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The adverb of manner & degree sa so and negation

The adverb of manner and degree sa so can be found in Frisian following negation, as in Dutch, which means that it is found in the part of the middle field in which indefinite objects also tend to be found. An example is given below:

Example 1

Dat is net sa
that is not so
That is not the case

This example represents the unmarked word order, which is neutral with respect to presuppositions. However, unlike Dutch, Frisian has the option of putting the pronominal adverb of manner and degree in the position before negation, as in the following example:

Example 2

Dat is sa net
that is so not
That is not the case

This order is marked in the sense that it presupposes that the discourse participant may have a contrary opinion, which is contradicted by the utterance in (2). Two uses of the adverb may be distinguished: it may refer to propositions and it may refer to (the degree of) properties of entities like persons and things.


There is considerable evidence for the presuppositional nature of the order in which the adverb precedes clause negation. Examples of this order can be found on the internet and in the Frisian Language Corpus. They are all strongly presuppositional, as is illustrated by two of these examples, which are given below:

Example 3

a. Jo miene, dat jo in âld minske yn 'e hûs litten ha, mar dat is sa net
you suppose that you an old person in the house let have but that is so not
You suppose that you let an old person into the house, but that is not the case
b. Doe frege de boer 'Smakke it wat?' 'Wol goed', seine wy, mar dat wie sa net
then asked the farmer taste it somewhat yes good said we but that was so not
Then the farmer asked 'Does it taste nice?' 'Yes, it does', we said, but that was not true

The marked order turns out to be specifically correlated with correcting the set of assumptions of the addressee that is part of the presuppositional context of the speaker. The adverb of manner of degree refers as a pronoun to an assertion or opinion. This order may also show up in tag questions. So either order can be found:

Example 4

a. Itensiede is wol ris moai, mar net altyd. Is it net sa?
food.cooking is DcP DcP nice but not always is it not so
Cooking food is nice once in a while, but not always isn't it?
b. Itensiede is wol ris moai, mar net altyd. Is it sa net?
food.cooking is DcP DcP nice but not always is it so not
Cooking food is nice once in a while, but not always isn't it?

The tag question is neutral in (4a). The tag question in (4b) strongly presupposes that the previous assertion is true, and so it is more emphatic.

The pronominal adverb and negation can also be used on their own as a presuppositional negator. The combination of the two items forms a proposition all by itself. They negate a presupposition that is loosely associated to the previous context, and made explicit and negated in the clause following the presuppositional negator. An example is given below:

Example 5

En Peke moat no en dan oan it ferhaal oer syn ûnderfiningen yn it apelân. Sa net, der wurdt wol avensearre, oars sit der ek gjin stik brea yn
and Peke must now and then to the story about his experiences in the monkey.country so not there is indeed worked.hard otherwise sits there also no piece bread in
And Peke is occasionally asked to tell about his experiences in the country of the monkeys. Do not think that they do not work hard. Otherwise they would not earn a living from it

Here the first clause may give rise to a presupposition that they do not work hard. This presupposition is both made explicit and cancelled by sa net so not > do not think, but the exact nature of the presupposition only becomes clear when the following clause has been uttered. This clause allows the hearer to reconstruct the exact presupposition that is cancelled by the combination of the pronominal adverb and negation. Note how Frisian and English arrive at the intended interpretation. The English translation uses double negation and explicitly invokes what the addressee might think according to the speaker. The Frisian sentence cancels a presupposition ascribed to the addressee, a presupposition which must be reconstructed from the relevant sequence of utterances. Anyhow, this use of sa net so not > do not think refers both backward and forward in a sense. The pair of items must be followed by a clause that explains the use of these two items.

The pronominal adverb refers to an assertion or opinion, that is, to a proposition. However, it may also refer to a proposition denoting the negation of a property, as in the following example:

Example 6

By sâlte baalder komt der ûnder tsjin de tsjettel in wite laach te sitten, mei farske baalder is dat sa net
with salt peat comes there under against the kettle a white layer to sit with fresh peat is that so not
Salt peat gives off a white layer against the bottom of the kettle, fresh peat does not

In the examples above, the pronominal adverb referred to a proposition.

The pronominal adverb may also refer to a high degree. If this degree involves a property, then it usually involves an ethical degree. The pronominal adverb may be said to refer to the high degree of an ethical predicate in the examples below. This predicate may be paraphrased as either 'good' or 'bad'. The example in (7a) involves the denial of a high degree of badness, whereas the example in (7b) involves the denial of a high degree of goodness:

Example 7

a. Ik ken dy, do bist sa net
I know you you are not so
I know you, you are not like that
b. In minske is sa net of hy wol de mûle wol ris spielle oer gekken en snaken
a person is so not or he wants the mouth flush about silly.ones and crazy.ones
People are not so noble that they do not occasionally want to speak out against all sorts of silly persons

The example in (7b) involves a so-called balance construction, which is found in both Frisian and Dutch. It involves a disjunction of which the second disjunct is in the scope of the first in some sense.

Furthermore, the pronominal adverb can also refer to the presupposed degree of whatever is denoted by a verb, as in the following examples:

Example 8

a. Hy dy't in slach tabringt, hy piniget jit sa net as falske laster krinkt
he who a stroke out.deals he hurts still so not as mean slander injures
He who deals a blow does not hurt as much as mean slander injures
b. Hoannen leine him lang sa net as hinnen
cocks laid him long so not as hens
He could get on with cocks far less than with hens
c. Dan waard Edzen mijen en koe of doarste him sa net jaan as oars wol koe
then became Edzen shy en could or dared him so not give as otherwise indeed could
Then Edzen became shy en could not or dared not give himself as much as was possible on other occasions

These examples all involve the negation of an equative degree, although there is no overt adjective. The equative degree is signalled by the phrase introduced by as as, which provides the standard of comparison. The examples all specify the denial of a high degree of intensity.