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7.2 The partitive adjective in the partitive adjective construction

Many adjectives are able to take the –es inflection of partitivity. Nevertheless, a handful of partitive adjectives is especially frequent in the partitive adjective construction, such as Goudes ‘good’ and Besunneres. Nevertheless, there are also many adjectives that are blocked from appearing in the partitive construction.

Several aspects of the partitive adjective are discussed in the sections below.

[+]1. Adjectives which must refer to humans may not occur as partitives

The set of adjectives appearing in the partitive construction is neither equivalent to the set of adjectives appearing in the predicative construction, nor to the set of adjectives appearing in the attributive construction. The following sets of adjectives may occur attributively and predicatively but not partitively:

  • adjectives selecting [+ANIMATE] entities cannot function as partitive adjectives

The absence of such adjectives is related to the fact that the set of indefinite quantifiers found in the partitive adjective construction is [-ANIMATE]. For example, the indefinite human pronoun nemens ‘nobody’ is barred from this construction. As all animate quantifiers are disallowed, so are all adjectives referring to animate entities.

[+]2. Adjectives with and without partitive form

A heterogenuous set of adjectives is not able to carry partitive flection. Put differently, they are unable to enter the partitive adjective construction. Examples come from the following categories:

  • Adjectives that are loanwords terminating in a vowel.
  • Adjectives ending in the suffix –sk.
  • Geographical adjectives in –er.
  • Superlative adjectives.
  • Substance adjectives like holten ‘wooden'
  • Emotional evaluative relative adjectives like ferdjuweld ‘damned’ and ferdöikerd ‘darned’

In the following example, a partitive adjective built on –sk is avoided by using an attributive construction with a vague nominal head like Kroam ‘mess’.

Wäl hät so ‘n näimoudsken Kroam apbroacht?
who has such a newfangled mess introduced
Who even introduced something so newfangled?

A translation into German would in all likelihood have featured a partitive construction: ‘Wer hat so etwas Neumodisches überhaupt eingeführt’. This may also be a matter of register. Anyhow, –sk adjectives lack partitive forms, in Saterland Frisian and West Frisian alike. Moreover, these adjectives also lack superlative forms. Comparatives are somewhat unusual, but possible as partitives, both in West Frisian and in Saterland Frisian.

Native words in schwa may have a partitive as in the following idiomatic example:

Ju hät wät Litjes kriegen.
she has something little.PA gotten
She has got a baby.

Remember that this adjective has a special form in –t, which is used for the neuter singular in the attributive construction, but also in the predicative construction and also when used as an adverbial. Interestingly, this form may also show up in the partitive adjective construction:

Wät uurset
something else
As hie op wät Lieuwendet fäl.
when he on something living fell
When he fell on top of something alive.

Although superlative adjectives do not occur in the partitive construction, comparative adjectives do. These forms are interferences from Low German, which have their own history.

[+]3. Stacking of adjectives

In an attributive construction, adjectives can be stacked, that is, more than one adjective can be concatenated, as in ‘beautiful big wide skirts’. Stacking is not possible in the partitive adjective construction: only one adjective is allowed (in the absence of conjunctions).

[+]4. Modification of the partitive adjective

Partitive adjectives may be modified by a high degree word, an intensifier like heel ‘very’.

[+]5. Partitive inflection is constructional flection

Partitive inflection is –es in Saterland Frisian, rather than –s like in West Frisian. This inflection is obligatory in the partitive adjective construction. The relevant inflection is not inflection in the sense that it is sensitive to some sort of agreement feature that determines whether the inflection is present or not. It is an example of constructional inflection. In this construction, the inflection is always present, so there is no paradigm. In this respect, partitive inflection may be likened to the inflection which converts an adjective into a noun, that is, nominalizing inflection, which has the added feature that it must be indefinite.

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