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Auteur: Roeland VAN HOUT

Co-Auteur(s): Stef Grondelaers, Centre for Languages Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen

Where is Dutch really heading? On the use of attitude measurements to determine the limits of standard languages

Abstract/Résumé: Both linguists and laymen are currently confronted with the consequences of destandardization: the fact that our prestige varieties, which are supposed to be uniform, are becoming progressively more variable alarms users, and incites (populist) colleagues to announce the imminent death of these varieties. In view of this controversy, professional linguists are increasingly confronted with the questions “is variety x (still) standard” and “is variant x standard”? The first of these questions entails that varieties of a language can be taxonomized in terms of standardness, but this is not a straightforward matter. We claim that standardness cannot be determined (exclusively) in terms of language production and propose an alternative method which builds on experimentally obtained attitude measurements to gauge standardness. In this chapter we will discuss four perceptual features of standardness, viz. speaker prestige, accent status, perceived pleasantness, and communal consent. We will subsequently use these parameters to determine (the dynamics in) the standard status of three varieties of Dutch in the Low Countries, an uncommonly exciting European arena of language (de)standardization (in spite of its small size). Research questions to be answered include: is Netherlandic Standard Dutch stratifying to incorporate some regional and social variation? Is the best variety of Belgian Dutch really giving way to a highly stigmatized colloquial variety (which is rapidly spreading nevertheless)? And to what extent can Moroccan-flavoured Netherlandic Dutch be regarded as standard? All these issues are substantiated with (new) data from speaker evaluation experiments. A substantial portion of this chapter will be devoted to methodological questions such as this: how can one design attitude measurement experiments in order to obtain private evaluations of highly stigmatized varieties/variables (instead of merely eliciting public disapproval)?