Marc van Oostendorp & Nicoline van der Sijs
A triumph of prescriptivism: the case of na and naar
In Middle Dutch the prepositions na and naar were used indiscriminately to indicate direction and succession of time, cf. de moeder ghinck nae / naer de kerke ‘de mother went to the church’, and na / naer sinen doot ‘after his death’. 17th century grammarians, however, objected to this, arguing that in an ideal language each word form has only one meaning. In 1730 the literator Balthazar Huydecoper formulated the modern rule that na is used for a succession of time, while naar indicates direction and accordance. This rule is completely integrated in the modern prescriptive tradition of standard Dutch. In our talk we explore how the success of this prescriptive rule can be explained, by comparing the results of several types of text corpora from the 17th – 20th century. We then turn to the question to what extent the distinction is actually at this moment engrained in linguistic intuitions of Standard Dutch as well as its dialects, again by comparing a number of sources.