‘If only I could speak French’. A historical sociolinguistic investigation of French influence on Late Modern Southern Dutch

Funded by the FWO Vlaanderen and Vrije Universiteit Brussel
PhD candidate: Charlotte Verheyden
2017 – 2023
Supervisor: Rik Vosters

This project offers an in-depth study of French influence on Dutch in language history, particularly in the Southern Low Countries, where the absence of an endoglossic standard in the 18th and 19th century has often been traced back to the strong position and profound influence of French. By investigating the influence of French in Dutch language history we aim to fill a descriptive gap, as well as contribute to our understanding of language contact and standardization. The first part of the project consists of a metalinguistic study, which involves analyzing the discourse surrounding Frenchification and French influence in grammar books and other metalinguistic texts. The second part consists of a broad, diachronic study of French loan morphology in the multigenre Historical Corpus of Dutch, dating from the 16th to the 19th century. This will give us a global overview of French influence across time, space and text genres, providing a background against which we can situate the final, more specific case studies. The third and final part, then, zooms in on personal letters from soldiers from the Napoleonic period and the first World War. This corpus of egodocuments will be used to conduct three case studies, focusing on lexical influence, loan morphology and syntax. All of these studies will allow us to arrive at a more fine-grained picture of French influence on Dutch, as well as charting out social correlates of Frenchification.