Research topic

Listening to radio or television one notices the tendency for standard Dutch (ABN) to become more and more differentiated, i.e. regionally colored. The standard speech of many speakers betrays the areas they come from. While the standard language becomes more differentiated, the opposite tendency is going on for dialects. Being influenced by standard Dutch and by each other they become less differentiated and fuse to larger wholes: regiolects. This change is extensively described by Hoppenbrouwers (1990).

A regiolect is a continuum of intermediate language forms which includes the whole structural space between dialect and standard language (Hoppenbrouwers (1990), p. 84, see also Hinskens (1993), Auer & Hinskens (1996) and Hinskens, Auer & Kerswill (2005)). Regiolects are the result of increased mobility and migration on the one hand, and the influence of the standard language in education and communication on the other hand. Important sociolinguistic factors are the speakers' age, sex, education and degree of urbanization (pp. 86 and 172), where old rural poorly educated males and young urban high educated females are the extremes [conservative, traditional dialect] and [innovative, regiolect], respectively.

The goal of this reseach is to examine how the change from Dutch dialects to regiolects is reflected in the production and perception of the dialect speakers. We would like to test three hypotheses:

    (1) Perceptive distance measurements which are based on the recordings of innovative speakers will suggest larger and less sharply distinguished areas than those which are based on the recordings of conservative speakers. We expect that especially relatively small dialect areas which comprise only a few places, will be fused with larger areas.
    (2) This change affects variation at the lexical level ('kopstubber' becomes 'roagebol') more strongly than variation at the lexical phonological level ('hoes' becomes 'huus'). The lexical phonogical level is affected more strongly than the postlexical level (e.g. sandhi phenomena), which in turn is affected more strongly than the purely phonetic level (for example dialect-specific pronunciations of speech segments). For all levels we expect that the most significant changes will be found in areas where dialects are relatively distant from the standard language.
    (3) The change from dialect to regiolect, found in speech production, influences the speakerís perception. Conservative speakers perceive dialect groups (small and many groups), innovative speakers perceive regiolect groups (larger and fewer groups). Since perception mainly follows production, speakerís production will change more than their perception.
In the Motie van tolerantie en attentie, edited by Siemon Reker in 2001, we read that saving dialect material in archives and the study of dialect change and dialect loss should contribute to a accurate evaluation of the embedding, relevance and emotional value of dialects in our society. Our research is intended to be such a contribution.