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6.2.4. Degree quantifiers
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This section discusses degree quantifiers. Subsection I deals with their use as modifiers of the noun phrase. Subsection II is concerned with their independent use as arguments; degree quantifiers cannot be used as floating quantifiers.

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[+]  I.  Use as modifier

This subsection discusses the use of gradable quantifiers as modifiers of the noun phrase. We will start with a discussion of the high/low degree quantifiers veel/weinig'many/few', which indicate that the cardinality involved is higher/lower than some tacitly assumed norm. After that, we will discuss the degree quantifiers like voldoende'sufficient', genoeg'enough' and zat'plenty', which indicate that some tacitly assumed norm is met.

[+]  A.  High and low degree quantifiers

This subsection discusses some properties of the high and low degree quantifiers veel and weinig. It should be noted that these quantifiers are not only used as modifiers of the noun phrase, but can also be used as adverbial phrases. Since it would disturb our present discussion too much to also discuss this adverbial use here, we will return to it in a separate section; cf. Section 6.2.6.

[+]  1.  Core semantics and the nature of the head noun

The semantic representations in (150) show that degree quantifiers like veel/weinig'many/few' are not only existential but express in addition that the cardinality of the intersection of the set denoted by the noun jongens and the VP op straat lopen'to walk in the streets' is higher/lower than a certain contextually determined norm. Note that this norm is not some absolute number, but may have some lower and upper bound. In the semantic representations in (150), n and n' refer to, respectively, the lower and the upper bound of this range.

Example 150
Degree quantifiers with count nouns
a. Er lopen weinig jongens op straat.
  there  walk  few boys  in the.street
a'. ∃x (x:boy) (x walk in the street & 1 < |A ∩ B| < n)
b. Er lopen veel jongens op straat.
  there  walk  many boys  in the.street
b'. ∃x (x:boy) (x walk in the street & |A ∩ B| > n')

The degree quantifiers differ from the purely existential ones in that they modify not only (plural) count nouns like jongens'boys' in (150), but also non-count nouns like the substance noun water in (151). Of course, the notion of cardinality is not applicable in the case of non-count nouns; instead, the degree quantifier expresses that the quantity of the substance denoted by the noun is higher/lower than a certain contextually determined norm.

Example 151
Degree quantifiers with non-count nouns
a. Er zit veel water in de fles.
  there  is  much water  in the bottle
b. Er zit weinig water in de fles.
  there  is  little water  in the bottle
[+]  2.  Weak and strong use

In (150) and (151), the noun phrases modified by the degree quantifiers are the subject of an expletive construction, and are therefore clearly weak. It is, however, also possible to use such noun phrases strongly. Examples of strong noun phrases with degree quantifiers are given in (152). As with the existential quantifier enkele, the degree modifiers veel and weinig may either quantify over a pre-established set of entities in domain D, or be more “generic”, that is, quantify over all the relevant entities in the speakerʼs conception of reality. Under the first reading, an example such as (152) makes the specific claim that of a contextually determined set of books the cardinality of the set of books that contain printerʼs errors is higher than some tacitly assumed norm. Under the second, “generic” reading, the speaker makes the more general claim that a relatively large proportion of all existing books contain printerʼs errors. Example (152b) exhibits the same type of ambiguity.

Example 152
a. Veel boeken bevatten honderden zetfouten.
  many books  contain  hundreds.of  printerʼs.errors
b. Weinig boeken bevatten geen zetfouten.
  few books  contain  no printerʼs.errors
[+]  3.  The adjectival nature of the quantifier

The quantifiers veel and weinig are adjectival in nature, which is clear from the facts that these quantifiers can be modified by degree modifiers such as erg'very' or te'too', and that they can even be the input for comparative and superlative formation (although the superlative form of weinig often gives rise to a marked result).

Example 153
Adjectival properties of veel and weinig
  veel weinig
degree modification erg/te veel boeken
‘very/too many books’
erg/te weinig boeken
‘very/too few books’
comparative formation meer boeken
‘more books’
minder boeken
‘fewer books’
superlative formation de meeste boeken
‘most books’
*?de minste boeken
‘fewest books’

It therefore does not really come as a surprise that quantificational veel can be found in the same position as the attributive adjectives, that is, in a position following the plural determiner de'the' in (154a). In this position veel must be inflected. If the definite determiner is absent veel can either be inflected or uninflected: vele/veel boeken. In order to account for these two possibilities, one may assume that the form depends on the absence or presence of the phonetically empty indefinite article ∅: the two forms can then be assumed to correspond to (154b) and (154c), respectively. The primed examples in (154) show that, although the inflected form of weinig is at least marginally possible, it leads to a severely degraded result if no overt article is present.

Example 154
a. de vele/*veel boeken
  the  many  books
a'. ? de weinige boeken
  the  few  books
b. ∅ vele boeken
  ∅ many  books
b'. *? weinige boeken
  ∅  few  books
c. veel boeken
  many  books
c'. weinig boeken
  few  books

The differences in inflection may be taken to indicate that the quantifier may occupy two different positions within the noun phrase: [DP D [QP Q [NP ... N ]]]. The uninflected quantifier may be taken to occupy the regular quantifier position Q, as in (155a), whereas the inflected quantifier may be taken to occupy the position of an attributive adjective within NP, as in (155b).

Example 155
a. [DP D [QP veel [NP ... N ]]]
b. [DP D [QP Q [NP vele N ]]]

There is, however, one problem with such an assumption. As is shown by (156a), attributive adjectives may license N-ellipsis: the only requirement for this is that the context provides sufficient information to identify the content of the empty noun; cf. Section A5.4). N-ellipsis is, however, never possible with the high degree quantifier veel in (156b); this would, of course, be unexpected if it functions as an attributive adjective. We leave this point for future research, while noting that the superlative form of vele, meeste'most', can be used in this construction; cf (156c).

Example 156
N-ellipsis
a. Hij heeft [DP de blauwe e] verkocht.
  he  has  the blue  sold
  'He has sold the blue one(s).'
b. * Hij heeft [DP de vele e] verkocht.
  he  has  the many  sold
c. Hij heeft [DP de meeste e] verkocht.
  he  has  the most  sold
  'He has sold most of them.'
[+]  B.  Voldoende'sufficient', genoeg'enough' and zat'plenty'

Besides the high and low degree quantifiers discussed above, there are quantifiers such as voldoende'sufficient', genoeg'enough' and zat'plenty', which express that the cardinality of the intersection satisfies a certain contextually determined norm. The examples in (157) with voldoende'enough' show that degree modifiers of this type are able to modify both count and non-count nouns, and are normally used with a weak reading. Recall from the discussion of the semantic representations in (150) that n and n' in (157a') refer to, respectively, the lower and the upper bound of the range that falls within the contextually determined norm.

Example 157
a. Er lopen voldoende jongens op straat.
  there  walk  enough boys  in the.street
a'. ∃x (x:boy) (x walk in the street & n ≤ |A ∩ B| ≤ n')
b. Er zit voldoende water in de fles.
  there  is  enough water  in the bottle

      The degree quantifiers like genoeg and zat allow somewhat more freedom in their syntactic distribution than the other degree quantifiers; (158) shows that these quantifiers need not be placed in prenominal position, but can also occur postnominally. This is reminiscent of their behavior as modifiers of the adjectives illustrated in the primed examples, where they must follow the modified element.

Example 158
a. Hij heeft <genoeg> boeken <genoeg>.
  he  has    enough  books
a'. Hij is <*genoeg> oud <genoeg>.
  he  is      enough  old
b. Hij heeft <zat> boeken <zat>.
  he  has  plenty  books
b'. Dat is <*zat> moeilijk <zat>.
  that is  enough  difficult

      The quantifiers genoeg and voldoende (but not zat) can also be negated, thus expressing sentential negation. Two examples are given in (159). The examples differ in that sentential negation is brought about by means of the negative adverb niet in the case of genoeg, whereas in the case of voldoende negation is brought about by means of affixation with on-. Since negation is morphologically expressed on the quantifier itself in the case of voldoende, one might suggest that the negative adverb niet forms a constituent with the quantifier genoeg in (159a), and in fact there is some evidence that this is indeed the case; as (159a') shows, the presence of niet excludes postnominal placement of the quantifier, which might be due to the fact that the quantifier is now complex.

Example 159
a. Hij heeft niet genoeg boeken.
  he  has  not  enough  books
  'He doesnʼt have enough books.'
a'. * Hij heeft niet boeken genoeg.
b. Hij heeft onvoldoende boeken.
  he  has  not.enough  books
  'He doesnʼt have enough books.'

Although there is some reason for assuming that sentential negation is realized as part of the quantifier in (159), this cannot be the case for all negated quantifiers. This is clear from the examples in (160) with the quantifier genoeg. Example (160a), which has basically the same meaning as (159a), shows that the noun phrase genoeg boeken can be topicalized while stranding the negative adverb niet, which suggests that sentential negation can also be expressed externally to the quantified noun phrase, which is confirmed by example (160b), in which sentential negation is realized on the time adverb nooit'never'. Example (160c) shows that sentential negation can also be expressed within the noun phrase by means of the negative article geen'no'; this case contrasts sharply with the one in (159a), however, in that the quantifier must be placed postnominally.

Example 160
a. Genoeg boeken heeft hij niet.
  enough books  has  he  not
b. Hij heeft nooit genoeg boeken.
  he  has  never  enough books
c. Hij heeft geen <*genoeg> boeken <genoeg>.
  he  has  no     enough  books

The examples in (159a&b) express that the cardinality of the set denoted by the noun does not satisfy the lower bound of the contextually determined norm. It is also possible to express that the cardinality exceeds the upper bound of this norm by using the complex phrase meer dan genoeg/voldoende'more than enough'; zat sounds somewhat marked (although we found a couple of cases on the internet). A more extensive discussion of examples such as (161a) can be found in Section 6.2.5.

Example 161
a. Hij heeft meer dan genoeg/voldoende boeken.
  he  has  more than  enough  books
  'He has more than enough books.'
b. ? Hij heeft meer dan zat boeken.
  he  has  more than plenty  books
[+]  II.  Use as argument

This subsection discusses the use of the degree quantifiers as independent arguments. As in Subsection I, we will discuss the high/low degree quantifiers veel and weinig, and the degree quantifiers voldoende, genoeg and zat, which indicate that some tacitly assumed norm is met, in separate subsections.

[+]  1.  High and low degree quantifiers

This subsection makes a distinction between uninflected and inflected veel/weinig and show that these two instances differ in several respects. We start with a discussion of the uninflected forms. Like most existential quantifiers, the degree quantifiers veel and weinig are normally not used as independent arguments: example (162b) is acceptable due to the presence of quantitative er, but example (162c), in which the quantifier is truly independent, is unacceptable.

Example 162
a. Er lopen veel/weinig jongens op straat.
  there  walk  many/few boys  in the.street
b. Er lopen er [veel/weinig [e]] op straat.
  there  walk  er   many/few  in the.street
c. * Er lopen veel/weinig op straat.
  there  walk  many/few  in the.street

Things are different, however, if we are dealing with non-count nouns. Since the quantitative er construction requires the empty noun to be plural, it does not really come as a surprise that example (163b) is excluded. However, in contrast to (162c), (163c) is acceptable. This example can be construed with a count noun interpretation, in which case veel/weinig can refer to a certain quantity of wine. Alternatively, veel/weinig may be construed as referring to a set of discrete entities of a miscellaneous sort (“loads of different things”).

Example 163
a. Er zit veel/weinig wijn in de fles.
  there  is  much/little wine  in the bottle
b. * Er zit er [veel/weinig [e]] in de fles.
  there  is  er   much/little  in the bottle
c. Er zit veel/weinig in de fles.
  there  is  much/little  in the bottle

The judgments on the examples in (162) and (163) remain the same if the quantifiers veel and weinig are modified by degree modifiers like erg'very' or te'too', or if they are replaced with their comparative forms meer'more' and minder'less'. Replacement by the superlative forms (het) meest'(the) most' and (het) minst'(the) least' is of course excluded since this would make the noun phrases definite; definite noun phrases do not license quantitative er and are not possible in expletive constructions.
      The examples in (164) show that veel/weinig can also be used as the predicate in a copular construction or as a measure phrase with verbs like kosten. In this case, veel and weinig can also be replaced by both the comparative and the superlative form; the latter can optionally take an -e ending.

Example 164
a. Dat is erg veel/weinig.
  that  is  very  much/little
  'That is quite a lot/very little.'
b. Dat is meer/minder dan je nodig hebt.
  that  is more/less  than  you  need  have
  'That is more/less than you need.'
c. Dat is het meest(e)/minst(e).
  that is the most/least
Example 165
a. Dat kost/weegt veel/weinig.
  that  costs/weighs  much/little
b. Dit boek kost meer/minder (dan dat boek).
  this book  costs  more/less  than that book
c. Dat boek kost het meest(e)/minst(e).
  that book  cost  the most/least

      Let us now continue with the inflected form. The examples in (154), repeated here as (166), show that while veel may also occur in an inflected form; inflected weinige gives rise to a marked/degraded result. If no overt article is present, veel can either be inflected or uninflected, and we assume that the form depends on the absence or presence of the phonetically empty indefinite article ∅.

Example 166
a. de vele/*veel boeken
  the  many  books
a'. ? de weinige boeken
  the  few  books
b. ∅ vele boeken
  ∅ many  books
b'. *? weinige boeken
  ∅  few  books
c. veel boeken
  many  books
c'. weinig boeken
  few  books

The (a)-examples in (167) show that quantified non-count nouns never occur in noun phrases containing a definite article. If we conclude from this that it cannot co-occur with the indefinite article either, we correctly predict that non-count nouns are always preceded by the uninflected forms.

Example 167
a. * de vele/veel melk
  the  much  milk
a'. * de weinige melk
  the  little  milk
b. * ∅ vele melk
  ∅ much  milk
b'. * weinige melk
  ∅  little  milk
c. veel melk
  much  milk
c'. weinig melk
  little  milk

      It is not really surprising that the quantitative er construction in (168b) is acceptable to about the same degree as the examples in (168a). What is surprising, is that the independent uses of these quantifiers in (168c) also give rise to a more or lesss acceptable result; this shows that the inflected forms differ markedly from their uninflected counterparts in (162c), which cannot be used as independent arguments. Furthermore, the fact that both the independent use of velen and that of weinigen are judged grammatical suggests that there is in fact no direct relation between these independent uses of the quantifiers in (168c) and their use as modifiers of the noun phrases in (168a&b). Recall that the orthographic rules require a (mute) -n on the independently used quantifiers in (168c) if they are +human.

Example 168
a. Er lopen vele/*?weinige mensen op straat.
  there  walk  many/few  people  in the.street
b. Er lopen er [vele/*?weinige [e]] op straat.
  there  walk  er  many/few  in the.street
c. Er lopen velen/slechts weinigen op straat.
  there  walk  many/only few  in the.street

      The fact that the independently used quantifiers velen and weinigen in (168c) function as the subject of an expletive construction shows that they can be used as weak noun phrases, but they can also be used as strong noun phrases, as is illustrated by (169a). The remaining examples in (169) show that such independently used quantifiers can be used in all regular argument positions, that is, as a direct or indirect object or as the complement of a preposition.

Example 169
a. Velen/Slechts weinigen hebben geklaagd over de kou.
subject
  many/only few  have  complained  about the cold
b. Ik heb daar velen/slechts weinigen ontmoet.
direct object
  have  there  many/only few  met
  'Iʼve met many/only few people there.'
c. Ik heb velen/slechts weinigen een kaart gestuurd.
indirect object
  have  many/only few  a postcard  sent
  'Iʼve sent many/only few people a postcard.'
d. Ik heb aan velen/slechts weinigen een kaart gestuurd.
complement of P
  have  to many/only few people  a postcard  sent
  'Iʼve given an unsatisfactory mark to many/only few people.'
[+]  2.  Other degree quantifiers

The degree modifiers which express that the cardinality of the intersection satisfies a contextually determined norm pattern more or lesss like uninflected veel'many' and weinig'few'. If genoeg, voldoende and zat trigger plural agreement on the finite verb, they must be accompanied by quantitative er.

Example 170
a. Er lopen genoeg/voldoende/zat jongens op straat.
  there  walk  enough/enough/plenty boys  in the.street
b. Er lopen er [genoeg/voldoende/zat [e]] op straat.
  there  walk  er   enough/enough/plenty  in the.street
c. * Er lopen genoeg/voldoende/zat op straat.
  there  walk  enough/enough/plenty  in the.street

However, if these elements trigger singular agreement, quantitative er cannot be realized. Just like veel/weinig in (163c), the quantifiers in (171c) can be construed with a non-count noun interpretation, in which case they refer to a certain quantity of wine, or they can be used to refer to a set of discrete entities of a miscellaneous sort.

Example 171
a. Er zit genoeg/voldoende/zat wijn in de fles.
  there  is  enough/enough/plenty  wine  in the bottle
b. * Er zit er [genoeg/voldoende/zat [e]] in de fles.
  there  is  er  enough/enough/plenty  in the bottle
c. Er zit genoeg/voldoende/zat in de fles.
  there  is  enough/enough/plenty  in the bottle
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