• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents Pre-determiner bare heel

This section discusses the meaning of pre-determiner bare heel. In Subsection I, we start with its core semantics, which is quantificational in nature. Subsection II will show, however, that pre-determiner heel can also be used to express condescension in clauses that contain implicit or explicit negation.

[+]  I.  Core semantics: exhaustive partitioning of structured units

The core semantics of noun phrases with pre-determiner bare heel is quantificational in nature and can best be captured under the rubric of exhaustive partitioning of structured units; cf.Zwarts (1992: Ch. 7). What we mean by this is that heel gives an instruction to the addressee to partition the unit denoted by the head noun into all of its relevant subparts, and to select the sum total of these subparts as the reference of the noun phrase. The semantic characterization of heel just given can be decomposed into three elementary building blocks: it involves (i) a structured unit, (ii) a partitioning, and (iii) exhaustivity. Each of these aspects will be addressed in the following subsections.

[+]  A.  Structured unit

The notion of structured unit itself consists of two subparts, viz., being structured and being a unit. The claim that the referent of the noun phrase must be “structured” can be illustrated with reference to the contrast between the examples in (162) involving proper nouns. A proper noun like Europa can readily be preceded by pre-determiner heel, because the geographical entity “Europe”is normally construed as constituting a structured set of basically equivalent objects, viz. member states. A proper noun like Jan, on the other hand, cannot be combined with heel, because a person is normally not seen as a structured homogeneous set of objects such as cells, organs or limbs.

Example 162
a. heel Europa/Duitsland/Hongarije/Italië/Amsterdam
  all  Europe/Germany/Hungary/Italy/Amsterdam
b. $ heel Jan
  all  Jan

Example (163a) shows that the same thing is normally true for a noun phrase headed by a +animate common noun phrase like de man'the man'. However, once a context is provided which allows the animate noun phrase de man to refer to the set of a personʼs limbs, as in (163b), a grammatical, though slightly marked, result arises. The examples in (163a&b) also show that a similar but somewhat stronger contrast can be found in -animate noun phrases like zijn arm'his arm'.

Example 163
a. $ heel de man/zijn arm
  all  the man/his arm
b. Heel ?de man/zijn arm zat onder de schrammen.
  all  the man/his arm  sat  under the scratches
  'The man/His arm was profusely covered with scratches.'

Note that examples such as (163b) alternate with sentences in which the semantics of heel is contributed by the adverb helemaal'altogether': cf. De man/Zijn arm/Jan zat helemaal onder de schrammen'The man/his arm/Jan was completely covered with scratches'. Helemaal can also be used with proper nouns, which, even in the contexts given in (163b), give rise to a marginal result at best with heel, as will be clear from the contrast between (165a&b). The syntax of helemaal is discussed in Section 7.2.4.

Example 164
a. *? Heel Jan zat onder de schrammen.
  all  Jan sat  under the scratches
b. Jan zat helemaal onder de schrammen.
  Jans sat  altogether  under the scratches
  'Jan was completely covered with scratches'

The fact that some noun phrases readily allow an interpretation as a structured unit with heel, whereas other noun phrases require a special context for this interpretation to become available suggests that it is the speakerʼs conceptualization of the material world that is responsible for the difference: a proper noun like Europa is simply stored in the mental lexicon as a structured unit consisting of member states, whereas a proper noun like Jan is stored as an atomic unit referring to some individual.
      So far, we have focused on the requirement that the referent of the noun phrase must be structured, that is, be construed as consisting of several subparts. That the referent of the noun phrase must be a unit is highlighted by the interpretation of example (165a); the indirect object is conceived of as a unit, all of whose parts are affected equally and collectively by the event expressed by the verb phrase. The unit reading expressed by (165a) can be primed by means of the paraphrase in (165a'). In (165b), we find a similar example taken from the internet that involves a PP-complement; again it is possible to provide a paraphrase with in zʼn geheel.

Example 165
a. Ik heb heel het huis een opknapbeurt gegeven.
  have  all  the house  a cleaning  given
  'I gave the entire house a cleaning.'
a'. Ik heb het huis in zʼn geheel een opknapbeurt gegeven.
  have  the house  in its whole  a cleaning  given
  'I gave the house in its entirety a cleaning.'
b. We bieden integrale zorg, die kijkt naar heel de mens en niet alleen naar lever, hart of nieren ...
  we  offer  complete care  that looks  at all the person  and  not  only at  liver  heart  or kidneys
b'. We bieden integrale zorg, die kijkt naar de mens in zʼn geheel (en niet ...)
  we  offer  complete care  that looks  at the person  in its whole and not

The primeless examples in (165) contrast with the examples in (166), in spite of the fact that the syntactic function of the heel phrases in these examples is the same, viz. indirect object and complement of a PP-complement of the verb.

Example 166
a. ?? Ik heb heel de film mijn volle aandacht gegeven.
  have  all  the movie  my full attention  given
  'I gave the entire movie my full attention.'
b. *? Ik heb aandachtig naar heel de film zitten kijken.
  have  attentively  to  all  the movie  sit  look
  'I watched the entire movie attentively.'

The difference in acceptability between (165) and (166) therefore seems to be of a semantico-pragmatic nature. Insofar as the latter examples are acceptable, the objects receive an intrinsically distributive interpretation (with attentiveness being distributed equally across the object), and it is apparently difficult for bare heel phrases to receive such a distributive interpretation. This seems to lend further confirmation to the importance of the unit part of the semantic characterization of pre-determiner bare heel; while the house in (165) is conceived of as a unit whose parts are collectively affected by the event expressed by the verb phrase, the verbal events in (166) affect the subparts of the movie not as a group or a unit but only in a distributive fashion.
      The structured unit requirement is also reflected by the fact illustrated in (167a) that plural noun phrases normally cannot be combined with pre-determiner bare heel; in the general case, plurals do not constitute a unit but a set of units. Systematic exceptions to the ban on pre-determiner heel construed with plural noun phrases are pluralia tantum, like de tropen in (167b), and formal plurals that denote a conventionally fixed unit, like de Antillen in (167c).

Example 167
a. * heel de/die/deze/∅ steden
  all  the/those/these/∅  towns
b. El Niño heeft het klimaat in heel de tropen aangetast.
  El Niño has  the climate in all the tropics  affected
c. Hij is de bekendste politicus van heel de Antillen.
  he  is  the best-known politician  of  all  the Antilles

Though the plurals in (167b&c) behave like regular plurals in their external syntactic distribution in, e.g., triggering plural agreement on the finite verb, their denotation is that of a unit. The fact that pre-determiner bare heel can quantify pluralia tantum and plurals that denote a single unit confirms the structured unit ingredient of its semantics.

[+]  B.  Partitioning

The partitioning part of the semantics of heel can be illustrated with reference to example (168), which seems to imply that all of the rooms (and other relevant subparts) of the house have been cleaned, that is, all of the constituent parts that together make up the house have been affected.

Example 168
Heel het huis is schoongemaakt.
  all  the house  is clean.made

Since heel partitions the entity denoted by the noun phrase it quantifies into its constituent parts, we expect an anomalous output to arise if these parts cannot be individually affected by the event denoted by the verb phrase. This seems to be confirmed by (169): (169a) is unacceptable because it is only the motorboat as a unit that can be rocking, that is, the parts of the motorboat cannot be individually affected; (169b) is awkward since mud typically covers the house as a unit, not all of its constituent parts (i.e., the individual rooms) separately. Some caution is needed here, however, since not all speakers agree that (169b) is indeed anomalous.

Example 169
a. *? Heel de motorboot gaat heen en weer.
  all  the motorboat  goes  to and fro (≈ is rocking)
b. % Heel het huis is bedolven onder de modder.
  all  the house  is buried  under the mud
[+]  C.  Exhaustivity

Exhaustivity, the third ingredient of the meaning of pre-determiner bare heel, is illustrated in (170). In (170a), heel prompts a reading in which all of the individual office spaces comprising the office block have been rented out. Although judgments are somewhat delicate, it seems that addition of an “except”-clause, which overrules the interpretation “in all of its constituent parts” assigned by heel, leads to a somewhat awkward result. Example (170b&c) illustrates the same point; again, addition of the “except”-clause gives a marked result.

Example 170
a. Heel het kantoorgebouw (?behalve de begane grond) is verhuurd.
  all the office block    except the ground floor  is rented.out
b. Heel de Veiligheidsraad (?behalve China) stemde voor de resolutie.
  all the Security Council    except China  voted  in favor of the resolution
c. Ik heb heel de serie (??behalve deel 28).
  have  all the series   except volume 28

The exhaustivity part of the meaning of pre-determiner bare heel is eminently present in the Dutch rendering of the introduction to Asterix the Gaul by Goscinny and Uderzo, given in (171). The part that is interesting for our current discussion is given in italics: the claim that the whole of Gallia ( heel Gallië) is occupied is refuted by pointing at a small settlement, which continues to offer resistance.

Example 171
Dutch rendering: “Zoʼn 2000 jaar geleden was heel Gallië [...] bezet door soldaten van Caesar, de Romeinse veldheer. Héél Gallië? Nee, een kleine nederzetting bleef moedig weerstand bieden aan de overweldigers en ...”
  Gloss: About 2000 year ago, the whole of Gaul was occupied by the soldiers of Caesar, the Roman commander. The whole of Gaul? No, a small settlement continued to offer resistance to the usurpers and ...
'English rendering: “The year is 50 B.C. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely ... One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And ...”'

      In agreement with the characterization of the semantics of pre-determiner bare heel in terms of exhaustive partitioning of structured units, we find that bare heel normally does not alternate with half'half'. This is especially the case if the noun phrase hosting heel/half is “totally affected” by the event denoted by the verb phrase, as in (172): bezaaid liggen met means “to be totally covered with” and leegroven means “to rob empty”, that is, to rob in such a way that the entire object is emptied as a result. Such “totally affecting” verbal predicates only allow partitioning of their surface subject if the partitioning is exhaustive: substituting half for heel yields an anomalous result since half differs from heel precisely in not being exhaustive.

Example 172
a. Heel/*Half het eiland lag bezaaid met bloemen.
  all/half  the island  lay  be-seeded  with flowers
  'The island was completely/for a large part covered with flowers.'
b. Heel/*Half het dorp werd leeggeroofd.
  all/half the  village  was  robbed.empty

The verb phrases in (173), on the other hand, are not “totally affecting” in the sense that they apply to the inhabitants of the island/village only, and now the modifier heel does alternate with half. The reason for this is that these verbal predicates allow but do not demand exhaustive partitioning of the surface subject.

Example 173
a. Heel/%Half het eiland leeft van het toerisme.
  all/half  the island  lives  of the tourism
b. Heel/%Half het dorp liep uit om hem te zien.
  all/half  the village  ran  out  comp  him  to see

Note that the percentage sign in (173) indicates that some speakers find half categorically impossible in pre-determiner position; examples such as (173) can be readily found on the internet, however. It must also be noted that we have seen several other cases with half on the internet that seem to be of some different nature than the examples in (173), so that further investigation of the alternation between heel and half would certainly be welcome.

[+]  II.  Negative polarity

Alongside its core use as a quantifier, discussed in Subsection I, pre-determiner bare heel can also be used in a rather different fashion. We will show below that the semantic contribution of heel in examples of the type in (174) seems best described in terms of a combination of negative polarity and condescension. The examples in (174) are fully acceptable but are given a question mark within parentheses, since they are somewhat marked compared to similar constructions featuring post-determiner inflectible heel, which will be discussed in Section, sub III.

Example 174
a. (?) Ik ken heel die vent niet.
  know  all that guy  not
  'I donʼt know that guy at all.'
b. (?) Ik was heel die toestand alweer vergeten.
  was  all  that situation  again  forgotten
  'Iʼd forgotten about this whole affair.'

The sentences in (174) are negative, with negation being expressed syntactically by the negative adverb niet in (174a), and lexically by the verb vergeten'to forget/to not know anymore' in (174b). The examples in (175) show that counterparts of (174) in which negation is absent are unacceptable. This suggests that heel is a negative polarity item.

Example 175
a. * Ik ken heel die vent.
  know  all that guy
b. * Ik heb heel die toestand altijd onthouden.
  have  all that situation  always  remembered

It should be noted, however, that if heel is indeed a negative polarity item in these examples, its licensing must be less strict than for other negative polarity items. In particular, ordinary negative polarity items like ook maar iemand'anyone' do not occur in the position occupied by heel die toestand in (174b) as the negative component of the verb vergeten will not suffice to license them; see Den Dikken (2002) for discussion.
      Examples such as (174) are typically used as statements revealing the speakerʼs lack of appreciation or interest in the entity referred to by the heel phrase. Consistent with this is that the distal demonstrative in (174), which can be used to express a negative evaluation on the part of the speaker (cf. Section, sub IID), cannot readily be replaced by other determiners, as is shown by the awkwardness of (176).

Example 176
a. Ik ken heel *de/??deze vent niet.
  know  all    the/this  guy  not
b. Ik was heel *de/??deze toestand allang weer vergeten.
  was  all    the/this  situation  already.long  again  forgotten

Our judgments on the examples in (174) and (176) seem confirmed by a Google search (December 2008) on the strings [ heel DET vent] and [ heel DET vent], with DET ranging over die, de and deze. For die, we found 38 relevant examples, for de only two, and for deze only three.

  • Dikken, Marcel den2002Direct and parasitic polarity item licensingJournal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics535-66
  • Zwarts, Joost1992X'-syntax - X'-semantics: on the interpretation of functional and lexical headsUniversity of UtrechtThesis
Suggestions for further reading ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.