Regional, temporal and register variation in a corpus of early-nineteenth-century Flemish court files [poster presentation]

Onderzoeksoutput: Other scientific journal contribution


Regional, temporal and register variation in a corpus of early- nineteenth-century Flemish court files. Helsinki Corpus Festival
28 September - 2 October 2011

After more than 200 years of political separation, the Northern and Southern Low Countries were reunited between 1814 and 1830 as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Although this short-lived 'family reunion' has been deemed of tremendous importance for the history of Dutch in Flanders, a detailed study of Southern language use at the time was lacking until recently.

In a first attempt to fill this gap in the history of Dutch, a small corpus project was started in 2008, transcribing and annotating a sociolinguistically stratified sample of early-nineteenth-century manuscripts from the legal domain. Texts originate from towns and villages in different regions of the Southern Low Countries, and include crime reports, interrogations of witnesses and suspects, and formal indictments. The corpus consists of ca. 100.000 tokens, diplomatically transcribed, normalized and tagged for parts of speech.

The proposed poster presentation will introduce this historical language corpus and some of the studies already carried out on the basis of it. We will illustrate linguistic and sociolinguistic variation by means of a small number of orthographical, phonological and morphosyntactic variables. Special attention will be paid to regional, temporal and register variation. Specifically concerning the latter, we will explore the question to which extent the mentioned text types offer us a window into the spoken vernacular of early-nineteenth-century Flanders. Furthermore, we will show how the results obtained from the corpus study can be interpreted within the larger sociohistorical context, addressing issues of language planning, linguistic norms, and identity construction.

Although this proposal is intended as a poster presentation, the actual corpus will also be available for demonstration.


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