This article inquires into the diachrony of the determiner in Dutch. First, it is argued that the determiner is an emergent syntactic category, and that it must be consequently excluded from universal grammar. Second, it is argued that languages that do have a determiner slot in the NP differ considerably with regard to which lexemes they allow in this function. On the basis of these two observations, an in depth usage-based analysis of the emergence of the Dutch determiner is undertaken. It seems that over the centuries, the determiner projection consolidates its position in Dutch. It first cropped up in Old Dutch, and was further elaborated in Middle Dutch, Modern Dutch and Present-day Dutch by the recruitment of ever new slotfillers. Difficulties in the demarcation of the determiner phrase and the notoriously elusive syntax of some adjectives are claimed to be due to diachronic instability: what is e.g., conveniently but somewhat misleadingly called postdeterminers, can be argued to be an instable syntactic category that represents an intermediate stage in the diachronic process. Evidence will be drawn from (quantitative) corpus inquiry.
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