Revising the Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst: a typology of national variation in the grammar of Standard Dutch
2022-04-12, 15:30–16:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 2

Currently, the second edition of the Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst (ANS2), the main reference grammar of Standard Dutch, is being revised. One of the aims of this revision is to implement a pluricentric view on Dutch, in which three national standard varieties are distinguished, viz. Standard Belgian, Standard Netherlandic and Standard Surinam Dutch (Adviescommissie Taalvariatie 2019). Whereas ANS2 only considered variants part of Standard Dutch when they are used throughout the (Belgian and Netherlandic) language area, the revised ANS thus takes into account the possibility that the grammatical norms of the national standard varieties differ.

As shown in Dhondt et al. (2020), the available research into national variation within the grammar of Standard Dutch is not easily translated into a description in a pluricentric reference grammar. As such, a systematic method needs to be developed for the revised ANS to investigate this national variation within the grammar of Standard Dutch and to describe the results in a pluricentric reference grammar. Likewise, Dürscheid & Elspaß (2015) develop a method to describe geographical variation within Standard German in the Variantengrammatik.

In this paper, we make a first attempt to develop a typology of geographically determined grammatical differences within Standard Dutch, as these differences show great diversity. For instance, on the basis of an inventory of variants for which ANS2 describes geographical variation, one could distinguish between quantitative and qualitative differences. In some cases, the main geographical difference is a quantitative difference in token frequency, i.e. a variant is only or more often used (whether or not in relation to equivalents) in standard language contexts in one country (e.g. the preposition doorheen ‘through’ is almost exclusively used in Belgian Dutch). In other cases, variants (and their equivalents) are (also) used qualitatively differently in the national varieties, i.e. with another semantic scope, in other syntactic contexts or in other registers (e.g. the benefactive ditransitive has a broader semantic scope in Belgian Dutch, cf. Colleman 2010). The method used to describe a national grammatical difference thus needs to be differentiated according to the type of grammatical difference.

To develop this typology, we have selected a sample of grammatical phenomena which display geographical variation in ANS2, which differ with regard to the domain of grammar to which they belong and with regard to their geographical distribution in the Dutch language area. We present frequency data for these variants (and their equivalents), which have been collected from the Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch components of the SoNaR Dutch Reference Corpus (Oostdijk et al. 2013), both in standard language contexts (e.g. newspaper data) and in more informal contexts (e.g. online discussion lists). We look for national differences in the use of these variants (and their equivalents) in terms of token frequency, register and syntactic-semantic constraints. On the basis of this, we aim to delimit a set of distinct sub-types of geographically determined grammatical variation, and to provide advice on how these types should be investigated and described in a pluricentric reference grammar.


ANS2 = Haeseryn, Walter et al. 1997. Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst. Groningen/Deurne: Martinus Nijhoff/Wolters Plantyn.
Adviescommissie Taalvariatie. 2019. Visie op taalvariatie en taalvariatiebeleid. Visietekst van de Adviescommissie Taalvariatie in opdracht van het Algemeen Secretariaat van de Taalunie. (31 October, 2020.)
Colleman, Timothy. 2010. Lectal variation in constructional semantics: Benefactive ditransitives in Dutch. In Dirk Geeraerts, Gitte Kristiansen & Yves Peirsman (eds.), Advances in Cognitive Sociolinguistics, 191-221. Berlijn/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Dhondt, A., Colleman, T., De Caluwe, J., & Delaby, G. (2020). Naar een pluricentrische Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst. Het gebruik van productiedata voor de beschrijving van nationale variatie. Handelingen van de Koninklijke Zuid-Nederlandse Maatschappij voor Taal- en Letterkunde en Geschiedenis, 73, 85-133.
Dürscheid, Christa & Stephan Elspaß. 2015. Variantengrammatik des Standarddeutschen. In Roland Kehrein, Alfred Lameli & Stefan Rabanus (eds.), Regionale Variation des Deutschen. Projekte und Perspektiven, 563-84. Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter.
Oostdijk, Nelleke et al. 2013. The construction of a 500 million word reference corpus of contemporary written Dutch. In Peter Spijns & Jan Odijk (eds.), Essential speech and language technology for Dutch: Results by the STEVIN-project, 219-47. Berlin: Springer.

I am a PhD student and teaching assistant in Dutch linguistics at Ghent University. My PhD project focuses on how national variation within the grammar of Standard Dutch can be systematically investigated on the basis of corpus data and how this variation can be described from a pluricentric perspective in a reference grammar. The project is connected to the revision of the Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst, the main reference grammar of Standard Dutch.