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Language Dynamics in the Dutch Golden Age

Adjectives in texts of Hooft, Vondel, Cats and De Brune (De Oude) – Sylvia Wijsman

17th century Dutch contained constructions and linguistic properties of the preceding centuries, but it also contained language innovations. This resulted in language variation, among and within authors. For my research internship, I’m examining language variation within the use of adjectives. I hypothesize that there is variation, namely among authors and also within individual language users. I’m investigating texts of different authors, different genres and different time periods.

The texts that I will use are from Hooft, Vondel, Cats and De Brune (De Oude). I expect there will be variation among these authors because they all have a different geographical background and whereas Hooft and Vondel are language innovators, Cats and de Brune (De Oude) are more reluctant with these innovations. The texts that I will use are written between 1610-1625 or between 1635-1650 and I will examine prose and poetry of all the authors . I also expect there will be variation within authors, namely between the two time periods, between prose and poetry or between both.

To illustrate possible variation in the use of adjectives, I will use an example of a postnominal attributive adjective of P.C. Hooft.


En dese lippen varsch,                                                                    (Granida, 110-111)

And these lips fresh

Die gloeyen als een kars

They glow as a candle


The attribute adjective varsch is placed after the noun lippen in this example. Usually the adjective is placed in front of the noun. In this sentence, this type of variation is used by Hooft for rhyme. Therefore, it is possible that this type of variation will not occur in prose.

Granida is a play from 1615, so quite early in Hoofts life. It is also possible that in later poetry of Hooft this type of variation will not be attested anymore, because later in his life Hooft will adjust more to the language standardization. Through this standardization it is not possible to use a postnominal attributive adjective anymore.