Le Baron wrote:The actual apostrophe use in Dutch is mildly grating for me though. Apart from the use in those truncations like 's morgens/'s avonds (from des morgens/des avonds) and in 's-Hertogenbosch (check out that curious hyphen), the use for rendering plurals of foreign loanwords has always struck me as random and unnecessary. And it really is with loanwords, from either German, French, English in different bursts of exposure over time. There's also the group from Greek/Latin using -ci or -a: technicus/technici.
Despite rule no.1 stating Dutch plurals end in -en students quickly find that there are ordinary words in Dutch which have plurals ending in 's'. Like moeders (not 'moederen' or bemoederen because that's like 'to mother' as in coddle), broers... In general words which end in 'e' also form a plural that way (including diminutives): groente/groentes (which can also be 'groenten'!), briefje/briefjes, but also sundry others like: cadeau/cadeaus, restaurant/restaurants. Also accented words (often loanwords) like café/cafés, paté/patés.
So the reason for such words as: auto's, baby's (I particularly dislike that one), dilemma's (!), accu's, radio's... to be rendered in this way is baffling.
The concept of 's' being plural is well-established in Dutch, especially now it's more common to say 'Lukes auto' in many situations rather than 'de auto van Luke' and no-one is ever confused. Even in the spelling reforms they've just carried over this annoying practice of putting an apostrophe into these words. If radio's was radios, no-one would be confused. And if café/cafés, paté/patés, despite being loanwords, aren't rendered as café/café's, paté/paté's, why not? Festival is a loanword (English/French) yet the plural is just 'festivals'. No apostrophe. Sometimes if it feels 'ingeburgerd' it gets a normal plural ending.
You might say that I'm looking at it from an English vantage point and being annoyed because it looks like a possessive apostrophe, but isn't. There could be some of that, though I'm at well ease with the language and really it's just that I can't see any actual meaningful system behind the choices. And this is a chosen spelling system because these words are just haphazardly incorporated. So 'telephones' but 'radio's'. 'Computers', but 'PC's' It's mind-boggling.
The apostrophe can be used in certain Dutch possessives where pronunciation would be otherwise altered.
Generally speaking, in Dutch one can have their name followed by s
or a family member title can also be followed by s
to indicate possession, such as: moeders fiets
or Tons fiets
. In these cases no alteration to vowel length occurs by adding the s
Conversely, take Marina's fiets
. The apostrophe is used here because Marina
normally ends in an open syllable, thus a long vowel sound, a long a
. Adding an s
alone would (without say an additional a
as in Marinaas fiets
) as per Dutch spelling rules, strictly speaking, alter the pronunciation of the final long vowel a
turning it from a long a
to a short a
when followed by the s
to indicate possession.
In other words, with Marinas fiets
, the a
with the addition of the plural s
would become enclosed in a closed syllable, changining the pronunciation of long [a]
to short [ɑ]
. The apostrophe reminds us not to do this, to mind your step, as you retain the long vowel sound in the plural form even in the absence of a double letter.
Why not just add another a
to resolve the vowel length issue, then? Well, I'm assuming the problem with this would be an actual alteration of the spelling of names in limited circumstances. That doesn't work too well. So instead they use the apostrophe in Dutch to indicate that the vowel is to remain long without actually adding another vowel and thereby avoiding the change of spelling to names ending in long vowels.
As a side note, names ending in s
such as Marius
add an apostrophe but no
to indicate possession, again avoiding spelling changes to the name, i.e. Marius' fiets
On to nouns (not people). With unstressed vowels or a 'schwa', represented by the letter e
in Dutch, and phonetically by [ə], vowel length is unaffected with the addition of s
. Eg tafel
. Thus, no need for an apostrophe.
Then we come to the foreign nouns (again not people) adding s
to indicate plural form. Some end in consonants and others in vowels. For those ending in consonants, eg tram
, and perron
because they end in consonants and no alteration to vowel length occurs with the addition of the s
, so no need to use an apostrophe.
. Like with names of people ending in long vowels, the apostrophe is used in plural form here to indicate that a long vowel sound is to be retained in the plural form with the addition of s
, despite the absence of a double letter. Why use the apostrophe in plural forms of foreign nouns ending in long vowels when adding an s
, as opposed to just duplicating the letter of the vowel in question in the plural form? I don't know for sure, but I believe it's again due to wanting to avoid changing the original form by adding extra vowels in the plural.
And additionally, now having read all of Le Baron's post (this is another edit), for words such as café
, I believe there is no apostrophe in the Dutch plural given the French é
is already a long vowel sound and doesn't require another e
in order to produce the long [e] sound.
Edited to add relevant quote (Le Baron), and to actually edit for better understanding.