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6.1.2. Ordinal numerals

This section discusses the ordinal numerals. Subsection I starts by discussing the form of the ordinal numerals, and Subsection II continues with a discussion of their semantics. Subsection III concludes the discussion by showing that cardinal numerals need not be placed in the NUM position, but may also occur in some position following the attributive adjectives.

[+]  I.  Simple and compound forms

The ordinal numerals are derived from the cardinal ones by means of affixation with -de or -ste. The former suffix is more or lesss restricted to the ordinals derived from the cardinal numerals corresponding to 0 to 19, with the exception of the irregular form eerste'first' and the form achtste'eighth'. Note that the ordinal numeral derde'third' is not derived from the cardinal numeral drie but features the morpheme der-, which also appears in dertien (13) and dertig (30). The ordinal numeral vierde, on the other hand, is derived from vier (4), not from the irregular morpheme veer-, which is used in veertien (14) and veertig (40).

Example 67
The ordinal numerals 1st to 19th
0 ?nulde 10th tiende
1st eerste 11th elfde
2nd tweede 12th twaalfde
3rd derde 13th dertiende
4th vierde 14th veertiende
5th vijfde 15th vijftiende
6th zesde 16th zestiende
7th zevende 17th zeventiende
8th achtste 18th achttiende
9th negende 19th negentiende

Higher numerals may also end in -de provided they are complex forms ending in one of the numerals in (67) taking this suffix. Two examples are given in (68).

Example 68
a. honderd en zesde
  hundred  and  sixth
b. driehonderd (en) vijftiende
  three.hundred  and  fifteenth

In all other cases, the ordinal is derived from the cardinal numeral by means of affixation with -ste. We illustrate this for some round figures in Example (69). The fact that biljoenste sounds somewhat weird probably reflects the fact that the use of that high an ordinal numeral is uncommon.

Example 69
Other ordinal numerals
20th twintigste 100th honderdste
30th dertigste 1000th duizendste
40th veertigste 1,000,000th miljoenste
50th vijftigste 1,000,000,000th miljardste
60th zestigste 1,000,000,000,000th ?biljoenste
70th zeventigste  
80th tachtigste  
90th negentigste  

The formations in (70) are often also considered ordinal numerals; the form in (70d) is the interrogative form of the ordinal numeral, derived from hoeveel'how many'.

Example 70
a. laatste'last'
b. voorlaatste'penultimate'
c. middelste'middle'
d. hoeveelste'what number in the ranking'
[+]  II.  Semantics

This subsection discusses the semantics of the ordinal numerals. If an ordinal number is used in prenominal position the noun phrase normally refers to an entity in an array, that is, an ordered set of entities. If the ordinal numeral is preceded by a cardinal one, the phrase functions as a fraction.

[+]  A.  Use as prenominal modifiers

Ordinal numerals can only be used as pronominal modifiers if we are dealing with an ordered set of entities, and the numeral is used in order to identify the intended referent from that set. Since the set is normally part of domain D, it does not come as a surprise that in the majority of cases the ordinal numeral requires a definite determiner to be present.

Example 71
a. Zijn eerste boek ging over het nomen.
  his first book  was  about the noun
b. De vierde kandidaat kreeg de baan.
  the fourth candidate  got  the job

In many cases, it is implicitly clear what the principles underlying the ordering are; in the examples in (71), for example, the ordering seems temporal. If it is not unambiguously clear where the listener must start counting, this can be made explicit by means of a modifier. Typical examples of such modifiers are the van-PPs in (72).

Example 72
a. het vierde boek van links/rechts
  the  fourth  book  from left/right
  'the fourth book from the left/right'
b. de derde plank van onder/boven
  the  third shelf  from  below/above
  'the third shelf from below/the top'

      Indefinite determiners are mainly restricted to cases where the speaker/writer is providing an enumeration, for example when he argues against or in favor of a certain hypothesis: in (73a), use of een tweede probleem'a second problem' sounds completely natural. There are also some sporadic contexts in which no article is required to the left of the ordinal numeral. Examples such as (73b) seem restricted to more or lesss “telegraphic” registers.

Example 73
a. Er zijn verschillende problemen voor deze hypothese. Het eerste probleem betreft ..... Een tweede probleem heeft te maken met .....
  there  are  several problems  for this hypothesis  the first  problem  concerns  A second problem  has  to do  with
b. Vierde punt op de agenda is de opvolging van onze voorzitter.
  fourth item on the agenda  is the succession of our chairman

      Ordinal numerals are also used in several more or lesss “fixed” expressions like those shown in (74). In these cases, the ordinal numeral and the noun constitute a lexical unit, which is also clear from the fact that the noun can be plural; nouns following an ordinal numeral are normally singular: het tweede boek/*boeken'the second book/*books'.

Example 74
a. de [N eerste ministers] van Nederland en Engeland
  the  prime ministers  of the.Netherlands and Britain
b. [N Eerste/Oudste kinderen] zijn meestal verwend.
  first/oldest children  are  generally  spoiled
c. Er werden dit jaar twee [N tweede prijzen] uitgereikt.
  the  were  this year  two  second prizes  prt.-issued
  'This year, two second prizes were issued.'
[+]  B.  Use in fractions

Fractions are normally derived from ordinal numerals, in which cases the ordinals are preceded by a cardinal numeral, as is shown in the primeless examples in (75). In these cases the ordinal numeral does not, of course, help to pick out a referent from an ordered set, but functions as the denominator of the fraction. The denominator of ½ and ¾ need not be expressed by the ordinal numerals tweede and vierde but can also be the forms half'half' and kwart'quarter', as in the primed examples.

Example 75
a. één tweede (1/2)
  one  second
a'. een half
b. drie vierde (3/4)
  three  fourth
b'. drie kwart
  three  quarter
c. vijf vierentachtigste (5/84)
  five  eighty-fourth

Actually, the forms in the primed examples are much preferred in colloquial speech over the primeless regular forms. For example, it would normally be considered odd to use een tweede or een vierde in (76a&b) to refer 500 or 250 cc of wine. Especially with tweede, but also with vierde, it is rather the reading “a second/fourth liter of wine” that is prominent in these examples. In (76c), on the other hand, the prominent interpretation is 125 cc of wine.

Example 76
a. Voeg een halve/#tweede liter wijn bij de vruchten.
  add  half  liter [of] wine  to the fruits
b. Voeg een kwart/#vierde liter wijn bij de vruchten.
  add  quarter  liter [of] wine  to the fruits
c. Voeg een achtste liter wijn bij de vruchten.
  add  an  eighth  liter [of] wine  to the fruits

      For completeness’ sake, note that half and kwart should probably not be considered ordinal numerals. Especially in the case of half this would be doubtful since this form exhibits adjectival inflection; if the modified noun is -neuter, as in (77a), half is inflected with an attributive -e ending, which is lacking if the noun is +neuter.

Example 77
a. een halve/kwart cake
  half/quarter  cake[-neuter]
b. een half/kwart brood
  half/quarter  bread[+neuter]
[+]  III.  The position of the ordinal numeral within the noun phrase

Section has shown that cardinal numerals are generated in the position NUM in (78a), which accounts for the fact that these numerals in (78b) follow the determiners but precede the nominal head and its attributive modifiers.

Example 78
a. [DP D [NumP NUM [NP ... N ...]]]
b. Hij bewonderde die drie fraaie bomen.
  he  admired  those  three  fine  trees

As is shown in the (a)-examples in (79) the ordinal numerals normally occupy this position as well. The noun phrase de derde ongetekende cheque can have two different meanings depending on the intonation; if it is pronounced as one intonational phrase, it is claimed that the check under discussion is the third unsigned one; if the ordinal numeral and adjective are separated by an intonation break, the check under discussion may be the only unsigned one (which happens to be unchecked). The two cases differ syntactically in that in the second case, the order of the attributive adjective and the ordinal numeral can be reversed. Example (79b), which can be pronounced either with or without an intonation break, is more or lesss synonymous with (79a'), but not with (79a).

Example 79
a. Hij stuurde de derde ongetekende cheque terug.
  he  sent  the third unsigned check  back
  'He sent back the third unsigned check.'
a'. Hij stuurde de derde, ongetekende cheque terug.
  he  sent  the third, unsigned check  back
  'He sent back the third check, which wasnʼt signed.'
b. Hij stuurde de ongetekende (,) derde cheque terug.
  he  sent  the  unsigned  third  check  back
  'He sent back the third check, which wasnʼt signed.'

      Normally speaking, the ordinal and cardinal numerals are in complementary distribution, which suggests that the two compete for the same position NUM in (78a). An exception must, of course, be made for those cases in which the ordinal numeral and the noun constitute a lexical unit. In those cases, the lexicalized form can be preceded by a cardinal numeral, as in (80a). Another exception is given in (80b): in this example the two numerals seems to make up a complex modifier, which pick out the first/last two candidates in an ordered set. Example (80c) shows that the ordinal numeral in these complex modifiers is restricted to eerste and laatste; an ordinal like derde'third' is excluded.

Example 80
a. de twee [N eerste ministers]
  the  two  prime ministers
b. de [NUM eerste/laatste twee] kandidaten
  the  first/last two  candidates
c. * de [NUM derde twee] kandidaten
  the  third  two  candidates
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