Original Research

The semantics of the aan-construction in 16th-century Dutch: A semasiological and onomasiological approach

Dario Rens
Literator | Vol 38, No 2 | a1333 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v38i2.1333 | © 2017 Dario Rens | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 August 2016 | Published: 30 May 2017

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Dario Rens, Department of Dutch Linguistics, Ghent University, Belgium

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This article focuses on the semantics of the Dutch aan-construction [NP V NP aan NP], for example, Jan geeft een boek aan Piet (‘Jan gives a book to Piet’) in the 16th-century. In modern Dutch the aan-construction is used as an alternative to the Dutch double object construction, but previous research suggests that the use of ditransitive verbs in the Dutch aan-construction is only a 16th-century innovation – this alternation is called the ‘dative alternation’. However, it is not clear which ditransitive verbs initiated the dative alternation. Colleman (2010) believes that the first instances of the ditransitive use of the aan-construction are concrete physical movements of the direct object from the subject to the indirect object; however, he argues there is no quantitative proof to support those claims. In a self-compiled corpus of 16th-century Dutch, this article tries to find the evidence which is needed to underpin Colleman’s hypothesis by making use of the distinctive collexeme analysis and its diachronic variant. The results show that the first ditransitive instances of the aan-construction are indeed concrete uses, but that there is also an increase in the metaphorical use of the construction.


historical linguistics; distinctive collexeme analysis; diachronic collexeme analysis; aan-dative; double object construction; dative alternation; construction grammar


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