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Modification of measure nouns

The measure noun has three following possibilities of modification: Firstly, it may be modified by adjectives. Secondly, nouns of high and low quantity may be modified by a quantifier whereas this kind of modification is more restricted for measure nouns of exact quantity and numeral measure nouns. Nouns of high and low quantity may thirdly be modified by a demonstrative, whereas the modification of nouns of exact quantity and numeral measure noun by a demonstrative is more restricted.


The measure noun can be modified in different ways:

i. Modification of measure nouns by adjectives:

Measure nouns of high and low quantity may be modified only by adjectives compatible with their quantificational interpretation. So they may be modified only by intensifying adjectives, as these emphasize their vague high quantity interpretation. The following examples show that nouns of high and low quantity may be modified by intensifying adjectives:

Example 1

a. 'n groot klomp mense
a great lot people
a great number of people
b. 'n klein bietjie suurlemoensap
a small little lemon.juice
a very small amount of lemon juice

Nouns of low quantity may not be pre-modified by ordinary adjectives:

Example 2

a. *'n ou bietjie kaas
a old bit cheese
An old bit of cheese
*‘n pienk rapsie sout
a pink pinch salt
a pinch of pink salt

Although this restriction also applies to most high quality measure nouns (as illustrated in the first example below), it seems as though the same restrictions does not always hold for the two common high quality nouns klomp and hoop. The second two examples below illustrates that when an ordinary adjective (such as kwaai angry and vrot rotten) are pre-modifying the high quantity nouns klomp and hoop, this adjective can be interpreted to have scope over the entire noun phrase, as is illustrated by the examples below:

Example 3

a. *‘n rooi swetterjoel vinkies
a red swarm finch
a swarm of red finch
b. 'n kwaai klomp mense
a angry lot people
an angry mob of people
c. ‘n vrot hoop stompe
a rotten heap stumps
a rotten heap of wood

ii. Modification of measure nouns by quantifiers

Measure nouns can be preceded by the following quantificational elements: the indefinite article 'n a, and the high degree marker so 'n, which consists of the adverb so so and the indefinite article.

All four types of measure nouns can be preceded by an indefinite article. An example of each of the four measure nouns preceded by the indefinite article, is given below:

Example 4

High quantity measure nouns:
Op 'n dag kom 'n klomp mense met vangnette en toue.
on a day come a lot people with catch.nets and ropes
One day a lot of people came with fishnets and ropes.
Example 5

Low quantity measure nouns:
Daar is tog 'n tikkie verwyt in Gustav se stem.
there be.PRS still a touch.DIM reproach in Gustav PTCL.GEN voice
However, there is still a bit of reproach in Gustav's voice.
Viva-TK (adapted)
Example 6

Exact quantity measure nouns:
Met R70 'n dag kan mens wragtag net 'n brood koop en 'n liter melk.
with R70 a day can.AUX.MOD human truly only a bread buy and a litre milk
With R70 a day you can honestly just buy a loaf of bread and a liter of milk.
Example 7

Numeral measure nouns:
Daar lê 'n dosyn vars brode op die hoektafel uitgekeer.
there lay a dozen fresh breads on the corner.tabel out.turned
There are a dozen fresh loafs on the corner table.

Only high quantity measure nouns, and to a lesser extend also some low quantity measure nouns, can be preceded by the high degree marker so 'n, as illustrated below.

Example 8

High quantity measure nouns:
Die man het 'n ruim voertuig, want g'n mens kan so 'n hoop rommel saam met hom dra nie.
the man have.PRS a spacious vehicle because no human can.AUX.MOD such a heap rubbish with him carry NEG.PTCL
The man has a spacious vehicle, because nobody can carry such a pile of junk with them.
Example 9

Low quantity measure nouns:
Tydens die etenspouse kom groet talle bekendes en ou geesgenote my met so 'n tikkie moedswilligheid.
during the lunchbreak come.LINK greet numbers familiars and old fellows me with such a touch willfulness
During the lunchbreak a number of familiar people and old fellows came to greet me with a touch of willfulness.

When and exact quantity or numeral measure noun is preceded by so 'n, it should be interpreted as “more or less”, as illustrated with the examples below:

Example 10

Exact quantity measure nouns:
By Knysna stop ons so 'n kilo van die wenpaal af, siende dat ons nie vas geparkeer wil word nie.
at Knysna stop we so a kilo from the winning.post off seeing that.COMP we not stuck park.PASS want.to.AUX.MOD be.AUX.PASS.PRS PTCL.NEG
At Knysna, we parked more or less a kilometer from the winning post, since we didn’t want to be parked in.
Example 11

Numeral measure nouns:
Ek het self maar 'n dosyn of so gate gegrawe en seker maar so 'n dosyn of wat stokkies gehelp plant.
I have.AUX self but a dozen or so holes dig.PST and surely but so a dozen or what sticks help.PST plant
I myself dug a dozen or so holes and probably planted more or less a dozen or so sticks.
J.H. Crafford, Litnet Argief, 2008/09/15

iii. Modification of measure nouns by demonstratives:

All measure nouns may be modified by a demonstrative determiner.

Measure nouns of high and low quantity may be modified by a demonstrative determiner. Examples for each of the four measure nouns are given below.

Example 12

High quantity measure nouns:
Of moet ons self vir hierdie klomp mense gaan kos koop?
or must.AUX.MOD we self for this bunch people go food buy
Or should we go and buy all these people food ourselves?
Example 13

Low quantity measure nouns:
Hierdie bietjie swamme verseker dat die nuwe geslag werkers 'n nuwe sampioentuin sal kan kweek.
this little fungi ensure that.COMP the new generation workers a new mushroom.garden will.AUX.MOD can.AUX.MOD cultivate
These little fungi ensure that the new generation of workers will be able to cultivate a new mushroom garden.

Nouns of exact quantity and numeral measure nouns may be modified by a demonstrative, in case the measure noun happens to correspond to an individuated sample in some sense. In the example below, precut meter of fabric or a prepacked dozen of eggs may be involved:

Example 14

Nouns of exact quantity:
Hierdie meter lap sal vir die rok se soom gebruik word.
this meter fabric will.AUX.MOD for the dress PTCL.GEN hem use be.AUX.PASS.PRS
This meter of fabric will be used for the dress’ hem.
Example 15

Numeral measure nouns:
Hierdie dosyn eiers is vrot.
this dozen eggs be.PRS rotten
This dozen eggs is rotten.
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