Minoritising a regional language in multilingual preschools in Dutch Limburg: Teachers' and toddlers' choices between Dutch and Limburgish

G.M. Morales*, L. Cornips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Aims and objectives: We discuss how children with various language backgrounds interact in preschool playgrounds in Limburg, the Netherlands. This paper addresses the question how power dynamics between Dutch and/or Limburgish, and other languages are enacted in, by, and through language choice in preschool settings, and to what extent this leads to social (in)equality. Approach: This paper incorporates data collected during ethnographic fieldwork and discusses literature about language socialisation, multilingualism, and language policy. Data and analysis: All data were collected at three preschools in Southern Limburg with over 30 children and more than five teachers. The data were analysed using various theoretical perspectives. Findings and conclusions: We conclude that the ways in which, when, how, and in which activities children and teachers select languages show a social order. This order renders Limburgish and other languages than Dutch unequal in the earliest educational setting that children encounter. No concrete language policy has been developed for children who speak other home languages than Dutch and/or Limburgish. Children discover quickly that using Dutch is more important than other languages in the preschool. Consequently, children, as individual agents, will start acting accordingly. Originality: Through its ethnographical approach, this paper offers a unique insight in the multilingual landscape including regional language use at preschools in Southern Limburg. This approach is based on actual, observed behaviour instead of reported behaviour or behaviour stipulated by language policies. Significance/implications: The initial stimulus for this research is societal: 60.8% of the Limburgish participants in a study reported to speak Limburgish, yet this amount is decreasing, and concerned parents and municipalities requested insights why their children prefer Dutch over Limburgish at home soon after attending preschool. This research aims to provide answers why this happens and how to ensure a more linguistically equal preschool.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13670069221079335
Pages (from-to)275-292
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number3
Early online date8 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Multilingualism
  • preschool education
  • language socialisation
  • language policy
  • minority languages
  • language accommodation

Cite this