The Linguist

The Linguist 56,5 – October/November 2017

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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22 The Linguist Vol/56 No/5 2017 FEATURES Anne-Sophie Ghyselen asks whether, as some decry, Dutch people are moving towards less formal language O n 26 May, the Dutch public broadcaster, NTR, announced that it will no longer organise and broadcast Het Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal ('The Grand Dictation of the Dutch Language'). This caused quite a stir both in the mainstream media and online. For 27 years, this annual show asked Dutch and Fleming contestants to spell out a text by a prominent literary author, read live on TV, while thousands of viewers at home tried to spell it along with them. For many, NTR's decision is a sign that the population's interest in correct language and language norms is dwindling. This type of complaint is not unique to Dutch but is happening throughout Europe, albeit with different causes. The question is whether language norms are, indeed, becoming less important in the 21st century. To answer this, I looked at the situation in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking area in north Belgium, as a test case. Language norms become explicit through standardisation processes, which are generally believed to have been established in Europe from the late Middle Ages onwards. According to the renowned sociologist Norbert Elias, language standardisation forms part of a broader civilising process, during which more strictly regulated manners came into fashion. 1 New codes of conduct were gradually accepted, stimulated by the idea that 'uncivilised behaviour' results in shame, which should be avoided at all costs. The 'civilising' process spread from elitist environments to larger societal groups and was enhanced by societal changes, such as the development of the printing press (increasing the need for lingua francas) and the rise of nationalist ideologies in which the 'one-nation-one-language' idea was central. Standard language ideologies gradually Away with norms?

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