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6.2.3.Existential quantifiers

This section discusses existential quantifiers like sommige'some' and enkele'some'. Subsection I starts with a discussion of their use as modifiers of the noun phrase. After that, Subsection II continues with their use as arguments; existential quantifiers cannot be used as floating quantifiers.

[+]  I.  Use as modifier

This subsection discusses the use of existential quantifiers like sommige'some' and enkele'some' as modifiers of a noun phrase. These quantifiers are existential in the sense that examples such as (115) express that the set denoted by the VP op straat lopen'to walk in the street' is not empty.

a. Sommige jongens lopen op straat.
  some boys  walk  in the.street
  'Some boys walk in the street.'
b. Er lopen enkele jongens op straat.
  there  walk  some boys  in the.street
  'Some boys walk in the street.'

Although the two translations given in (115) are the same, there is a clear difference between the two examples. The noun phrase in (115a) refers to a subset of the boys in domain D. In terms of Figure 1, this means that it expresses that the intersection of the set of boys (set A) and the set of entities that are walking in the street (set B) is non-empty: A ∩ B ≠ ∅. Example (115b), on the other hand, does not presuppose a set of boys in domain D: it rather functions as a presentational sentence that introduces some new entities into domain D.
      Note that it is often claimed that the existential quantifiers sommige and enkele express not only that the relevant set is non-empty, but also that the cardinality is both higher than 1 and rather low. It is not clear a priori whether this is all actually part of the lexical meaning of the quantifier. If we were correct in our earlier assumption in Section that the plural marking on the noun expresses that |A ∩ B| ≥ 1, the implication in (115) that |A ∩ B| > 1 may indeed be due to the presence of the quantifier. However, the fact that the cardinality is construed as rather low may be the result of a conversational implicature: since the speaker can use a high degree quantifier to express that the cardinality is high, the absence of such a high degree quantifier suggests that the cardinality is only moderate (Griceʼs Maxim of Quantity). For the moment, we leave this issue as it is, and assume that the existential quantifiers simply express that the relevant set is non-empty and that they may or may not impose further restrictions on the cardinality of the set.
      The quantifiers enkele and sommige (on their non-D-linked reading) are, respectively, weak and strong quantifiers. As we have seen in Section 6.2.1, one of the properties of strong quantifiers like sommige is that they cannot occur in existential constructions containing the expletive er'there', whereas weak quantifiers like enkele can; cf. example (115). Another property seems to be that, unlike at least some weak quantifiers, strong quantifiers cannot occur in nominal measure phrases. Some examples are given in (116). Note, however, that the distinction between weak and strong quantifiers is not absolute: as we will see the quantifier enkele can also be used as a strong quantifier, in which case it does not introduce new entities into domain D, but simply quantifies some set of entities within domain D.

a. Dat boek kost enkele/*sommige tientjes.
  that book  costs  some  tenners
b. De schat ligt enkele/*sommige meters onder de grond.
  the treasure  lies  some meters  under the ground

As is shown in (117), universal quantifiers cannot be used in constructions containing expletive er either, nor in nominal measure phrases, so they must be considered strong quantifiers as well. In other words, universal quantifiers like alle'all' or elk'each' form a natural class with existential quantifiers like sommige. Enkele, on the other hand, forms a natural class with the cardinal numerals, which can occur in these constructions.

a. * Er lopen alle jongens op straat.
  there  walk  all boys  in the.street
a'. Er lopen vijf jongens op straat.
  there  walk  five boys  in the.street
b. * Dat boek kost alle tientjes.
  that book  costs  all tenners
b'. Dat boek kost drie tientjes.
  that book  costs  three tenners

      The examples in (115) express that the cardinality of the set of boys walking in the street is larger than 1. In this respect, the quantified noun phrases sommige jongens and enkele jongens seem to behave as plural counterparts of the noun phrases in (118a&b) introduced by the indefinite article een'a' (note, however, that because een must be stressed in (118a), we cannot exclude the possibility that we are actually dealing with the numeral één'one' in this example). Therefore, it would be justified to also treat the indefinite article in this subsection. However, since we have discussed this element in Section 5.1 on articles, we will refrain from doing so. The same thing holds for the negative article in (118c), which can readily be considered a negative existential quantifier (¬∃x).

a. Eén jongen loopt op straat.
  a/one boy  walks  in the.street
b. Er loopt een jongen op straat.
  there  walks  a boy  in the.street
c. Er loopt geen jongen op straat.
  there  walks  no boy  in the.street

The remainder of this subsection discusses various types of existential quantifiers in more detail. In the course of the discussion we will observe that the distinction between existential and degree quantifiers is not always clear-cut.

[+]  A.  Enkele'some' and sommige'some'

The most common existential quantifiers are enkele and sommige. The two differ in that the former can be weak whereas the latter is necessarily strong. That enkele can be a weak quantifier is clear from the examples in (119), in which enkele is used as the modifier of a subject. Under neutral intonation, the clause preferably takes the form of an expletive construction, as in (119a); example (119b) is normally pronounced with emphatic focus on the quantifier. The two examples differ in interpretation: in (119a) the subject introduces some new entities into domain D, whereas in (119b) the subject has a partitive reading, that is, domain D already includes a set of boys and the sentence expresses that some of these boys are walking in the street.

a. Er lopen enkele jongens op straat.
  there  walk  some boys  in the.street
  'There are some boys walking in the street.'
b. Enkele/??Enkele jongens lopen op straat.
  some  boys  walk  in the.street
  'Some (of the) boys are walking in the street.'

      That the quantifier sommige is necessarily strong is clear from the fact that the expletive construction in (120b) is impossible. This quantifier therefore cannot be used to introduce new discourse entities, but normally quantifies over a pre-established set of boys in domain D.

a. Sommige jongens lopen op straat.
  some boys  walk  in the.street
  'Some boys walk in the street.'
b. * Er lopen sommige jongens op straat.
  there  walk  some boys  in the.street
[+]  B.  Wat'some'

Another existential quantifier that is quite frequent is wat'some'. This quantifier is clearly weak, as shown by the fact that only the expletive construction is acceptable in (121); the (b)-example cannot be remedied by means of assigning emphatic accent to the quantifier.

a. Er lopen wat jongens op straat.
  there  walk  some boys  in the.street
  'There are some boys walking in the street.'
b. * Wat jongens lopen op straat.

A conspicuous difference between wat, on the one hand, and enkele and sommige, on the other, is that the former can readily be used as a modifier of non-count nouns, whereas the latter normally cannot. This is shown in (122).

a. Ik heb wat bier gekocht.
  have  some beer  bought
b. * Ik heb enkele/sommige bier gekocht.

The ability to act as a modifier of a non-count noun is also a property of degree modifiers such as veel'many/much' discussed in Section 6.2.4. It might therefore be the case that wat is not a simple existential quantifier, but that it is actually a degree quantifier. Such a point of view could be supported by pointing out that, unlike enkele and sommige, wat can be modified by intensifiers like nogal, vrij, tamelijk, heel, aardig. This is illustrated in (123), where the cardinality of the set denoted by boeken is indeed compared to some implicit norm.

a. Jan heeft nogal/heel/aardig wat boeken.
  Jan has  quite/very/quite  some books
  'Jan has quite a few books.'
b. * Jan heeft nogal/heel/aardig enkele/sommige boeken.

      To conclude this discussion on wat, we want to mention in connection to the observation that wat can precede non-count nouns that Haeseryn et al. (1997: 370) note that, in contrastive contexts, sommige can sometimes also be combined with substance nouns like bier'beer' with a “kind” interpretation, as in (124a). Although we have indeed found a small number of such cases on the internet, we much prefer the use of the plural form bieren here, in which case we are clearly dealing with a count noun.

a. % Sommig bier heeft een bittere nasmaak.
  some beer  has  a bitter aftertaste
b. Sommige bieren hebben een bittere nasmaak.
  some beers  have  a bitter aftertaste
[+]  C.  Other cases

Besides the existential quantifiers discussed above, Dutch has many other formatives that can be used in a similar fashion. This subsection briefly discusses some of these formatives: we first start with a number of simple forms, and conclude with some forms that are phrase-like.

[+]  1.  Enig(e)

Example (125a) shows that the form enige can be found in formal language as a weak quantifier. Example (125b) shows that it differs from enkele in that it can also combine with non-count nouns. In this respect it resembles wat, from which it differs, however, in not allowing degree modification; cf. (125c).

a. Er liggen enige/enkele boeken op de tafel.
  there  lie  some/some books  on the table
b. Enige/*enkele tijd geleden was ik ziek.
  some/some time ago  was  ill
c. nogal/heel/aardig wat/*enige boeken
  quite/very/quite  some/some books

The examples in (126) showthat enige can also be used as an equivalent of English any, as in (126a), or as an attributive adjective corresponding to “only” or “cute”; cf. Haeseryn et al. (1997: 366ff.). Note that the ambiguity of (126c) can be solved by using the superlative form enigst in (126c'); although there is normative pressure to not use this form, it is often used with the meaning “only”; for more discussion, see onzetaal.nl/advies/enigste.php.

a. Heb je wel enig benul van wat dat kost?
  have  you  prt.  any idea  of  what  that  costs
  'Do you have any idea of what that costs?'
b. Dat is de enige oplossing.
  that  is the only solution
c. Hij is een enig kind.
  he  is  a cute/only child
c'. Hij is een enigst kind.
  he  is  an only child
[+]  2.  Verscheidene, verschillende/meerdere, and ettelijke

The quantifiers verscheidene/meerdere'various', verschillende'several', and ettelijke'a number of' in (127) can be used either as weak or as strong quantifiers. These quantifiers are always followed by a plural noun and tend to be used if the cardinality of the relevant set is somewhat higher than 2. For this reason, it is not so clear whether these quantifiers must be considered existential quantifiers: they might as well be degree quantifiers.

a. Er liggen verscheidene/verschillende/ettelijke/meerdere boeken op de tafel.
  there  lie  various/several/a.number.of /several  books  on the table
  'Various/several/a number of books are lying on the table.'
b. Verscheidene/Verschillende/Ettelijke/Meerdere boeken waren afgeprijsd.
  various/several/a.number.of /several  books  were  prt.-priced
  'Various/Several/A number of/Several books were marked down.'

      The quantifier verschillende in (127) suggests that the entities in the relevant set of books are of different sorts. This is even clearer in the case of allerlei/allerhande'all kinds/sorts of' in (128), which can only be used if the relevant set contains different categories of books, e.g., novels, books of poetry, textbooks, etc.

Er liggen allerlei/allerhande boeken op de tafel.
  there  lie  all sorts of books  on the table
'All sorts of books are lying on the table.'

      Note, finally, that verschillende can also be used with the meaning “different”, in which case it clearly functions as an adjective, as shown by the fact that in this use it can be modified by a degree adverb and be used in predicative position.

a. Dit zijn twee totaal verschillende opvattingen.
  this  are  two completely different opinions
b. Deze twee opvattingen zijn totaal verschillend.
  these two opinions  are  totally different
[+]  3.  Menig(e)

The final simple form we will discuss here is menig(e)'many'. This form is typically used in writing, and can only be used with singular count nouns. Like the quantifiers discussed in the previous subsection, menig tends to be used when the cardinality of the relevant set is somewhat higher than 2, and it should for that reason perhaps be considered a degree quantifier. The uninflected form menig is used with het-nouns, and, optionally, with some +humande-nouns, especially with man'man', persoon'person', and nouns denoting professions. The inflected form menige is used in all other cases.

a. menig boek
  many  book
b. menig(-e) arts
-neuter, person name
  many  physician
c. menig*(-e) roman
  many  novel

According to our judgments on the examples in (131), the quantifier menig is strong; it is preferably D-linked, as in (131a), and thus normally quantifies over a presupposed set in domain D. Examples such as (131b) sound marked, although it should be noted that the example improves considerably if the sentence contains an adverbial phrase like al'already': Er werd al menig staker ontslagen'there were already many strikers fired'. Given that similar examples can be readily found on the internet (a search on the string [er werd menig] resulted in nearly 100 hits), we conclude that, at least for some speakers, menig may also be weak.

a. Menig staker werd ontslagen.
  many striker  was  fired
  'Many a striker was fired.'
b. ? Er werd menig staker ontslagen.
  there  was  many striker  fired

Noun phrases modified by the strong quantifier menig can readily be used in “generic” statements, that is, in contexts in which menig quantifies over all relevant entities in the speakerʼs conception of reality. This is illustrated in (132).

Menig werknemer is ontevreden over zijn salaris.
  many employee  is dissatisfied  with his salary
'Many employees are not satisfied with their salary.'
[+]  4.  Complex forms

Besides the simplex forms above, there are several phrasal or phrase-like constructions that seem to act as existential modifiers. Some examples are given in (133). Examples such as (133a) are extensively discussed in Section 4.1.1, to which we refer for more information. The phrase-like forms deze of gene and één of andere can be paraphrased as “some”: the former seems to behave like a strong quantifier, whereas the latter is preferably used as a weak quantifier.

a. een paar schoenen
  a couple [of]  shoes
b. Deze of gene specialist moet toch kunnen helpen.
  this or yonder  specialist must  prt  be.able help
  'But some specialist must be able to help.'
b'. * Er moet deze of gene specialist toch kunnen helpen.
  there  must  this or yonder  specialist  prt  be.able help
c. Er loopt één of andere hond voor ons huis.
  there  walks  one or another dog  in.front.of our house
  'There is some dog walking in front of our house.'
c'. *? Eén of andere hond loopt voor ons huis.
  one or another dog  walks  in.front.of our house

Despite its quantificational meaning, deze of gene in (133b) can probably best be considered a complex determiner: if it is a determiner comparable to simple deze, its strong nature would follow immediately. The examples in (134a&b) show that a similar approach is clearly not feasible for één of ander, given that this modifier can be preceded by a definite article. Note that despite being formally definite the noun phrases de een of andere gek and het een of andere boek behave like weak noun phrases, just like their formally indefinite counterparts in the primed examples; they all may enter the expletive construction. The data in (134b&b') suggest that we are dealing with a complex adjectival phrase in these examples: just like adjectival ander'different', the phrase een of andere exhibits gender agreement with the noun.

a. Er staat de een of andere gek te zingen.
definite, -neuter
  there  stands  the one or other madman  to sing
  'There is some madman singing.'
a'. Er staat een of andere gek te zingen.
indefinite, -neuter
  there  stands  one or other madman  to sing
  'There is some madman knocking on the door.'
b. Er werd het een of andere boek gepresenteerd.
definite, +neuter
  there  was  the one or other book  presented
  'Some book was presented.'
b'. Er werd een of ander boek gepresenteerd.
indefinite, +neuter
  there  was  one or other book  presented
  'Some book was presented.'

      Finally, we should mention cases such as de nodige bezwaren'a good many objections'. Here we are clearly dealing with a borderline case. The noun phrase is formally a definite noun phrase, and nodige seems to act as a regular attributive adjective. However, the noun phrase does not refer to some entities in domain D, and again it can be used in the expletive construction. Note that the translation in (135) is somewhat misleading in that it suggests that a fairly large number of objections were raised, but this is not necessarily so; what seems to be implied is that the number of objections was sufficiently large to be relevant.

Er werden de nodige bezwaren geopperd.
  there  were  the need objections  given
'There were raised a good many objections.'
[+]  D.  Special uses of the existential quantifiers

This subsection concludes the discussion of the existential quantifiers used as modifiers with two special uses of the quantifiers sommige and enkele.

[+]  1.  The use of sommige in “generic” contexts

The quantifier sommige is sometimes used in “generic” contexts, that is, to quantify over all relevant entities in the speakerʼs conception of reality: an example such as (136a), for example, expresses that there is a subcategory of junkies that will never overcome their addiction. Such a “generic” use is not possible with enkele: in example (136b), the quantifier enkele must quantify over a contextually defined set of junkies.

a. Sommige junkies komen nooit van hun verslaving af.
  some junkies  come  never  from their addiction  prt.
  'Some junkies will never overcome their addiction.'
b. Enkele junkies komen nooit van hun verslaving af.
  some junkies  come  never  from their addiction  prt.
  'Some of the junkies will never overcome their addiction.'

In such “generic” cases, sommige may also trigger a “kind” interpretation on the noun it modifies. For example, sommige medicijnen'some medicines' in (137a) may refer to, e.g., the types of medicines that fall into the class of barbiturates. Enkele in (137b) again does not have this effect: it can only quantify over a contextually defined set of medicines.

a. Sommige medicijnen kunnen de rijvaardigheid beïnvloeden.
  some medicines  may  the driving.ability  influence
  'Some medicines may influence the ability to drive.'
b. Enkele medicijnen kunnen de rijvaardigheid beïnvloeden.
  some medicines  may  the driving.ability  influence
  'Some of these medicines may influence the ability to drive.'
[+]  2.  The use of enkele as an attributive modifier

Enkele can also be used as an attributive modifier. This use of enkele is characterized by the fact that enkele is followed by a singular noun. In (138a&b), the meaning of enkele is still quantificational in nature: despite the fact that the modified noun is singular, the noun phrase may actually refer to a non-singleton set with a low cardinality. In (138c), on the other hand, the presence of the numeral één'one' triggers a reading of enkele that can be properly rendered by means of English single. In (138d), enkele has the meaning “one-way”: the phrase een enkele reis is especially used to refer to a one-way ticket.

a. Die enkele bezoekersg die hier komt, is het noemen niet waard.
  that enkele visitor  that  here  comes  is the mention  not  worth
  'Those few visitors who come here arenʼt worth mentioning.'
b. Ik ben hier slechts een enkele keersg geweest.
  am  here  only  an enkele time  been
  'Iʼve been here only a couple of times.'
c. Ik ben hier slechts één enkele keersg geweest.
  am  here  only  single time  been
  'Iʼve been here only once.'
d. een enkele reis naar Amsterdam
  one.way  trip  to Amsterdam
  'a one-way ticket to Amsterdam'
[+]  II.  Use as argument

If an existential quantifier is used as an argument, it is generally realized as the +human quantified personal pronoun iemand'someone' or the -human quantified personal pronoun iets/wat'something'. Some examples are given in (139). These quantifiers are normally used as weak quantifiers, which is clear from the fact that, as subjects, they are preferably used in expletive constructions. Examples like (139a'&b'), without the expletive er, are acceptable, but they generally require a special intonation pattern; these examples would be quite natural if the quantifier were assigned contrastive or emphatic focus. Example (139b') with wat is, however, still excluded. We refer the reader to Section 5.2 for more discussion of these pronouns.

a. Er heeft iemand gebeld.
  there  has  someone  called
  'Someone has called.'
a'. ? Iemand heeft gebeld.
b. Er is iets/wat gevallen.
  there  is  something  fallen
  'Something has fallen.'
b'. ??Iets/*Wat is gevallen.

Many of the modifiers discussed in Subsection I can also be used as independent arguments. This will be illustrated in the following subsections.

[+]  A.  Enkele and sommige

The examples in (140) show that if the context provides sufficient information, it is possible to use sommige(n) as a pronominal quantifier instead of the full quantified noun phrases sommige studenten/boeken'some students/books'. Recall that if the quantifier ends in a schwa, Dutch orthography requires a (mute) suffix -n on the quantifier if the elided noun is +human; if the elided noun is -human this -n is not used.

a. Sommige studenten/Sommigen gingen naar de vergaderzaal.
  some students/some  went  to  the meeting.hall
b. Sommige boeken/sommige zijn uitverkocht.
  some books/some  are  sold.out

      The independently used quantifier sommige(n) is a strong quantifier. It is not so clear whether weak quantifiers like enkele'some' can also be used as independent arguments. Consider the examples in (141). The fact that we are dealing with expletive constructions guarantees that the quantifiers in these examples are weak. The second occurrence o