A formalisation of xdery

In the preceding sections it was contended that the adnominal genitive construction in modern Dutch is a partially filled construction with, in its canonical form, two free positions: one, x, can be filled by any noun phrase (based on the intention of the language user); the other free position, y, can contain a noun phrase headed by a noun which has certain characteristics (either it is plural, or it is singular with a particular ending, or, less frequently, it is one of a - more or less - closed group of simplex nouns which, through usage, have become associated with the x der y pattern).

Accordingly, the modern Dutch adnominal genitive construction can be formalised as in (19). This develops further the formalisation proposed in Scott (2012a: 100); in (19), however, the formalisations are presented in such a way as to emphasise the emergence through discontinuous chunking of the various sub-schemata. The information on the noun phrase y relates to the head noun; the head noun may be modified by one or more adjectives or, rarely, a more complex phrase (n = 375 in the data; i.e. 18.2% of the total x der y tokens).

(19) adnominal genitive construction (x der y)

‘x is the possession of y (in a broad sense); x is part of y; x is y’

basic schema: [[x]np [der [[z]adj [xInpInpInp ]np

y is either [+plural] or is [+singular, +common gender]

sub-schemata: [[x]NP [der [[z]ADJ [N[+PLURAL]]NP]NP]NP ]NP]NP

de leden der volgende verenigingen

the members the.GEN following societies

‘the members of the following societies’ (CGN: fv800831.4)

[[x]NP [der [[z]ADJ [__De]NP]NP]NP ]NP

het pad der liefde

the path the.GEN love

‘the path of love’ (INL 27 Mil., June 1994)

[[x]NP [der [[z]ADJ [__HeID]np]NP]NP ]NP

de grenzen der hoorbaarheid

the borders the.GEN audibility

‘the borders (i.e. limits) of audibility’ (Eindhoven,

popular science, 31987)

[[x]NP [der [[z]ADJ [__Ie]np]np]np ]np

het grote genie der corruptie

the great genius the.GEN corruption

‘the great genius of corruption’ (INL 27 Mil., March 1995)

[[x]NP [der [[z]ADJ [__Iek]NP]NP]NP ]np

het terrein der orthopedagogiek the domain the.GEN ortho-pedagogy

‘the domain of otho-pedagogy’ (Eindhoven, popular science, 36654)

[Mnp [der [[z]adj [_IJ]np]np]np] ]np

de verplichtingen der rederij the obligations the.GEN shipping-company ‘the obligations of the shipping company’ (Eindhoven, popular science, 32770)

[Mnp [der [[z]adj [_ing]np]np]np ]np

  • 47 procent der bevolking
  • 47 percent the.GEN population

‘47% of the population’ (INL 27 Mil., June 1994)

[[x]np [der [[z]adj [_iteit]np]np]np ]np

het bloed der experimentele realiteit the blood the.GEN experimental reality ‘the blood of experimental reality’ (Eindhoven, popular science, 33305)

[[x]np [der [[z]adj [_nis]np]np]np ]np

de volle lading der geschiedenis

the full load the.GEN history

‘the full load of history’ (INL 27 Mil., February 1994)

[[x]np [der [[z]adj [_schap]np]np]np ]np

de ijzeren wet der dronkenschap

the iron law the.GEN drunkenness

‘the iron law of drunkenness’ (INL 27 Mil., July 1994)

[[x]np [der [[z]adj [_st]np]np]np ]np

de zwanezang der schilderkunst the swansong the.GEN painting ‘the swansong of the art of painting’ (INL 27 Mil., October 1994)

[[x]np [der [[z]adj [_te]np]np]np ]np

de modern behandeling der bloederziekte

the modern treatment the.GEN haemophilia

‘the modern treatment of haemophilia’ (Eindhoven, family magazines, 16093)

[Mnp [der [[z]adj [__uur]np]np]np ]np

het luilekkerland der pulp-literatuur the land-of-plenty the.GEN pulp-literature ‘the land of plenty of pulp literature’ (INL 27 Mil., May 1994)

[[x]NP [der [[z]ADJ [ex-feminine simplex]np]np]np ]np de afgronden der menselijke ziel

the abysses the.GEN human soul

‘the abysses of the human soul’ (INL 27 Mil., April 1995)

The frequency in the data of each of these sub-schemata - as well as the number of tokens that fell outside the sub-schemata - is shown in Table 9. As already shown in Table 2, plural nouns are by far the most frequent type of noun in position y. Surprisingly, roughly a quarter of the singular nouns in y are simplex; however, this figure is actually made up of many tokens of a limited number of types. In contrast, many of the morphologically complex nouns only occur once in the data. The dominant complex noun types are those ending in -ie, -ing and -heid.

Table 9: The occurrence of the various types of noun in у

Nature of head noun of у

Total tokens

Proportion of total xdery tokens (%)

Proportion of singular xdery tokens (%)



simplex; ex-feminine ends in -ie ends in -ing ends in -heid simplex; other ends in -iek ends in -uur ends in -nis ends in -de ends in -ij ends in -te ends in -schap ends in -st ends in -iteit

  • 1441
  • 134
  • 125
  • 98
  • 78
  • 36
  • 28
  • 26
  • 22
  • 21
  • 12
  • 11
  • 10
  • 9
  • 7
  • 70.0
  • 6.5
  • 6.1
  • 4.8
  • 3.8 1.7 1.4 1.3 1.1 1
  • 0.6
  • 0.5
  • 0.5
  • 0.4
  • 0.3
  • 21.7
  • 20.3
  • 15.9
  • 12.6
  • 5.8
  • 4.5 4.2
  • 3.6
  • 3.4
  • 1.9 1.8
  • 1.6
  • 1.5 1.1


  • 2058
  • (singulars on

ly: 617)

This section has focused on the structural regularity of the adnominal genitive construction. The following section addresses the pragmatic constraints on the use of the construction.

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