Dutch Low Saxon

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Low Saxon in The Netherlands

Dutch Low Saxon (Dutch Low Saxon and Dutch: Nedersaksisch) is a group of Low Saxon, i.e., West Low German, dialects spoken in the northeastern Netherlands. In comparison, the remainder of the Netherlands (besides the Frisian speaking part) speak a collection of Low Franconian dialects.

The class “Dutch Low Saxon” is not unanimous. From a diachronic point of view, the Dutch Low Saxon dialects are merely the Low Saxon dialects which are native to areas in the Netherlands (as opposed to areas in northern Germany). From a strictly synchronic point of view, however, some linguists classify Dutch Low Saxon as a variety of Dutch.[1] Also, as a practical matter, Dutch Low Saxon is influenced by standard Dutch, whereas Low Saxon in Germany is influenced by standard German. Some Dutch Low Saxon dialects show features of Westphalian, a West Low German dialect spoken in Germany.

Use[edit]

Roughly after the Second World War, linguists claimed that speaking a dialect besides the standard language would impair children's (language) learning abilities. In combination with a generally condescending attitude towards speakers of Low Saxon varieties (or in fact anything different than Standard Dutch), this goaded many parents to stop passing the language on to their children. It also brought about a general opinion that having the slightest accent in Dutch would reduce job opportunities and social status. Up to today, children using a Low Saxon expression or having an accent may be 'corrected' by their parents, who may be overheard urging them to "speak decently".

Throughout the 1960s, the language decline inspired many to form dialect preservation circles and groups, such as the Tweants Kreenk vuur de Twentse Sproake (Circle for the Twents language) or the Drèents Huus van de Taol (House of the Language). Many of these were mainly, though not exclusively, interested in preserving, rather than promoting the language. The prevailing tone was one of melancholy, nostalgia, and a yearning for the days of old. The other tone was rather literary in nature. Though well-intended, this caused even more estrangement with younger generations.

At the same time, knowledge of and appreciation for related varieties was poor, and stifled cooperation between most of these dialect groups. Instead of forming a meta-organisation to help each other improve the status for all the different varieties, fiery discussions were held to establish whether the sound of /ɒ/ should be written as 'oa' or 'ao'. This resulted in little cooperation, and no nation-wide coordination whatsoever.

In 1975 the rock 'n' roll band Normaal boldly shook all perceptions of Low Saxon and its speakers. Up till then, Low Saxon was mostly restricted to traditional folklore music. Normaal openly denounced all Dutch disdain, praised farmers and local farm life, and boldly used Achterhooks Low Saxon, voicing the opinion and feelings of many Dutchmen of non-Dutch speaking origin. Their hit song "Oerend Hard", a song about two bikers who lose their lives in an accident, took the charts by storm and is regarded a true evergreen of Dutch music. It quickly garnered them a large fan base, even in non-Low Saxon areas such as Fryslan and Limburg. They inspired many other young rock 'n' roll artists to sing in Low Saxon, who now form a subgenre of their own in the Dutch music industry.

In 1996 Dutch Low Saxon was added to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. This means Dutch provinces receive minor funds for preserving and promoting the use of Low Saxon. Due to a general rise in regional pride and appreciation for the Low Saxon identity, the earlier openly disdainful attitude towards Low Saxon seems to have subsided somewhat. Low Saxon is increasingly being used in popular culture, marketing, and local politics. The Tweants municipality of Rijssen-Holten, for example, has officially adopted a bilingual status for their town hall desks. Customers may opt for Dutch or Low Saxon help.

In 2012, a radio presenter for national broadcasting station 3FM, Michiel Veenstra from Almelo, promised to present in Tweants for an hour if a Tweants song received more than €10,000 in the annual fundraising campaign Het Glazen Huis (The Glass House). As the song received more than €17,000, Veenstra kept his promise.[2]

An increasing number of local political parties have used Low Saxon in their 2014 electoral campaigns. In 2014, a Facebook page called "Tukkers be like" gained more than 18,000 followers within a week. The page uses Twents cultural concepts, and expressions in the Twents language. The idea of the page was based on the US internet meme "Bitches be like", which gained enormous popularity in 2013, and inspired many to create their own versions. The meme presents an image of a certain situation, to which a certain group would respond in a typical way.

Education[edit]

Dutch Low Saxon has long been stigmatised and banned from schools. People of older generations may relate numerous accounts of their childhood, in which contemporaries were afraid to go to school for fear of being reprimanded for not speaking Dutch.

In 2014, Low Saxon is still not a part of the Dutch school curriculum. It is neither a subject, nor a mode of communication. This causes a general lack of knowledge about, and appreciation for the language. Its possible role as a language of trade between the Netherlands and Germany is often dismissed, though recent study indicates it may be a useful addition in international trade communications.[3]

Language classification
Indo-European languages
Germanic languages
West Germanic languages
Low German
Dutch Low Saxon

Dialects[edit]

Key: K - Kollumerlands GN - Grunnegs and North-Drèents S - Stellingwarfs MD - Middle-Drèents SD - South-Drèents T - Tweants TG - Tweants-Groafschops GO - Gelders-Oaveriessels (Achterhooks) and Urkers V - Veluws

Dutch Low Saxon comprises the following forms:

Most varieties belong to the West Low Saxon group. Grunnegs is so different from the rest of the Dutch Low Saxon varieties that it may be treated separately. Tweants and Achterhooks belong to the Westphalian group of dialects. The remainder, Drèents, Stellingwarfs, Sallaans, Urkers and Veluws, could be classified in their own subdivision, since they form the westernmost group of Low Saxon dialects, considerably affected by Dutch. Urkers and West-Veluws are so heavily Hollandified that some people classify these dialects as Low Franconian rather than Low Saxon.

Dutch influence[edit]

Spread of the contemporary Dutch and Low German dialects

A lot of these dialects have been affected by the Hollandic expansion of the seventeenth century. All of them are lexically dependent on Dutch rather than German for neologisms. When written down, they use a Dutch-based orthography.

a unified plural in -en rather than -t
This is found in West-Veluws and Urkers and clearly ensued from Dutch influence, since a unified plural in -t for verbs is common in Low Saxon. These dialects have wiej warken instead of wiej warkt for "we work". This feature is, surprisingly, also found in Stellingwarfs and Grunnegs, but here this trait is believed to have Frisian rather than Hollandic origins (the Stellingwerven have been Frisian for centuries and Groningen was a Frisian speaking area in the Middle Ages). Modern Frisian has -e here, -en may be a kind of intermediate form between -t and -e. This unified plural takes the form -et rather than -t in the Achterhooks dialect of Winterswijk.
several long vowel shifts
Veluws, Sallaans, Stellingwarfs and Drèents have experienced mutation as the Hollandic dialect rose in prestige during the seventeenth century. The ee [eː] mutated into ie [iː], the oo [oː] into oe [uː] and the oe [uː] into uu [yː]. Tweants and Eastern Achterhooks, by contrast retained their old vowels. Compare these Tweants and Sallaans couples: deer - dier ("animal"); good - goed ("good"); hoes - huus ("house"). Surprisingly, in many dialects the oe sound was preserved in some words while it mutated towards uu in others. As a result, in Sallaans "huis" (house) translates as huus but "muis" (mouse) as moes (as in Tweants).
loss of the word du "thou"
Dutch has lost the word doe "thou" and replaced it with jij, equivalent to English "ye", originally the second person plural. In many Low Saxon dialects in the Netherlands, the very same happened. The doe - ie/ieje/ij isogloss runs surprisingly close to the Dutch border, except in Groningen, where it enters the Dutch territory with a vengeance (in the entire province this word is known). In Twente, it is present in the easternmost villages of Denekamp and Oldenzaal, in the Achterhoek (Gelderland), dou is present in Winterswijk and Groenlo.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hermann Niebaum/Jürgen Macha: Einführung in die Dialektologie des Deutschen, 2., neubearbeitete Auflage, Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 2006, p. 221, footnote 7.
  2. ^ Michiel Veenstra presenteert een uur lang in het twents.
  3. ^ Denge, G.J.M. ter. Linguae Intergermanica: The Use of Low Saxon, English, Dutch, German, and Receptive Multilingualism in Northern Dutch – Northern German Communication. 2012.