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7.6 Indefinite quantifiers proper

Indefinite pronouns have also been discussed elsewhere, in the context of adjectival agreement and in the context of pronouns. Some examples of indefinite count quantifiers have the form of indefinite NPs:

  • ‘n Poor ‘some, a couple’.
  • n Stuk of wät ‘a piece or what > several, quite some’.
  • n Masse ‘a mass > a lot’.

Others have the form of attributive APs because they end in schwa:

  • Eempelde ‘some’ (in popular use in spoken language).
  • Oankelde ‘a few’, enige ‘a few’.
  • Morere ‘several’.

And some have a fixed form:

  • Allerhound ‘all kinds’.
  • Fuul ‘much, many’.

Both fuul ‘much, many’ and n masse ‘a lot’ are used to express a high degree or a high quantity. Some examples are given below:

Jie dieden mie fuul Goudes, Junker.
you did me much good.PA squire
You have done much good for me, squire.
Fuul is der do lääste Jiere däin, dät freeske Gedankengoud tou erhoolden.
much is there the last years done the Frisian thought.goods to conserve
Much has been done in recent years to preserve Frisian ideas.
In ju kute Tied häbe wie ‘n Masse skaffed.
in the short time have we a lot done
In the short time we have done a lot.
Trientje liet ‘n masse Jeeld bäte.
Trientje left a lot money behind
Trientje left a lot of money.

The examples make it clear that fuul ‘much’ is not a negative polarity item, as it is in West Frisian. Nonetheless. there are contexts in which only one of the two is possible. For example, only fuul ‘much’, not n Masse ‘a lot’, is possible after the function word of excessive degree tou ‘too’.

As him dät läiweloa tou fuul wude.
when him it gradually too much became
When it was becoming too much for him.

This may be due to the fact that this function word doesn’t select NPs. The question arises how these items of high degree behave under negation. Anyhow, just as there are high degree markers of the categories DET and NP, there are low degree markers of these two categories: the invariant DET min ‘not much’ and the NP n bitje ‘a little’. Some examples are given below:

Hie häd min fertjoond.
he has little little
He earned little.
Wie häbe heel min Oarichhaid deeran heeuwed.
we have very little fun it.on had
We have had very little pleasure in it.
Mäd dät bitje Jeeld koast du niks oanfange.
with that little money can you nothing begin
You can't do anything with the little money.
Iek wol ‘n bitje släipe.
I want a little sleep
I want to sliep a bit.

In the last two examples, the DET min doesn’t seem to be possible. On the other hand, there are contexts in which only the DET marker of low degree is possible:

Hie hät mie tou min Tied anrekend.
he has me too little time reckoned
He gave me too little time.
Iek häbe Jeeld tou min.
I have money too little
I have too little money.

It is also interesting to note that both items participate in idiom formation, indicating that the notions quantity and degree belong to subcategorization frames, hence they must be represented as syntactic features which are checked when clauses are constructed. An example is given below:

Deer mout ‘n bitje fon wäide.
there must a bit of become
This calls for a celebration.

Here the NP of low degree cannot be replaced by its DET equivalent. Another idiomatic example is given below, which features both low degree items in one phrase:

Hie häd ‘n bitje tou min.
he has a little too little
He is a bit retarded.

Here the low degree NP modifies the functional phrase of excessive (negative) degree. Anyhow, min ‘little’ cannot be used to modify any functional phrase of high degree: the NP equivalent must be used. It seems that the NP variant is not found under negation. The basic markers of high and low degree are summerised in the following table.

Table 1
High degree ‘n Masse fuul
Low degree ‘n bitje min

Comparable to ‘n Masse are the NP quantifiers ‘n Poor and ‘n stuk of wät, except that ‘n Masse is more general. The latter is unspecified for the count / mass distinction, whereas the other two quantifiers are restricted to count nouns, so they may be referred to as count quantifiers of low degree or existential count quantifiers. Oankelde ‘a few’ and enige ‘a few’ are likewise existential count quantifiers.

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