On possession of good football and wrong possessive prononoun skills

Just so you know, a few minutes ago FC Barcelona has won the La Liga national Spanish football league championship. But far be it from me to dwell on that magnificent achievement. More pertinently, I note that Dutch popular broadsheet De Telegraaf reports that same fact in an on-line article. Its text mentions the opener of the brace scored during the match by Argentinian super striker Lionel Messi, as follows:

Na de rust was het de beurt aan Lionel Messi om te scoren. De Argentijn maakte zijn na een prachtige aanval van de formatie van Pep Guardiola.

An English translation of that might read:

After the half-time break it was Lionel Messi’s turn to score. The Argentinian made his, after a wonderful attack play by Pep Guardiola’s team.

I emphasized the pronoun ‘zijn’ in the Dutch version because it struck me as a curious anglicism. It incorrectly borrows from the equivalent English construction, where the possessive pronoun ‘his’ can be used as a self-standing adjective. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (unabridged edition) gives an interesting instance, taken from William Shakespeare’s King John, Act I, scene I, when – just before being knighted – the Bastard states: “[…] if my brother had my shape, and I had his […]”

Now, in Dutch such a construction is perfectly possible. Its proper use, however, is in a substantivated form of the adjective, preceding it by an article – in this case, arguably the definite article ‘de’ – as well as by applying the affix ‘e’ to the adjective, to indicate its role as an attributive adjective. The first part of that particular sentence should therefor read:

De Argentijn maakte de zijne […]

Parenthetically: in Spanish, the same substantivated construction applies as in Dutch. That clause may therefor read:

El argentino marcó el suyo […]

Of course, due to the proximity of the United Kingdom to the Netherlands, it is very common in Dutch to find examples of anglicisms. However, most of them appear as more or less linearly used verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and so on; in short, denoting a strong lexical influence manifesting itself in an analogous morphology. What I find so interesting about the example here, though, is that it is an anglicism in syntax, in sentence structure.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s provide a linguistically correct illustration of the name Lionel Messi:

Lionel 'Leo' Messi
Lionel 'Leo' Messi

By the way, have I already mentioned that the author’s favorite team has clenched this year’s national league championship in Spain?

Oh I did… Well, then let me conclude by observing that FC Barcelona’s 4-0 win was grammatically flawless.

Join in and share your thoughts!