The Use of Modal Particles in Netherlandic and Belgian Dutch Imperatives

Carol Fehringer*, Leonie Cornips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper investigates the use of modal particles in spoken Dutch imperatives. Two types of particles are differentiated: mitigating, which are often used as a politeness strategy, and reinforcing, which add extra force to the utterance (Vismans 1994). Our findings show that in Netherlandic Dutch, the use of mitigating particles is determined by the type of occupation that the speaker has: Speakers in service-oriented occupations use mitigating particles significantly more often than speakers in nonservice-oriented occupations, and it is argued that this is a function of their need to be more polite in their role as a service provider. Since the data do not come from the speakers' workplace interactions but from informal conversations with friends and family, it is suggested that speech patterns of speakers' professional and private language practices influence each other. The effect of occupation is not observed in Belgian Dutch, however, where mitigating particles are significantly less frequent. Moreover, an important methodological consideration arises from this analysis: There is the need for researchers to examine the data beyond the standard sociolinguistic categorizations made available by large corpora.*

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-362
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Germanic Linguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • modal
  • particle
  • mitigating
  • politeness
  • imperative
  • Dutch


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