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5.1.5.3. The syntactic distribution of (noun phrases containing) geen
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This section concludes the discussion of geen by briefly discussing the syntactic distribution of noun phrases containing geen. It also discusses the independent uses of geen, that is, cases in which it is not part of a noun phrase.

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[+]  I.  Distribution of noun phrases quantified by geen

This subsection discusses the syntactic distribution of noun phrases containing geen. We will consider whether they occur as arguments (subject, direct object, indirect object, complement of a preposition), as predicates or as adjuncts.

[+]  A.  Distribution as argument

A noun phrase quantified by geen has a somewhat limited distribution if geen has its core meaning of negative quantifier. It may appear as the subject in an expletive construction. Furthermore, it can be used as a direct object, but not as an indirect object; examples such as (267c) are pretty awkward.

Example 267
a. Er zijn geen eieren meer.
  there  are  no eggs  anymore
  'Weʼre out of eggs.'
b. We hebben nog geen nieuwe eieren gekocht.
  we  have  yet  no  new eggs  bought
  'We didnʼt buy any new eggs yet.'
c. ?? Ik heb geen studenten mijn boek geleend.
  have  no students  my books  lent

Using a noun phrase with geen as the complement of a preposition gives rise to an unacceptable result: the negation must be expressed by the negative adverb niet.

Example 268
a. Ik hou niet van bloemencorsoʼs.
  love  not  of flower.shows
  'I donʼt like flower shows.'
b. * Ik hou van geen bloemencorsoʼs.
  love  of no flower.shows

On the more special meanings of geen the restrictions seem to be lifted. This is illustrated in the examples in (269) for noun phrases expressing the “not a single” reading. These examples show that such noun phrases need not occur in the expletive construction, can readily occur as indirect object, and can even be used as the complement of a preposition.

Example 269
a. Geen (enkel) huis was meer te koop.
  no  single  house  was anymore  for sale
b. Ze hebben nog geen (enkel) huis gezien.
  they  have  yet  no  single house  seen
c. Ik heb geen (enkele) student een boek geleend.
  have  no  single student  a book  lent
d. Ze willen in geen (enkel) huis wonen.
  they  want  in no single house  live

Haeseryn et al. (1997: 1657) notice that geen-phrases may also occur as the complement of a preposition in certain idiomatic constructions. These all involve a more or lesss emphatic negation. Some examples, taken from Klooster (2001b) are given in (270).

Example 270
a. Hij is in geen velden of wegen te zien.
  he  is  in  no  fields  or  roads  to see
  'Heʼs nowhere to be seen.'
b. Dit is voor geen mens te begrijpen.
  this  is for no person  to understand
  'This is completely unintelligible.'
c. Die ellende valt met geen pen te beschrijven.
  that misery  falls  with no pen  to describe
  'That misery is incredible/is impossible to describe.'
[+]  B.  Distribution as predicate

A geen phrase can be used as a nominal predicate if it is used with its core reading. This is illustrated in (271) with examples of the copular and vinden construction. We have not been able to find or construct examples for geen phrases with a “not a single” reading.

Example 271
a. Jan is echt geen aansteller.
  Jan  is  really  no poser
  'Jan is truly not a poser.'
b. Ik vind Jan echt geen aansteller.
  consider  Jan  really  no poser
  'I truly donʼt consider Jan a poser.'

Geen phrases in non-negative questions, discussed in Section 5.1.5.1, sub IIIE, are restricted to the function of predicate. Some examples are given in (272).

Example 272
a. Is Jan geen aansteller?
  is  Jan  no poser
  'Isnʼt Jan a poser?'
b. Vind je Jan geen aansteller?
  consider  you  Jan no poser
  'Donʼt you consider Jan to be a poser?'
[+]  C.  Distribution as adjunct

The degree reading of geen in (241), in which geen is construed with a numeral following it and means something like “less than”, is particularly common in adverbial phrases. Example (241a) is repeated here as (273a). Example (273b) shows that geen phrases can also readily be used as nominal adjuncts on their “not a single” reading. In these constructions, main accent is falling on the element immediately following geen, that is, the numeral in (273a) and the head noun in (273b). Geen phrases in which geen receives prosodic prominence are difficult to construe as adjuncts.

Example 273
a. Na nog geen tien minuten brak de hel los.
  after yet no ten minutes  broke  the hell  loose
  'After less than ten minutes, hell broke loose.'
b. Ik had er geen seconde over nagedacht.
  had  there  no second  about  prt.-thought
  'I hadnʼt thought about it for a (single) second.'
[+]  II.  Distribution of geen as an independent constituent

This subsection is concerned with the use of geen external to the noun phrase, that is, we now turn to an inspection of its use as an independent syntactic constituent (argument, predicate and adjunct), as well as its use as floating quantifier.

[+]  A.  Distribution as argument

Geen does not readily occur independently in argument positions. Examples (274a) shows, however, that there is a contrast between the cases with singular and plural agreement, the former being better than the latter. In order to express the intended meaning, Dutch can resort to two strategies: one is to add the numeral één'one' or enkele'single' to the right of geen, as in (274b); the other is to use a partitive construction, as in (274c). In both cases, agreement between the subject and the finite verb is necessarily singular.

Example 274
Discourse topic: applicants for a job
a. Geen ?komt/*komen in aanmerking voor de baan.
  no  comes/come  in consideration  for the job
  'None is eligible for the job.'
b. Geen één/enkele komt in aanmerking voor de baan.
  no  one/single comes  in consideration  for the job
  'Not a single one is eligible for the job.'
c. Geen van hen komt in aanmerking voor de baan.
  none (of them)   comes  in consideration  for the job
  'None (of them) is eligible for the job.'
[+]  B.  Distribution as predicate and adjunct

In present-day Dutch geen cannot be used as a predicate (which was possible in earlier stages of the language): examples such as (275a) are unacceptable. Note that (275b) is not a counterexample; this example involves quantitative er, which is associated with the interpretative gap within a noun phrase containing geen. Given that adjuncts are also predicates, the impossibility of example (275a) automatically precludes adjunct construal of geen.

Example 275
a. * Dit is geen.
  this  is none
b. Dit is er [geen [e]].
  this  is er  no
[+]  C.  Distribution as floating quantifier

Example (276a) show that neither geen nor geen één/enkele can be used as a floating quantifier. The partitive noun phrase geen van alle/beide in (276b), on the other hand, can be used in this way. As usual, the floating quantifier must follow its associate, as in (276b), unless it is placed in clause-initial position, as in (276b'). If the associate has human reference, as in (277), Dutch orthography requires a plural ending -n on the quantifier.

Example 276
a. * Ik heb ze nog geen (één/enkele) gelezen.
Discourse topic: books
  have  them  yet  no   one/single  read
b. Ik heb ze geen van alle/beide gelezen.
  have  them  none of  all/both  read
b'. Geen van alle/beide heb ik ze gelezen.
Example 277
a. * Ik heb ze nog geen (één/enkele) ontmoet.
Discourse topic: people
  have  them  yet  no   one/single  met
b. Ik heb ze nog geen van allen/beiden ontmoet.
  have  them  yet  none of  all/both  met
b'. Geen van allen/beiden heb ik ze ontmoet.

In a similar way, geen can also be used as a floating quantifier in partitive constructions with numerals (Paardekooper 1986: 472). The numerals in these constructions always take the ending -en in written language, regardless of the kind of entity referred to. This is illustrated in (278).

Example 278
a. Ik heb ze nog geen van tweeën gelezen.
  have  them  yet  none of two  read
b. Ik heb ze nog geen van drieën gezien.
  have  them  yet  none of three  seen
References:
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Klooster, Wim2001<i>Geen</i>: over verplaatsing, negatie en focusNederlandse Taalkunde654-84
  • Paardekooper, P.C1986Beknopte ABN-syntaksisEindhovenP.C. Paardekooper
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