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Correlative measure constructions

Correlative measure constructions involve two measures which are correlated. An example is given below:

Example 1

De molkpriis is fêststeld op 81 sinten de mingel molke
the milk.price is fixed on 81 cents the litre milk
The milk price has been set at 81 cents for a litre of milk

The secondary measure de mingel molkethe litre milkprecedes the primary measure 81 sinten81 cents. The secondary measure can also be viewed as the topic, which represents old information, whereas the primary measure represents the new information provided by the focus.


The correlative measure correlation is asymmetric. The example in (1) involves a primary measure, a litre of milk, which is assigned a secondary value, in this case a monetary value, of 81 cents. The primary measure phrase is preceded by the definite article, whereas the secondary measure phrase contains a cardinal value. In the example above, the preposition is followed by two Noun Phrases (NPs). The two NPs need not occur adjacent to each other, as the following examples show:

Example 2

a. De molkpriis is op 81 sinten fêststeld de mingel molke
the milk.price is on 81 cents fixed the litre milk
The milk price has been set at 81 cents for a litre of milk
b. De molkpriis is de mingel molke noch nea op 81 sinten fêststeld
the milk.price is the litre milk yet never on 81 cents fixed
The milk price has never before been set at 81 cents for a litre milk

The two measure NPs may also occur in a simple copular construction, but in that case the primary measure phrase must feature the indefinite article:

Example 3

a. In mingel molke is 81 sinten
a litre milk is 81 cents
A litre of milk costs 81 cents
b. *De mingel molke is 81 sinten
the litre milk is 81 cents
A litre of milk costs 81 cents

If the definite article is used, the suggestion arises that a specific litre of milk is involved, which is not the intended reading. The construction involves a generic quantification, seeing that every litre of milk costs 81 cents. Generic quantification, in turn, may be viewed as a subtype of universal quantification. The use of the definite article with the primary noun is grammatical if the primary NP does not occur in subject position, as in the example above, but in adjunct position, as in the example below:

Example 4

It is 81 sinten de mingel molke
it is 81 cents the litre milk
It is 81 cents for a litre of milk

The preposition perper is preferred where the use of the definite article is ungrammatical. This is the case when the primary measure noun is animate. In that case, the primary noun occurs without any article following the preposition perper:

Example 5

a. Ien stim per persoan
one vote per person
One person, one vote
b. ?*Ien stim de persoan
one vote the person
One person, one vote

However, the construction with the definite article is possible with the noun manman:

Example 6

Ien stim de man
one vote the man
One person, one vote

Presumably, phrases like per persoanper person are borrowed as a whole from Dutch. The high frequency of the phrase per persoan (due to its popularity in Dutch) blocks the phrase de persoan, although it does not block the native phrase de man. Nevertheless, de man loses out against the high frequency of per persoan and, more likely, it also loses out because de man can have other interpretations as well, whereas per persoan cannot. Phrases which are more specific are often borrowed in a minority language. A case in point is the borrowing of the reflexive zichhimself instead of using the simple pronoun as a lexical anaphor. Correlative constructions may also involve the frequency of an event within a time span. In that case, the primary NP retains the definite article, but it shows up in an Adposition Phrase (PP):

Example 7

a. Se trene trije kear yn 'e wike
they train three time in the week
They train three times a week
b. *Se trene trije kear de wike
they train three time the week
They train three times a week

Incidentally, the noun denoting frequency remains in the singular, as is not uncommon for measure nouns following a numeral. There is an alternative construction for the expression of frequency within a time span. It is also possible for the primary measure NP to drop the definite article and carry the suffix -s:

Example 8

a. Twaris wyks soe no útbetelling pleats hawwe
two.times a.week should now pay-off place have
Pay-off would now take place two times a week
b. Twa kear wyks waarden de tsiiskoarsten broeid om der koarstetsiis fan te parsen
two time a.week were the cheese rinds warmed for R rind.cheese of to press
Two times a week, the cheese rinds were warmed to press them into rind cheese

Other examples are jiersyearly, deisdaily, moarnsin the morning. Absent are *oereshourly, *moannesmonthly. The latter class of nouns has a stem which ends in a schwa, whereas the former class of nouns does not; see Dyk (2011).

  • Dyk, Siebren2011The morphology of Frisian nominal ellipsis
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