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Remnants of the old Germanic genitive case system are found in noun phrases (NPs), as equivalents to prepositional constructions. For example, naar het middelpunt der aarde to the centre the-GEN.SG.F earth is almost equivalent (modulo differences in style/genre/register) to naar het middelpunt van de aarde to the centre of the earth.


NPs beginning with the inflected determiner de-r function as genitive phrases, and thus as equivalents of van-PPs, as in:

Example 1

a. het middelpunt de-r aarde
the centre the-GEN.SG earth
the centre of the earth
b. in de loop der jar-en
in the course the-GEN.PL year.PL
in the course of the years

This use of der as an inflected definite determiner is restricted to singular nouns with feminine gender, and to plural nouns.

Irrespective of the gender of the noun, the genitive singular masculine form of the definite determiner des is used in a specific characterization construction, as in

Example 2

a. Dit blijft des overheid-s
This remains the-GEN.SG.M government-s
This remains a specific task of the government
b. Dat is niet de-s vrouw-s
That is not the-GEN.SC.masc woman-GEN.SC.masc
That is not characteristic for a woman

The genitive form of the universal quantifier al all, all-er, can be used in slightly archaic phrases:

Example 3

a. de moeder aller oorlogen
the mother all-GEN.PL wars
the greatest war ever
b. de grootste hit aller tijden
the biggest hit all-GEN.PL times
the biggest hit ever
c. Aller ogen zijn gericht op Kwatta
All-GEN.PL eyes are directed towards Kwatta
Everybody's eyes are directed towards Kwatta

These examples show that the use of case-inflected determiners is not restricted to fully lexicalized expressions, but may also be used productively.

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Van Haeringen (1956) and others have suggested that one of the reasons for this type of genitive's survival is its use to bring some variation in otherwise possible endless stretches of prepositional phrases:

Example 4

a. Resolutie  van de Raad en van de vertegenwoordigers van de regeringen der Lid -Staten
Resolution of the Council and of the representatives of the governements the-GEN.PL Member-States
Resoultion of the Council and of the representatives of the Member-States' governments

Literature: Booij (2010: Chapter 9), Scott (2011), Scott (2012), Scott (2014).

  • Booij, Geert2010Construction morphologyOxford/New YorkOxford University Press
  • Haeringen, C.B. van1956Nederlands tussen Duits en EngelsDen HaagServire
  • Scott, Alan2014The Genitive Case in Dutch and German. A Study of Morphosyntactic Change in Codified LanguagesLeidenBrill
  • Scott, Alan K2011The position of the genitive in present-day DutchWord Structure4104-35
  • Scott, Alan K2012A constructionist account of the modern Dutch adnominal genitive. F. Kiefer and M. Ladányi and P. Siptár (ed.)Current issues in morphological theory: (Ir)-regularity, analogy, and frequency. Amsterdam / PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins83-103