• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
7.3. Modification of the adjectival part

This section discusses modification of the adjectival part of the partitive genitive construction We will follow the discussion on modification of the adjective in Subsection I discusses modification of partitive genitive adjectives by intensifiers and Subsection II discusses modification by means of nominal measure phrases, subsection III continues with a discussion of equatives and comparatives, which we have argued in Chapter 4 to be a special case of modification, subsection IV, finally, discusses modification by means of complex intensifiers.
      Before we start, a general property of modified partitive genitive constructions should be pointed out. Recall that Section 7.2.2 has distinguished four classes of nominal(-like) elements that may act as the first part of the partitive genitive construction: inanimate quantificational pronouns like iets'something', indefinite quantifier noun phrases like een heleboel'a lot of', quantifiers like veel'much', and the sequence wat voor. When we consider modification of the partitive genitive adjective, it turns out that it only yields a fully acceptable result if the nominal part is a pronoun, as is shown by the primeless examples in (99). The same thing holds for comparative formation, as is shown in the primed examples.

Example 99
a. iets heel grappigs
  something  very funny
a'. iets grappigers
   something  funnier
b. ?? een heleboel heel grappigs
  a lot of  very funny
b'. ?? een heleboel grappigers
   a lot of  funnier
c. ?? veel heel grappigs
  much  very funny
c'. ?? veel grappigers
   much  funnier
d. ?? wat voor heel grappigs
  what sort of  very funny
d'. *? wat voor grappigers
   what sort of  funnier

Section 7.2.2, Sub I, has shown that the class of inanimate quantificational pronouns consists of three members: iets'something', niets'nothing' and wat'something'. These elements, too, exhibit a difference in distribution. If the partitive genitive is a non-periphrastic comparative, as in the primeless examples in (100), all three yield a fully acceptable result. However, if the partitive genitive is a periphrastic comparative, as in the primed examples of (100), the use of niets and wat leads to a marked result.

Example 100
a. iets grappigers
  something  funnier
a'. iets minder grappigs
  something  less  funny
b. niets grappigers
  nothing  funnier
b'. ? niets minder grappigs
  nothing  less  funny
c. wat grappigers
  something  funnier
c'. ? wat minder grappigs
  something  less  funny

The examples in (101) show that the use of niets and wat is also marked if the adjective is modified by an adverb.

Example 101
a. iets heel grappigs
  something  very  funny
b. ? niets heel grappigs
  nothing  very  funny
c. *? wat heel grappigs
  something  very  funny

For these reasons, the discussion in the subsections below will only consider partitive genitive adjectives that are preceded by the quantificational pronoun iets.

[+]  I.  Adverbial modifier

The examples in (102) show that partitive genitive adjectives can be modified by regular intensifiers like erg/heel/zeer'very' and vrij/nogal'rather'. As with attributive and predicative adjectives, the adverb immediately precedes the partitive genitive. Observe further that only the adjective has an -s suffix attached to it; the intensifier is not inflected.

Example 102
a. iets zeer/vrij merkwaardigs
  something  very/rather  remarkable
b. iets behoorlijk/nogal zeldzaams
  something  considerably/rather  rare
c. iets heel erg verschrikkelijks
  something  very very  terrible

Section 1.2 has shown that some adjectives are ambiguous between an adverbial and adjectival interpretation: goed'well/good' and erg'very/terrible' can either be used as an intensifier that modifies the partitive genitive, as is illustrated in the primeless examples of (103), or as a partitive genitive adjective, as in the primed examples. Despite the fact that the intensifier heel'very' in (103c) may optionally carry the adjectival -e inflection in examples such as een hele lekkere boterham'a very nice sandwich' (cf. Section 5.2, sub IV), it cannot be used as a predicative adjective, which correctly predicts (103c') to be ungrammatical.

Example 103
a. iets goed leesbaars
  something  well  readable
a'. iets goeds
   something  good
b. iets erg kouds
  something  very  cold
b'. iets ergs
   something  terrible
c. iets heel liefs
  something  very  sweet
c'. * iets heels
  something  very
[+]  II.  Nominal measure phrase

Section 3.1.4, sub II, has shown that in some cases modification is also possible by means of a nominal measure phrase. This is typically the case with measure adjectives of the sort given in (104).

Example 104
a. Deze plank is drie cm breed.
  this plank  is three cm  wide
b. Deze muur is twee meter hoog.
  this wall  is two meter  high
c. Het gebouw is honderd jaar oud.
  the building  is a.hundred year  old
d. *? De kaas is drie kilo zwaar.
  the cheese  is  three kilo  heavy

Despite the fact that the modified APs act as predicates in these examples, they cannot readily be used in the partitive genitive construction. This is shown in (105). The relative judgments on the examples in (105) do more or lesss correspond to the judgments on the predicative constructions in (104).

Example 105
a. iets (?drie cm) breeds
  something    three cm  wide
b. iets (?twee meter) hoogs
  something    two meter  high
c. iets (?honderd jaar) ouds
  something    a.hundred year  old
d. iets (*drie kilo) zwaars
  something   three kilo  heavy

It is not clear why the examples in (105) are marginal. Perhaps this is related to the fact that the intended meaning can be expressed by means of the constructions in (106), in which the nominal measure phrase is preceded by the preposition van'of'. Observe that the adjectives are not inflected with a partitive genitive -s suffix in these cases, which suggests that we are dealing here with regular noun phrases comparable to een kast van twee meter hoog'a cupboard of two meters high'.

Example 106
a. iets van drie cm breed
  something  of three cm  wide
b. iets van twee meter hoog
  something  of two meter  high
c. iets van honderd jaar oud
  something  of a.hundred year  old
d. *? iets van drie kilo zwaar
  something  of three kilo  heavy

      Partitive genitives derived from breed, hoog, oud and zwaar can be modified by means of a regular intensifier, as shown in (107). Section, sub ID, has shown that the measure adjectives in the copular constructions in (104) cannot be replaced by their antonyms. This is possible in the examples in (107), however, which suggests that the adjectives in (107) do not function as the “neutral" form of the measure adjectives.

Example 107
a. iets zeer breeds/smals
  something  very  wide/narrow
b. iets heel hoogs/laags
  something  very  high/low
c. iets zeer ouds/jongs
  something  very  old/young
d. iets erg zwaars/lichts
  something  very  heavy/light

Considered from this perspective, the partitive genitives in (108), which are modified by the nominal phrase twee keer zo'twice as', must involve regular scalar adjectives as well. Note in passing that the primed examples show that these acceptable partitive genitive constructions do not alternate with van-constructions of the type in (106), which may support the earlier suggestion that the examples in (105) are blocked by those in (106).

Example 108
a. iets twee keer zo zwaars/lichts
  something  twice as  heavy/light
a'. ?? iets van twee keer zo zwaar/licht
b. iets twee keer zo groots/kleins
  something  twice as  big/small
b'. ?? iets van twee keer zo groot/klein

      The primeless examples in (109) show that comparatives and adjectives that are modified by the degree element te'too' can also be modified by nominal modifiers. The primed examples show, however, the use of such nominal modifiers yields an unacceptable result in the partitive genitive construction.

Example 109
a. Die kast is een stuk/een beetje/vijftig gulden duurder.
  that cupboard  is a piece/a little/fifty guilders  more.expensive
a'. iets ??een stuk/*?een beetje/?vijftig gulden duurders
b. Die kast is een stuk/een beetje/vijftig gulden te duur.
  that cupboard  is a piece/a little/fifty guilders  too expensive
b'. iets ??een stuk/*?een beetje/?vijftig gulden te duurs

For completeness’ sake, (110) shows that nominal structures comparable to those in (106) are generally excluded as well. The examples with the nominal phrase vijftig gulden'fifty guilders' seem fully acceptable, which is compatible with the earlier suggestion that the partitive genitive construction may be blocked by a nominal construction of the type in (106), although it still leaves the unacceptability of een stuk and een beetje unaccounted for.

Example 110
a. iets van *een stuk/*een beetje/vijftig gulden duurder
  something  of   a piece/a little/fifty guilders  more.expensive
b. iets van *een stuk/*een beetje/vijftig gulden te duur
  something  of  a piece/a little/fifty guilders  too expensive
[+]  III.  Equatives and comparatives

Adjectives in the equative degree may appear in partitive genitive constructions. If they are accompanied by a comparative als-phrase, there is a slight preference to place the latter after the verb(s) in clause-final position. This is illustrated in (111).

Example 111
a. (?) Hij wilde iets even leuks als de vorige keer doen.
  he  wanted  something  equally nice  as the previous time  do
  'He wanted to do something as nice as the previous time.'
b. Hij wilde iets even leuks doen als de vorige keer.

Example (109a) has already demonstrated that comparatives can be used in the partitive genitive construction. If the comparative is followed by a dan-phrase, there is again a preference to place the latter after the verb(s) in clause-final position, as shown in the (a)- and (b)-examples in (112). The (c)-examples show that the periphrastic comparatives behave in the same way as the morphologically complex ones.

Example 112
a. (?) Hij wilde iets leukers dan de vorige keer doen.
  he  wanted  something  nicer  than the previous time  do
  'He wanted to do something nicer than the previous time.'
a'. Hij wilde iets leukers doen dan de vorige keer.
b. (?) Hij wilde iets interessanters dan die saaie lezing horen.
  he  wanted  something  more.interesting  than that boring lecture  hear
  'He wanted to hear something more interesting than that boring lecture.'
b'. Hij wilde iets interessanters horen dan die saaie lezing.
c. (?) Hij wilde iets minder moeilijks dan de vorige keer doen.
  he  wanted  something  less difficult  than the previous time  do
  'He wanted to do something less difficult than the previous time.'
c'. Hij wilde iets minder moeilijks doen dan de vorige keer.
[+]  IV.  Complex intensifiers

The Head-final Filter on attributive adjectives, discussed in Section 5.3, sub IB, excludes attributive structures with the post-adjectival intensifier genoeg'enough', regardless of the place of the -e inflection; see Section 5.3, sub IIB, for a more accurate discussion.

Example 113
a. * een groot genoeg inzet (om ...)
  large  enough  dedication  (to ...)
b. ??een groot genoege inzet (om ...)
c. *een grote genoeg inzet (om ...)
d. *een grote genoege inzet (om ...)

Predicative constructions, on the other hand, are grammatical if the adjective is modified by genoeg: Zijn inzet was groot genoeg'His dedication was big enough'. Since we have seen that partitive genitive adjectives pattern with predicative adjectives, we expect that partitive genitive constructions are possible as well, but this expectation is not borne out: the examples in (114) show that the construction is marginal, irrespective of the position of the -s suffix.

Example 114
a. ? iets groot genoegs
  something  big  enough
b. * iets groots genoeg
c. * iets groot genoeg
d. * iets groots genoegs

      Section 3.1.3, sub ID, has shown that the intensifying phrase zo A mogelijk'as A as possible' exhibits exceptional behavior with respect to the Head-final Filter; provided that the -e ending surfaces on the intensifier, attributive use of this phrase is possible: een zo groot mogelijke inzet'an as large as possible dedication'. Predicative use is of course also possible: zijn inzet was zo groot mogelijk'his dedication was as large as possible'. In the partitive genitive construction, modification by this intensifying phrase is possible as well. The inflectional pattern is similar to that in the attributive structure: the -s suffix must be realized on the post-adjectival intensifier mogelijk and not on the adjective groot.

Example 115
a. iets zo goedkoop mogelijks
  something  as  cheap  as.possible
b. * iets zo goedkoops mogelijk
c. * iets zo goedkoop mogelijk
d. * iets zo goedkoops mogelijks

      The examples in (70) have already shown that scalar adjectives in the positive degree can be modified by the intensifier te'too' in the partitive genitive construction; this is illustrated again in (116a). The intensifier itself may also be modified in turn, which gives rise to the more complex constructions in (116b&c): in (116b), te is modified by veel, and in (116c), it is modified by the phrase niet al. Observe that the adjective itself cannot be modified by these elements: *iets veel/niet al duurs.

Example 116
a. Hij kocht iets te duurs.
  he  bought  something  too expensive
b. Hij kocht iets veel te duurs.
  he  bought  something  far  too expensive
c. Hij kocht iets niet al te duurs.
  he  bought  something  not al  too expensive

Adjectives modified by te'too' can optionally be followed by an infinitival degree clause; cf. Section 3.1.3, sub II. The examples in (117) show that addition of an infinitival clause yields a degraded result in the partitive genitive construction if it is placed in preverbal position; placement of the clause in postverbal position improves the result considerably. We have seen a similar effect in the comparative/superlative constructions in Subsection III.

Example 117
a. *? dat ik rennen [iets te vermoeiends om te doen] vind.
  that  running   something too tiring  comp  to do  consider
  'that I consider running something too tiring to do.'
a'. (?) dat ik rennen iets te vermoeiends vind om te doen.
b. *? dat hij [iets te kleins om te gebruiken] kocht.
  that  he   something  too small  comp  to use  bought
  'that he bought something too little to use.'
b'. (?) dat hij iets te kleins kocht om te gebruiken.

      The intensifying phrase zo A'so A' is often accompanied by a finite degree clause. Again, the partitive genitive construction is degraded if the degree clause occupies the preverbal position, whereas placement of the clause in postverbal position improves the result considerably. This is illustrated in (118).

Example 118
a. * dat ik [iets zo saais dat ik ervan in slaap val] moet doen.
  that   something  so boring  that  there.of  in sleep  fall  must do
  'that I must do something so boring that it makes me fall asleep.'
a'. (?) dat ik [iets zo saais] moet doen dat ik ervan in slaap val.
b. * dat ik [iets zo lelijks dat ik het heb geweigerd] aangeboden kreeg.
  that  something  so ugly  that  it  have refused  offered  got
  'that I got offered something so ugly that I refused it.'
b'. (?) dat ik [iets zo lelijks] aangeboden kreeg dat ik het heb geweigerd.

Example (119a) shows that, unlike the other modifying adverbs, the element zo may also precede noun phrases such as een boek'a book', and (119b) show that it can also precede the complete partitive genitive construction. In these cases, however, zo seems to behave like a demonstrative rather than like a modifier; that it need not act as a modifier of the adjective in (119b) is clear from the fact that the adjective can be dropped without causing unacceptability.

Example 119
a. zo een boek (zoʼn boek)
  such  book
b. zo iets (saais)
  such  something   boring
  'something (boring) like that'

Still, as is shown in (120a&b), zo in pre-pronominal position can license a degree clause, just like zo in post-determiner position; cf. the examples in (118). When we compare the primeless and primed examples in (120), it becomes clear that dropping the adjective yields a degraded result in this case. This strongly suggests that if zo is associated with a degree clause, it may modify the adjective, regardless of its position with respect to the pronoun.

Example 120
a. (?) dat ik zo iets saais moet doen dat ik ervan in slaap val.
a'. * dat ik zo iets moet doen dat ik ervan in slaap val.
b. (?) dat ik zo iets lelijks aangeboden kreeg dat ik het heb geweigerd.
b'. * dat ik zo iets aangeboden kreeg dat ik het heb geweigerd.
    Suggestions for further reading ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    Show more ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    • In prenominal position
      [89%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Adjectives
    • Cardinal numbers
      [87%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Numerals
    • Case
      [87%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Nouns
    • Degree
      [87%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Adjectives
    • Ellipsis
      [86%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Nouns
    Show more ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    Show more ▼
    This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
    A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.