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Plural nominal inflection may appear as -e or -en. The choice between the two depends in part on whether the antecedent of the missing noun is human or not.


In the plural, the nominal inflection -e may also appear as -en, as shown below:

Example 1

a. De read-e binne moaier
the red.NE are nicer
The red ones are nicer
b. De read-e-n binne moaier
the red.NE.PL are nicer
The red ones are nicer

The adjective must bear plural inflection in -en if it is to refer to a human antecedent:

Example 2

a. Dy read-e-n fuotbalje tsjin de grien-e-n
those red.NE.PL play.soccer against the grien.NE.PL
Those red ones play soccer against the green ones
b. *Dy read-e fuotbalje tsjin de grien-e
those red.NE play.soccer against the grien.NE
Those red ones play soccer against the green ones

In many cases, a plural referring to humans develops a lexicalised meaning:

Example 3

a. De read-e-n
the red.NE.PL
The socialists
b. De fin-e-n
the fine.NE.PL
The reformed ones (branch of strict protestants)

It might be argued that -e and -en both involve nominalisation but that they differ with respect to the structural position at which it applies.

Nominalisation after adjectival number agreement:

Table 1
read + -e + -e = reade
adjective number agreement nominalisation
Nominal number agreement after nominalisation:
Table 2
read + -e + -n = readen
adjective nominalisation number agreement
so de reade the read one would involve an adjectival structure in which number agreement has been checked in the adjectival domain, so that there are no number features to check after nominalisation has applied. de readen the red ones, on the other hand, would involve nominalisation before agreement has been checked, so that the number features must be checked in the nominal domain, causing the nominal -n to appear. Similar phenomena are found with nominalisations of infinitival verbs, where nominalisation may apply after a large verbal structure has been built up. The non-human interpretation of the -e type could be taken as an indication in generative theory that a pronominal empty category licensed by adjectival number agreement does not allow the feature <human> to be recovered. The human interpretation of -en would likewise indicate that nominal number agreement can identify the feature <human>. It is possible that nominalisations are sensitive to the presence or absence of an antecedent in the linguistic context. If there is an antecedent, the empty nominal is in some sense anaphoric, especially if the antecedent is local, as in examples like the following:

Example 4

Djoer gebak of goedkeap
expensive.NG pie or cheap
Expensive or cheap pastry

If there is no antecedent, or if it is not local enough, then the empty nominal is pronominal. The following example shows that zero inflection is hardly allowed in such cases:

Example 5

a. *Hok iten wol se? Se wol sûn ha
which food wants she she wants healthy have
Which food does she want to have? She wants to have healthy food
b. Hokke bôle wol se? Se wol brune ha
which bread wants she she wants brown have
Which bread does she want to have? She wants to have brown bread

On the other hand, when the antecedent is very locally present, zero inflection is allowed, as shown below:

Example 6

a. ?Wolst lekker gebak of sûn?
want.2SG tasty pastry or healthy
Do you want to have tasty or healthy pastry?
b. Wolst reade beien of blauwe?
want.2SG red berries or blue
Do you want to have red or blue berries?