Social meanings of the north-south divide in the Netherlands and their linkage to standard dutch and various dialects

Leonie Cornips*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Preston (2011:10) uses the cover term language regard “for all approaches to the study of nonspecialist belief about and reaction to language use, structure, diversification, history, and status,” including ethnography, folk linguistics, language ideology, and the psychology and sociology of language as well. Preston (2011:10) prefers regard over attitude “since some folk linguistics beliefs are not necessarily evaluative, and evaluation is taken to be a necessary component of attitude.” The aim of this chapter is to elaborate on the social meanings of the geographical notions north and south in the Netherlands, exploring how this projection of oppositions, which is salient at a national level, recurs at a smaller scale (Irvine & Gal 2000:37) in the Dutch province of Limburg and elucidating how notions of north and south are linked to linguistic facts in the popular mind (Preston 2010:88). The ideological north-south boundaries reveal power asymmetries in center-periphery dynamics in the Netherlands and the province of Limburg. These center-periphery dynamics are a question of inequality and of who is in control and considered legitimate to produce, own, market, and distribute the “right” kind of language and culture (Massey 1993:62). These dynamics consist of a highly complex set of social, cultural, and linguistic differentiations (Massey 1993:67), which become overt in social categorization according to beliefs about correctness, prestige, solidarity, religion, money, and so forth (Eckert 2011). Studies about attitude-shaping dimensions show how (regional) accent in the Netherlands triggers social categorization (Grondelaers & Hout 2010:109). This chapter investigates the Dutch province of Limburg (Cornips 2013; Cornips et al. 2016). Limburg is located in the southeast of the Netherlands (see Figure 5.1) and its capital is Maastricht. The province has an elongated form, bordering Belgium (139 kilometers) in the west and Germany (212 kilometers) in the east. The smallest Dutch region in Limburg that sets apart the south (including the villages Maastricht and Heerlen) from the north (including the village Venlo) is about 6 kilometers wide. Of the total population of Limburg, 900,000 or 75 percent claim to speak a dialect, which shows the high value people attach to speaking their dialects (Driessen 2006).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage Regard: Methods, Variation and Change
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781316678381, 9781107162808
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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