We report ongoing investigations into phonetic change of dialect groups in the northern Netherlandic language area. We are particularly interested in the Frisian and Low Saxon dialect groups, because the vitality (the aggregated likelihood of propagation given internal and external factors; cf. Edwards, 1992) of these neighboring varieties differs considerably (Ytsma, 2006; Bloemhoff et al., 2013). It is known that both dialect groups are in decline, though their rate differs (Driessen, 2012). At the same time there are some further developments in the Netherlandic area, such as the formation of so called 'regiolects' (stable varieties between the standard language and traditional varieties; cf. Hoppenbrouwers, 1990; Vandekerckhove, 2009; Ghyselen, 2015), which reinforce the dialects.
We analyze existing phonetic corpora (Taeldeman & Goeman, 1996; Heeringa & Hinskens, 2014), which consist of recordings and phonetic transcriptions of older male dialect speakers translating Standard Dutch words into their own dialect. The overlapping locations and words between these datasets (24 locations, 36 words) are then used to compare the realizations of Standard Dutch target words over time. Instead of using the existing transcriptions from these datasets, however, a single transcriber made new phonetic transcriptions. This approach avoids intertranscriber variability, which is a known issue for one of the two datasets (Hinskens & Van Oostendorp, 2006). We analyze these data with dialectometric approaches that allow us to quantify change among speakers of Frisian and Low Saxon.
A three-dimensional variant of the Levenshtein distance (Heeringa & Hinskens, 2015), combined with methods that induce realistic phonetic distances between transcriptions (Wieling et al., 2012), is used to estimate how much dialect groups have changed between 1990 and 2010, and whether they changed towards Standard Dutch or away from it. Using generalized additive models (Wood, 2017), we can then investigate the non-linear spatial variation of the observed phonetic change, while we directly account for the inter-item variation between Standard Dutch target words.
Our analyses indicate that phonetic change is a slow process in this geographical area, as the phonetic change overall is low in the 20 year time span of interest (i.e., approximately 3.4% across the area). Note that there is only statistical evidence of spatial change when the Low Saxon group is contrasted with the rest of the dialect area (the Groningen dialects are excluded from the Low Saxon group as they exhibit different phonological and morphological patterns). This indicates that phonetic language change in the area is a spatially chaotic process (cf. Heeringa & Nerbonne, 2000; Heeringa & Hinskens, 2015). The Frisian and Groningen dialect groups are the least convergent towards Standard Dutch, while the Low Saxon varieties are the most prone to change of this type.
We offer possible explanations for our findings (e.g., on the basis of what is known about the language status and the respective speaker populations), and we discuss shortcomings of the data and approach. These considerations serve to inform fellow dialect researchers of the potential of our approach, but also highlight the necessary precautions when doing research of this type.
Bloemhoff, H., Niebaum, H., Twilhaar, J. N., & Scholtmeijer, H. (2013). Recent evolutions in the position and structure of Low Saxon. With an excursus on the new polders in Flevoland. In F. Hinskens & J. Taeldeman (Eds.), Dutch, Language and Space (pp. 495 – 511). Walter de Gruyter.
Driessen, G. (2012). Ontwikkelingen in het gebruik van Fries, streektalen en dialecten in de periode 1995-2011. Nijmegen: ITS.
Edwards, J. (1992). Sociopolitical aspects of language maintenance and loss: Towards a typology of minority language situations. In W. Fase, K. Jaspaert, & S. Kroon (Eds.), Studies in Bilingualism, volume 1 (pp. 37 – 54). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Ghyselen, A.-S. (2015). ‘Stabilisering’ van tussentaal?: Het taalrepertorium in de Westhoek als casus. Taal en Tongval, 67(1), 43–95.
Heeringa, W. & Hinskens, F. (2014). Convergence between dialect varieties and dialect groups in the Dutch language area. In B. Szmrecsanyi & B. Wälchli (Eds.), Aggregating dialectology, typology, and register analysis; linguistic variation in text and speech (pp. 26–52). De Gruyter.
Heeringa, W. & Hinskens, F. (2015). Dialect change and its consequences for the Dutch dialect landscape. Journal of Linguistic Geography, 3(1), 20–33.
Heeringa, W. & Nerbonne, J. (2000). Change, convergence and divergence among Dutch and Frisian. In Boersma, P., Breuker, P. H., Jansma, L. G., & Van Der Vaart, J. (Eds.), Philologia Frisica Anno, (pp. 88–109).
Hinskens, F. & Van Oostendorp, M. (2006). De palatalisering en velarisering van coronale nasaal-plosief clusters in GTR. Talige, dialectgeografische en onderzoekerseffecten. Taal en Tongval,
58, 103 – 122.
Hoppenbrouwers, C. A. J. (1990). Het regiolect: van dialect tot algemeen Nederlands. Muiderberg: Coutinho.
Taeldeman, J. & Goeman, A. (1996). Fonologie en morfologie van de Nederlandse dialecten: Een nieuwe materiaalverzameling en twee nieuwe atlasprojecten. Taal en Tongval, 48, 38–59.
Vandekerckhove, R. (2009). Dialect loss and dialect vitality in Flanders. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2009(196-197), 73–97.
Wieling, M., Margaretha, E., & Nerbonne, J. (2012). Inducing a measure of phonetic similarity from pronunciation variation. Journal of Phonetics, 40(2), 307–314.
Wood, S. N. (2017). Generalized additive models: An introduction with R (2 ed.). Chapman and Hall/CRC.
Ytsma, J. (2006). Language use and language attitudes in Friesland. In D. Lasagabaster & A. Huguet Canalís (Eds.), Multilingualism in European Bilingual Contexts (pp. 144–163). Multilingual Matters.