction.

Example 132
a. % [[De grote — van mij] en [de kleine tent van de kinderen]] staan daar.
   the big  of me  and   the small tent of the children  stand there
  'The big tent of mine and the small tent of the childrenʼs are standing over there.'
b. dat Jan [NP de grote [N tent] van mij] opzet en Piet [NP de kleine [Ne] van de kinderen] neerhaalt.
  that  Jan  the big tent  of me  puts.up  and  Piet the small  of the children  down-pulls
  'that Jan is putting up the big tent of mine and Piet is pulling down the small one of the childrenʼs.'

      For completeness’ sake, note that, unlike N-ellipsis, backward conjunction reduction is not sensitive to the presence or absence of the adjectival -e ending. This is clear from the fact that, unlike (110b) and (111b), the examples in (133) are acceptable for all speakers of Dutch.

Example 133
a. Piet heeft een nieuw huis gekocht en Marie heeft een oud huis gekocht.
  Piet has  a new  and  Marie has  an old house  bought
  'Piet bought a new, and Marie bought an old house.'
b. Piet heeft de handgeschreven versie meegenomen en Marie heeft de geprinte versie meegenomen
  Piet has  the hand.written  and Marie has  the printed  version  with-taken
  'Piet took the hand-written, and Marie took the printed version.'
[+]  II.  Context insensitive N-ellipsis: de/het vreemde (lit: the strange)

Subsection I has discussed context sensitive N-ellipsis, that is, cases in which the interpretation of the empty noun is determined by the non-linguistic context or an overtly realized noun phrase in preceding discourse. In some cases, however, adjectives without a noun can be used without the context providing any clues about the intended interpretation. The subcases in (134) can be distinguished.

Example 134
a. Het-group -count
i. abstract nouns: het leuke'the entertaining thing'
ii.geographical names: het Griekse'the Greek thing'
b. De-group +count
i. +human nouns: de blinde/bejaarde'the blind/aged person'
ii.biological terms: de lipbloemige/katachtige'the labiate/feline'
[+]  A.  Meaning

The interpretation of the construction is mainly determined by the selected definite article: noun phrases with het refer to abstract, non-countable entities, whereas noun phrases with de refer to persons. This will become clear by means of the following minimal pairs.

Example 135
a. het vreemde (van de zaak)
  the strange   of the case
  'the strange thing (of the case)'
a'. de vreemde
  the strange
  'the stranger'
b. het zieke (van het geval)
  the sick   of the case
  'the sick aspect (of the case)'
b'. de zieke
  the ill
  'the sick person'

The examples in (136) show that the two groups differ in that the het-group can normally be combined with the article het only, whereas the de-group can be freely combined with other determiners like indefinite articles, demonstratives, etc.

Example 136
a. * een/dat vreemde van de zaak
  a/that  funny  of the case
b. een/die vreemde
  a/that  strange
  'a/that stranger'

There are, however, some exceptions to the claim that non-human noun phrases of this type cannot occur with an indefinite article. Examples like (137a&b) are possible and are typically used to refer to jokes of a certain type. Some more or lesss idiomatic examples can be found in (137c&d).

Example 137
a. een leuke/goede 'a funny/good joke'
b. een paar vieze 'a couple of dirty jokes'
c. een gouwe ouwe 'a golden oldie'
d. Jij bent me een mooie/rare!
  you  are  me  a beautiful/weird
  'Youʼre a funny sort, and no mistake!'
[+]  B.  Restrictions

The examples in (138) show that the constructions in (134) are subject to a phonological constraint: they do not occur with adjectives that end in the long vowels /a/ or /i/. Furthermore, the examples in (139) show that the constructions in (134) cannot be formed on the basis of simplex loan words either. The adjectives in (138) and (139) have in common that they do not get the attributive -e ending, but it is important to note the attributive form without schwa cannot perform the function of the adjectives in (134) either.

Example 138
a. * een prima(-e)
  fine (person)
a'. een prima(*-e) vent
  fine  chap
b. * het sexy(-e)
  the  sexy (thing)
b'. het sexy(*-e) gebaartje
  the  sexy  gesture
Example 139
a. * het/de privé(-e)
  the  private (thing/person)
a'. de privé(*-e) les
  the  private  lesson
b. * het/de gratis(-e)
  the  free thing/person
b'. de gratis(*-e) behandeling
  the  free  treatment

In this connection, it should be noted that the number of adjectives ending in /a/ and /i/ is quite limited. Moreover, according to the criteria in De Haas and Trommelen (1993), the cases given in (138) do not even belong to the Germanic part of the Dutch lexicon. So perhaps the examples in (138) are unacceptable for the same reason as those in (139); they are loan words. For completeness’ sake, observe that the adjective albino'albino', but not the adjective indigo'indigo', occurs as a noun: de albino; *de indigo.

[+]  C.  Proposed analyses

This subsection discusses two popular analyses for the examples in (134); see Booij (2002:51-2) for a brief sketch of two alternative proposals. According to the first, traditional proposal, the formations are nominalizations and the -e ending is a nominalizing affix. According to the second proposal, we are dealing with N-ellipsis and the -e ending is therefore the attributive inflection.

[+]  1.  The nominalization analysis

Traditionally, the cases in (134) are considered as instances of nominalization. There are at least four facts supporting this position. First, the examples in (140) show that plural formation of the de-group is possible, which is typically a nominal and not an adjectival property. Note that this argument is mainly based on the orthographic convention, given that the plural -n is not pronounced in Standard Dutch, and that the het-group does not provide similar evidence, given that it consists of non-count noun phrases only.

Example 140
a. de blinde(n) 'the blind one(s)'
b. de goede(n) 'the good one(s)'
c. de lipbloemige(n) 'the labiate(s)'
d. de katachtige(n) 'the feline(s)'

      Second, the -e affix may also appear on adjectives that do not allow the attributive inflection. This holds for the adjectives in (141) that orthographically end in -en. This ending is normally pronounced as schwa but realized as [ən] in the primeless examples.

Example 141
a. het besprokene
  the  discussed (thing)
a'. het besproken(*-e) probleem
  the  discussed  problem
b. de besprokene
  the  discussed (person)
b'. de besproken(*-e) persoon
  the  discussed  person

Observe that if the adjective orthographically ends in -e (schwa), the -e affix is absent; the /n/ in (142) is the plural ending, which should not be confused with the /n/ of besproken in the examples in (141).

Example 142
a. ? De perfiden onder ons zullen zeggen dat ...
  the perfidious ones among us  will say that ...
b. De malafiden maken het onmogelijk voor de bonafiden.
  the malafide ones  make it  impossible  for the bonafide ones

      Third, the examples in (143) seem to provide independent evidence for the fact that the -e ending can be used as a nominalizing affix. The alternative of treating it as attributive inflection runs afoul of the fact that possessive pronouns normally do not inflect. A nominalization approach would furthermore account for the fact that the resulting forms can be preceded by a determiner. Note in this connection that the form jullie cannot be nominalized, which may be related to the observation made in Subsection B that this prohibition also holds for adjectives ending in /i/.

Example 143
Nominalized pronouns inflected with -e
  singular plural
1st person de/het mijne de/het onze
2nd person colloquial de/het jouwe *de/het jullie(-e)
  polite de/het uwe de/het uwe
3rd person masculine de/het z ijne ?de/het hunne
  feminine de/het hare  
  neuter de/het zijne  

The examples in (143) are perhaps not entirely comparable to the cases of context insensitive N-ellipsis under discussion here, given that their interpretation is generally context-dependent; cf. (144a). This does not hold, however, for their plural counterparts in (144b), which are typically used to refer to a certain set of peoples.

Example 144
a. Jij zingt eerst jouw lied. Daarna zing ik het mijne.
  you  sing  first  your song  After  sing  the mine
  'You sing your song first, subsequently, Iʼll sing mine.'
b. Luther en de zijnen
  Luther and  the his
  'Luther and his followers'

      Finally, the examples in (145) pose a severe problem for the N-ellipsis analysis, as the postulated empty nominal element [ e] cannot be replaced by a phonetically realized one. Since the nominalization approach does not postulate such an empty element, these facts indirectly support this approach.

Example 145
a. de ouden van dagen
  the  old  of days
  'senior citizens'
a'. * de oude mensen van dagen
   the  old  people  of days
b. de armen van geest
  the  poor  of spirit
b'. * de arme mensen van geest
   the  poor  people  of spirit
c. de groten van naam
  the  great  of name
c'. * de grote mensen van naam
   the  great  people  of name
[+]  2.  The N-ellipsis analysis

The arguments given in the previous subsection provide important evidence in favor of a nominalization approach to the constructions in (134), but there are also arguments against such an approach, and in favor of assuming that these examples involve N-ellipsis, that is, that we are dealing with genuine adjectives in these cases.
      The first argument concerns plural formation, and could be interpreted as a counterargument to the first argument in favor of nominalization. Although nouns that end in a schwa often can have either a plural -s or a plural -n morpheme, the first seems more common than the latter (which is not pronounced in Standard Dutch). The cases under discussion, however, resist a plural in -s categorically; cf. the primed and primeless examples in (146).

Example 146
a. de blinden/*blindes
  'the blind ones'
a'. de types/?typen
  'the type/the types'
b. de rijken/*rijkes
  'the rich'
b'. de dames/*damen
  'the lady/ladies'
c. de snellen/*snelles
  'the quick ones'
c'. de piramides/?piramiden
  'the pyramids'
d. de goeden/*goedes
  'the good ones'
d'. de ruïnes/?ruïnen
  'the ruins'

This argument against nominalization is probably not very strong given that a noun like waarde'value' does not allow the plural s either: waarden versus *waardes. The same thing holds for a group of nouns ending in the phonetic sequence [idə] that do not allow the -s either: druïden'druids' vs. *druïdes. Consequently, it may be the case that, like these nouns, the affix -e simply has the idiosyncratic property of requiring the plural -n morpheme.

      Another morphological distinction between the constructions in (134b) and simple nouns ending in schwa is that the first resist diminutive formation, whereas the latter generally allow it. For this, compare the primeless and primed examples in (147). This of course supports the N-ellipsis analysis.

Example 147
a. *het blindetje
a'. het typetje 'the character'
b. *het rijketje
b'. het dametje 'the little lady'
c. *het snelletje
c'. het piramidetje 'the little lady'
d. *het goedetje
d'. het ruïnetje 'the little ruin'

      In addition to these morphological arguments, there are also syntactic arguments that favor the N-ellipsis approach to the constructions in (134), and go against a nominalization approach. First, the (allegedly) nominalized adjectives in (148) can be modified by intensifiers like onweerstaanbaar (148a) and erg/zeer'very' (as is clear from the absence of the attributive –e inflection on these forms). Since modification of a noun by an intensifier is not possible (cf. *de erg/zeer kapitalist'lit: the very capitalist'), we conclude that we are dealing with adjectives in (148).

Example 148
a. het onweerstaanbaar leuke (ervan)
  the  irresistibly  funny   of it
b. de erg/zeer rijke
  the  very  rich

For completeness’ sake, note that modification by means of an attributively used adjective is also possible. This is of course expected under both approaches given that we may simply be dealing with stacked adjectives. Compare:

Example 149
de zielige arme (man)
  the  pitiful  poor   man

      The second syntactic argument involves the PP-complements of deverbal adjectives like afhankelijk'dependent'. Section 5.3, sub IB1, has shown that such complements must precede the adjective in attributive position: placement of the PP-complement between the adjective and the noun or after the noun is excluded. If we assume an N-ellipsis analysis, we can therefore immediately account for the fact that the PP van een uitkering must precede afhankelijken in (150b).

Example 150
a. de van een beurs afhankelijke studenten
  the  on a grant dependent  students
a'. * de afhankelijke <van een beurs> studenten <van een beurs>
b. de <van een beurs> afhankelijken <*van een beurs>

As expected, if the adjective is associated with a phrase that can follow the noun, it can also follow the (allegedly) nominalized adjective. This is demonstrated in (151) with adjectives in their equative, comparative and superlative use, which can be combined with postnominal als-, dan- and van-phrases, respectively.

Example 151
a. een even goede (leerling) als Jan
  an  as  good   student  as Jan
b. een betere (leerling) dan Jan
  better   student  than Jan
c. de beste (leerling) van de klas
  the  best  student  of the class

More cases of a somewhat different nature are given in the primeless examples in (152), which should be compared with the primed examples.

Example 152
a. het leuke van de grap
  the  funny  of the joke
a'. het leuke punt van de grap
  the  funny  point  of the joke
b. het vreemde van de zaak
  the  strange  of the case
b'. het vreemde aspect van de zaak
  the  strange  aspect  of the case

The facts in (148) to (152) follow immediately if we assume N-ellipsis, whereas it is not clear how they could be accounted for under the nominalization approach.
      For completeness’ sake, note that it has been argued that examples such as (153a) disfavor the nominalization analysis: since the adjectival participle geplaatste is combined with an argument (a locational PP), it has been suggested that nominalization would have to take a phrase as its input in such cases, which is exceptional. However, since example (153b) shows that nomalizations like plaatsen clearly retain their selectional properties, it can be assumed that something similar holds for the nominalized participle in (153a).

Example 153
a. het in de kast geplaatste
  the  in the cupboard  put
  'the thing(s) which has/have been put in the cupboard'
b. het boeken in de kast plaatsen
  the books  in the cupboard  put
  'the placement of books into the cupboard'
[+]  3.  Conclusion

The discussion in the previous subsections has shown that it cannot be unequivocally determined at present whether the noun phrases in (134) involve nominalized adjectives or N-ellipsis. Both analyses find support in the known data, but both meet certain problems as well.

References:
  • Booij, Geert2002The morphology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
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