Linguistic hybridity in nineteenth-century lower-class letters: A case study from Bruges

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


This contribution focuses on linguistic hybridity in a small corpus of nineteenth-century pauper letters, written by low- er-class scribes from the West-Flemish town of Bruges, in current-day Belgium. We argue that these writings from below do not exclusively display standard language norms, nor are they a direct written manifes- tation of a local dialect. To describe this so-called linguistic hybridity, we will analyse three features: schwa-apocope, h-procope (and hyper- correct h-insertion), and so-called adnominal accusativism. Through a corpus study of these forms, we will show that dialect variants of these features do occur, but they are remarkably rare. Nonetheless, we do find a considerable amount of instances where older regional (i.e. more widespread) variants are used. This leads us to conclude that these writ- ers were somehow aware of the fact that, when putting pen to paper, formal or supraregional communication was desirable. In their actual writing, however, they neither follow standard language norms nor local dialect forms consistently, drawing on a fairly elaborate linguistic rep- ertoire to produce complex and inherently hybrid varieties. We aim to demonstrate that the written hybridity in these letters should therefore be regarded and evaluated as a form of a language manifestation in its own right, rather than as a watered down version of the predominant standard language.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReading and Writing from Below
Subtitle of host publicationExploring the margins of modernity
EditorsAnn-Catrine Edlund, Anna Kuismin, Timothy Ashplant
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventReading and writing from below: Exploring the margins of modernity. - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 20 Aug 201422 Aug 2014


ConferenceReading and writing from below: Exploring the margins of modernity.


  • Historical sociolinguistics, Dutch, language history from below, linguistic hybridity, pauper letters, egodocuments

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