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Absolute indefinite nominal quantifiers

Absolute indefinite nominal quantifiers could be separated from the partitive adjective accompanying them in older Frisian, but not in Modern Frisian. In addition, it must be mentioned that these quantifiers have been very much affected by the influence of the dominant Dutch language.


The meaning of absolute quantifiers can be absolutely; it does not involve comparison with a standard of relative evaluation as required by relative quantifiers such as folle many, much or genôch enough. The table below presents the absolute quantifiers which appear in the partitive adjective construction:

Table 1
Type of absolute quantifier
Existential: wat, eat, yts something
Negated: niks, neat nothing
Comparison: sokssawat, sayts something like that
In addition, information about the sociolinguistic status of these absolute quantifiers is provided. This is useful as it may affect grammaticality judgments:
Table 2
Item Usage
wat something Unmarked
eat something Formal
yts something Spoken, interference
neat nothing Formal
niks nothing Spoken
sokssawat something like that Formal
sayts something like that Spoken
Niks nothing, yts something, and sayts something like that have been borrowed from Dutch recently; wat is an 18th-century borrowing which replaced the now obsolete het it. Niks nothing, though barred from most written Frisian, is generally accepted in spoken Frisian as the negation of wat something. Yts something is even more barred than niks nothing from written language according to the Language Corpus Frisian, but it is often heard in spoken Frisian.

Sokssawat something like that is a complex expression consisting of soks + so + wat such + so + what which behaves as one word. Soks such is derived from the quantifier sok such. The spelling suggest that the first element of sokssawat something like that is soks such, perhaps a partitive adjective in itself originally. However, the first element could also have been sok such, seeing that spellings are sometimes prescriptive artefacts. The Dutch equivalent is zoiets something like that, originally derived from zo so + iets something.

The definite quantifier al all may not appear in the indefinite partitive adjective construction. It is found in the definite PA construction. As in Dutch, but unlike English, human quantifiers are barred from this construction, presumably because they count as quantifiers:

a. *Immen aardich-s
someone nice.PA
Someone nice
b. *Ien aardich-s
someone nice.PA
Someone nice

Dropping the PA-inflection does not yield grammatical sentences either:

a. *Immen aardich
someone nice
Someone nice
b. *Ien aardich
someone nice
Someone nice

Absolute quantifiers cannot be separated from their accompanying partitive adjectives:

a. *Moai-s ha ik dêr faak [wat ] sjoen
nice.PA have I there often something seen
I often have seen something nice over there
b. ?Wat ha ik dêr faak [moais] sjoen
something have I there often [nice.PA] seen
Something nice I have seen there often
c. Wat moais ha ik dêr faak [ ] sjoen
something nice.PA have I there often seen
I have often seen something nice there

In older Frisian, sentences of this type actually occur, involving a discontinuous partitive adjective of which the nominal part is a relative pronoun which has an quantifier for its antecedent; the adjective is invariably subjective in such examples:

a. Het is 'er tygge-s yn dit libben dearme so Jamck nei beheart to janckjen? (1666)
what is there good.PA in this life which.one so much for is.supposed to strive
What good is there in this life that one is supposed to strive so much for?
b. æf het iz 'er quead-z ynne deade datme so æng beheart to ontflechtjen? (1666)
or what is there bad.PA in.the death which.one so afraid is.supposed to flee.from
Or what evil is there in this life that one is supposed to flee so fearfully from?
c. Al het men winsklijk-s kin bitinze, Zil, hoopje ik, jo dij Hijmel schinze (1780)
all what one desirable.PA can think.of shall hope I you the heaven grant
May heaven grant you all desirable things which one can think of
d. De Bistetûn, end hwet de Haedstêd fierder bilangryk-s hie is troch de Arabyske Sjeik bisjoen (1876)
the zoo and what the capital further important.PA had is by the Arabian sheik seen
The zoo and other important things that the capital had to offer were visited by the Arabian sheik
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