Categorization and Agreement in Dutch Double Gender Nouns
Chapter 3: From the Original Formal System to the Mismatched System: The Evolution of Dutch Gender
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From the Original Formal System to the Mismatched System: The Evolution of Dutch Gender
Standard Dutch (Standaardnederlands or Algemeen Nederlands (AN)) is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Germanic branch, spoken as their mother tongue by some fourteen million speakers in The Netherlands and six million Flemish speakers living in Belgium.1 Like many other Indo-European languages, Dutch has gradually moved its nominal morphology from synthetic to chiefly analytic. In particular, contemporary Dutch has a mid-way position between its West-Germanic cognates, i.e. German and English. Despite being grammatically similar to German (especially regarding syntax and verb morphology) the Dutch case system has been simplified to a greater extent than German, but to a lesser extent than English. In the history of the language the original formal system of declensions and nominal categories – which disappeared in English but is conserved in German – has undergone a drastic reduction: the opacization of morphological markers which originally signaled case, gender and ← 103 | 104 → number led to the loss of the case system (today mostly limited to pronouns and a large number of set phrases),2 the reduction in plural allomorphy and the disappearance of the original tripartite gender distinction (cf. § 3.1). In contemporary Dutch, gender controllers and targets no longer inflect for case and the partial overlap between gender and declension has been lost. Moreover, gender has become covert in nouns, adjectival declension has been highly simplified, and the original Indo-European distinction between masculine, feminine...
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