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4.1 The referential partitive construction

There is a group of partitive nouns which denote both a quantity and a concrete object, as in the following example:

‘n Kiste mäd Jeeld.
a chest with money
A chest of money.
*‘n Kiste Jeeld.
a chest money
A chest of money.

Here it would sound strange to leave out the adposition. The noun Kiste ‘chest’ preserves its concrete referential meaning: an object in which something can be contained. However, many concrete partitive nouns may also allow of an abstract interpretation.

Three types of concrete partitive nouns may be distinguished, depending on their meaning. Concrete partitive nouns can be modified by various elements, and they determine the number of the construction as a whole. The content noun in the concrete partitive construction has limited possibilities for modification. Some nouns behave syntactically as concrete partitives while their meaning seems to be extensionally equivalent to that of quantified partitives as a result of their metaphorical interpretation. Concrete partitive nouns are discussed in the sections below.

As is clear from the section titles, there are three types of concrete partitive nouns.

[+]1. Container nouns

Container partitive nouns refer to objects which integrate other objects (referred to by the content noun), into a large whole by means of material containment. They can do so syntactically in various ways, as shown below:

‘n Ommer Woater.
a bucket water
A bucket of water.
‘n Ommer ful Woater.
a bucket full water
A bucket full of water.
‘n Oamer mäd Woater.
a bucket with water
A bucket of water.

The first example above involves bare juxtaposition, the second example joins the two nouns by means of the adjective ful ‘full’, and the third makes use of the adposition mäd ‘with’. It is also possible to combine the adjective and the preposition, as follows:

‘n Ommer ful mäd Woater.
a bucket full with water
A bucket full of water.

The content noun is usually a bare noun, though it can be premodified by APs and also by measure nouns. The combination ful ‘full’ + noun can also be used in a predicative construction, as in the following examples:

Die Boom sit ful Loof.
the tree sits full foliage
The tree is full of leaves.
Die Wäänt sit ful fon Kníepe.
that boy sits full of pranks
That boy is full of pranks.

The question arises why the adposition fon ‘of’ is used in the second example, but not in the first. It could be that the first example involves material containment, whereas the second example ful ‘full’ rather means ‘obsessed with, focused on’. The following example involves material containment and it does not feature a preposition:

‘n Koare ful Mjuks.
a cart full dung
A cart with dung.

Two peculiar examples are the following.

Dät Huus waas ful fon Hunk un Prunk.
the house was full of (rhyme) and pomp
The house was full of pomp and splendour.
‘n Ierm ful Brusttee.
an arm fol breast.tea
An arm full of breast.tea (when a man holds a lady close to his body while dancing)

The first example features a preposition, whereas the second example does not. It is hard to explain in detail why a preposition is or is not used, though it is clear that the first example involves a noun used as a container noun, whereas the second example does not. It could just be a matter of idiomatic fixation. The data, however, are similar to what we find in Frisian and Dutch, whereas the English partitive construction is different.

[+]2. Part nouns

Part nouns divide substances, referred to by the content noun, into smaller wholes. Some examples of partitive constructions with part nouns are given below:

‘n Kroume Brood.
a crumb bread
A crumb of bread.
‘n Brokke Eed.
a block peat
A block of peat.
‘n Tjuk Stuk Holt.
a thick piece wood
A thick piece of wood.

The last example makes it clear that the part noun can be premodified by APs. The content noun can also be premodified by AP, as below:

‘n Stuk bruun Holt.
a piece brown wood
A piece of brown wood.

Thus both NPs of the partitive noun construction can be premodified. There can be no functional element joining the part noun and the substance noun.

[+]3. Collective nouns

Collective nouns like container nouns organise individual elements in a larger whole. Collective nouns, unlike container nouns, do not require an object or container for integration into a larger whole. This integration in a larger whole is the result of a natural process. Some examples are given below:

‘n Drummel ekene Bome. ‘n Skoar Fugele
a grove oak trees a flock birds
A grove of oak trees. A flock of birds
‘n Drift Skäipe. ‘n Koppel Bäidene. ‘n Swaarm Mägen.
a herd sheep a group children a swarm flies
A herd of sheep. A Group of children. A swarm of flies.
‘n Moaltied Fiske.
a meal fish
A meal of fish.

The partitive noun may form an idiomatic combination with the content noun. In case the partitive noun allows of a broad range of variation in the content noun, it is more likely that an adposition will be used to join the partitive noun and the content words. This also holds true in case the content noun is expanded with modifiers.

[+]Modification and agreement

The concrete partitive noun has the following possibilities for modification: it may be modified by adjectives, it may be modified by a quantifier or it may be modified by a demonstrative. The partitive noun usually determines agreement on the verb, not the content noun (not illustrated), but see below. If the content phrase in the construction is a bare noun, it cannot be modified by quantifiers. If it is preceded by an adposition, then it can (not illustrated).

The partitive noun may receive an abstract interpretation through abstract or metaphorical language use. A case in point is the noun Bierig ‘mountain’. It is hardly used in any literal sense in the following example:

Hie häd ‘n helen Bierich Skeelden.
he has a whole mountain debts
He has a whole mountain of debts.
Die Mon hät ‘n helen Bäält Bäidene.
that man has a whole lot children
The man has a whole lot of children.

Thus a lot can be said about a seemingly small and transparent syntactic construction like the partitive construction.

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