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Four types of measure nouns
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Measure nouns are a special type of quantified nouns. Four types of measure nouns may be distinguished: i) nouns of high quantity, ii) nouns of low quantity, iii) nouns of exact quantity and iv) numeral measure nouns.

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Four types of measure nouns may be distinguished, namely nouns of high quantity, nouns of low quantity, nouns of exact quantity and numeral measure nouns.

i) High quantity measure nouns:

Nouns of high quantity include klomp lot and hoop heap. There are quite a few nouns which have developed into high quantity measure nouns. A few examples in Afrikaans are the nouns versameling collection, swetterjoel swarm, swerm swarm, skool school, horde horde, bondel bundle and boel bunch(Buro van die WAT. ). They are invariably indefinite, more specifically, they can be preceded by the indefinite article.

The example below exemplifies a construction featuring two nouns which are joined together without the use of other elements. It is therefore referred to as a bare partitive construction:

Example 1

'n klomp lekkergoed
a lot tasty.things
a lot of sweets

The word klomp lot does not preserve its literal, referential meaning. Etymologically, the word goes back to the meaning of a lump of wood that can be carved into a wooden shoe. However, the word developed into a measure noun merely denoting a large amount, and does no longer refer to a lump of wood or a wooden shoe. Therefore it can also be followed by a content noun denoting persons:

Example 2

'n klomp mense
a lot people
a lot of people

In this case the content noun can be recovered from the linguistic context, it can be left out:

Example 3

'n klomp was nie daar nie
a lot be.PRT not there PTCL.NEG
a lot (of them) were not there

Attention should be drawn to the indefinite article of the measure noun, which can be present even if the construction as a whole is plural. It is, however, not obligatory to combine the measure noun klomp lot with the definite noun.

Example 4

a. Hy het klomp mense in die stad gesien.
he have.AUX lot people in the city see.PST
He saw a lot of people in the city.
b. Hy het 'n klomp mense in die stad gesien.
he have.AUX a lot people in the city see.PST
He saw a lot of people in the city.

ii. Low quantity measure nouns:

The typical noun of low quantity is bietjie bit. There are more measure nouns of high quantity than of low quantity. There are a few other nouns which have developed into low quantity measure nouns. A few examples in Afrikaans are the nouns skyntjie tinsel, tikkie touch, rapsie smack, titseltjie tittle, knypie pinch, lekseltjie lick, ietsie little something, bietjie-bietjie and bietjietjie a litte bit(Buro van die WAT. ).

An example of a partitive construction involving a measure noun of low quantity is given below:

Example 5

'n bietjie sous
a bit sauce
a bit of sauce

The word bietjie bit does not preserve its literal, referential meaning. Etymologically, the word goes back to the meaning of a small amount of food that can be taken into the mouth (Philippa et al. 2003-2009). However, the word developed into a quantifier denoting a low amount, which does not in itself refer to food or a bite or anything referential. So the partitive construction in which it occurs can also refer to people:

Example 6

‘n bietjie mense
a bit people
a small number of people

In some contexts, the quantifier can be regarded as a negatively polarity item, so that it must preferably be accompanied by the negative adverb net only:

Example 7

a. Net ‘n bietjie mense het gekom.
just a bit people have.AUX come.PST
Only a small number of people came.
b. ?'n Bietjie mense het gekom.
a bit people have.AUX come.PST
A small number of people came.

The measure noun is not itself specified for singular or plural. In this respect, measure nouns differ from referential nouns, which do determine number. Number is determined by the content noun, as is shown by the contrast below:

Example 8

a. Daar was net 'n bietjie water.
there be.PRT just a bit water
There was just a little bit of water.
b. Daar was net 'n bietjie mense.
there be.PRT just a bit people
There were just a few people.
c. Daar was net 'n bietjie moeilikheid.
there be.PRT just a little trouble
There was just a little bit of trouble.

In case the content noun can be recovered from the context, it can be left out:

Example 9

Ek het net 'n bietjie gehad.
I have.AUX just a little have.PST
I've had just a little bit.

In this case, the antecedent would mostly be a mass noun such as water water or an abstract noun like moeilikheid trouble. Count nouns, like appels apples, would rather use the quantifier ‘n paar a few:

Example 10

Ek het net 'n paar gehad.
I have.AUX just a few have.PST
I've had only a few.

iii. Exact quantity measure nouns:

Measure nouns of exact quantity do not provide a relative measure (such as boks box) but an absolute measure, such as in liter litre en kilogram kilogram.

The example below involves a bare partitive construction consisting of a measure noun followed by the content noun:

Example 11

'n kilogram sjokolade
a kilogram chocolate
a kilogram of chocolate

The word kilogram kilogram refers to an exact measure, namely weight. Likewise the word liter litre is an exact measure for volume. Nouns expressing exact quantity differ from nouns of high and low quantity. The latter cannot be preceded by numerals, as is shown by the contrast below:

Example 12

a. Twee kilogram sjokolade
two kilogram chocolate
Two kilograms of chocolate
b. *twee klomp sjokolade
two lot chocolate
Two lots of chocolate

iv. Numeral measure nouns:

A numeral measure noun refers to an exact number of things. For example, a phrase like 'n dosyn a dozen refers to an exact amount of countable things, namely twelve.

All numeral measure nouns can be preceded by numerals, whereas numerals themselves cannot be preceded by numerals. So the following contrast obtains:

Example 13

a. Drie dosyn
three dozen
Three dozen
b. *Drie twaalf
three twelve
Three twelve

Compounds with the suffix -tal provide a productive example of numeral measure nouns.

Example 14

Laastens is daar ook 'n drietal wat met historiese Namibiese karakters en gegewens werk, naamlik Anderkant die stilte (Brink); Jacoba Afrikaner (Maartens); en Jonker Afrikaner (Kotze).
lastly be.PRS there also a three.count that.REL with historical Namibian characters and details work namely other.side the silence Brink Jacoba Afrikaner Maartens and Jonker Afrikaner Kotze
Finally, there are also three who work with historical Namibian characters and details, namely Anderkant die silence (Brink); Jacoba Afrikaner (Maartens); and a young Afrikaner (Kotze).
VivA-KPO

Such compounds have a regular plural after numerals, whereas a noun like dosyn dozen is not pluralised following a numeral.

Example 15

Daar is drie tientalle idees vir palette en kratte in hierdie app beskikbaar.
there be.PRS three ten.counts ideas for pallets and crates in this app available
There are three groups of ten ideas for pallets and crates available in this app.
Anon: agkgk.com, 2019/12/01
References:
  • Buro van die WATSinonieme en verwante woorde.Pharos
  • Buro van die WATSinonieme en verwante woorde.Pharos
  • Philippa, Marlies, Debrabandere, Frans, Quak, Arend, Schoonheim, Tanneke & Sijs, Nicoline van der2003-2009Etymologisch Woordenboek van het NederlandsAmsterdam University Press
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