Sorry for being a tiny little bit late with my reply. Been busy-busy-busy.
However, the thread may be aged, but hopefully not dead yet. So here we go:

--- Herman Miller skrzypszy:

> Well, I've decided to start learning this list's official language
> :-), but I need to find a good dictionary.

I feel honoured! I can't really help you with your quest for a Dutch
dictionary, though; have you found something already?
All I can offer you this: if you ever have a question, need a plural, an
explanation, or whatever, please don't hesitate to mail me privately. I assure
you that I can answer most questions without a dictionary.

And now about plurals!

 --- Christophe Grandsire skrzypszy:

> -s after e, r, n and optionally after l. -'s (with the apostrophe)
> after a, i, o and u. -en in any other case (and optionally after
> -l). Note that the -n in - en is usually silent (Dutch has a limited
> case of liaison with the n reappearing in front of a word beginning
> with a vowel).
> Most Dutch plurals are regular following this rule, even for words
> which have irregular plurals both in English and German (for instance,
> "man" has plural "mannen" - the doubling of the n is regular and only a
> matter of spelling -). So you get: bank -> banken, winnaar -> winnaars,
> auto -> auto's, actie -> acties, aardappel (potato) -> aardappels or
> aardappelen

Hmmm, what you write is more or less true indeed, but you miss one important
point: stress. If I may expand and reformulate your rules a bit:

Words ending in a consonant other than -r, -l, -n, or -m always have the plural
ending -en.
In the case of words ending with -r, -l, -n, or -m you may expect a plural
ending -s when the last syllable of the word is unstressed. Otherwise -en would
be default. Hence:
WINnaar -> winnaars, but
barBAAR -> barbaren.
This rule, however, is a bit unstable. As you mention, in many cases both
endings are valid. Not only after -l, but also after the other ones:
appel (apple) -> appels or appelen,
wapen (weapon) -> wapens or wapenen,
leraar (teacher) -> leraars or leraren,
vader (father) -> vaders or vaderen (with two different meanings).
In such cases -s is AFAIK always possible and usually preferable. The ending
-en often sounds archaic or even idiotic. So, non-native speakers of Dutch are
excused if they forget about the possibility of -en here.
Borrowings from other languages tend to keep their original plural ending,
preferably -s:
kampong -> kampongs
hoTEL > hotels
kanTON > kantons
Words ending on stressed -ier have -s when they designate a person, otherwise
-en. However, even this stupid rule has exceptions.
In cases when a word has several meanings, it often happens that one meaning
has one plural form, the other meaning the other.
Words ending in a vowel get mostly -s.
This -s is separated from the word by an apostrophe when it would have caused
an open vowel to become closed. Practically, this means that words ending with
a, i, e (when pronounced [e]), o, u, or y receive the apostrophe, while words
ending with e (pronounced [@]), ee, ie, oe, é, or a diphthong don't get it for
the simple reason that they don't need it.
Many indigenious monosyllabic words ending in a vowel have the plural ending
-en: "zee" -> "zeeën", "knie" -> "knieën". However, since their number is
limited, they can be considered exceptions.
Most words that are taken straighly from Latin or Italian take their own plural
form with them: "centrum" -> "centra", "musicus" -> "musici", "dosis"
-> "doses", "solo" -> "soli".

(about aardappelen:)
> (not sure of the last spelling, but -ellen would make it pronounce
> [El@] in my opinion).

Yes, that's correct.

> Most spelling changes are just there because of the spelling rules
> of Dutch and are regular (example: taak (task) -> taken, because Dutch
> "long" vowels are indicated by a single vowel in open syllables and a
> double one in closed syllables. Man -> mannen is the opposite of this
> rule: a "short" vowel must always be written as a single vowel in a
> closed syllable, so double the consonant after it to make it look
> closed if necessary).

Exactly! :)

> All in all, once you know the rules to add the endings and the
> spelling rules, you know the shape of 98% of the Dutch plurals.

That's absolutely true. If you remember the rules I wrote above, perhaps even
99,5 %.

(about the apostrophe:)
> I think it's because most of the words ending in another vowel than e
> are felt as borrowings (auto and taxi are two of them, bureau, cadeau
> - formerly written buro and kado, but new spelling asked them to be
> written back in the French way :)) It's called the rule "Vreemd blijft
> vreemd": foreign stays foreign) and are thus applied a plural according
> to rules that may not be the original ones (indeed, the French plural
> of "bureau" is "bureaux" without change of pronunciation, while the
> Dutch plural is pronounced "bureau's").

This is not entirely correct. "bureau" has always been valid, although before
the 1996 spelling reform "buro" was an accepted alternative, belonging to the
so-called "nieuwe spelling".
The plural is "bureaus" (without apostrophe, see above), but interestingly,
"bureaux" has been in use as well for a long time, though now it is abandonned
as an option.

> It's maybe a way to indicate a native Dutch ending added to an
> originally foreign word (It's used also with the diminutive ending
> -je. A small car is an "auto'tje" while a small cow is a "koetje".

No. In diminutives the apostrophe appears only after -y: "baby'tje". In other
cases the final vowel is doubled: "auto" -> "autootje", "oma" -> "omaatje".

> It's also valid for words ending in -y - baby -> baby's - and -é -
> cliché -> cliché's - which are always of foreign origin anyway).

Yes and no. The plural of "baby" is indeed "baby's" (though many people write
"babies", which is incorrect), but the only acceptable plural of "cliché" is
"clichés". As I wrote, the apostrophe is used only when according to Dutch
spellings conventions the -s would alter the pronunciation of the final vowel.
This is not the case for French loanwoard ending in -é.
Same goes with loanwords ending in -y, where the -y is preceded by a vowel:
"essay" -> "essays", "cowboy" -> "cowboys".

At last, one word of comfort: among native speakers, only very few people are
really able to write these things correctly. The apostrophe thingy is one of
those things that even academicians make trucks loads of mistakes with.


"Originality is the art of concealing your source." - Franklin P. Jones

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