Letters as loot. Confiscated letters filling major gaps in the history of Dutch

Marijke Van Der Wal, Gijsbert Rutten, Tanja Simons

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this contribution, we will introduce the recently rediscovered collection of Dutch documents from the second half of the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries, comprising over 38,000 letters, both commercial and private ones.
The socio-historical linguistic value of these private letters, kept in the National Archives (Kew, UK), will be indicated by discussing a few illustrative cases. Examining the linguistic phenomena of h-dropping and n-deletion in a selection of letters from the Letters as Loot-corpus, compiled at the University of Leiden, we will show that they reveal the linguistic variation of the past and give access
to the everyday language of people from all social ranks, thus filling major gaps in the history of Dutch. A social and gender distribution found for the usage
of formulaic language suggests a connection with socially stratified writing experience.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLetter Writing in Late Modern Europe
EditorsM. Dossena, G. D. L. Camiciotti
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)978-90-272-5623-2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NamePragmatics & Beyond New Series


  • historical sociolinguistics
  • Dutch

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