Language Standardization, Ideology and Media in 19th C. Flanders

Project Details


Language planners in the late 19th century frequently claimed that the professional media scribes were responsible for the degeneration of the Dutch language in Flanders at the time on the lexical, morphological and syntactical level. So far, however, there are very few studies available which allow us to confirm or contradict this statement. As such, we remain uninformed about the impact of many sociolinguistic factors which may (or may not) have influenced the quality of the newspaper language at the time:
- integrationism vs. particularism
- extreme vs. moderate integrationism/particularism
- various official orthography guidelines
- widespread spelling variation at the time
- unofficial metalinguistic literature and spelling/grammar/style norms
- ideological and political stratification of the norm debate

In order to determine the real influence of the printed press on the standardization process of Dutch in Flanders during the 19th century, we will prepare a digital corpus of original newspapers from Flanders, covering the whole 19th century and the various dominant ideological positions at the time. In line with our earlier research, we will limit this case study to the situation in the town of Bruges.

The three main research objectives are the following:
1. Analyzing to which extent these newspapers followed one or more of the official language norms, whether they changed their writing policy when the norms changed, or if they used a different norm of their own altogether. The easiest level to check this is spelling, but we also have access to a number of style guides written in the "don't write... but write" tradition which provide prescriptive advice.
2. Describing the breadth of the stylistic continuum in the newspapers. Previous analyses of election newspapers have established that certain journalists were able to diversify their style according to subject or the reading public. How should the newspaper style be defined on the continuum between dialect and intended standard? Did they use a regionally flavoured variety? Can one distinguish signs of a growing "norm consciousness"? We will compare this writing praxis with the newspaper's theoretical claims on the topic of standardization.
3. Providing conclusive evidence about the influence of the frequently cited ideological aspects of the linguistic debate on the actual writing behaviour of the heavily politicized press. Comparing the different ideological backgrounds of the newspapers and the views of the politicians they supported with the newspaper's writing practices should clarify to which extent language political views were implemented in 'their' newspapers.
Effective start/end date1/01/0431/12/06


  • Language
  • German Filology

Flemish discipline codes

  • Languages and literary studies