Pluricentricity in language history. Building blocks for an integrated history of Dutch (1550-1850)

Funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO)
FWO Aspirant: Iris Van de Voorde
2017 – 2021
Joint PhD VUB – Leiden

(Co-)supervisors:
– Rik Vosters
– Gijsbert Rutten
– Wim Vandenbussche
– Marijke van der Wal

The Dutch language area is pluricentric, meaning that it has multiple centers (viz. Holland in the Netherlands and Brabant in Belgium) from where language norms spread to more peripheral regions. Traditional approaches to the history of Dutch often assume this state of pluricentricity is a recent phenomenon dating back to the nineteenth century. However, there is reason to believe that it is a much older phenomenon. We therefore propose an in-depth study of historical pluricentricity from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Moreover, language histories usually discuss the history of Southern and Northern Dutch separately, especially from the 1500s onwards. Southern and Northern varieties may not have been very different though, and could thus be treated simultaneously in an integrated history of Dutch in the Low Countries. By approaching the history of language from the perspective of historical pluricentricity, we will be able to reflect on the degree to which these varieties were integrated in the past. This project will thus lay the foundation of an integrated history of Dutch through corpus-based analyses of post- medieval Dutch. We will compare formal and less formal sources from two central (Holland, Brabant) and two peripheral areas (Zeeland, Flanders) in order to help re(de)fine the history of the Dutch language by focusing on the language area as a whole and on the various tensions between linguistic centers and the linguistic periphery within the language area.