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Measure nouns of exact quantity

Measure nouns of exact quantity do not provide a relative measure (such as doaze box) but an absolute measure, such as in liter a litre, in kilo a kilo.


The example below involves a bare partitive construction consisting of a measure noun followed by the content noun:

Example 1

In kilo flikken
a kilo chocolate.drops
A kilo of chocolate drops

The word kilo kilo refers to an exact measure, namely weight. Likewise the word liter litre is an exact measure for volume. Nouns expressing exact quantity differ from nouns of high and low quantity. The latter cannot be preceded by numerals, as is shown by the contrast below:

Example 2

a. Twa kilo flikken
two kilo chocolate.drops
Two kilo of chocolate drops
b. *Twa soad flikken
two lot chocolate.drops
Two lots of chocolate drops

The partitive construction in which the measure noun of exact quantity occurs cannot easily refer to people, though this may be for pragmatic reasons:

Example 3

?*In ton minsken steane op 'e brêge
a ton people stands on the bridge
A ton of people are standing on the bridge

The measure noun is not itself specified for singular or plural. In this respect, measure nouns differ from referential concrete nouns, which do determine number. With measure nouns, number is determined by the content noun, as is shown by the contrast below:

Example 4

a. Der is in liter wetter fuortspield
there is a litre water away.flushed
A liter of water was flushed away
b. Der is twa liter wetter fuortspield
there is two litre water away.flushed
Two liters of water were flushed away

The sentences above also show that the measure noun is not put in the plural after numerals. In case the content noun can be recovered from the linguistic context, it can be left out:

Example 5

Ik ha twa kilo kocht
I have two kilo bought
I bought two kilo

Exact degree quantifiers can be preceded by the definite article, the universal quantifier, numerals and the negative quantifier gjin no.

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More details can be found in Hoekstra (1988).

  • Hoekstra, Jarich1988Twa kilo sipelsFriesch Dagblad13-12Taalsnipels 64