Katanga Swahili and heerlen Dutch: A sociohistorical and linguistic comparison of contact varieties in mining regions

Leonie Cornips*, Vincent De Rooij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article compares sociolinguistic and structural outcomes of language contact processes in two mining areas on two different continents, namely the Katanga region in the southeast of what is now the DR Congo, Africa and Heerlen as centre of the former Eastern Mine District in the southeastern province of Limburg in the Netherlands, Europe. Several similarities between these two regions make this comparison interesting. Both in Katanga and Heerlen, the natural copper and coal resources were located in border regions that were peripheral to central seats of government. In both regions, the exploitation of these resources, the growth of mining industries and rapid urbanization, began in the same period, the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. Despite being located on different continents - Africa and Europe - similar social conditions of language contact were responsible for the genesis of the language varieties underground and above ground. The language contact situations in Limburg and Katanga both resulted in structural innovation of Dutch and Swahili respectively. The most interesting innovation we identify in both cases can be characterized as the regularization of grammatical properties, and the expansion of aspect marking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-69
Number of pages35
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number258
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Aspect marking
  • Contact-induced restructuring
  • Dr congo
  • Heerlen
  • Katanga
  • Language contact
  • Mining
  • Netherlands
  • Regularization

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