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8.2 Interrogatives used as exclamatives

Some interrogative pronouns can be used to introduce exclamative clauses. These include: wät ‘what’ and wo ‘how’. Exclamative clauses are characteristically used to express a high degree interpretation. An example is provided below:

Grootmuur, wät hääst du grote Ore!
grandmother what have you big ears
Grandmother, how big are your ears!

The construction is discontinuous: the exclamative marker is separated from the NP containing the attributive AP to which the interrogative pronoun applies as a degree quantifier.


A further example is given below:

Wät skrift hie foar ’n goud Seeltersk!
what writes he for a good Seeltersk
How well does he write Saterland Frisian!

Here the exclamative quantifier again targets an AP embedded in the object position, which is not possible in English. Note also that the first example involved a plain object, whereas this example involve the kind construction featuring the adposition foar ‘for’. It is not clear what the difference is between the presence and absence of this adposition in these examples. Predicate and adverbial APs can likewise be target by the exclamative marker.

Mon, wät waas iek bliede!
man what was I glad
Man, how glad I was!
Wät häbe wie uus Opa gräzich fäksiert.
what have we our granddad horrbly teased
How horribly did we tease our granddad!

The interrogative wo ‘how’ can also be used in exclamatives, but it is never separated from the AP which it quantifies over. Two examples are given below:

Wo jädden hieden wie dätsälge däin.
how eagerly had we the.same done
How much we would have liked to do the same!
Wo loange dät häär waas!
how long it ago was
How long ago it was!

The last example has an embedded word order, but it would also have been grammatical with a main clause word order, so with the tensed verb in second position adjacent to the exclamative phrase. It is hard to pinpoint differences in interpretation between main clause and embedded clause order, and to determine when both are allowed and when only the main clause order is allowed. The exclamatives discussed above involved a high degree quantification on APs and adverbials. An exclamative can also be used to convey a wish, which entails a different type of construction. An example of a wish exclamative is given below:

O, wan hie daach minnen was!
O when hie but mine was
O, would that he were mine!

This type of exclamative is introduced by the conjunction wan ‘when, if’.

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