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Low degree

Low degree modifiers, or downtoners, cause the adjectives to be interpreted at a low level. Some of the most characteristic downtoners are the quantifiers 'n bietjie a little and ietwat somewhat:

'n bietjie dom
a little stupid
ietwat dom
somewhat stupid

Low degree modifiers, also called downtoners, provide an interpretation of the adjective at a lower level than without the modifier. The most characteristic downtoners are the quantifiers 'n bietjie a little and ietwat somewhat:

Ek is 'n bietjie maer vir my lengte.
I be.PRS a little thin for my length
I am a little thin for my length.
ietwat teleurstellende inflasie-syfers
somewhat disappointing inflation figures

These quantifiers seem interchangeable, although there may be frequency differences. (For example, the phrase 'n bietjie vreemd a little strange occurs twice as much in the corpora as the equivalent phrase ietwat vreemd somewhat strange.) There also seems to be a polarity effect here, seeing that 'n bietjie slim a bit smart is ungrammatical in a simple affirmative clause, but grammatical if used as an understatement for 'too' + A. This contrast is shown in the examples below:

*Hy is 'n bietjie slim.
he be.PRS a bit smart
He is a little bit smart.
Hy was 'n bietjie slim vir jou.
he be.PRT a little smart for you
He was a little too smart for you.

Being a negative polarity item is a property of the collocation byster slim, not of the individual items, seeing that byster dom does not exhibit this polarity effect. The ungrammatical sentence improves somewhat by inserting the negative element maar but:

*Hy is maar byster slim.
he be.PRS but very smart
He's only very smart.

Below follows the correct way of expressing this:

Hy is nie byster slim nie.
he be.PRS not all too smart
He's not very smart.
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