Linguimericks—Book ८८ SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 2 Contents A Typological Study of Inclusive Language—Livia M Ballow

Where’s -e Gone?

Jan van der Dam van Amsterdam
Dutch Dutch Linguo-Commentator

The Korps National[e] Politie is requesting assistance in locating a missing morpheme. The last CCTV footage of the Adjectival Ending -e shows him running away from nieuw- at 18:04 yesterday evening in central Groningen raising fears not only for -e’s whereabouts but also his safety.

-e’s friends and family are deeply concerned. In a written statement, Default Plural morpheme -en said, ‘This is completely out of the ordinary for Adjectival Ending -e; he’s never done this before. In fact, he’s always been easy to locate; pretty much wherever there’s a noun that needs attributive adjectival modification, you’re guaranteed to see -e tagging along. I’ve been ringing round lexemes of all categories but have drawn nothing but blanks from quantifiers and head nouns alike. Dier did receive a phone call from an unknown number which hung up after a few seconds but other than that, it’s been silence.’

-e’s disappearance has had a profound effect on the attributive adjectival community. A spokesman for Dutch adjectives, lang-, said, ‘This is a very difficult time for Dutch adjectives. We’ve been relying on -e for as long as anyone can remember. It’s almost impossible to consider forming a complete nominal phrase without him. Come back, -e; we miss you and we love you. Whatever’s gone wrong, just come back and talk.’

Unfortunately the depth of feeling expressed by lang- is not universally shared: other voices appear far less concerned. We spoke to some singular neuter indefinite nominal phrases including een meisje and elk paard whose offhand and dismissive manner was in shocking contrast to the concern of de huis and deze mevrouwen. Genoeg water was stark if not sterk in her assessment: ‘Well, it’s concerning, of course, I guess. But, to be honest, very few of us here ever really had much time for adjectival -e. I think Default Plural morpheme -en is slightly overstating things with this ‘pretty much any noun that needs modifying’ message. I think that’s alarmist and pre-emptory. None of us singular neuter indefinite nouns have been able to form any kind of bond with Adjectival Ending -e; he’s an independent character, probably just headed off for a break from all those common nouns.’

Such disappearances are not unprecedented, of course. Anglo-Saxon adjective endings slowly disappeared from the end of the 11th century through to the 14th and remain listed as missing by the UK Metropolitan Police. The files are occasionally reopened but the only leads over the last few centuries have suggested that Anglo-Saxon endings may have escaped to Germany, blending in with the diverse and highly mobile community of adjective endings there.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Korps Nationale Politie on twee, eins, hunderd feifzig. Information leading to -e’s successful return will receive a reward of 100,000 guilders (= 8.5 Euro).

LinguimericksBook ८८
A Typological Study of Inclusive LanguageLivia M Ballow
SpecGram Vol CXCI, No 2 Contents