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3.1 Classification of degree modifiers

Adjectives can be modified by adverbial elements which have a quantificational effect on the degree of the adjective. Below a classification is presented of degree quantifiers.

The sections below deal with various types of degree modifiers.

[+]1. High degree modifiers

High degree modifiers, also called amplifying intensifiers, cause a high degree interpretation of the adjective:

Hie kon apaat goud sjunge.
he can very well sing
He can sing very well.
Gjucht fluch is die Jikkel nit.
very nice is the coat not
The coat isn’t very beautiful.

Other intensifiers of this type are: aiske, besunders, däge, dannig, riekelk.

A high degree word may neutrally indicate a high degree, but there are also intensifiers which may imply a negative judgment of the high degree on the part of the speaker. An example of such a negative high degree modifier is given below:

Hie is arbarmelk meger.
he is terribly thin
He is terribly thin.

Other intensifiers of this type are: bedrouved ‘saddening’, eländig ‘miserably’, ferdöikerd ‘damned’, gräzig ‘awfully’, hälske ‘hellishly’, laip ‘badly’, woist ‘wildly’.

The unmarked question word wät ‘what’ can be used in an exclamative to express a high degree, as in the following example:

Wät fluch!
what beautiful
How beautiful!

Intensifiers need not be restricted to modifying only APs. Some of them may also be found modifying other syntactic categories. See also Interrogative degree below and 8. Adverbial use. The negation of a low degree word may also be used to designate a high degree, see below.

[+]2. Low degree modifiers

Low degree modifiers indicate that the degree of the adjective is low or moderate. In the example below, wät ‘a little’ is used as a modifier of low or moderate degree:

Die Wäänt is wät gratter wuden.
the boy is somewhat bigger become
The boy has become a little bit bigger.

The word is homophonous to the question word wät ‘what’, a type of ambiguity that is also found in West Frisian and Dutch, but not in German. A synonomous low degree modifier is the NP n bitje ‘a little’.

Twintich Puund Meel is ‘n bitje happerch.
twenty pound flour is a little greedy
Twenty pound is a bit too much.

A low degree is represented by the adjective min ‘little, few’. When used as an adjective, it may signify a low degree of a property that is not explicitly expressed but that is idiomatically associated with the collocation in which it is found. Two examples are given below:

Dät Wucht is noch wät min.
the girl is yet what little
The girl is still somewhat young.
Minne Were.
bad articles
Articles of low quality.

When used as an adverb, it indicates a low degree of the VP or AP which it modifies. However, in this function, it is used as a negative polarity item. That is, it is accompanied by some form of negation or by a constituent that is negative in some sense. The combination of negation and low degree yields a high degree meaning. Two examples are given below:

Hie waas nit min ferskräkt, as hie dän Düwel inne Kunde kreech.
he was not little frightened when he the devil in.the knowing got
He was very much frightened when he recognised the devil.
Sigurd is ook nit min dul op Thorulf.
Sigurd is also not little angry at Thorulf
Sigurd is also very angry at Thorulf.

Nit min can also modify the sentence as a whole. In that case, it may mean a high degree of the number of times an event takes place:

Nit min koom et foar dat jo Monljude meenomen.
not little came it for that they men along.took
It often happened that they took along men.
[+]3. Medium degree modifiers

Low degree may shade off into moderate degree. Characteristic medium degree modifiers are oarig ‘fairly’ and ‘wül ‘rather’:

Dät is oarich wisse.
that is fairly certain
That is fairly certain.
Hie kwädt wül gau fon jee.
he says indeed soon of yes
He says rather quickly yes.

The suffix –haftich ‘rather’ also provides an adjective with an interpretation of moderate degree: keeldhaftig ‘rather cold’, sljuchthaftig ‘rather ill’, leethaftig ‘rather late’, loanghaftig ‘rather long’.

[+]4. Modifiers of interrogative degree

Degrees are questioned by means of the word wo ‘how’.

Wo loang is dät aal häär?
how long is that already ago
How long has it been already?
Wo groten Bak waas dät?
how big container was that
How big a container was it?

This word can also be used in exclamative utterances to designate a high degree, as in the following examples:

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

Here the question word modifies an adjective used as an adverb. Exclamative sentences introduced by the question word of degree may either exhibit the tensed verb in second position, as in (16), or in final position, as in (17). See also: Other constructions of modification of AP.

[+]5. Modifiers of universal degree

A universal degree is found in examples like the following:

Rain uunmugelk.
completely impossible
Completely impossible.
Heel un aal nit!
whole and all not
Absolutely not!

Some are characteristically found with negative expressions, such as is the case in the examples above. Some can be found with adjectives to indicate a universal degree of the property denoted by the adjective:

Jo hongeden dät ane Wieme bit et gans druuch waas.
they hung it on.the chimney.hook until it all dry was
They hung it from the chimney hook until it was completely dry.
Dät moast ja gans goud weze.
that must indeed all good be
It has to be indeed completely in order.

Other examples include the quantifier heel und aal, literally ‘whole and all’:

Hollound is heel un aal ieuwen.
Holland is whole and all flat
Holland is completely flat.
Deermäd waas hie heel un aal toufree.
it.with was he whole and all content
With that, he was completely satisfied.

Another universal quantifier is truch un truch ‘through and through’:

Sien Fäl waas fon dän Rien al truch un truch wäit.
his skin was of the rain already through and through wet
His skin was completely wet as a result of the rain.
[+]6. Modifiers of approximate degree

The approximate degree, or scalar degree, expresses closeness to a given degree. There are various types of words expressing an approximate degree. In the following example, the word of approximate degree expresses that a small degree amount is missing for the property denoted by the adjective to apply:

Hie waas hoast dood.
he was almost dead
He was almost dead.

Boalde ‘almost’ can also be used in a sentence like the one above. In addition, it combines with negation to yield an approximate degree:

Ju kon fon Tjukkigaid sik boalde nit röögje.
she can of thickness REF almost not move
She could hardly move, because of her fatness.

Words like sowät ‘just about’ and ruugwäg ‘roughly’ indicate that the property in question applies or fails by a very small margin. They are characteristically used with measure phrases, as in the following:

Et is sowät tjoon Ure.
it is around ten o’clock
It is around ten o’clock.
Die Aprit is ruuchwäch hundert Meter loang.
the exit is roughly hundred meter long
The exit is roughly hundred meters long.
[+]7. Modifiers of exact degree

Exact degree may be expressed by a measure phrase accompanying the AP, in case the AP allows of measure phrases at all. An example is given below:

Dät Pound waas trietich Treed loang.
the plot was thirty meter long
The plot was thirty meter long.

The measure noun here is in the singular, though it is preceded by a plural number. The same holds of the measure noun in the sentence below:

Dät Wucht is al twelich Jier.
the girl is already twelve year
The girl is already twelve years old.
[+]8. Negation of AP

APs can be negated by the word nit ‘not’. This usually happens in sentences, in which negation has scope over the adjective.

Hie is goar nit goud.
he is completely not good
He is very ill.

The negation applies to the degree, indicating that the property denoted by the adjective does not apply. The intensifier goar ‘completely, very’ establishes a high degree of negation, so a low degree of the property denoted by the AP. The sequence of intensifier and negation may also appear as one word: goarnt ‘not at all’. Morphological negation is uun-, see: the morphology of Saterland Frisian.

[+]9. Process quantifiers

Process quantifiers quantify over the direction of a process. Two examples are given below:

Uus Bääsjebabe waas al loange dood.
our grandfather was already long dead
Our grandfather was already long dead.

Here the temporal quantifier al ‘already’ indicates that a long period of time has passed since the turning point of grandfather’s death. Consider now the following:

Dät Ho is noch frisk.
the hay is still fresh
The hay is still fresh.

The temporal quantifier indicates that the turning point of the hay turning unfresh has not yet been reached. In fact, there are four quentifiers, which form a square of negation. These are

Al 'already'
Noch 'still'
Noch nit 'not yet'
Nit moor 'not anymore'

These may be used to modify adjectives having a process interpretation.

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