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7.3.A note on focus particles

In the previous sections we have discussed the pre-determiners al and heel and their alternants. However, this does not exhaust the possibilities; the examples in (302) show that focus particles like zelfs'even', ook'also' and alleen'only' and may also precede the determiner. That the focus particle and the noun phrase form a constituent is strongly suggested by the fact that they occur in clause-initial position; cf. the constituency test.

Example 302
a. Zelfs de buurman heb ik niets verteld.
  even the neighbor  have  nothing  told
  'Even the neighbor, I didnʼt tell anything.'
b. Ook de buurman vindt dat het huis geschilderd moet worden.
  also  the neighbor  finds  that  the house  painted  must  be
  'The neighbor is also of the opinion that the house must be painted.'
c. Alleen de buurman heb ik nog niets verteld.
  only the  neighbor  have  yet  nothing  told
  'Only the neighbor Iʼve told nothing yet.'

The examples in (303), on the other hand, show that at least some of the focus particles need not be part of the noun phrase but can also be used independently in the clause.

Example 303
a. De buurman heb ik zelfs niets verteld.
  the neighbor  have  even  nothing  told
  'I didnʼt even tell the neighbor anything.'
b. De buurman vindt ook dat het huis geschilderd moet worden.
  the neighbor  finds also  that  the house  painted  must  be
  'The neighbor is also of the opinion that the house must be painted.'
c. ? De buurman heb ik alleen nog niets verteld.
  the  neighbor  have  only  yet  nothing  told

Despite the fact that the examples in (302) and (303) resemble the behavior of al and heel and their alternants in various respects, we will not discuss the behavior of these focus particles here. The reason for this is that the focus particles may also combine with other types of phrases. The examples in (304) illustrate this for PPs.

Example 304
a. Zelfs/Ook met de buurman heb ik nog niet gesproken.
  even/also with the neighbor  have  not yet  spoken
  'Even/Also with the neighbor, I havenʼt spoken yet.'
b. Met de buurman heb ik zelfs/ook nog niet gesproken.
  with the neighbor  have  even/also  yet  not  spoken
  'With the neighbor, I havenʼt even/also spoken yet.'

We therefore postpone the discussion of these focus elements Section V13.3.2, sub IC, where we can give a more comprehensive discussion of them; see also Barbiers (1995), and references cited there, for relevant discussion.

  • Barbiers, Sjef1995The syntax of interpretationThe Hague, Holland Academic GraphicsUniversity of Leiden/HILThesis