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Unknown 18th-century Dutch: language variation in private letters

How did common people write in the late eighteenth century? Little is yet known on this topic, since our knowledge is mainly based on printed texts written by a small part of the (male) elite population. This dissertation – written from a sociolinguistic point of view – gives us new insights into late- eighteenth-century language use. For this purpose a large number of Dutch private letters has been used. These letters were captured by the English in times of warfare between the Dutch and the English and are still preserved at the National Archives in Kew (London).

Tanja Simons
21 November 2013
LOT Publications

The research is based on a selection of approximately 400 letters, written between 1776 and 1784 by Dutch male and female letter writers from all social ranks. This study into late-eighteenth-century language variation can be regarded as a first broad exploration of this valuable material. Therefore various linguistic phenomena have been examined: forms of address, negation, reflexivity and reciprocity, schwa-apocope, deletion of final -n, diminutives and the genitive and alternative constructions. The case studies clearly establish more variety in eighteenth-century written language than previous studies suggested. Almost every linguistic feature under discussion appears to show social variation, and gender and social class, in particular, are influential factors. 
This dissertation is of interest to researchers in the field of historical sociolinguistics and to everyone who is interested in eighteenth-century Dutch. 

Promotor: Prof. Dr. M.J. van der Wal

Co-promotor: Dr. G.J. Rutten

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