Archaic Dutch declension

Archaic Dutch declension

Archaic Dutch declension was the declensional system of the Dutch language as it was prescribed the Dutch by Dutch grammarians in the 19th century. It was never spoken by Dutch people, but was required as a formality in most forms of writing. It was generally unpopular, not only for being an arbitrary, enforced system of grammar but moreover, especially during the Nazi Era, for deriving its grammatical case system from High German. The whole system was disavowed and annulled by the Taalunie (Dutch Language Union) in the early 1950s as a bad and regrettable mistake in prescriptive linguistics. During this period, Dutch writing marked nouns, pronouns, articles, and adjectives to distinguish case, number, and gender.

Dutch writing, distinguished between four cases—nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative (sometimes also the locative existed); and three grammatical genders—feminine, masculine, and neuter. Nouns could also be either singular or plural. By this time in spoken language however, only common and neuter gender and singular and plural nouns were actually used and these were no longer subject to further inflexion.

Usage of the Dutch case system

Since the late 17th century, in nouns, only the uninflected form (morphologically equal to the nominative) was still used, with a limited adjectival or possessive form of the genitive also still being productive. In Standard Dutch, unless they are proper names, clauses in which complements are brought to the head are considered archaic. Thus "Jans auto" (John's car), where the complement as head is a proper name is productive and in common usage. But a clause such as "des dages eind" (the day's end), where the complement is not a proper name and hence requires gender, case and number agreement is considered ungrammatical unless one is invoking an extreme archaism. Technically speaking the dative case is still required after the preposition "te" (to). However this preposition itself has become unproductive, and only results in dative constructions where it is being used with fixed expressions, such as "ten slotte" (finally), "te allen tijde" [] . Nowadays, the preposition "te" is only used productively in relation to proper place names. For example, "Het Rijksmuseum te Amsterdam" (The national museum in Amsterdam). The accusative case was left for objects of transitive verbs and objects of all prepositions, bar "te". However, as distinctions between the grammatical cases were only weakly felt among speakers of Dutch, and as the feminine and neuter declensions were identical in the nominative and accusative, while the masculine declension was identical for the accusative and dative, endless confusion reigned.


The nominative ("eerste naamval") is the most frequent case in Dutch, normally following sentence elements are always in the nominative:
*The subject: Ik ga naar school (I go to school)
*The attribute: Peter is piloot (Peter is a pilot)
*The direct object (only pronouns demand the accusative case): Anja schildert de muur (Anja paints the wall)
*The indirect object (only pronouns demand the dative case): Joop geeft het meisje een ijsje (Joop gives an ice-cream to the girl)
*All other objects are always in the nominative case: Deze maandag is hij niet naar school gegaan (This Monday he didn't go to school)
*The nominative is required after all prepositions, except for the preposition te, fixed expressions and some prepositions with a figurative meaning (only pronouns demand the accusative case): aan de boom (on the tree), door het huis (through the house)


The genitive ("tweede naamval") is used in following cases:
*As a possessive: 's mans hoed (the man's hat), Peters vriend ( a friend of Peter's)
*As a generalising attribute: Zoon des mensen (Son of man)
*As an adverbial complement: het rijk der natuur (the riches of nature)
*As an adverbial genitive: 's Maandags studeert ze aardrijkskunde (she studies geography Mondays)

A possessive genitive can be replaced by the preposition van + nominative case (unless the genitive is regarding a person's name) (i.e. a prepositional phrase):
*de hoed van de manThe (possessive) genitives of the personal pronouns are normally replaced by the possessive pronouns
*"een vriend mijner"-->wrong
*mijn vriend (my friend)
*Één hunner kon ontsnappen-->archaic
*Een van hen kon ontsnappen (One of them was able to escape)
*Onfermt u mijner (Have mercy on me, fixed expression)


The dative ("derde naamval") is used in the following cases:
*After the preposition te (personal pronouns demand the locative case): ter plekke (at the place), ten einde (at the end) (These are always fixed expressions, and never felt or productibe uses of the dative case)
*As the indirect object of pronouns: Hij gaf hun het boek (He gave them the book)
*After prepositions with a figurative meaning: in den beginne (in the beginning)


The accusative ("vierde naamval") is used in the following cases:
*As the direct object of pronouns: Gij sloegt mij (You hit me)
*As a pronoun follows a preposition other than te: door mij (by me), bij hen (at their place)


One should not use the vocative case ("vijfde naamval") in Dutch; it is so rarely used that it is always more usual to use the nominative:
*Lieve kind, ween niet. (vocative)
*Better: Lief kind, ween niet. (Sweet child, don't cry) (nominative)

(The vocative of adjectives always ends on -e, for all nouns and pronouns it is the same as the nominative, so it is rather a simplification of the nominative)


There exists a special locative ("zevende naamval") form of the personal and the possessive pronoun, which should be used after the preposition te (instead of the dative case) and between the construction van ... wege or om ... wil (which are seldom used), this is perceived as being extremely archaic, this construction is, in spoken Dutch, always replaced by bij + accusative case
*te mijnent (at my place)
*"te mij" (dative case) --> wrong
*bij mij (accusative case) (at my place)
*van mijnent wege (from me)

Articles []

Definite Articles

The articles een, ene, eens and enen can be shortened to 'n, 'ne, 'ns and 'nen: (in modern Dutch, only the first one, "'n", is in use, and is generally considered a colloquial form)

*een paard --> 'n paard (a horse) (NEU)
*een koning --> 'ne koning (a king) (MAS)
*eens konings --> 'ns konings (a king's) (MAS)
*enen koning --> 'nen koning (a king) (MAS)

The normal form of the nominative masculine singular is een. In certain varieties of non-Standard Dutch such as in Belgium however, normally the form ene is used. (Note that in Standard Dutch writing the numeral pronoun ene can be used in conjunction with an article when one wishes to stress that it is only concerning one thing/person: "die ene man", "dat ene kind" (i.e. not another one); in that case, one often writes éne to stress this fact.)

Only the nominative case and the genitive case are still used, although the use of the genitive seems to be a little archaic. Furthermore the dative and the accusative are only used in fixed expressions and after prepositions with a figurative meaning.

Indefinite Article (as Adjectival Noun)

Caution: female names are strong nouns!

Formation of the Three Standard Forms

*nom.-acc. sing.: see strong declension
*gen. sing.: the gen.sing. is identical to the nom.-acc. sing. (the form des vrouws, is only used as attribute).
vrouw --> vrouw- --> der vrouw (the woman)
Agressie is niet des vrouws. (Aggression is not a property of women, genitive used as an attribute)
*dat. sing.: see strong declension
*plural: see strong declension

Some nouns change their gender in the dative singular:

*het oor (nom. neuter sing.) --> der ore (dat. feminine sing.) (the ear)
*het hart (nom. neuter sing.) --> der harte (dat. feminine sing.) (the heart)
*de gunst (nom. masculine sing.) --> der gunste (dat. feminine sing.) (the favour)

Weak nouns

de mens (the human)

Regular forms of the diminutive:

*The indefinite article does not have a plural

*The declension after certain pronouns that are declined as the indefinite article, is the same as the declension after the indefinite article

*Only the nominative, the genitive and the dative after the preposition "te" are still used, although the genitive is some what archaic. Thee dative and accusative are also used in fixed expressions and after prepositions with a figurative meaning.

*Adjectives with a root on -en (e.g. houten, koperen) always end on -en: e.g. een houten pop (a wooden doll), een koperen klink (a copper doorknob).

*This is true for all fabric names: they never have an ending: e.g. een platina plaat (a platina plate), een linoleum vloerbedekking (a linoleum floor).

The adjective precedes a noun, but is not preceded by any article

Gene, gindse and zulke are inflected as an adjective that precedes a noun, but is not preceded by any article.

Zo'n, zo een and zulk are inflected as the indefinite article.

Relative pronoun

Dutch has two different relative pronouns: die and wie. The die-form is the regular vorm, the wie-form is only used when the antecedent is missing. The words waar, waarmee, etc. are no pronouns but adverbs.

The declension of die

Declension of the possessive pronoun used as a noun

The genitive of the personal pronoun is usually replaced by the possessive pronoun.

Exclamative pronoun

Dutch has exclamative pronouns: wie, wat een, welk (een), zo'n and zulk(e).

For the declension of wie, see the relative pronoun, for the declension of wat een, welk een, zo'n and zulk een, see declension of the indefinite article, for the declension of welk(e) and zulk(e), see declension of the adjective preceding a noun, that is not preceded by an article

Interrogative pronoun

Dutch has 2 interrogative pronouns: wie/wat and welk(e) (the adjective form). For the declension of wie, see the relative pronoun article; for the declension of welk(e), see declension of the adjective preceding a noun that is not preceded by an article.

Reflexive pronoun

The reflexive pronoun is always accusative or dative:

Reciprocal pronoun

Dutch has three reciprocal pronouns: elkaar, elkander and mekaar. The reciprocal pronoun does not have a nominative and a singular.


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