(Morpho-)pragmatic aspects of the use of xDer y: obsolete case morphology as a stylistic tool in Dutch and elsewhere

The use of the adnominal genitive is governed by a number of pragmatic factors: on the one hand, it appears to be a relatively unmarked (register-specific) alternative to the van-construction in formal written language; on the other hand, its use in informal speech and writing carries pragmatic consequences. This underlines the form-function characteristic of constructions and the importance of context to the use of particular constructions (Bybee 2006a: 291). The use of the adnominal genitive construction contains the information that the construction may be felicitously used in formal writing but that its use in informal language (written and spoken) while possible and acceptable, will stand out. Finally in this section, the use of obsolete case morphology as a stylistic tool in Dutch and elsewhere is briefly considered.

In the Eindhoven corpus of mid-20th century Dutch, which is divided into six genre-defined sub-corpora (daily newspapers, spoken language, family magazines, news magazines, popular science books, and novels and short stories), clear trends are visible in the use of the adnominal genitive both regarding the occurrence of novel formations produced using the construction, and regarding the number of genitive tokens relative to the number of tokens of the van- construction: the popular science sub-corpus contains by far the most novel genitive tokens (226 tokens; the novel genitives in the other written sub-corpora number between 26 and 49 tokens), and is also the sub-corpus in which the genitive is strongest against the van-construction: in interchangeable syntactic contexts, about 90% of the examples were formed with van and 10% with the genitive (in the other written sub-corpora, the ratio is circa 97% to 3%) (Scott 2011:109,123). Thus, the adnominal genitive construction has a clear association with the popular science genre, which appears to be particularly fertile ground for the production of novel genitive formations.

In derivational morphology, one of the characteristics of a productive construction is that, in addition to their intelligibility to language users, the products of the construction must not draw attention to themselves (see, e.g., Bauer 2001:

58-59, 62-71 on naturalness and creativity; also Bochner 1993: 4). Furthermore, the societal productivity of a particular construction is “suspect” if the products occur, for instance, only in “poetry or poetic and/or highly literary prose”, or are “playful formations” (Bauer 2001: 57-58); it is also noted by Bauer (2001: 58) that, on some views, the very fact that a construction is used “consciously”, i.e. deliberately, suggests that the construction is not productive. These criteria are valid when assessing the productivity of a marginal (or, indeed, any) morpho- syntactic construction: if the products of a particular construction are intelligible to language users who encounter them, but are felt to be unusual or inappropriate (at least in certain pragmatic contexts), this would suggest that the productivity of that construction is either dubious, or is restricted to certain pragmatic contexts (e.g. a particular register or genre). Away from derivational morphology, this is the situation with the adnominal genitive fragment which, on the view noted above, would be unproductive even in the formal writing in which its use is unmarked.

The adnominal genitive is even rarer in spoken language than in writing: in the 9 million token CGN, only 17 novel x der y tokens (i.e. not as part of fixed expressions such as those exemplified in (7) above; on this, see also Scott 2011: 110) were found in the spontaneously produced speech (i.e. excluding read-aloud texts); two examples are given in (20).

(20) a. streven naar een ratio van drieёndertig procent der studenten

striving after a ratio of thirty-three percent the.GEN students ‘striving for a ratio of thirty-three percent of the students’

(CGN: fv400010.70; ceremonial speech: opening of the academic year)

b. ’k zal nooit tot ’t gilde der beste schrijvers uh toetreden.

I shall never to the guild the.GEN best writers uh enter

‘I’ll never, uh, enter into the guild of the best writers.’

(CGN: fn007328.271; radio programme: Forum)

The use of x der y away from formal writing is strongly pragmatically restricted: while its use in formal speech, such as that of solemn speeches or journalistic radio broadcasts (indeed, most of the 17 CGN examples came from such sources), may not draw attention to itself, its use in informal speech and writing is both deliberate and, often, playful and ironic (cf. Merlini Barbaresi 2006: 334, who notes the presence of such pragmatic features in morphological constructions). That is to say, the pragmatic consequence of the use of x der y in informal language is the humour derived from the incongruence of using, in informal language, an archaising construction that is so strongly associated with formal, solemn style. Some informal examples are given in (21). Important to its use in informal registers is the fact that its continued entrenchment in formal language (and in numerous fixed expressions and names encountered in all registers) means that its products are always understood.

(21) En daarmee zijn we aan ’t end der verbale

and with-that are we on the end the.GEN verbal

knuffeling gekomen, genaamd de podcast.

hugging come namely the podcast

‘And, with that, we have come to the end of the verbal hugging, i.e. the podcast.’ (Sofie Lemaire, De Podcast van Sofie, Studio Brussel, 4.2.11)

The Bootleg Beatles worden dan ook alom beschouwd

the Bootleg Beatles become then also generally regarded

als de moeder der Beatles-coverbands.

as the mother the.GEN Beatles-coverbands

‘The Bootleg Beatles are, then, generally regarded as the mother of Beatles cover bands.’

(http://www.013.nl/event/2754_the_bootleg_beatles [accessed 17.7.13])

Aangezien de Vodafone’s en KPN’s van deze wereld maar

since the Vodafones and KPNs of this world just

bezig blijven met het naaien der consumentjes

busy remain with the screwing the.GEN consumer.DIM.PLU

moeten we iets anders verzinnen.

must we something else come-up-with

‘Since the Vodafones and KPNs of this world just keep on screwing the

little consumers we have to come up with something else.’

(http://www.geenstijl.nl/mt/archieven/2637161_pda.html [accessed 17.7.13])

Overall, although its marginality would class it as unproductive on some views, the adnominal genitive fragment is productively (if relatively infrequently) used in formal written Dutch. In informal Dutch, in contrast, the markedness of novel x der y formations suggests, on the one hand, that the construction is unproductive; on the other hand, given that novel formations are usually (at least in the data studied) well-formed and are deliberately deployed to achieve a particular effect, and that this effect is clear to readers or listeners, it can be concluded that the adnominal genitive enjoys a rather specialised (and restricted) productivity in informal Dutch.

Additionally, it is worth considering that some sub-schemata of x der y may be used in any register without necessarily drawing attention to themselves; this is, for example, the situation with the elective genitive construction (22) and the partitive use of x der y exemplified above in (20a).

(22) ik heb uit betrouwbare bron dat over 2 jaar de

I have from reliable source that over 2 years the

iPod der iPods uitkomt iPod the.GEN iPods comes-out

‘I have it from a reliable source that the iPod of iPods will be coming out in two years.’

(http://forum.fok.nl/topic/765906/1/999 [accessed 17.7.13])

Klopt naast de Oude ICR was de koploper

that’s-right beside the old ICR was the koploper

de trein der treinen.

the train the.GEN trains

‘That’s right, beside the old ICR [Intercityrijtuig ‘intercity carriage’] the koploper [‘front runner’] was the train of trains.’ (http://forum.opeenshadikhet.nl/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4262&start=864 [accessed 17.7.13])

The use of obsolete case morphology as a stylistic tool is found beyond Dutch. Such use tends to occur when the morphology in question is still partly familiar to language users, e.g. because the case morphology had not been absent from the language for too long, or because the case morphology remains in use in other roles.

In German, as noted by Nishiwaki (2010: 1), one of the characters in Kurt Tucholsky’s 1931 Schlofi Gripsholm [‘Gripsholm castle’], uses the archaic partitive genitive and the quirkiness - that is to say, the pragmatic markedness - of this usage is commented on by the narrator (23).

(23) “Hast du schwedischen Geldes?” fragte die Prinzessin traumerisch. Sie fuhrte gern einen gebildeten Genitiv spazieren und war demzufolge sehr stolz darauf, immer “Rats” zu wissen. (Tucholsky [1931] 2000: 27)

‘“Do you have Swedish.GEN money.GEN?” asked the Princess dreamily. She liked to take an educated genitive for a walk und was accordingly very proud of always knowing “what to do.GEN [literally “advice.GEN”]”.’

Examples of the use of case morphology as a stylistic tool in older Swedish are addressed by Norde (2007): in the 14th century, when case- and non-caseforms co-existed, poets would make use of a particular variant in order to maintain rhyme or metre, rather than to achieve morphosyntactic agreement; by the 17th century (and through to the 19th century), by which time case morphology was long lost from Swedish, case endings were used - often inaccurately - in order to achieve a solemn or formal effect; Norde (2007) also notes that this style was parodied at the time. The latter Swedish usage is parallel to the use of x der y in modern informal Dutch.

 
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