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From noun to intensifier:massaandmassa’sin Flemish varieties of Dutch

Language Sciences
DOI: 10.1016/j.langsci.2012.04.005
  • Grammaticalization
  • Quantifiers
  • Intensifiers
  • Size-Noun Constructions


Abstract In this paper a case of synchronic layering is examined in which Dutch massa (‘mass’) and plural massa’s (‘masses’) are attested with lexical uses as a collective noun, quantifying uses (‘a large quantity of’) and intensifying uses (‘very’) – with plural massa’s only – in some Flemish varieties of Dutch. Against the background of grammaticalization, we will first trace and illustrate the development from lexical head to quantifier and show parallels and differences with similar grammaticalization processes which can be attested with many other collective nouns, both in Dutch (e.g. een hoop ‘a heap’, een boel ‘a bunch’, etc., see Doetjes, 1997; Vos, 1999; Joosten, 2003inter alia) and in other languages (see Brems, 2003, 2007a,b on size noun constructions in English, Doetjes and Rooryck, 2003 on French). Secondly, we will examine the status of intensifying massa’s, as opposed to uses of small size quantifiers as downtoners (e.g. een beetje verdrietig, ‘a little sad’) and argue on a more general level that similar to other languages, but contra Klein (1998), purportedly (non-canonical) expressions of high quantity constitute a fruitful resource for new intensifiers in substandard varieties of Dutch. The quantitative data for this study is mainly taken from the CONDIV corpus and collected from student message boards on the Internet.

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