In the Middle Ages biek even bread baker. If he then sells you a failed loaf of bread, you are complaining . Or else you lied about it. Where have all those old strong verbs gone? And will the existing ones also disappear?

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In the Middle Ages, our language had more irregular verbs than it does today. At that time, for example, a poem was made about a fox that Reinaert hiet (called). He did everything that God had forbidden, but he laughed (laughed at it) and washed (washed) his hands in innocence.

Many irregular verb forms have since disappeared from our language. Bried was 'fried' and biek 'fried'. Will forms such as 'looked', 'nam' and 'at' eventually disappear?

Vowel change already 6,000 years old

In any case, they are old, those irregular or strong verbs with their beautiful vowel changes. Sleep, slept. Eat, eat. Drink drank. Do they come from the Germanic languages ​​from which Dutch originated? No, they are much older.

You can also find such vowel changes in the Romance languages, in Greek and even in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. What all these languages ​​have in common is that they are descended from Proto-Indo-European, a language that was spoken near the Black Sea.

The vowel change is typically Indo-European and is about 6,000 years old. Linguists have come to that conclusion by ingeniously 'calculating' from the languages ​​that are now spoken. They did the same from the knowledge of lost languages ​​of which there are still ancient texts (such as Greek, Hittite and Sanskrit).


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"Talk did" became "talked"

The regular past with -te or -de (worked, walked) is indeed typically Germanic. That shape must have originated sometime in the millennium before the birth of Christ.

Already in the oldest, long Germanic text we have, the Gothic Bible from the fourth century, we find both irregular and regular past tense. The regular form probably originated by pasting the word 'deed' behind the verb. That later deteriorated to -th and -th.

"Everything can disappear"

Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein compared languages ​​to cities. They have an old town with winding streets. But there are also extensive, straight suburbs. The irregular, strong verbs belong, as it were, to the old city center of Dutch. The regular, weak verbs belong to the sleek outskirts of our language.

Will that old city center survive the next few centuries? "Everything can disappear," says Joop, professor of historical linguistics in Leuven. "But if they do disappear, it will be extremely slow."

Because strong verbs are powerful. After all, they are very common: eating, drinking, sleeping. The weak verbs are also powerful because they are so regular. For the time being, the two can still coexist.

"Young children always say they slept first instead of 'slept'." Joop van der Horst

Weak verb becomes strong

Moreover, it has happened in recent centuries that a weak verb became strong. Asked early. Whistled whistled. Avoidance was avoided. Etcetera. This was done by analogy with existing forms. "Early" is analogous to "wore." 'Floot' is analogous to 'decided'.

There are also a lot of verbs on the seesaw. Is it committed or used to? Hunted or chased? Fanned or blew? Then there are regional differences. In some parts of the Netherlands they say, "We make love with each other." In others it is, "We made love with each other."

"Rattling the chains of tradition"

Van der Horst: "A fellow linguist once wrote about strong verbs:" Each new generation of rattling the chains of tradition "And so it is young children say always.. Overslept doing instead of 'sleeping' Each generation. that and is then whistled back by the older generation. " As long as that happens, the strong verbs are not endangered.

The system wins

Where they have almost completely disappeared is in Afrikaans, the language that developed in South Africa from Dutch of the seventeenth century. There are only four strong verbs about it: kon , sou ( Zou ), Moes (Must) and Wou . Van der Horst: "If such a language is hardly written and suddenly a lot of non-native speakers are added, yes, the system often wins over the irregularities."

In order for strong verbs to disappear from Dutch, there will therefore have to be many more non-native speakers of our language than is currently the case, and we will have to write less Dutch.

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