More on Dutch “hun hebben”

Elsewhere in this blog we reported on the controversial use of hun hebben in Dutch today: it is widely used, possibly even spreading rapidly, but highly stigmatised at the same time. The pronoun hun in standard Dutch is an oblique form (“them”) or a possessive pronoun (“their”), and therefore not acceptable in subject position where zij “they” would be the rule. Those of you who know Dutch might like to read the online explanation offered by the Taaladviesdienst.

For our previous research project, The Codifiers and the English Language, several cartoons were drawn by the well-known Dutch cartoon writers Jean-Marc van Tol, John Reid and Bastiaan Geleijnse. These often hilarious cartoons feature two Donald Duck-style birds called Fokke and Sukke who comment on all kinds of current phenomena. That they were affected by the common stigmatisation of hun hebben is clear from the following cartoon:

(“Sir?”, Fokke & Sukke ask their teacher, “Shouldn’t it be ‘Attila the zij’?” Impossible to translate!)

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