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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For writers' biographies for all feature articles, see page 34. 24 The Linguist Vol/56 No/5 2017 FEATURES Attitudinal studies show that speakers of Standard Dutch are, consciously and subconsciously, deemed to be more wealthy, prestigious and intelligent than speakers of non-standard varieties. Even though the traditional standard language is seldom spoken, its prestige is still very much alive. Speakers of (informal) tussentaal, however, are seen as more cool, dynamic, fluent and assertive than speakers of Standard Dutch, indicating that tussentaal also has a certain prestige, albeit in a non-traditional way. The idea is that Flemings are developing a double norm system, with the traditional standard for writing and very formal speech settings, and tussentaal for other speech settings. It is interesting that tussentaal use among the younger participants in my research was slightly more homogenous than tussentaal use among the older ones, which may be an indication of standardisation. The elaboration of tussentaal in Flanders can thus be interpreted as an instance of an internal standardisation process: after years of insistence on the adoption of the 'Dutch' Dutch standard, a new Flemish speech norm appears to be developing, which complements the traditional norm. In times of globalisation and growing mobility, it might come as a surprise that standard language norms are broadening or weakening, but this evolution is happening in the context of broader socio-psychological changes. The sociologist Cas Wouters links norm change to what he calls "the reversal of the civilising process". 5 In his view, the 20th century constitutes a period of steady informalisation, in which the emotional lives of individuals were increasingly brought into prominence, and rules on manners became less marked by strict commands. One might say that an identity cult has emerged that undermines existing standard language cults. In this context, more variation in (linguistic) behaviour is accepted as a means of expressing authenticity in times of globalisation. The 21st century is often described as the age of glocalisation, with universalistic and particularistic tendencies operating simultaneously. NO COMPETITION The long-running annual spelling bee Het Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal ended this year, perhaps signalling a declining interest in linguistic standards Keeping an open mind Changes in language use do not automatically imply norm degradation. Norms can be subject to change, and a lack of norm realisation does not automatically imply disrespect for those norms. Johan De Caluwe, a Dutch linguist at Ghent University, often uses the metaphor of speed limits in this context, stressing that not everyone who breaks such limits deems them useless. Similarly, many language users who do not speak standard language in their daily lives still attach a lot of importance to those norms, for instance when it comes to the language of journalists, teachers and news broadcasters. A vital question is what causes norm deviations: a lack of proficiency, a lack of willingness, or a combination of both? Only in the first case should active measures be taken. When norm change or weakening is observed, intervening seems a fruitless undertaking, as these changes are usually steered by broader social dynamics and a desire to express an autonomous identity – tendencies which are difficult to change. In such situations, adopting a child-like astonishment at the marvels of language change might offer some relief. Notes 1 Elias, N (1939) Über den Prozess der Zivilisation: soziogenetische und psychogenetische Untersuchungen. Basel: Haus zum Falken 2 Jaspers, J and Van Hoof, S (2013) 'Hyper- standardisation in Flanders: Extreme enregisterment and its aftermath'. In Pragmatics, 23(2), 331-359 3 Delarue, S (2013) 'Teachers' Dutch in Flanders: The last guardians of the standard?' In S Grondelaers and T Kristiansen (eds), Language (De)standardisation in Late Modern Europe: Experimental studies. Oslo: Novus Forlag, 193-226 4 See e.g. Geeraerts, D, Grondelaers, S and Speelman, D (1999) Convergentie en divergentie in de Nederlandse woordenschat. Een onderzoek naar kleding- en voetbaltermen. Amsterdam: Meertensinstituut 5 Wouters, C (1990) Van minnen en sterven: informalisering van omgangsvormen rond seks en dood. Amsterdam: Bakker MINISTER-PRESIDENT RUTTE VIA FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

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