Abstracts: Spring 2020

Cesko Voeten (Leiden University)
The adoption of sound change by sociolinguistic migrants

This paper investigates the adoption of regional differences that are the result of on-going change in the vowel system of Dutch. Due to multiple interrelated changes, of which the most notorious is [1]’s ‘Polder Dutch’, the varieties of Dutch spoken in the Netherlands versus Flanders have grown wider apart. This has created new sociolinguistic variables, among them the realization of /e:,ø:,o:/, which in Flanders only have these realizations, but in the Netherlands alternate with diphthongs [ei,øy,ou]. This paper investigates whether, when, and how this variable is adopted by sociolinguistic migrants (‘SMs’): Flemish young adults who migrate to the Netherlands to start their university studies.

The SMs are compared to Netherlandic-Dutch controls over the course of nine months. Three perspectives are considered: production, perception, and processing. Previous research ([2]) has shown that sociolinguistic migrants eagerly adopt regional differences in vowel realization on a comparable time scale, by a process which [3,4] term ‘change by accommodation’. These results are not corroborated in the present experiments, but are replicated by a follow-up experiment with a different group of Flemish sociolinguistic migrants who have lived in the Netherlands for multiple years. This suggests that the adoption of variation does not take place via repeated instances of short-term accommodation, but rather via a separate process. Neurolinguistic experiments per [5], performed on the original group of sociolinguistic migrants, confirm this. While initially, the SMs are less sensitive to the novel [e:]~[ei] distinction, after nine months’ time they process this distinction in the same way as the Netherlandic controls.

Combining the three perspectives shows that regional variation is adopted, and that this visibly takes multiple years, but that the brain invisibly changes sooner. The different results suggest a major role for sociolinguistic salience, which has important implications for the study of language variation and change.


[1] Stroop, J. (1998). Poldernederlands: Waardoor het ABN verdwijnt. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker.
[2] Evans, B. G., & Iverson, P. (2007). Plasticity in vowel perception and production: A study of accent change in young adults. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 121(6), 3814-3826.
[3] Auer, P, & Hinskens, F. (2005). The role of interpersonal accommodation in a theory of language change. Dialect change: Convergence and divergence in European languages, 335.
[4] Sonderegger, M. (2012). Phonetic and phonological dynamics on reality television
(Doctoral dissertation, Chicago).
[5] Lanwermeyer, M., Henrich, K., Rocholl, M. J., Schnell, H. T., Werth, A., Herrgen, J., & Schmidt, J. E. (2016). Dialect variation influences the phonological and lexical-semantic word processing in sentences. Electrophysiological evidence from a cross-dialectal comprehension study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 739.

Roxanne Casiez & Marina Terkourafi (Leiden University)
Ecological Validity in Experimental Pragmatics: an experimental politeness case study

Common definitions of pragmatics include “the study of how language is affected by the situation in which it is used” ¹ , “the analysis of language in terms of the situational context within which utterances are made, including the knowledge and beliefs of the speaker and the relation between speaker and listener” ² , and “[t]he branch of linguistics dealing with language in use and the contexts in which it is used” ³ . Interestingly, the common element in these definitions, the importance of context, is often glossed over in experimental pragmatics research leading to concerns of ecological validity. Through an experimental politeness case study we will explore the issue of (the lack of) ecological validity in current experimental pragmatics research as well as offer suggestions about how to enhance the ecological validity of future experimental pragmatics studies.

The most studied phenomenon in experimental pragmatics is scalar implicatures (SI). Most of the experimental literature on scalar implicature (SI) derivation is based on experiments that made use of single utterance stimuli to test scalar inference. Contextually richer stimuli have been used in experimental studies exploring SI in relation to politeness (e.g. Bonnefon, De Neys, & Feeney, 2011; Mazzarella, Trouche, Mercier, & Noveck, 2018), however, despite the stimuli providing some context (often through vignettes manipulating social dimensions), they often fail to capture the interactional and emergent nature of assessments of im/politeness (Terkourafi, Weissman & Roy 2020).

When studying multifaceted phenomena like politeness, it can be especially difficult to disentangle the effects of semantic, social normative and interpersonal factors. The fact that participants may disagree about their intuitions about what is polite and what isn’t (what Eelen 2001 called the “discursive struggle over politeness”) poses additional difficulties for studies wanting to investigate politeness experimentally. In this talk, we outline a three-step experimental protocol which systematically manipulates the emotional valence of dyadic interactional contexts as a way of empirically implementing face-threat vs. -boost and documents its effects on SI derivation. The central insight is that judgements are elicited by the same participant in three phases (context evaluation, utterance interpretation, perlocutionary effects of utterance) such that eventual patterns correlating the three can be detected while the integrity of participant judgements is also retained. We discuss the merits of this three-step protocol in terms of ecological validity (Kendrick 2017) and as an interactionally oriented alternative to more semantically oriented investigations of the interface of politeness with scalar implicatures.

Selected References

[1] Bonnefon, J., F., De Neys, W., & Feeney, A. (2011). Processing scalar inferences in face threatening contexts. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 33(33), 3389-3394.
[2] Kendrick, K.H. (2017). Using Conversation Analysis in the Lab, Research on Language and Social Interaction, 50:1, 1-11.
[3] Mazzarella, D., Trouche, E., Mercier, H., & Noveck, I. (2018). Believing what you’re told: Politeness and scalar inferences. Frontiers in Psychology, 9 (JUN), 1-12.
[4] Sun, C., Tian, Y., & Breheny, R. (2018). A Link Between Local Enrichment and Scalar Diversity. Frontiers in Psychology, 9 (NOV), 1-12.
[5] Terkourafi, M., Weissman, B. & Roy, J. (2020). Different scalar terms are affected by face differently. International Review of Pragmatics 12.1.

Jacomine Nortier (Utrecht University)

Alexandra van den Elsen (Ministerie van BZK)
The role of (national) government in the promotion and protection of regional and minority languages in the Netherlands

In 1996 the Kingdom of the Netherlands ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages. This Charter of the Council of Europe is the “European convention for the protection and promotion of languages used by traditional minorities”. In the Netherlands, Frisian, Lower Saxon, Limburgish, Yiddish and Romanes are protected under the Charter.

Local governments such as the provinces are primarily responsible for these languages. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations acts as the coordinating ministry on the national level. This talk will provide some insight in the role of the national government when it comes to protecting and promoting the languages recognized under the Charter.

Alexandra van den Elsen works as a policy officer at the Ministry for the Interior for the regional and minority languages recognized under the Charter.

Felix Ameka (Leiden University)
Communicative Relativity: African ideologies of social interaction and the Cooperative Principle

Some studies in socio-pragmatics have demonstrated cross-cultural variation in the application of Gricean conversational maxims (e.g. Kondowe et al 2001; Pham 2010). It has also been argued that the inapplicability of the Cooperative Principles (CP) across cultures is due to their “anglo element” and also because different lingua-cultures have different values, and discourse and interactional patterns (Clyne 1994, Goddard 2006, Wierzbicka 2014). To salvage the universal relevance of the CP, some argue that “if we understand Grice’s term “required”[in the CP FKA] to mean “what is required of a person during conversation in this culture” then the maxims can be universally applied (e.g. to Malagasy; (Fasold 1987: 173)). Indeed, Michael Clyne (1994: 194-5) proposed modifications to the Gricean maxims by adding explicit cultural components which are hard to operationalise. In this talk, I suggest that the challenge to the universality of the classical Gricean maxims is that they are based on the unmarked ways of language use in Anglo cultures. Drawing on neo-Gricean Generalised Conversational Implicatures (GCIs) (e.g. Levinson 2000), I argue that the stereotypical ways of communicating in African communities of practice are the opposite of the Anglo unmarked ways with words enshrined in the CP. I claim that triadic communication, textile rhetoric and naming strategies provide evidence for this claim. I further argue that behavioural codes for interacting in various communities embodied in cultural keywords such as hlonipa, yaage, sekuru, kunya support this claim. I conclude by examining how a theory of conversational maxims based on African socio-cultural practices of language-use could look like (cf. Ameka and Terkourafi 2019).

Margreet Dorleijn (University of Amsterdam)
Metalinguistic commentary in non-standard, non-prestigious language practices

In this talk I will discuss how metalinguistic commentary (‘talk about talk’) can contribute to setting norms in emergent varieties and multilingual linguistic practices. I will present a case study about Turkish-Dutch code switching. Metalinguistic comments suggest that the embedding of Turkish infinitives in Dutch morphology is not ‘permitted’ by the Dutch-Turkish speech community, while conversely, the embedding of Dutch verbs in Turkish morphology is conceived of as unproblematic (judging from the high frequency of these forms and the absence of metalinguistic comments). I will discuss some possible reasons for this, and propose that the fact that embedding of Turkish verbs in Dutch morphology is not ‘permitted’, can be ascribed to an interplay of social causes and linguistic constraints. I will also propose preliminary classification system for the analysis of metalinguistic comments.

Gijsbert Rutten & Iris Van De Voorde (Leiden University)
The historical pluricentricity of Dutch

(abstract forthcoming)