Spread the new(s). Understanding standardization of Dutch through 17th-century newspapers


In the first half of the 17th century, writers and grammarians formulated tentative prescriptive rules for a Dutch standard language. According to Haugen's model of standardisation (1966) this means that they selected and codified the form of the standard language. During the 17th century the standard language was elaborated for use in all domains and by all social classes. Up until now the factors determining its functional expansion have not been systematically investigated, largely because of a lack of relevant research data. The project Spread the new(s) proposes to study the elaboration and acceptance of the Dutch standard language, based on a completely new, unique text corpus of manually transcribed 17th-century newspapers, containing 17 million words. The main research question is: What (socio)linguistic factors are decisive in the functional implementation of a standard language? We hypothesize that newspapers played a crucial role in the expansion of the standard languageas the first mass medium read by all social classes. By comparing newspapers with fiction, non-fiction, religious texts and letters written by different social classes, we will be able to determine which factors were responsible for spreading the Dutch standard language and what the role of newspapers was. The timing for this project is fortuitous: theoretical models of standardization and historical sociolinguistics, which form the foundation for this project, are starting to yield promising results, and the infrastructure of Nederlab, on which this project will be built, has just been completed.





Prof. dr. N. van der Sijs

Verbonden aan

Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Meertens Instituut


M.T. de Vos MPhil


01/01/2020 tot 01/10/2023