Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

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According to many, the word order is one of the hardest parts of the Dutch language. If you are also struggling with subordinate clauses, inversion and the like, this is the place to be.
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Marianne845
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Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

Post by Marianne845 » Sat Sep 03, 2016 7:08 am

Hi All,

As a newbie on this forum I start this topic in attempt to settle a dispute over a grammatical example that I have recently been presented with in an online Dutch course: "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet. " (with the assumed translation: "the airplane is not here yet.")

This example was part of a basic level session, that is at a stage when one would expect that we concentrate on the rules of grammar rather than on exceptions. When I matched this sentence against the grammar I learned thus far, to me it seemed that this particular word order is an exceptional case that does not seem to fit the very explanation provided by the course itself: "If you're trying to negate something particular like an adverb or adjective, then it's best to put "niet" right before it."
In this case the negation is done by the expression of 'nog niet', hence I assumed that as per the rules of grammar, 'nog niet' should come before 'hier' rather than after.

In attempt to clear this up, I asked some of my native Dutch acquaintances to explain the possible reason for the word order in "het vliegtuig is hier nog niet". One of them found the sentence downright incorrect, stating that the common equivalent and word order for "the airplane is not here yet" is "het vliegtuig is nog niet hier." They agreed that in rare cases maybe the 'hier nog niet' can also be acceptable, but only in far-fetched situations when someone puts the emphasis on "hier" (as opposed to "daar")

However, when I mentioned above concerns on the forum of said language course, some of the established members speaking from an "authority" position, responded to my concerns and questions in a surprisingly defensive way. They insist that the native Dutch speakers I consulted were wrong and the regular word order is 'hier nog niet' - whereas 'nog niet hier' is acceptable only in certain situations, depending on the context.

Can such sharp difference between the opinions of native speakers be due to different language usage/preferences in different regions?
Or is only one of the two camps to really get it right?

As a novice student of Dutch, I would really appreciate if someone could offer an unambiguous answer to this question.

Million thanks in advance : )

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Re: Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

Post by BrutallyFrank » Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:56 am

Marianne845 wrote:However, when I mentioned above concerns on the forum of said language course, some of the established members speaking from an "authority" position, responded to my concerns and questions in a surprisingly defensive way. They insist that the native Dutch speakers I consulted were wrong and the regular word order is 'hier nog niet' - whereas 'nog niet hier' is acceptable only in certain situations, depending on the context.
I think that these people are wrong! It may be correct in certain situations, but it's not the regular word order. Maybe it's common in parts of the Netherlands, but it's certainly not standard Dutch.
They agreed that in rare cases maybe the 'hier nog niet' can also be acceptable, but only in far-fetched situations when someone puts the emphasis on "hier" (as opposed to "daar")
I totally agree with this ... it was my first thought when I read your question. And even in those rare cases it sounds forced because of the extreme emphasis on 'hier' and 'daar'. In that case you might even put the word 'hier' all the way in front: Hier is het vliegtuig nog niet, daar wel.
"Moenie worrie nie, alles sal reg kom" (maar hy het nie gesê wanneer nie!)

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Marianne845
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Re: Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

Post by Marianne845 » Sat Sep 03, 2016 1:04 pm

Thank you so much Frank for clarifying this and settling the debate.

I find it so odd that the organisers of that otherwise excellent course got this so wrong and yet they so passionately insist that they are right.
I will try again to reason with them with reference to your explanation.

Meanwhile I forwarded your reply to my friends whom I had formerly asked about this and they fully agreed with your explanation and with the example you gave.

Wishing you a great day, thank you again,
Marianne :)

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Re: Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

Post by ngonyama » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:24 pm

Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet.
Het vliegtuig is nog niet hier.

Hmmm, for me both are possible but they are not exactly the same. The second version has a lot more emphasis on 'hier' and means something like the plane has not reach this particular location yet. I'd expect a follow up like:

Het vliegtuig is nog niet hier, maar staat nog op de landingsbaan.

The first sentence has much more emphasis on 'is' and I would normally expect the 'hier' to be weakened to a clitic ' er':

Het vliegtuig is er nog niet.

This is not so much about location, but more about presence: the plane is not present yet.

In general the first version is the normal order, the second one has a different order for reasons of emphasis.

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Re: Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

Post by Marianne845 » Thu Sep 08, 2016 10:19 am

Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet.
Het vliegtuig is nog niet hier.
...
In general the first version is the normal order, the second one has a different order for reasons of emphasis.
Thank you for your explanation.

If I understand it correctly, your stance reintroduced the same difference (opposition) in opinions that I referred to earlier.
For some reason this sentence stands out as an exception - one that so sharply divides native speakers - and I have been trying to figure out which one of the two is the rule to be followed by a student of the Dutch language.

What all native speakers seem to agree upon is the premise that - depending on the context - both word orders are acceptable, however there are two opposing positions as to which of the two versions expresses the unstressed hence 'normal/regular/standard' meaning of the sentence: "The airplane is not yet here."

I tend to agree with Frank's stance - and of those whom I asked in person - but not because of any bias. When we look at the respective page on this website (http://www.dutchgrammar.com/en/?n=WordOrder.45), we can see that the "Het vliegtuig is nog niet hier" follows the standard grammar, and I consider this website - and Frank's position - authoritative as to the capacity to settle a debate on Dutch grammatical questions.

In addition, meanwhile I looked up the rules of negation in Donaldson's "Dutch - A Comprehensive Grammar", and there I found outside evidence that Frank's position is the correct one. On page 376 there is an analogous example for negating the clause structure Subject-Verb-Adverb/Place: "Ik woon niet op the achtste etage". Ik (S) woon niet (V) op the achtste etage (A).

The sentence is cited as the standard/common/regular (unstressed) form of negation for this particular clause type, that is, for the case when we negate the whole clause by negating the verb: "woon niet". If we map above structure to our examples, we find that it coincides with word order "Het vliegtuig (S) is nog niet (V) hier (A)."

On the basis of the examples provided there, the general grammatical rule of negation seems to be that the unstressed form of negation (negating the whole clause) is via placing 'niet' after the finite verb either as main verb "woon", "heb/heeft" etc or an operator auxiliary ("heb/heeft/etc or "is/zijn/etc") within the verb phrase, whereas when we wish to negate a clause element other than the Verb, we place "niet" right before the word or phrase to be negated. There seems to be one exception to this rule: the case of the clause type Subject-Verb-Subject Complement, when the unstressed negation - "Hij (S) is (V) mijn vader niet (Cs)" - is done by placing the 'niet' at the end of phrase in the role of Subject Complement, whereas the word order in stressed form, for example is: "Hij (S) is (V) niet mijn vader (Cs). Hij is mijn broer."

My guess is that some users of the Dutch language tend to interpret (analyse) the structure "is nog niet hier" as though therein the 'nog niet' is placed before 'hier' to negate the Adverb 'hier' in a stressed way, whereas in fact 'nog niet' simply negates the Verb 'is' thus negates the entire sentence as the unstressed - hence standard - form of negation.
This is probably why the word order "is hier nog niet" is also in use with the implied clause structure: "Het vliegtuig (S) is (V) hier nog niet (A)" in attempt to express the unstressed negation upon the analogy of the negation as per the S-V-Cs structure.

In any case, the "hier nog niet" does not fit the standard rules of grammar. As Frank correctly pointed out: "Maybe the version 'hier nog niet' is common in parts of the Netherlands, but it's certainly not standard Dutch."

A question: do you guys know of an online database for the Dutch language similar to the one established for English? See: http://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/
If there is, it would be interesting to compare the frequency of the two versions there.

Nevertheless, to find out which of the two versions is more common on the web, I just did a Google search on both sequences "is nog niet hier" and "is hier nog niet", and I could find only such sentences within the same clause type that are analogous to the word order "Het vliegtuig is nog niet hier."

Edit/PS: I forgot to mention (as it goes without saying) that I am very interested to know if this all makes sense. Another question to those who claim that the "is hier nog niet" word order represents the standard version of negation: could you explain upon which linguistic rule you base your stance?

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Re: Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

Post by BrutallyFrank » Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:46 pm

Marianne845 wrote:and I consider this website - and Frank's position - authoritative as to the capacity to settle a debate on Dutch grammatical questions.
As flattered as I am by this comment, I think it's only fair to explain my role on this forum. The fact that I'm a global mod is mainly because I'm the one wielding the ban stick. I was the most-active native speaker at the time and we had a lot of spammers/bots coming in (and still do). But that doesn't mean I'm not knowledgeable: I am a native speaker in Dutch (Limburgs dialect and standard Dutch) and speak/read English fluently. German and French a bit less and though I never learned any Latin, I can understand most of it when I read it (been into genealogy for a while). Although grammar may not be my strongest point, I do have a good sense of the use of language. As a person enjoying Asperger, I'm very sensitive to the way people speak, which is also very much present in my own dialect (stoottoon/sleeptoon).

That doesn't diminish in anyway what you said in this discussion: you did come up with a logical explanation to prove our point and I love it that you invite people to come with their evidence to prove the opposite. That keeps a discussion and a language alive! =D>
"Moenie worrie nie, alles sal reg kom" (maar hy het nie gesê wanneer nie!)

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Re: Debate over word order "Het vliegtuig is hier nog niet"

Post by Marianne845 » Sat Sep 10, 2016 1:58 pm

Hi again Frank and Ngonyama :)

Ngonyama, I would like to thank you again for your explanation to demonstrate your stance - it has been very helpful for me to understand the perspective of those who consider the other version more common. Just to clarify this point: my preference to find a way to settle a dispute over a question like this is not in attempt to identify who is 'right' or 'wrong'. Sometimes a language can evolve in more than one direction and these different variations of language usage can be quite fascinating.
So my inquiry to settle a 'debate' between the 'two camps' is due to the fact that as a student of Dutch - also as one with a degree in philology - I am interested to know which version is the one to be used as a template to construct similar sentences. If we encountered, or if we do in the future, another source of grammar that would state the opposite, it would reopen the topic and/or would throw more light over the reasons for the opposing viewpoints.

Frank, I am deeply honoured and glad to read your kind words. Thank you also for sharing with me such interesting details of your role on this forum and of your breathtaking background. Although you excel in many areas, one could conclude, considering your proficiency in multiple foreign languages and your experience in moderating this forum, that grammar is indeed one of your strongest talents.

A little more about me and this topic: probably I am not the only one to find the Dutch language quite a hard nut to crack. (Maybe a lot easier than Hungarian and giants like the variants of Chinese, but definitely far more difficult than English.) Probably most of us would agree that the word order is one of the hardest aspects of the Dutch language. Considering that even a simple sentence like the one at hand reveals such ambiguity and sparks such a passionate debate as the one I witnessed on the site where I bumped into these examples, one can only imagine the case of more complex phrases and sentences. (Out of fairness I refrained from mentioning that language website by name. It seems moderation is not a forte of that site. Some members apparently tend to abuse the given too much freedom and return rational arguments with personal attacks)

I find a discussion like this especially intriguing, not only as a student but as someone with a background in both linguistics and information systems. For a while I used to work as an IT consultant (now am a housewife) and due to my busy schedule in the past years I had no time to learn more foreign languages. So here I am now, trying to "catch up".

This is a superb website and forum, with an exceptionally high standard both as to content and style; an outstanding source for students of the Dutch language. It is very compelling that in this community different opinions and language usage do not pose an obstacle to friendly and empathic discussions. You and the team do an excellent job to keep it that way - congrats and million thanks :)

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