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7.3 Negative quantification

The negative pronominal quantifier is often derived from its existential counterpart by the addition of the /n/ of negation. This is not so much the case in Saterland Frisian, where the system has been disrupted by loans from German (given in brackets). The following table attempts to chart the system of negative quantifiers and their existential counterparts:

Table 1
Existential Negation
Person aan naan / neen (nemens)
Thing wät (niks)
Place ainewainde (nargends)
Frequency insen (silläärge nit / noait)
Time ieuwen (silläärge nit / noait)
Proposition jee / wäil noa / nit

Propositions are affirmed with the word jee ‘yes’ and denied with the word noa ‘no’. Inside a clause wäil and nit are used for affirmation and negation.


The system is quite disrupted. Almost all negative forms have been borrowed from German (Low or High). Person and things can be negated by the phrase nit aan/een ‘not one’ or by nemens ‘nobody’. Some examples are presented below:

Et rakt naan, die gjuchtfäidich is, ook nit aan.
it gives none who righteous is even not one
There is none righteous, no, not one.

Nemens is a calque from Low German, as is clear from the fact that it lacks a positive counterpart (* Emens). To illustrate, consider Dutch iemand / niemand, German iemand / niemand, West Frisian immen / nimmen. Consider the following interesting example, featuring nit aan ‘not one’:

Deer waas uurs nemens tou.
there was else nobody for
Nobody else was qualified.
Hie kuud swimme as nit aan.
he could swim like not one
He could swim like no one else.

Here the use of wäl ‘who, someone’ would be ungrammatical, though it can be combined with negation in clauses, as in the following example:

Deer is silläärge nit wäl in Huus.
there is never not who in house
There is never someone at home.

The negative quantifier for things is niks ‘nothing’ (perhaps in some cases naan / neen are used).

Iek häbe deer niks ap juun.
I have it nothing up against
I have nothing against it.

Time and frequency are distinguished in positive statements, but their negation is usually the same. Negative quantifiers for time are: silläärge (nit) ‘never’ and noait ‘never’. They have been borrowed from Low German, though they are by now well entrenched in the language. This is especially clear for silläärge (nit), which derives from Low German siene Lävensdoage nich ‘his life.days not’. The expression has undergone several baffling Saterland Frisian sound laws, which we cannot trace. Some examples are given below:

Die Djuwel släpt silläärge nit.
the devil sleeps ever not
The devil never sleeps.
Hie is deer silläärge nit mee moanken.
he is it ever not with among
He is never / absolutely not part of the group.
Min Mon heert mie silläärge nit tou!
my man hears me ever not to
My husband never listens to me!

The middle example suggests that the expression can also be interpreted as a reinforced negation. Siläärge ‘ever’ is often but not always followed by sentential negation nit ‘not’. An example is given below:

Jo hoolde silläärge niks urig.
they hold ever nothing remaining
They can’t save anything at all.

Here silläärge ‘ever’ is not followed by sentential negation but by the negative quantifier for things. Again, it seems a reinforcement of the object quantifier rather than an expression of temporal negation, though that interpretation isn’t excluded. The following example is a true affirmative instance of this fascinating word:

Dän Nome undhoolde iek silläärge.
the name remember I ever
I still remember the name.

The existential quantifier insen ‘once’ is used in a complex negation in the following example:

Suk Weder wol iek nit noch insen belieuwje.
such weather want I not yet once live.through
I never want to live through such weather again.

It is remarkable that the system of negative and existential quantifiers of Saterland Frisian has been quite broken up. Nevertheless, the same happened in West Frisian, where it was especially quantifiers and other logical words which were replaced with loans from Dutch. This suggests that interferences from a dominant language especially target quantifiers.

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