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4.1.1.6. A note on partitive and pseudo-partitive constructions
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This section discusses the partitive and pseudo-partitive construction, which are exemplified in (128a) and (128b) respectively. The primed examples show that these constructions occur not only with cardinal numerals but also in the quantificational binominal constructions (QCs) discussed in the previous sections. Although the partitive and pseudo-partitive constructions seem identical at first sight, we will show that they behave quite differently. More specifically we will argue that, as the name already suggests, pseudo-partitive constructions are in fact not partitive constructions; despite appearances, the phrase van die lekkere koekjes in the (b)-examples is not a PP but a noun phrase. After a brief general introduction of the constructions in Subsection I, which will also make clear why we discuss these constructions in this subsection on QCs, Subsection II will discuss the differences between the two constructions.

Example 128
a. Vier van de koekjes lagen op tafel.
  four  of the cookies lay  on the.table
a'. Een paar van de koekjes lagen op tafel.
  a couple of the cookies  lay  on the.table
b. Ik wil graag vier van die lekkere koekjes.
  want  please  four  of those tasty cookies
b'. Ik wil graag een paar van die lekkere koekjes.
  want  please  a couple  of those tasty cookies

It is important to note here that our use of the term pseudo-partitive construction differs from the one found in the literature, where it is often used to refer to binominal constructions such as een kop koffie'a cup of coffee', which were discussed in Section 4.1.1.

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[+]  I.  Partitive and pseudo-partitive constructions

This subsection briefly discusses the partitive and the pseudo-partitive construction. We will show that partitive constructions contain a phonetically empty noun preceding the van-PP, which implies that examples such as (128a') are in fact concealed QCs. Pseudo-partitive constructions do not contain a phonetically empty noun, but are special in that they contain a noun phrase in the guise of a spurious PP, which implies that (128b') must also be analyzed as a QC.

[+]  A.  Partitive constructions

Partitive constructions are noun phrases that refer to a subset of some set presupposed in discourse. They consist of a cardinal numeral or a quantifier expressing the cardinality or size of the subset, followed by a van-PP the complement of which denotes the presupposed set. Some examples are given in (129), in which the noun phrase de koekjes'the cookies' refers to the presupposed set. In (129a) the cardinal numeral vier indicates that the cardinality of the subset is 4, and in (129b) the quantifier veel expresses that the subset is bigger than some implicitly assumed norm. Example (129c) shows that the universal quantifier alle'all' cannot be used, possibly because it conveys redundant information: (129c) refers to the same set as the noun phrase de/alle studenten'the/all students' does. Example (129d) with the distributive quantifier elk'each', on the other hand, is acceptable: here reference is made not to the set as a whole, but to the entities making up this set.

Example 129
a. vier van de koekjes
  four of the cookies
c. * alle van de koekjes
  many of the cookies
b. veel van de koekjes
  all of the cookies
d. elk van de koekjes
  each of the cookies

The partitive construction is syntactically headed by the numeral/quantifier, not by the complement of van. This is clear from the fact that the latter does not trigger number agreement on the finite verb; (130) shows that it is the numeral/quantifier that determines agreement (or, rather, the phonetically empty noun following it; cf. the discussion of (134)).

Example 130
a. Eén van de studenten is/*zijn gisteren vertrokken.
  one of the students  is/are  yesterday  left
  'One of the students has left yesterday.'
b. Vier van de studenten zijn/*is gisteren vertrokken.
  four of the students  are/is  yesterday  left

      Given that nouns appearing as N1s in QCs have quantificational meaning, it does not really come as a surprise that they can also occur in the partitive construction. Example (131) shows, however, that container and collective nouns (and to a somewhat lesser extent also measure nouns) preceded by the indefinite article een'a' give rise to a degraded result. If these N1s are preceded by a cardinal numeral, the result is usually acceptable, despite the fact that most speakers interpret the N1s (with the exception of twee kilo) primarily as referential.

Example 131
a. een aantal van de jongens
  a number  of the boys
b. ?? een kilo van de appels
  a kilo  of the apples
b'. twee kilo/?kiloʼs van de appels
  two kilo/kilos  of the apples
c. een stuk van de taart
  a piece  of the cake
c'. twee stukken van de taart
  two pieces  of the cake
d. * een doos van de appels
  a box  of the apples
d'. ? twee dozen van de appels
  two boxes  of the apples
e. *? een groep van de studenten
  a group  of the students
e'. twee groepen van de studenten
  two groups  of the students

The acceptability of the construction also depends on the nature of the nominal complement of the van-PP: if the noun phrase is preceded by a demonstrative pronoun instead of a definite article, the result is fully acceptable, and the primary reading is the quantificational one. This holds both for expressions in which N1 is preceded by an indefinite article and expressions in which it is preceded by a numeral. This is shown in (132) for all marked examples in (131).

Example 132
a. een aantal van deze jongens
  a number  of these boys
b. een kilo van deze appels
  a kilo  of these apples
b'. twee kilo/kiloʼs van deze appels
  two kilo/kilos  of these apples
c. een stuk van deze taart
  a piece  of this cake
c'. twee stukken van deze taart
  two pieces  of this cake
d. een doos van deze appels
  a box  of these apples
d'. twee dozen van deze appels
  two boxes  of these apples
e. een groep van deze studenten
  a group  of these students
e'. twee groepen van deze studenten
  two groups  of these students

      We have seen in (130) that number agreement on the verb is triggered by the part preceding the van-phrase. This also holds for the partitive constructions in (131) and (132) with part, container, and collective nouns. The quantifier and measure nouns behave differently, however: they allow agreement between the verb and the complement of the van-PP.

Example 133
a. Er is/zijn een aantal van de jongens niet aanwezig.
  there  walkpl  a numbersg  of the boys  not present
  'A number of the boys arenʼt present.'
b. Er ligt/liggen een kilo van deze appels op tafel.
  there  lies/lie  a kilo  of these apples  on the.table
c. Er liggen/*ligt twee stukken van de taart op tafel.
  there  lie/lies  two pieces of the cake  on the.table
d. Er staat/*staan een doos van deze appels op tafel.
  there  stands/stand  a box  of these apples  on the.table
e. Een groep van deze studenten komt/komen hier kamperen.
  a group of these students  comes/come  here  camping

      The contrast in (133) is identical to the one we have seen in Section 4.1.1.2, sub I, concerning QCs: in the purely quantificational constructions it is N2 that triggers agreement with the verb, whereas in the more referential ones it is N1 that triggers agreement. Given that it is implausible that in (133) agreement on verb is triggered directly by the complement of the van-PP, it has been suggested that the partitive construction features an empty noun following the numeral/quantifier, which is construed as identical to the complement of the van-PP. This implies that the structures of the noun phrases in (130) are given as in (134): since the numeral één'one' must be followed by a singular noun, whereas the numeral vier'four' must be followed by a plural noun, the agreement facts in (130) can be accounted for by assuming that it is the empty noun that triggers agreement on the verb.

Example 134
a. [één esg[van de studenten]]
b. [vier epl [van de studenten]]

      This proposal implies that the structures of the noun phrases in (133) are as given in (135): we are dealing with regular QCs in which the phonetically empty noun functions as N2. The fact that the agreement pattern of the partitive construction in (133) is identical to that of the constructions discussed in Section 4.1.1.2, sub I, is now derived from the fact that both are quantificational binominal constructions.

Example 135
a. [een aantal epl [van de studenten]]
b. [een kilo epl [van deze appels]]
c. [twee stukken esg [van de taart]]
d. [een doos epl [van deze appels]]
e. [een groep epl [van deze studenten]]
[+]  B.  Pseudo-partitive constructions

The primeless examples in (136a&b) seem structurally identical to those in (129a&b); the only difference is that the noun phrase complement of van is not preceded by the definite article de'the' but by the distal demonstrative die'those'. It therefore will not come as a surprise that these examples may have a partitive reading. What we want to focus on here, however, is that there is a second reading with a meaning that comes close to “four/many cookies of a certain kind that is familiar to the addressee”.

Example 136
a. vier van die (lekkere) koekjes
  four  of  those tasty cookies
  'four of those tasty cookies/'four tasty cookies (of that sort)'
b. veel van die (lekkere) koekjes
  many  of  those tasty cookies
  'many of those tasty cookies/'many tasty cookies (of that sort)'

The same ambiguity arises in the examples in (137), in which the van-phrase is preceded by nouns that may appear as N1s in QCs: all examples in (137) can be interpreted either as a partitive or as a pseudo-partitive construction. In passing note that constructions with the singular, neuter demonstrative dat trigger the same ambiguity; cf. the examples in (137b&c).

Example 137
a. Ik wil een paar van die lekkere koekjes.
  want  a couple  of those tasty cookies
b. Ik wil twee liter van dat lekkere bier.
  want  two liter  of that nice beer
c. Ik wil een stuk van dat lekkere gebak.
  want  a piece  of that nice cake
d. Ik wil een kistje van die geurige sigaren.
  want  a boxdim  of those aromatic cigars
e. Ik wil opnieuw een stelletje van die enthousiaste studenten.
  want  again  a couple  of those enthusiastic students

      The availability of the pseudo-partitive reading is due to the fact that the phrase van die/dat (A) + N can be used with the distribution of a DP, that is, despite the fact that it has the appearance of a PP it can be used in positions that are normally occupied by a noun phrase; cf. Section 5.2.3.2, sub IIE. This is illustrated in (138): in (138a) the van-phrase is used as the subject of the clause and in (138b) as the object. These examples also have the connotation that the denotation of the noun is familiar to the addressee, and often have an intensifying meaning comparable to English “these + Adj + Npl”.

Example 138
a. Er liggen van die lekkere koekjes op tafel.
  there  lie  of those tasty cookies  on the.table
  'There are these tasty cookies lying on the table.'
b. Marie geeft altijd van die grappige voorbeelden.
  Marie gives  always  of those  funny examples
  'Marie always gives these funny examples.'

Since PPs normally cannot function as subjects, we can conclude that the van-PPs in (136) and (137) are actually ambiguous: they may be interpreted either as a PP, which gives rise to the partitive reading, or as a noun phrase, which gives rise to the pseudo-partitive reading. On this analysis both the partitive and the pseudo-partitive construction (137) are QCs, but they differ in that in the former case N2 has the form of an empty noun, whereas in the latter case it is a spurious PP that functions as N2. This is exemplified in (139) for the noun phrase een paar van die lekkere koekjes in (137a).

Example 139
a. Partitive: [een paar e [PP van die lekkere koekjes]]
b. Pseudo-partitive: [een paar [NP van die lekkere koekjes]]
[+]  II.  Similarities and differences

Partitive and pseudo-partitive constructions may be confused not only because they have the same morphological shape, but also because they share the property that the selection restrictions of the verb can apparently be satisfied by the noun embedded in the van-phrase. This is illustrated by means of example (140a) involving the quantifier noun aantal'number'. Both under the partitive and under the pseudo-partitive reading the plurality requirement imposed by the verb is apparently satisfied by the plural noun studenten'students'. This follows from the analysis proposed in example (139) in Subsection IB. The structure associated with the partitive reading is given in (140b): the quantifier noun is followed by an empty noun functioning as N2 and since the quantifier noun requires this empty noun to be plural, the latter can satisfy the selection restriction of zich verenigen'to unit' in the same way as an overt N2 in a QC. The structure associated with the pseudo-partitive reading is given in (140b'): we are dealing with a regular QC in which N2 has the form of a spurious PP, and given that this spurious PP refers to a non-singleton set, the semantic requirement of the verb is satisfied.

Example 140
a. Een aantal van die studenten verenigen zich.
  a number of those students  unite  refl
b. [Een aantal epl[PP van die studenten]] verenigen zich.
  Partitive: 'A number of those students (over there) united.'
b'. [Een aantal [NP van die studenten]] verenigen zich.
  Pseudo-partitive: 'A number of students (you know the type I mean) united.'

      Recall that the part, container and collective nouns always function as the syntactic head of a QC and therefore block agreement between the verb and N2, so it will not come as a surprise that they cannot enter constructions such as (140). We have seen, however, that they do allow N2 to satisfy certain more semantic selection restrictions that do not have a syntactic reflex: example (141a) shows that the N2 spinazie can satisfy the requirement imposed by the verb eten'to eat' that the direct object be edible. It is furthermore important to note that example (141b) is pragmatically odd due to the fact that it only allows a reading in which both the plate and the spinach have been eaten by Jan; apparently the complement of the PP-adjunct cannot satisfy the selection restriction imposed by the verb.

Example 141
a. Jan heeft een bord spinazie opgegeten.
  Jan has  a plate [of]  spinach  prt.-eaten
b. $ Jan heeft een bord met spinazie opgegeten.
  Jan has  a plate  with spinach  prt.-eaten

Example (142a) shows that, under both the partitive and the pseudo-partitive reading, the selection restriction imposed by eten'to eat' is apparently satisfied by the noun spinazie in the van-phrase. Again, this follows from the proposed analysis. The structure associated with the partitive reading is given in (142b): the quantifier noun is followed by an empty noun functioning as N2, which is construed as identical to the complement of the van-PP, and since this empty N2 can satisfy the selection restriction of eten in the same way as an overt N2 in a QC the result is pragmatically felicitous. The structure associated with the pseudo-partitive reading is given in (142b'): we are dealing with a regular QC in which N2 has the form of a spurious PP, and given that this spurious PP refers to an edible substance, the semantic requirement of the verb is satisfied.

Example 142
a. Jan heeft een bord van die heerlijke spinazie opgegeten.
  Jan has  a plate  of that delicious spinach  prt.-eaten
b. Jan heeft [een bord [e][PP van die heerlijke spinazie]] opgegeten.
  Partitive: 'Jan ate a plate of that delicious spinach (over there).'
b'. Jan heeft [een bord [NP van die heerlijke spinazie]] opgegeten.
  Pseudo-partitive: 'Jan ate a plate of that delicious spinach (you know).'

      Despite these similarities there are various ways to distinguish the two constructions. We have already seen that we can appeal to the meaning of the complete construction: a partitive construction denotes a subset of a presupposed superset, whereas a pseudo-partitive construction denotes set of entities of a kind familiar to the addressee. In addition, the following subsections will show that we can appeal to a number of more syntactic properties of the two constructions.

[+]  A.  The preposition van

The analyses of the partitive and pseudo-partitive noun phrases given above imply that the status of van differs in the two constructions: in the former it is a regular preposition, whereas in the latter it is a spurious one. To substantiate this claim, we will investigate in more detail constructions in which the spurious van-PP is used as an argument of a verb or a preposition, and show that it behaves as a noun phrase.

[+]  1.  Selection

The spurious van-PP can substitute for nominal arguments of verbs, which is shown in the examples in (143), involving the verbs zitten'to sit/to be' and bakken'to bake'. The fact that the spurious van-PP functions as the subject in (143) is especially telling: genuine PPs normally cannot have this syntactic function.

Example 143
a. Er zitten nog (van die) vieze koekjes in de trommel.
  there  sit  still  of those awful cookies  in the tin
  'There are still some of those awful cookies in the tin.'
b. Hij bakt vaak (van die) vieze koekjes.
  he  bakes  often  of those  awful cookies
  'He often bakes (such) awful cookies.'

Example (144) shows that the spurious van-PP can also substitute for the nominal complement of a preposition. Again, this is revealing given that prepositions normally do not take PP-complements.

Example 144
Zij loopt altijd op (van die) afgetrapte schoenen.
  she  walks  always  on of those  worn.out shoes
'She always walks on worn-out shoes.'

The fact that the spurious van-PP has the distribution of a regular noun phrase is consistent with the analysis of the pseudo-partitive construction proposed in Subsection IB, where the van-phrase is analyzed as a nominal projection.

[+]  2.  Extraposition

PP-complements of verbs differ from nominal complements in that they can undergo PP-over-V. An example is given in (145a). As is shown in (145b), however, the spurious van-PP patterns with the noun phrases in this respect. This again supports the claim that we are actually dealing with a noun phrase.

Example 145
a. dat Jan vaak <op die trein> wacht <op die trein>.
  that  Jan  often   for that train  waits
  'that Jan is often waiting for that train.'
b. dat Jan vaak <van die vieze koekjes> bakt <*van die vieze koekjes>.
  that  Jan often    of those awful cookies  bakes
  'that Jan often bakes those awful cookies.'

Occasionally, ambiguity arises between a PP- and an NP-complement reading. PP-over-V can then serve to disambiguate the example: after extraposition of the van-phrase only the PP-complement reading survives. This is shown in (146).

Example 146
a. Jan heeft van dat lekkere brood gegeten.
  Jan has  of that tasty bread  eaten
  PP-complement reading: 'Jan has eaten of that tasty bread (over there).'
  Pseudo-partitive reading: 'Jan has eaten that tasty bread (you know which).'
b. Jan heeft gegeten van dat lekkere brood.
  Jan has  eaten  of that nice bread
  PP-complement reading only: 'Jan has eaten of that tasty bread (over there).'

Unfortunately, this test cannot be applied directly to the partitive and pseudo-partitive construction, since PP-over-V leads to a bad result in both cases (although it has been claimed that PP-over-V is somewhat better in the case of the partitive reading). This is illustrated in (147).

Example 147
Jan heeft een aantal <van die koekjes> opgegeten <*van die koekjes>.
  Jan has  a number   of those cookies  prt.-eaten
'Jan ate a number of those cookies (you know the kind I mean).'
'Jan ate a number of cookies.'
[+]  3.  R-pronominalization

Partitive and pseudo-partitive constructions also differ with respect to R-pronominalization. The examples in (148) show that the PP-complement op die trein'for that train' from example (145a) can undergo this process, whereas this is not possible with the spurious van-PP from example (145b). Example (149) furthermore shows that R-pronominalization can also be used to disambiguate examples such as (146). After pronominalization of dat lekkere brood only the PP-complement reading survives. These facts again support the suggestion that van is not a true preposition in the spurious van-PP.

Example 148
a. dat Jan er vaak op wacht.
  that  Jan there  often  for waits
  'that Jan is often waiting for it.'
b. * dat Jan er vaak van bakt.
  that  Jan there  often  of  bakes
Example 149
Hij heeft er van gegeten.
  he  has  there-of  eaten
'He has eaten of it.'

The examples in (150) show that R-pronominalization of the van-phrase is possible in the partitive construction, but not in the pseudo-partitive construction: whereas (150a) is ambiguous between the partitive and pseudo-partitive reading, example (150b) only has the partitive reading. This finding is consistent with the analysis proposed in Subsection I: whereas the van-phrase is a genuine PP in the partitive construction, it is a disguised noun phrase in the pseudo-partitive construction.

Example 150
a. Hij heeft een boel/vier van die boeken gelezen.
  he  has  a lot/four of those books  read
  'He has read four/a lot of those books (over there).'
  'He has read a lot of books (of that kind).'
b. Hij heeft er een boel/vier van gelezen.
  he  has  there  a lot/four of  read
  'He has read four/a lot of them.'
[+]  4.  Quantitative er

Section 4.1.1.3, sub IVA has shown that quantitative er can be used to license an empty nominal projection corresponding to N2 in a QC. If the partitive and the pseudo-partitive readings of example (150a) indeed correlate, respectively, with the interpretation of the van-phrase as a genuine PP and a concealed noun phrase, we correctly predict that (151) corresponds to (150a) on the pseudo-partitive reading only: quantitative er requires that the empty element e be interpreted as a noun phrase.

Example 151
Hij heeft er [een boel [e]] gelezen.
  he  has  er  a lot  read
'He has read a lot of them.'
[+]  B.  The demonstrative die/dat

The previous subsection has shown that the partitive van-phrase is headed by a true preposition, whereas the pseudo-partitive van-phrase is a disguised noun phrase. Something similar holds for the demonstrative. The examples in (152) and (153) show that whereas the distal demonstrative die/dat is part of a larger paradigm in the partitive construction, it cannot be replaced by any other determiner in the pseudo-partitive construction.

Example 152
Partitive construction
a. een aantal van deze/die/de/mijn boeken
  a number  of  these/those/the/my  books
  'a number of these/those/the/my books'
b. een glas van dit/dat/het/jouw bier
  a glass  of  this/that/the/your  beer
  'a glass of this/that/the/your beer'
Example 153
Pseudo-partitive construction
a. een aantal van die/#deze/#de/#mijn boeken
  a number  of  those/these/the/my  books
  'a number of books (of that type)'
b. een glas van dat/#dit/#het/#jouw bier
  a glass  of  that/this/the/your  beer
  'a glass of beer (of that type)'

The fact that the examples in (153) can only be interpreted as a pseudo-partitive construction with die and dat suggests that these distal demonstratives are defective. This is also supported by the fact that noun phrases containing a distal demonstrative normally can be modified by means of the locational adjunct daar'over there'. As is shown in (154), the presence of this adjunct has a disambiguating effect on potential ambiguous examples; the presence of daar blocks the pseudo-partitive reading.

Example 154
a. een aantal van die boeken daar
  a number  of  those books  over.there
  'a number of those books over there'
b. een glas van dat bier daar
  a glass  of  that beer  over.there
  'a glass of that beer over there'

The prosodic properties of the demonstrative also suggest that we are dealing with a defective form in the pseudo-partitive construction. Demonstratives are typically used in contrastive contexts, and can therefore readily be assigned contrastive accent: niet dit maar dat boek'not this but that book'. The demonstrative in the pseudo-partitive construction, however, resists accent: the examples in (155) can only be interpreted as true partitive constructions.

Example 155
a. een aantal van die boeken
  a number  of  those books
  'a number of those books'
b. een glas van dat bier
  a glass  of  that beer
  'a glass of that beer'

      Finally, (156b) shows that the demonstrative cannot be followed by a numeral or quantifier in the spurious van-PP, which suggests that the defective demonstrative is not a regular determiner.

Example 156
a. Jan heeft die (drie) lekkere taarten gebakken.
  Jan has  those three tasty pies  baked
  'Jan baked those (three) tasty pies.'
b. Jan heeft van die (*drie) taarten gebakken.
  Jan has  of those three pies  baked
  'Jan bakes these tasty pies.'
[+]  C.  Definiteness of the complement of van

Since the partitive construction refers to a subset of a presupposed set, the complement of van must be definite. This predicts that the indefinite determiner zulk(e)'such' cannot occur in the partitive construction. As is shown in (157), this prediction is indeed borne out; the noun phrases following van only have a type-reading and in that sense resemble the pseudo-partitive reading.

Example 157
a. een paar van zulke studenten
  a couple  of  such students
b. een kilo van zulke aardappelen
  a kilo  of  such potatoes
c. een glas van zulk bier
  a glass  of  such beer
d. een stuk van zulke kaas
  a piece  of  such cheese
e. een school van zulke vissen
  a shoal  of  such fish
[+]  III.  Conclusion

This section has discussed the partitive and pseudo-partitive construction. It has been argued in Subsection I that the pseudo-partitive construction is actually a regular QC, albeit that the projection of N2is a nominal disguised as a van die N phrase with a spurious preposition van. The partitive construction, on the other hand, is a noun phrase headed by an empty noun followed by a partitive van-PP. Due to the fact that the empty noun may function as the N1 of a QC, the partitive construction may have the same morphological shape as a pseudo-partitive construction. Subsection II therefore discussed some properties of the spurious nominal van die N phrase that are helpful in distinguishing the two constructions.

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