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6.2.2. Universal quantifiers

This section discusses the universal quantifiers. Subsection I starts with their use as modifiers of the noun phrase. After that, we will examine their use as independent constituents: Subsection II discusses their use as arguments, and Subsection III their use as floating quantifiers.

[+]  I.  Use as modifier

Dutch has three universal quantifiers that can be used as modifiers: ieder/elk'every' and alle'all'. These quantifiers are all universal in the sense that examples such as (90) express that the set denoted by student is a subset of the set denoted by the VP een studentenkaart krijgen'to receive a student ticket'. In terms of Figure 1, this means that A - (A ∩ B) = ∅.

Example 90
a. Iedere/elke student krijgt een studentenkaart.
  every student  receives  a student ticket
b. Alle studenten krijgen een studentenkaart.
  all students  receive  a student ticket

The quantifiers ieder and elk in (90a) are more or lesss free alternants, although Haeseryn et al. (1997: 350) note that some speakers have a weak tendency to use ieder for +human nouns and elk for -human nouns. These two quantifiers differ from the quantifier alle in (90b) in several respects, which we will discuss in the following subsections.

[+]  A.  Number

The most conspicuous difference between the two types of modifiers in (90) is that noun phrases containing ieder/elk trigger singular agreement on the verb, whereas noun phrases containing alle trigger plural agreement. This is illustrated again in (91). These examples demonstrate the difference in grammatical number in yet another way: noun phrases modified by ieder/elk can only act as the antecedent of a singular pronoun like zijn'his', whereas noun phrases modified by alle can only be the antecedent of a plural pronoun like hun'their'.

Example 91
a. Iedere/elke student moetsg zijn/*hun opdracht op tijd inleveren.
  every student  must  his/their assignment  on time  hand.in
  'Every/Each student must hand in his assignment on time.'
b. Alle studenten moetenpl hun/*zijn opdracht op tijd inleveren.
  all students  must  their/his assignment  on time  hand.in
  'All students must hand in their assignment on time.'

This difference in number is not a purely grammatical matter, but is also reflected in the semantics. For example, verbs like zich verzamelen'to gather' or omsingelen'to surround' require their subject to be plural or at least to refer to a group of entities: such verbs may take a noun phrase modified by alle as their subject, but not a noun phrase modified by elk/ieder.

Example 92
a. Alle studenten moeten zich in de hal verzamelen.
  all students  must  refl  in the hall  gather
  'All students must gather in the hall.'
a'. * Elke/Iedere student moet zich in de hal verzamelen.
  every student  must  refl  in the hall  gather
b. Alle soldaten omsingelden het gebouw.
  all soldiers  surrounded  the building
b'. * Elke/Iedere soldaat omsingelde het gebouw.
  every soldier  surrounded the building

The reason for this contrast in acceptability is that the noun phrases modified by alle may refer to the set of entities denoted by the head noun as a whole, that is, they allow a collective reading. Noun phrases modified by elk/ieder, on the other hand, do not allow this reading, but, instead, have a distributive reading: a noun phrase like iedere/elke student expresses that the property denoted by the VP holds individually for each entity in the set denoted by the head noun student or soldaat.

[+]  B.  Distributivity versus collectivity

The examples in (92) in the previous subsection have shown that noun phrases modified by elk/ieder have a distributive reading, whereas noun phrases modified by alle can have a collective reading. It must be pointed out, however, that alle is also compatible with a distributive reading: this is the preferred reading of example (93a), the meaning of which is more or lesss equivalent to that of example (93b).

Example 93
a. Alle boeken kosten € 25.
  all books  cost  € 25
b. Elk/Ieder boek kost €25.
  every book  costs  €25

In other cases, noun phrases with alle are ambiguous between a collective and a distributive reading. This ambiguity can be readily illustrated by means of (94a). Under its distributive reading, this example is semantically equivalent to (94b); both sentences express then that the property of singing a song holds for each student individually, that is, the meaning of these sentences can be satisfactorily represented by means of a universal operator: x (x:student) (x has sung a song). Under the collective reading of (94a), on the other hand, it is expressed that the students sang a certain song as a group, a reading unavailable for (94b). For this reading the semantic representation with a universal operator seems inappropriate: it is therefore important to note that, strictly speaking, it is somewhat misleading to use the term universal quantifier for this collective use of alle.

Example 94
a. Alle studenten hebben een lied gezongen.
  all students  have  a song  sung
b. Elke/iedere student heeft een lied gezongen.
  every student  has  a song  sung

The collective reading of alle studenten can be forced by adding a modifier of the type met elkaar'together' or samen'together', as in (95a). That these modifiers force a collective reading is clear from the fact illustrated in (95b) that they are not compatible with the distributive quantifiers ieder and elk.

Example 95
a. Alle studenten hebben met elkaar/samen een lied gezongen.
  all students  have  with each/together  a song  sung
  'All students sang a song together.'
b. * Elke/iedere student heeft met elkaar/samen een lied gezongen.
  every student  has  with each/together  a song  sung
[+]  C.  Predicative use

The fact that noun phrases with alle are ambiguous between a collective and a distributive reading, whereas noun phrases with elk/ieder only have a distributive reading, probably also accounts for the fact that only the former can be used as predicative noun phrases. In (96a), the predicative noun phrase refers to a group of students that consist of the four girls mentioned in the subject of the clause. In (96b), on the other hand, the predicative noun phrase does not refer to a group, and hence it cannot be predicated of the subject of the clause.

Example 96
a. Die vier meisjes zijn alle studenten die ik heb.
  those four girls  are  all students that I have
b. * Die vier meisjes zijn iedere/elke student die ik heb.
  those four girls  are  every/each student that I have
[+]  D.  Numerals

Another difference between the two types of universal quantifiers comes to the fore in noun phrases containing an ordinal numeral. An example such as (97a) is fully acceptable, and expresses that the 100th, 200th, etc. visitor will receive a present. Example (97b), on the other hand, gives rise to a virtually uninterpretable result.

Example 97
a. Iedere/elke honderdste bezoeker krijgt een cadeautje.
  every/each hundredth visitor  receives  a present
b. *? Alle honderdste bezoekers krijgen een cadeautje.
  all hundredth visitors  receive  a present

If the noun phrase contains a cardinal numeral, the use of the quantifiers ieder and elk gives rise to a somewhat marked result: example (98a) divides the set of visitors into groups of ten persons each. Example (98b) is fully acceptable in a context where the cardinality of the set of visitors is 10; the quantifier alle then emphasizes that the property denoted by the VP een cadeautje krijgen'to get a present' applies to all entities in this set. Generally it is assumed that the quantifier and the numeral constitute a phrase, which functions as a complex pre-determiner. The use of this pre-determiner alle + numeral is discussed more extensively in Section

Example 98
a. ? Iedere/elke tien bezoekers krijgen een cadeautje.
  every ten visitors  receive  a present
b. Alle tien (de) bezoekers krijgen een cadeautje.
  all  ten  the  visitors  get  a present
[+]  E.  Generic use

The universal quantifiers elke/iedere and alle are not only used to quantify over a set of entities that are part of domain D, but they can also be used in generic statements, expressing a general rule which is assumed to be true in the speakerʼs conception of reality. As discussed in Section, we should distinguish the three types of generic statements in (99). Here, we will only discuss the first two types.

Example 99
a. De zebra is gestreept.
  the zebra  is striped
b. Een zebra is gestreept.
  a zebra  is striped
c. Zebraʼs zijn gestreept.
  zebras  are striped

      If a generic statement contains a definite noun phrase, the generic statement generally applies to (entities that belong to) a certain species. Example (100a) refers to a certain species of birds, and it is claimed that this species is extinct. In this case, the definite article cannot be replaced by the universal quantifiers alle and elke/iedere.

Example 100
a. De Dodo is uitgestorven.
  the Dodo  is extinct
b. # Alle Dodoʼs zijn uitgestorven.
  all Dodos  are  extinct
c. * Elke/Iedere dodo is uitgestorven.
  every dodo  is extinct

Note, however, that the universal quantifier alle would be acceptable in a situation in which the noun denotes a species that can be divided into several subspecies: in such a case, alle would quantify over all subspecies. The quantifiers elk/ieder would still yield an unacceptable result in such a case. The examples in (101) aim at illustrating this.

Example 101
a. De Dinosaurus is uitgestorven.
  the Dinosaur  is extinct
b. Alle Dinosaurussen zijn uitgestorven.
  all Dinosaurs  are extinct
c. * Elke/Iedere dinosaurus is uitgestorven.
  every dinosaur  is extinct

      If a generic statement contains an indefinite noun phrase, the generic statement generally applies to a prototypical member of the set denoted by the head noun. Example (102a) claims that the prototypical zebra is striped. In this case, the indefinite article can readily be replaced by the universal quantifier alle: example (102b) simply claims that the property of being striped holds for all zebras. The quantifiers ieder and elk can also be used in this context, but, as Haeseryn et al. (1997: 349) note, in this case the sentence has an emphatic flavor: each and every entity that is a zebra is striped.

Example 102
a. Een zebra is gestreept.
  a zebra  is striped
b. Alle zebraʼs zijn gestreept.
  all zebras  are striped
c. ? Iedere/Elke zebra is gestreept.
  every zebra  is striped
[+]  F.  Agreement

The grammatical gender feature may also serve to distinguish elk/ieder and alle in that the form of the former depends on the gender of the head noun, whereas the latter is invariant. This distinction is of course related to the fact that the head noun is singular in the former case, whereas it is plural in the latter: gender agreement of a modifier and a singular head noun is very common, whereas the form of the modifier of a plural noun is generally insensitive to the gender of the noun; cf. Section 3.2, sub I.

Example 103
Ieder and elk
a. iedere/elke man
de man
  every/each  man
a'. ieder/elk kind
het kind
  every/each  child
b. alle mannen/kinderen
  all  men/children

Observe that the de-nouns mens'person' and persoon'person' are exceptional in not accepting/requiring the inflectional -e ending. This is illustrated in (104).

Example 104
a. elk(*e)/ieder(*e) mens
  every/each  person
b. elk(e)/ieder(e) persoon
  every/each  person
[+]  G.  Non-count nouns

A final difference between iets/elk and alle involves non-count nouns. Since universal quantifiers typically quantify over a set of discrete entities, universal quantifiers are not expected to combine with non-count nouns. As is shown in (105a) for abstract non-count nouns, this expectation is indeed borne out for elke/ieder. The quantifier alle, on the other hand, can combine with such non-count nouns. It seems reasonable to connect this difference to the fact that only alle can give rise to a collective reading: in the case of non-count nouns, this collective reading appears in the guise of a “total quantity” reading.

Example 105
a. * Elke/iedere ellende is ongewenst.
  every  misery  is unwanted
b. Alle ellende is voorbij.
  all misery  is passed
  'All misery has passed.'

Of course, this does not mean that iets/elk can never be combined with a non-count noun, but if it does there will be a semantic clash between the reading of iets/elk and that of the non-count noun, and as a consequence the non-count noun will get reinterpreted as a count noun. The noun phrase containing the substance noun wijn in (106a), for example, normally refers to some contextually determined quantity of wine. In (106b), on the other hand, iets/elk trigger a count noun interpretation on this noun, which now means “type of wine”. The quantifier alle allows both the non-count and the count noun interpretation: in the former case the noun wijn appears in the singular, as in (106c), and in the latter it appears in the plural, as in (106c').

Example 106
a. De wijn wordt gekeurd.
  the wine  is  sampled
b. Elke/iedere wijn wordt gekeurd.
  every wine  is  sampled
c. Alle wijn wordt gekeurd.
  all wine  is  sampled
c'. Alle wijnen worden gekeurd.
  all wines  are  sampled
[+]  II.  Use as argument

If a universal quantifier is used as an argument, it will generally be realized as the +human quantified pronoun iedereen'everyone' or the -human quantified pronoun alles'everything' in (107), discussed in Section 5.2.

Example 107
a. Iedereen ging naar de vergaderzaal.
  everyone  went  to  the meeting.hall
b. Alles is uitverkocht.
  everything  is sold.out

      The quantifier alle(n) in (108) may perform the same role as the quantifiers iedereen/alles in (107): if the context provides sufficient information about the intended referent set, it is possible to use alle(n) as a pronominal quantifier instead of the full quantified noun phrases alle studenten/boeken'all students/books'.

Example 108
a. Alle studenten/Allen gingen naar de vergaderzaal.
  all students/all  went  to  the meeting.hall
b. Alle boeken/Alle zijn uitverkocht.
  all books/all  are  sold.out

      It is also possible to use the modifiers ieder and elk as arguments, although this is considered very formal. The independent use of these quantifiers seems more or lesss restricted to contexts in which they are modified by means of a postnominal van-PP where the complement of van is a plural pronoun/noun phrase. In examples such as (109), there is a strong tendency to use ieder for +human referents; the tendency to restrict the use of elk to -human entities seems somewhat weaker.

Example 109
a. Ieder/?Elk van ons weet dat de voorzitter geroyeerd is.
  each of us  knows  that  the chairman  expelled  is
  'Each of us knows that the chairman is expelled.'
b. Elk/*?Ieder van die boeken is een fortuin waard.
  each of those books  is a fortune  worth
  'Each of those books is worth a fortune.'

There are, however, some idiomatic examples in which ieder is used independently without a modifier being present as in, e.g., ieder zijn deel'everyone will get his share'. Furthermore, ieder can be used independently without a modifier if it heads an indefinite noun phrase introduced by the article een; this seems impossible with elk (although some incidental cases can be found on the internet).

Example 110
Een ieder/*?elk weet dat de voorzitter geroyeerd is.
  an  each  knows  that  the chairman  expelled  is
'Everyone knows that the chairman is expelled.'
[+]  III.  Use as floating quantifier

Floating quantifiers are quantifiers which are associated to noun phrases occurring elsewhere in the sentence, but with which they do not form a syntactic constituent. This use, which is restricted to universal quantifiers, is illustrated in (111). In this case, too, the difference between ieder/elk and allen seems to be that the former have a distributive reading, whereas the latter has a more collective flavor: it is, however, harder to demonstrate the difference here since it is not the case that (111b) can be used to express that the students received one hundred euros as a group.

Example 111
a. De studenten kregen ieder/elk honderd euro.
  the students  got  each  hundred euro
  'The students got a hundred euros each.'
b. De studenten kregen allemaal/?allen honderd euro.
  the students  got  all  hundred euro
  'All the students got a hundred euros.'

Our impression might be substantiated by means of the examples in (112). Since the predicate bij elkaar komen requires a plural/collective subject, we may account for the contrast between the two examples by appealing to the fact that the quantifiers ieder and elk force a distributive reading of the subject, whereas alle(maal) allows either a collective or a distributive reading. Recall that the use of allen is somewhat formal: in speech it is generally the form allemaal that is used.

Example 112
a. * De studenten kwamen ieder/elk bij elkaar.
  the students  came  each  together
b. De studenten kwamen allemaal/?allen bij elkaar.
  the students  came  all  together

      The use of floating quantifiers with -human antecedents seems somewhat more restricted than with +human ones. The use of the distributive quantifiers in (113a) seems to give rise to an especially degraded result: although elk is accepted by some speakers, ieder is categorically rejected. In (113b), allemaal is clearly preferred to alle.

Example 113
a. De vliegtuigen worden %elk/*ieder gekeurd.
  the airplanes  are    each  examined
b. De vliegtuigen worden allemaal/??alle gekeurd.
  the airplanes  are  all  examined

      If the antecedent is interrogative, only the floating quantifier allemaal seems possible: elk/ieder and alle(n) all give rise to a degraded result. In (114), we give examples involving a +human antecedent.

Example 114
a. *Wie/??welke studenten kregen er elk/ieder honderd euro?
  who/which students  got  there  each  hundred euro
b. Wie/welke studenten kregen er allemaal/*allen honderd euro?
  who/which students  got  there  all  hundred euro

Here we will not go any deeper into the properties of these floating quantifiers. A more general discussion on floating quantifiers can be found in Section 7.1.4, sub III, which also includes a discussion of floating quantifiers like beide'both' and alletwee'all two'.

  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
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