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Lecture | Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series

‘New’ dialect grammar across borders: Brabantish hyperdialectisms at the interface of sociolinguistic enregisterment and focus marking

Thursday 21 April 2022
Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


This talk focusses on Brabantish, a Low Franconian dialect variety spoken in the southern Dutch province of North Brabant. In the Netherlands, dialects are currently in a stage of dialect levelling. Due to contact with the standard language and other language varieties, many typical local dialect features disappear. Simultaneously, dialects are losing their position to Dutch as a first language and a home language. However, recent research within the area of North Brabant shows that these processes of convergence and language shift are accompanied by divergence, i.e., the magnification of dialect features. To illustrate this, we zoom in on one specific Brabantish dialect feature: the adnominal marking of lexical gender. Recorded dialectal speech and social media data reveal many hyperdialectisms that emphasize a deviation from the standard language, i.e., overgeneralizations of the masculine gender marking suffix. We argue that the production of these non-expected forms is driven by both language-external and language-internal factors, especially in the dialect of ‘new’ speakers. In the first place, the adnominal gender feature becomes linked with social and place-based identities in a sociolinguistic process of enregisterment. In addition, the gender marker seems to be gaining a new function as a marker of information structural focus at the DP and CP level. Drawing on work in progress, we hypothesize that both processes are mutually reinforcing.

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