Grammatical reinterpretation

Coming back from our summer holidays, I’m steadily working my way through the backlog of newspapers (primarily NRC Handelsblad). One of the things that stuck was something I read in a column by language historian and journalist Ewoud Sanders, from 25 June.

In the column Sanders deals with botched and bungled words and phrases in Dutch, and lists data he found on the blog claars-notes, written by music and IT teacher Clara Legêne, who kept track of errors in (Dutch) first-year grammar school kids’ exam papers. Sanders was most struck by the form naderant, a misspelling for the posh word naderhand (“afterwards”), but what I was most struck by was the comment that eens (“once”) is increasingly written as is.

No example with any context is offered on Clara’s blog, and I hope she will read this, and supply one, but it strongly reminded me of the instance of could of discussed elsewhere on this blog. The could of example is also part of my attitudes survey, which is producing response in great numbers (thank you, readers!).

A lot of the respondents so far are teachers, who, like Clara Legêne, find many instances of could of and similar forms in their students’ papers. And several respondents have suggested that it is a case of grammatical reintepretation, with of being a phonetic variant of the clipped auxiliary  form ‘ve, but leading to (presumably unconscious) reinterpretation of the verb as an auxiliary at the point when the sentence has to be written down.

The eens as is example suggests that the phenomenon is current in other languages too. Any other examples, with context please? And from other languages?

Meanwhile, Clara got in touch, and gave a couple of the sentences that she had found in her students’ papers by way of examples:

  • Ik heb dat wel is gehoord (is = “once”)
  • Wilt u mijn toets nog is nakijken? (is = “once again”).
In the first sentence, she suggests, wel is might be related to weliswaar (“admittedly”, according to thefreedictionary), while she also believes that Cornelis, who commented on this post, may be right when he said that the usage may be typical of the Brabant (southern Dutch) dialect.
Any other suggestions?

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2 Responses to Grammatical reinterpretation

  1. Cornelis van Eykelen says:

    Ik begrijp de verbazing over “is” in plaats van “eens” niet, want iemand die een beetje slordig spreekt, begint (bijvoorbeeld) een sprookje met “Er wazzis een koning….”. Een Bredase carnavalsvereniging had in 2002 als motto ” Dur wazzis… eel lang geleje”.

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