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4.2 Correlative construction

Correlatives are a special case of comparatives. The correlative construction presents a correlation between two comparative adjectives and the clauses containing them, as in the following example:

Jee fäller et rient, jee gauer is et däin.
CORR harder it rains CORR sooner is it done
The harder it rains, the sooner it stops.

The first comparative adjective refers to the amount of rain per time unit. The second comparative adjective refers to the temporal duration of the shower. The quantity of rainfall per time unit is negatively correlated with the temporal duration of the rainfall as a whole. Here the correlative APs both function as adverbials.


Correlative constructions come in various structural guises having their own characteristics. In the example in (1), the first clause has the form of an embedded clause, as is clear from the clause-final placement of the tensed verb. The second clause has the form of a main clause, with the verb directly following the preposed comparative AP. The correlative (also called proportional) complementiser is jee in both cases.

The tensed verb and the subject may be absent in both correlative clauses. To illustrate, consider the following examples:

Jee eer deerbie, jee eer deerou.
CORR sooner it.at CORR sooner it.off
The sooner one begins, the sooner one is finished.
Jee eer bie de Bjorenge, jee eer deer aan bäte.
CORR sooner at the party CORR sooner it one behind
“The sooner at the party, the earlier one has one drink (of alcohol) behind one’s mouth.

The second verbless clause is highly idiomatic. Note that the adjective is the same in the paired correlative clauses, whereas in (1) the paired correlative clauses featured different adjectives. Although there is no verb, the understood verb is weze ‘be’ and the understood subject is people in general, as rendered by the impersonal pronoun man ‘one’. The following type of correlative is verbless as well, but now there is a subject present:

Jee lieder die Huund, jee moor do Fleeë.
CORR skinnier the dog CORR more the fleas
The skinnier the dog, the less the fleas.
Jee tichter bie Rome, jee sljuchter do Christene.
CORR closer to Rome CORR evil the Christians
The closer to Rome, the more evil the Christians are.

Here the paired correlative adjectives are different, in contrast to (2-3) above. The understood verb again is the copula weze ‘be’. The correlative adjectives can also appear in full-fledged clauses, as in the two following exampels:

The more one strokes the cat, the higher he puts his tail.’ (‘Praise makes overbearing people even more arrogant.’)
Jee doaner man dän Kat stroket jee hager stat hie dän Stäit.
CORR stronger one the cat strokes CORR higher puts he the tail
Jee moor man dät diede, jee moor swäitede dät tou.
CORR more one that did CORR more sweetened it to
The more one did it, the more interesting it became.

The verb can also remain absent in just one of the paired clauses, as in the following example:

Jee eer du kumst, jee beter.
CORR sooner you come CORR better
The sooner you come, the better (it is).

The second correlative complementiser may also be uumso, which is in all likelihood an interference from German (umso). In fact, presumably the correlative complementiser jee is also a loan from German. The adjectival interrogative wo ‘how’ also functions as correlative complementiser. An example is given below:

Wo gratter dät Auto, wo lichter koast du et ap de Sträite stjuurje.
CORR greater the car CORR easier could you it on the street steer
The bigger the car, the easier it can be steered on the street.

A correlative dependency between two clauses can also be expressed with so ‘so’ or sofuul ‘so much’ in the embedded clause and uumso ‘for so’ in the main clause:

Sofuul moor iek ap do Fäite fon Alwin keek, uumso läpper wude dät.
CORR more I at the feet of Alwin looked CORR worse became it
The more I looked at the feet of Alwin, the worse it became.

Uumso ‘for so’ can also introduce the semantically subordinated clause, with sofuul ‘so much’ introducing the main clause, as in the following subjectless and verbless correlative:

Uumso moor, sofuul beter.
CORR more CORR better
The more, the better.

Uumso ‘for so’ can also be used as a correlative modifier for the comparative, used in conjunction with a second clause specifying a circumstance correlating with the clause containing uumso ‘for so’. A first example is given below:

Bemoudigjet eenuur, un dät uumso moor, as jie sjo, dät die Dai naier kumt.
encourage each.other and that CORR more as you see that the day closer comes
Encourage each other, and that so much more as you see the day drawing close.

Here the clause containing the correlative applies the more in case the addressees see that the day is almost coming. So there is a correlation between degrees of encouraging and degrees of closeness of the day. Clearly binary is the correlation in the following case:

Ju wiste dät nit. Iek oaber uumso beter.
she knew it not I but CORR better
She didn’t know it. But I so much better.

Here the (inverse) correlation is between two persons and their knowledge (of plant names, as inspection of the context in the Kramer Archive makes clear).

A correlative dependency can also be stated by adding to any type of clause a special type of adverbial clause. An example of such a correlative adverbial clause is given below:

... aal deerätter, wo fuul Ljudene kume.
... all it.after how many people come
... all depending on how many people are coming.

The main clause in dots is built on the designated PP deerätter ‘after it > depending on’, preceded by the universal quantifier and followed by an embedded interrogative construction. A similar construction is illustrated below:

Dät is aal so wät, of wie deer Tied foar häbe.
that is all so what whether we it time for have
That all depends on whether we have time for it.

Again the universal quantifier is present, now followed by the equative function word so ‘so’ and the indefinite pronoun wät ‘what, something’.

Comparatives can be modified just as ordinary adjectives. An example is given below:

Lieuw du in Toukunft ‘n bitjen bewuster.
live you in future a bit more.conscious
Live in the future a bit more consciously.

Furthermore, comparatives may appear in the partitive adjective (PA) construction, as in the example below:

So loange bit sik wät Beter-es findt!
so long till REF what better-PA finds
So long, until something better comes along.

The partitive ending on the comparative adjective is –es, and it has been glossed as PA.

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