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Sifting through the textual evidence: Linguistic variation in 17th century Amsterdam. Mike Olson University of Wisconsin-Madison. Introduction. Text types used for linguistic evidence can affect how we view language use in the past Formal texts: more standardized and less like spoken

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Sifting through the textual evidence linguistic variation in 17th century amsterdam l.jpg

Sifting through the textual evidence: Linguistic variation in 17th century Amsterdam

Mike Olson

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Introduction l.jpg

  • Text types used for linguistic evidence can affect how we view language use in the past

  • Formal texts: more standardized and less like spoken

  • Informal texts (e.g. personal writings): more variation and closer to spoken

  • Traditional histories of Dutch focuses on standard language, especially for 17th century Amsterdam

  • Only tells part of the story - more informal texts can reveal language use in other domains

  • Corpus of personal writings from Amsterdam in 17th century

  • Establish criteria for text selection based on level of orality, or closeness to spoken language

  • Qualitative analysis of documents by Amsterdam natives in different registers

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Working Hypothesis

  • More formal texts use more uniform spelling and grammar and are less characteristic of spoken language

    • Formal texts often composed with a standard language in mind

    • Standards tend to discourage variation and retain archaic features

  • More informal texts tend to contain more variation and represent spoken language more closely

    • Spoken language is naturally more variable than written

    • Personal writings often conform less to a standard

  • Thus, informal, personal writings should reveal changes in spoken language before they become apparent in the formal written standard

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Personal Writings

  • Linguistic histories ‘from below’ (Elspass 2005; Elspass et al. 2007)

    • Writers that represent ‘normal’ people, not necessarily part of an elite social classes

    • Text types that reflect spoken language and variation as closely as possible

    • Search for patterns of variation in language change

    • Observe changes in progress

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Language of Proximity

  • ‘Language of Proximity’ or ‘Conceptual Orality’ (Koch & Oesterreicher 1985)

    • Language is encoded graphemically in texts and phonically through spoken language

    • Both media can represent more or less ‘proximity’ or relative ‘orality’, e.g.

      • Texts: legal document vs. transcribed interview

      • Spoken: address before parliament vs. conversation with a close friend

    • Language that reflects more proximity or orality tends to

      • adhere less to linguistic norms and show more variation in spelling and punctuation

      • contain fewer complex grammatical constructions and less dense information structures

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Variation and Change in Texts

  • Texts should represent spoken language as closely as possible (Schneider 2002)

    • “the surface appearance of a text, including criteria like the presence and frequency of dialectal forms, the presence of variation, and the overall impression of authenticity, plays a role in assessing a text” (2002:85)

    • Other factors include relationship between writer and reader and general fit of text with others from same speech community

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Characteristics of Spoken Language

  • Texts more representative of spoken language

    • are written by an author in a close relationship with the reader

    • include more variation in spelling and punctuation

    • contain more dialectal forms

    • show less complex sentence/information structures

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Dutch Language Histories

  • Histories of Dutch generally focus on standard language (e.g. Van Bree 1987; Van Loey 1970; De Vooys 1967; Van der Wal & Van Bree 2008)

  • Numerous personal documents in Dutch archives from Early Modern Period (e.g. Lindeman et al. 1993; Lindeman et al. 1994)

    • Diaries and Journals, travelogues, family histories, and personal letters

    • Archives have documentation about writers of texts

    • Primarily produced by members of higher social class

  • ‘Sailing Letters’ in British National Archives (Van Gelder 2006)

    • Thousands of personal letters captured by British starting in 1650s and lasting over several naval wars with the Netherlands

    • Represent a wider range of people than found in archives

    • Little is known about the writers

    • Letters dated only from the mid 17th century on

  • Personal documents can provide new sources for studying the development of spoken Dutch (see Goss 2002; Hendriks 1998)

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Amsterdam in the 17th century

  • The studies of Dutch spoken in Amsterdam during the 17th cent. largely based on more formal texts

  • Vangassen (1965) uses texts from governmental, civic, and religious institutes in Amsterdam, but only focuses on a couple sound changes

  • Weijnen’s (1975) Zeventiende-eeuwse Taal includes data from several Amsterdam authors:

    • more orality: Bredero and Coster’s Kluchten and Vondel’s Hekeldichten

    • less orality: Hooft, Vondel, Vos (Jan), Luyken, Brandt

  • Comparison of personal writings with more formal texts sheds light on different linguistic data available for 17th century Amsterdam

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Selection of Texts

[1] The digitized version in the DBNL:

[2] Letter numbers: 5, 17, 44, 46, 47, 48, 49, 51

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Qualitative Analysis of the Texts

  • Texts that are more representative of spoken language

    • Context: Relationship between author and intended audience

    • Spelling & Punctuation: variation in orthographic conventions

    • Dialectal Forms: non-standard forms that reveal dialectal traits

    • Sentence Structures: complexity and density

  • Morphological variation

    • Pronouns: mij vs. mijn

    • Verb forms: Subject-Verb Agreement and helping verb with geweest

    • Case markers: Determiners, Adjectives, Nouns

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Formal Prose: P.C. Hooft, Nederlandsche Historien 1642-47

  • Recounts history of young Republic starting in mid 16th century

  • Early influence on standardization of Dutch (Van der Wal & Van Bree 2008:221)

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Formal Prose: Characteristics of Spoken Language

  • Context: published text, edited to standardize spelling and punctuation

  • Spelling & Punctuation: very little variation, standard punctuation

    • Mainly z in onset and s in clusters, but small var. versierdt vs. verziert

    • Small variation in g and gh: teegens vs. teeghens; kreeg vs. kreegh

  • Dialectal forms: one example

    • Unrounding: ten algemeenen Landbestier

  • Sentence structures: complex and compact with numerous embedded clauses and extended participial phrases

    • Al 't welk gâa geslaaghen en ooverwooghen by de geenen, die, in zoodaanighe stoffe wel 't zuiverste gezicht hadden, genoomen werd voor teeken van 't genaaken eenigher groote en zwaarlyk stilbaare ontsteltenis; rollende dit werk op 't zelve spoor, waar langs de tweedraght en beroerten van Vrankryk waaren aangeheeven.

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Formal Prose: Morphological Variation

  • Pronouns: relatively infrequent, always mij (never mijn)

  • Verb Forms:

    • Subject-Verb Agreement: Primarily conforms to modern standard with small variation in 1st sg. forms; no apocope of -n in other forms

      • dat ik zyn'af koomst, aardt en fortuyn in 't kort ten toon stelle

      • dien ik zelf gezien heb

    • zou~zoude variation: singular zou-forms are fairly infrequent, while plurals forms are always zouden

      • en ondertussen zou men arbeiden

      • dat hy zich, anders, luttel met haar bekreunen zouw

      • dat hy zeekere plaatzen, t'onderpandt inhouden zoude

    • Helping Verb with geweest : always form of zyn

      • dien 't doch, ... , te min mooghelyk geweest was

  • Case-Marking:

    • Archaic genitives: not in spoken Dutch varieties (Weijnen 1975:43)

      • Des Konings breedstrekkende maght; in 't groenste zijner jeught

    • Regular use of inflection: Sing. objects often end with -e and plurals show no apocope of -n

      • in bekooring van koninglyken naame; als een welverknocht, en gevolghzaam Ryk; veele voeten in der aarde; gedreeven tot de waapenen

      • but also with some reduced forms: van de maate zyner maght

      • Graphemic abbreviated forms: zyn' armen van zelf jookende

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Official Document: Schout en Schepenen, Justitieboek 1650

  • Justitieboek contains descriptions of crimes in Amsterdam

  • Formulaic language in many short, self-contained texts

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Official Document:Characteristics of Spoken Language

  • Context: Written by different authors for public record

  • Spelling & Punctuation: formulaic comma use / regular spelling with small variation in and between different writers: s vs. z;g vs. gh

  • Dialectal forms:

    • ar~er variation: dartigh; dartien

    • ft~cht variation: verkoft for ‘verkocht’

  • Sentence structures: complex and compact clauses, embedded subclauses and extended participial phrases (typical legal speech)

    • Jannitge gerrits van Vlaenderen oud omtrent 21 jaeren, hebbende haer la{ten} misbruijcken van een jode, sijnde een getrouwt man, bij wien sij {is} beswangert en sij wel drij jaeren bij geslaepen heeft, is bij schepenen gebannen uijt dese stede, hare vrijheijd, een mijl int ronde den tijd van twee jaeren, ...

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Official Document: Morphological Variation

  • Pronouns: no use of mij due to nature of the text

  • Verb Forms:

    • Subject-Verb Agreement: Relatively few inflected verb forms due to the nature of the text, but standard norms of agreement

    • zou~zoude variation: rarely used, but a couple soude

    • Helping Verb with geweest : always form of zyn

  • Case-Marking:

    • Archaic genitives: a few in common phrases

      • int’ spinhuijs deser stad

      • van de dood haers mans

    • Determiners: some in common phrases, often just de, dese, ...

      • Except for time adverbials: den tijd van twee jaeren; den 10e feburarij

      • And common phrases: t’ sijnen huijse

    • Nouns:

      • sing. objects with/without -e: uijt de hechtenisse / hechtenis

      • uijt deser stad vs. uijt dese stad vs. uijt deser stede vs. uijt dese stede

      • plurals usually with -n but sometimes not: op aenclachte

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Diary/Travelogue: Joan Huydecoper, Sr., 1635

  • Composed during a trip to Poland and Sweden in 1635 as member of a diplomatic mission from the Netherlands

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Diary/Travelogue: Characteristics of Spoken Language

  • Context: may represent more formal speech, ‘official’ context

    • Written with entries for each day in ‘diary’ style, omitting first element: 19. ditto sijn wij omtrent Dansick verder gecoomen

  • Spelling: shows little variation except in few specific words

    • No use of letter z, instead all words have s

  • Punctuation: fairly sparse, lacking periods, but with some commas for subclauses and lists

  • Dialectal forms: in only a few words

    • reflex of WGmc *î : always we sijn but once we sien

    • Unrounding: stijcken vs. sticken vs. stijck for ‘stuk’

    • Always uses doen for ‘toen’

    • Loss of -d(en)/-d- : Edelluijden vs. Edelluij vs. Edellij vs. Edelly

      • usually wederom, but a couple times weerom

      • gereeden but one time gereen

      • soo wij naer marien[burch] reeden doch de Secretaris ree voorts

  • Sentence structures: not as complex with fewer embedded clauses and fewer extended participial phrases

    • logeerden jnt gulde vlies alwaer Monsieur vanden honert ende jck de burgemeester Bicker, die met het Jacht van hoochcamer quam, opden middach te gemoet gingen

    • was hij daer ouer soo gestoort dat hij gegeten hebbende van tafel gingent daer naer sijn vader klaechde

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Diary/Travelogue: Morphological variation

  • Pronouns: standard use - only mij

  • Verb Forms:

    • Subject-Verb Agreement:

      • Very regular forms like Hooft (no -n apocope)

      • sou~soude Variation: none, sou is singular and souden is plural

    • Helping Verb with geweest : usually form of sijn but once

      • wij hadden hier weijnich vreijheijt soo dat jck niet eens jnde staet of door geweest heb om se te sien

    • Other non-standard verb forms:

      • Instead of ligt : fredrix[burch] leijt omtrent 3 mijl van Elseneur

      • Loss of -n- : dat men naeulijckx aende Carossen kost coomen

  • Case-Marking:

    • No use of genitive beyond time references: des smiddags, smorgens

    • No apocope of -n in plurals

    • Fairly regular usage of (d)en before masc. objects

      • met den brandenb[urger]; wt den naem

      • But with ‘leakage’ to

      • Neuter: naerden Eeten

      • Nominative: denDuijtsen Cancelier antwoorde voor sijn Magesteijt

    • Time adverbials:

      • voorden middach, but naerde middach

      • But with ‘leakage’ to Feminine: ende logeerden daer dien nacht

Personal letters joan huydecoper jr kopieboek 1648 l.jpg
Personal Letters: Joan Huydecoper, Jr., Kopieboek 1648

  • Copies of personal letters during a trip to France, Switzerland and Italy when he was still fairly young, around age 23

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Personal Letters: Characteristics of Spoken Language

  • Context: Written to close family members and personal friends

  • Spelling: very regular spelling not differing much from standard

    • Sparse use of the letter z, instead most words have s

  • Punctuation: fairly regular, but lacking periods as in the travelogue

  • Dialectal forms:

    • ar~er variation: varstaen, vartreck, varkeerken, parsuaderende, but versoeke, vertrock, vereijste

    • Loss of -d(en)/-d- : koopluij; weer vs. weder; bestemoer; groote kou

    • ft~cht variation: gekoft for‘gekocht’

    • Always uses doen for ‘toen’

  • Sentence structures: similar complexity to travelogue but with slightly more parataxis

    • Omission of subordinating conjunction:

      • ick geef U Ed[ele] te considereren 500 mijn swager mijn had betaelt

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Personal Letters: Morphological variation

  • Pronouns: constant use of mijn instead of mij

    • het sou mijn seer aengenaem sijn

  • Verb Forms:

    • Subject-Verb Agreement: more variation than travelogue, apocope of -e & Hypercorrections in sing. but with little apocope of -n in plural forms

      • ick heb; versoeke vs. versoek;

      • But dat staenick toe vs. die ick ten naesten bij varsta

      • doen ick te Leijden studeerden

      • mijn swager, ... , 300 guld. beloofden

      • but oock spreekmen hier al eenen tael

    • sou~soude Variation: Both forms occur with soude better represented

      • het sou mijn seer aengenaem sijn

      • het geen hier soude mogen passeren

    • Helping Verb with geweest : usually form of sijn

    • Loss of -n- : dat ick geen progres koste doen

  • Case-Marking:

    • No real use of genitive but with analytic construction:

      • wensende dik mael U E[dele] en, neef tol sijn compani

    • Rarely apocope of -n in plurals

    • Some use of (d)en before objects but often not masc. :

      • een eerlijken penninck; bij desen versoeck; inden tijt

      • But vande beste taback

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Sailing Letters: Amsterdammers, 1664

  • Personal letters among sailors in De Ruyter’s fleet and their family

  • Follow a popular model and at times were written by professional letter writers, so authenticity is difficult (Brouwer 2007)

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Sailing Letters: Characteristics of Spoken Language

  • Context: Written to close family members and personal friends

  • Spelling: high variation with different spellings for individual words in and among speakers

  • Punctuation: relatively little with a few commas and periods

  • Dialectal forms: Some of many examples

    • ar~er variation: herte vs. harten vs. haert; starken vs. sterft

    • ie~ee variation: breef vs. brief; neit vs. niet; heir vs. hier

    • o~u variation: untvangen vs. ontvangen; gesturven vs. gestorven

    • o~eu variation: mocht vs. meucht

    • g~k variation: keen vs. geen

    • Loss of -d- : verminert vs. vermyndert,

    • Always doen for ‘toen’

    • Reduction: min/men vs. mijn; wet vs. weet; heft vs. heeft

  • Sentence structures: a lot of parataxis, some subclasses but no extended participial phrases

    • Common parataxis:

      • En Susanna en Fransyntje dye bennen peeten van ons kynt.

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Sailing Letters: Morphological variation

  • Pronouns: mostly mijn with mij in one speaker

  • Verb Forms:

    • Subj-Verb Agreement: variation within and across writers

      • als dat ick u l[ieder] breefe untvangen heeft

      • verleden week is heir maer gestorven 445 dooden

      • Wij kan Godt neyt genoch voor bedancken

      • Paulus Somer met sijnen huysvroue noch kloeck ende gesondt ben

      • wij noch altemael noch reedelick cloek ende gesont bennen

    • sou~soude variation: Both forms occur with slightly more soude

      • soude vs. sout vs. sou

    • Helping Verb with geweest : often hebben with some sijn

      • En de swaricheijt dye heeft hyer al vrij groot geweest

  • Case-Marking:

    • Genitives: some analytic constructions

      • En Yan sijn vrijster Jannetjen ys noch gesont.

      • Some synthetic from scriptures: in de handt des Heeren

    • Determiners / Adjectives: variation with/without endings

      • mijn seer eerwardigh ende beminde man; mijn seer eerwardige man; mijne seer beminde man; voor sijne genade; voor sijnen genadigh

    • Some apocope of -n in plurals:

      • als dat ick u l[ieder] breefe untvangen heeft

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Implications of Text Types from Amsterdam

  • Formal, standard, published texts can serve as baselines for non-spoken

  • Institutional texts offer slight variation but with formulaic text intended to preserve information for a public audience

  • Ego-documents and personal letters from educated writers reveal some variation

  • Personal letters written by more ‘normal’ people with less education and from a lower social class such as the Sailing Letters provide probably represent the spoken language in Amsterdam in the 17th century

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Workging Hypothesis

  • Personal writings should reveal changes in spoken language before they become apparent in the formal written standard

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Future Plans / Discussion

  • Construct more quantitative tests for assessing orality of texts/comparing them with more formal texts

  • Where do the Kluchten fit in?