Legitimating Limburgish: The discursive construction of a regional language in the Netherlands

PhD thesis by Diana Maria Camps, 2018.


While much of scientific enquiry in sociolinguistics directs attention to oral linguistic practices and social stratification based on ways of speaking, this thesis highlights how, based on different types of knowledge, the domain of writing contributes to creating local hierarchies in a European regional language context. The study analyzes the complex interrelationship between processes of standardization and authentication in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands. It examines tensions around spelling in order to make visible how social actors mobilize different discursive and ideological currents in processes of linguistic legitimation. The legitimation of Limburgish materializes in various ways, through the actions of social actors, and across scales of time and social structure. Specific focus is directed to the metadiscursive practices that reproduce the notion of Limburgish as a language in policy (texts related to language protection under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and spelling norms), public discourse (media debate), a classroom, and a local spelling contest. Additional perspectives were collected through interviews and focus groups. A diachronic approach makes visible how contemporary phenomena are elements of social, historical, and political process. Drawing on ethnographic discourse analysis (nexus analysis), the study highlights individual voices and actions in processes of language legitimation, to show the adoption, rejection, and transformation of (historical) discourses. This study’s focus on how language legitimation processes take shape in a peripheral multilingual context in the Netherlands adds a unique perspective to the field of study on minority language movements and the creation of authority and legitimacy. In addition, it offers insights as to how people negotiate tensions in 21st century Limburg about what counts as “legitimate language” (Bourdieu, 1991).

Published Jan. 24, 2019 2:21 PM - Last modified Jan. 24, 2019 2:21 PM