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Cornips, Leonie, Jolien Makkinga, Nantke Pecht & Pomme van de Weerd. 2022. Examining multilinguistic practices in a peripheral area: social categorizations and belonging. Swinnen, Aagje, Amanada Kluveld & Renee van de Vall (eds.) Engaged Humanities. Rethinking Art, Culture, and Public Life. Amsterdam: AUP Press.



This chapter scrutinizes the ways in which current sociolinguistic research at Maastricht University, and more specifically within the context of the Chair in ‘Languageculture in Limburg,’ is conducted. By outlining three case-studies pertaining to the Dutch and Belgian provinces of Limburg, we show how we deploy ethnographic and sociolinguistic methods to investigate linguistic resources in regional and social identity construction, and how speakers of distinct backgrounds in various contexts identify with, or dis-identify from others, through language, labeling, and addressing practices.
3. Examining Multilinguistic Practices
in a Peripheral Region
Social Categorization and Belonging
Leonie Cornips, Jolien Makkinga, Nantke Pecht,
& Pomme van de Weerd
This chapter scrutinizes how current sociolinguistic research at the
Chair “Languageculture in Limburg” at Maastricht University is con-
ducted by outlining three case-studies investigating regional and social
identity construction. Makkinga reveals how processes of in/exclusion
take place through address terms in a nursing home; Pecht highlights
how a combination of social factors has inuenced language mixing in
a former coal mining community in Belgium; and van de Weerd sheds
light on how students at a Dutch secondary school negotiate their “multi-
ethnic” context by constructing social boundaries and negotiating the
implications of category membership. Our research is characterized by
an interdisciplinary approach, by a focus on languagecultural practices
in the periphery in the context of globalization, and by close attention
for societal concerns.
Keywords: socioling uistics, membership categorization, language mi xing,
linguistic ageing, linguistic identity construction
In this chapter, we will present current sociolinguistic research at Maastricht
University that we carry out in the Dutch and Belgian provinces of Limburg.
The two provinces border each other in the Southeast of the Netherlands
and the East of Belgium, respectively.
Swinnen et al. Engaged Humanities. Rethinking Art, Culture, and Public Life. A msterdam,
Amsterdam Universit y Press 2022.
DOI: 10.5117/978946372 4029_CH
Since Dutch and Belgian Limburg are located at some distance from the
economic and political centers in their country, i.e., the Randstad in the
Netherlands and the conurbation of Antwerp in Belgium, they are perceived
both within and outside Limburg as a peripheral region. Moreover, in Dutch
Limburg, a strong sense of regional identity is expressed linguistically and
culturally. People living in Limburg consider themselves culturally quite
distinct from residents of the other Dutch regions, and they attach great
importance to speaking “their” dialects (Cornips & Knotter, 2017; Thissen,
2013, 2018). In recent years, however, the intensied global connections
and novel infrastructures such as the Internet, have changed the scope
and nature of migration movements and the way people interact with
each other (Wang et al., 2014). As a result, language use and how people
linguistically (dis)identify with others in “peripheral” Limburg have become
less predictable and more complex.
Theoretical Framework
To capture the way in which people make use of the diferent linguistic
resources at their disposal for regional and social identity construction,
scholars across the elds of anthropology, geography, sociology, and socio-
linguistics, to name only a few, have tried to nd new analytical concepts in
the past decade to overcome the concept of “language” as a monolithic, xed
object. New concepts include notions such as “superdiversity” (Vertovec,
2007), “crossing” (Rampton, 2014), “transidiomatic practices” (Jacquemet,
2005), “metrolingualism” (Otsuji & Pennycook, 2010), “languaging” (Møller
& Jørgensen, 2009), and “multiethnolect” (Quist, 2008). Pia Quist, inspired
by Michael Clyne (2000), characterizes the latter as a linguistic “‘something,’
a variety or style, which has developed in multiethnic urban communities
and which is associated with speakers of mixed ethnic groups” (p.44).
Whereas the rst ground-breaking studies focused mainly on linguistic
variation of young speakers in multiethnic urban areas (e.g., Kotsinas,
1998; Ganuza, 2010; Quist, 2008), similar linguistic developments can be
observed in places that are regarded as peripheral such as Limburg. Indeed,
people in the periphery have become more conscious of power diferences
between themselves and those in the center(s) through new media and their
contexts. It is, therefore, important to investigate how people in Limburg,
but also people from comparable peripheral places and regions, nd ways
to (re)shape and strengthen local and social identities through language
practices in these times of rapid social change (Cornips & de Rooij, 2018).
Our research at Maastricht University, situated within the research
program Arts, Media, and Culture (AMC) of the Faculty of the Arts and Social
Sciences (FASoS), can be labeled as sociolinguistics. Sociolinguistics emerged
as a framework in the early 1960s, stemming from the need to contextualize
the study of language or, in other words, to study both language (in) use
and society. Sociolinguistics “attempts to establish causal links between
language and society, pursuing the complementary question of what lan-
guage contributes to making community possible and how communities
shape their languages by using them” (Coulmas, 1997, p.2). Language is
thus considered as an indispensable means for people to construct social
relations and to construct regional and social identities. Sociolinguistics is a
broad and open eld, but its theory and methods are thoroughly empirically
informed (Johnstone, 2016).
Our sociolinguistic research has four characteristics which together
make it quite unique in the Netherlands. First, our research is informed
by an interdisciplinary approach with either a more linguistic or a more
anthropological focus. Secondly, this research is geared to studying language
and cultural practices in the periphery in the context of globalization.
Thirdly, it puts societal concerns center stage in the formulation of research
questions, and this specically pertains to the challenge of inclusion and
exclusion practices. Finally, it focuses on language practices as part of the
process of social semiosis, i.e., as the locus of regional and social identity
The basic concern of our research is to investigate how diferent actors
(individually as well as collectively) engage with power dynamics and
how they make use of linguistic resources in regional and social identity
construction. Every language user associates particular languages and
linguistic forms with specic kinds of speakers and practices within a
social, political, and economic hierarchy. People’s choices of languages and
linguistic forms is connected with ideas about and stereotypes of and by
the speakers we investigate as well as in society at large. Within AMC, we
always examine these choices empirically and in doing so our research is
an example of Engaged Humanities: it deals with pressing issues in society
at large, such as the obligatory allocation of elderly to a nursing home and
the process of (un)belonging (Makkinga, 2017), how to identify oneself when
growing up locally but being born in a migrant family with various home
languages in an isolated coal mining district (Auer & Cornips, 2018; Pecht,
2013, 2015, 2019, 2021), and social categorization of and by students with and
without a migration background and their labeling practices (van de Weerd,
2019). In addition, our research is interdisciplinary by tapping into both the
humanities and the social sciences. In order to study language use as a social
phenomenon, we make use of a wide range of theories and methodologies
found at the intersection of linguistics (both applied and theoretical),
anthropology, sociology, and social psychology. Finally, we pursue active
collaboration with non-academic partners such as the Limburgs Museum
in Venlo (Makkinga) and the Mijnwerkersmuseum (coal mining museum)
in Eisden, Belgium (Pecht), with artists creating sound installations that
“broadcast” the narratives of the residents in the nursing home (Makkinga),1
and with policymakers at the local level who address issues of migrant youth
(van de Weerd) and policymakers at the level of the Province of Limburg
who work on the design of policies concerning the recognition of Limburgish
as a regional language (Cornips).
Methodological Approach
Data Collection and Case Studies
The three projects described in this chapter follow the methodological
guidelines of ethnography and sociolinguistics. Ethnography is “a family
of methods involving direct and sustained contact with agents, and of
richly writing up the encounter, respecting, recording, representing at least
partly in its own terms, the irreducibility of human experience” (Willis &
Trondman, 2000, p.6). Ethnographic researchers aim to understand the
(grouping of) individuals under study by spending a prolonged period of time
with them; by rst-hand experiencing their day-to-day life, participating in
their activities, and getting to know their way of viewing their world. The
practice of ethnography is a highly reexive process that unfolds in often
unexpected directions as it aims to take account of participants’ daily lives
(O’Reilly, 2012). Sociolinguistics studies how individuals actually speak. A
well-known method is the sociolinguistic interview setting where people
are placed together to interact for some time while being recorded (Labov,
2001). In the following, we briey describe the speci cs of each case study
in terms of context, participants, and method of data collection.
Jolien Makkinga2 (2017) has conducted ethnographic  eldwork for a period
of two years in a fairly large nursing home in the city center of Maastricht.
The majority of its residents mainly spoke the Maastricht dialect or another
1 See (accessed July30, 2019).
2 This research received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program
under grant agreement no.613465 , Meertens Institute a nd Maastricht University.
local dialect in addition to Dutch. Makkinga, who is not from the province of
Limburg herself, conducted participant observation at diferent times and in
diferent areas in this nursing home. She made beds, handed out food, played
games, and had many informal conversations with residents in public or
private areas. Since the boundaries in the nursing home between public and
private places are blurred, it was possible that conversations in the private
sphere were overheard by non-intended listeners. Conversations between
the researcher and the study’s participants, as well as between the residents
and staf, were audio-recorded in diverse contexts in which Makkinga also
was a participant observer. The data were coded and transcribed in the
annotation tool Nvivo. To complement the audio recordings, she wrote
eldwork notes that focused on the context, surroundings, and nonverbal
communication taking place during the conversations. As the  eldwork
covered a period of two years, many residents passed away or were diagnosed
with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias and therefore they could not
participate anymore.
Nantke Pecht
has investigated linguistic variation among speakers of the
former coal mining district of Eisden, Maasmechelen, in Belgian Limburg
(the cité). Between August2015 and July2017, she collected data by means of
several methods. First, she obtained speech data produced when speakers feel
not being observed. To minimize the efects of observation, she conducted
in-group recordings (audio and video) in informal settings (sociolinguistic
interviews) with three groups of well-acquainted former coal miners, all of
them born and raised in Eisden-cité in the 1930s (14 male participants, a total
of some 340 min.). All data from in-group recordings were transcribed with
the linguistic annotation tool ELAN and labeled with MOCA (Multimodal
Oral Corpora Administration). In addition, she conducted 38 semi-structured
interviews with diverse members of the community resulting in roughly 27
hours of recorded speech. She talked to and audio-recorded 21 women born
in the 1920s/30s, i.e., wives and sisters of former miners, and seven men of
the same age, as well as ten speakers of the younger generation (children of
former miners, around age 50). Most of the interviews took place at the homes
of the interviewee and had the character of a friendly visit. Interviews were
done in the language(s) the speakers felt most comfortable with, which often
was Dutch, but also German. Furthermore, in-group recordings of female
speakers in groups of three to four participants were made. Moreover, Pecht
3 This project is  nanced by the Netherlands Organi zation for Scientic Research (number
322– 70–008). Field work in 2015 was c arried out u nder a grant fr om the DAAD (Germ an Academic
Exchange Serv ice).
took eldnotes and photographs of relevant signs and cultural events. Finally,
she analyzed archive les stored by the Stichting Erfgoed Eisden to trace
back the socio-historical background of the community. The combination
of these methods allowed her to gain a more comprehensive understanding,
implying that in addition to observing the in-group speech of the men she
managed to observe linguistic behavior in a variety of other settings as well
(see Pecht, 2019, 2021).
Pomme van de Weerd
has analyzed language and social practices of
secondary school students enrolled in a vocational training track in Venlo
(in the North of Limburg). She gathered data during nine months of ethno-
graphic  eldwork among one group of students, during their third and fourth
year in high school, from January to June2017, and from November2017 to
March2018. The population participating in this research consisted of 35
students aged 14–17. They followed “basic vocational education” (VMBO ba sis
and kader). Of the 35 students, seven students had a Moroccan migration
background,  ve had a Turkish migration background, and four students
had migration backgrounds in other countries (Bosnia, Afghanistan, Gabon,
the Dutch Antilles). All these students, except for two, were born in the
Netherlands. To the researcher’s knowledge, the remaining 19 students had
no migration background. Van de Weerd attended 333 classroom hours of
this group, resulting in daily eldnotes and 140 hours of audio-recordings
of classroom interaction. These data were coded and transcribed in N Vivo,
leading to a collection of 265 interactions among students, and sometimes
between students and herself of teachers, in which references were made to
ethnic labels such as “Turk,” “Moroccan,” “foreigner,” or “Dutch.” Analysis of
this dataset resulted in the identi cation of topics and themes that students
associated with these social categories, as well as common interactional
contexts in which ethnic labels came up (see van de Weerd, 2019, 2020).
Data Analysis
In order to analyze the collected data, Makkinga used the analytical concept
of belonging, understood as referring to both an intimate feeling of being at
home in a place (‘place-belongingness’) and a discursive resource to construct
forms of inclusion and exclusion (politics of belonging) (Antonsich, 2010).
Residents related the various dialects spoken in the nursing home to diferent
places in Limburg. They would actually experience being surrounded by
others (residents, sta f, visitors) who spoke the same dialect or not, and in this
nursing home context this gave rise to feelings of belonging or unbelonging
4 This pr oject was  nanced by N WO, project number 4 06–12– 050, 01–11– 2016 to 31–10 –2019.
(Antonsich, 2010; Thissen, 2018). Residents made clear distinctions between
(groupings of) residents who spoke the dialect of Maastricht labeled “Us
Mestreechtenere” (we from Maastricht) versus speakers of other dialects in
Limburg (they from surrounding towns of Maastricht) and between the use
of dialect in Limburg versus Dutch such as “Us Limburgers” (we from the
province of Limburg) versus “they Hollanders” (people from other provinces
of the Netherlands).
Pecht primarily conducted a grammatical analysis of the speech of the
former miners. This analysis reveals that speakers use linguistic features that
can be associated with several “languages” such as German, the Limburgish
dialect, and Dutch.
In order to examine students’ identication and labeling practices, van
de Weerd diferentiated between labels as ethnographic facts (i.e., as the
research participants’ tool) and labels as analytic tools (Cornips, Jaspers,
& de Rooij, 2014). Next, the aim was not to determine what diferentiates
so-called Marokkanen (“Moroccans”) from Nederlanders (“Dutch people”),
but rather to understand how students constructed and negotiated the idea
of the existence of such diferent social categories, to examine how they were
talked into realit y, and given meaning, in daily interaction (Hester & Housley,
2002; Bucholtz & Hall, 2005; Brubaker, 2002). She elaborated on a framework
called “tactics of intersubjectivity,” developed by Mary Bucholtz and Kira
Hall (2005, 2004), which explains how “social and political relations are
engendered through semiotic acts of identi cation” (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004,
p.370). This framework recognizes three broad types of social identi cation
practices: adequation-distinction, authentication-denaturalization, and
authorization-illegitimation. Adequation-distinction emphasizes that same-
ness, as well as diference, is a social achievement rather than an objective
and stable state of being: it is made, not found. The construction of either
similarity or distinction serves a social purpose. Although these relations
are highly complex and layered, they are often expressed through binary
terms and thereby reduce complex social relations to the one-dimensional
“us versus them.” The second “tactics,” authentication-denaturalization, is
“the construction of a credible or genuine identity and the production of
an identity that is literally incredible or non-genuine” (Bucholtz & Hall,
2004, p.385). This process of identity construction is necessarily based on
essentialist understandings of identity. Finally, authorization-illegitimation
draws on institutional or other types of authority in the legitimation, or the
structural dismissal, of identities. Later in this chapter, an interaction will
be analyzed in which the rst two “tactics” – adequation-distinction and
authentication-denaturalization – are especially salient.
Ethical Considerations
For her ethnographical eldwork in a nursing home, Makkinga obtained
ethical approval from the Medical Ethics Committee of Maastr icht Universit y,
and the Scientic Committee of the nursing home organization. Informed
consent had to be obtained for each participant every three months. Moreo-
ver, nursing staf had to be consulted to estimate whether the cognitive
functions of residents were still good enough to participate. During her
eldwork, Makkinga found out that the consultation of nursing staf to
assess the ability of residents for research was problematic because nursing
staf and residents difered in their evaluations (see also Lehto, Jolanki,
Valvanne, Seinelä, & Jylhä, 2017). Moreover, Makkinga observed that opinions
on the cognitive functions of residents to participate in the research varied
strongly among the nursing staf. Therefore, she did not only consult the
nursing staf, but she also took the resident’s opinion and her own assessment
into account when deciding on whether or not residents could participate
in the research. The research projects by Pecht and by van de Weerd were
approved by the Ethical Review Committee of Maastricht University. All
participants were informed of the purpose of the research, and of the fact
that the researcher was recording their speech. They were given the chance
to retract permission to use their interactional data throughout the research.
The names of all participants in the three case-studies are pseudonymized
to ensure their privacy, and ctive names are used for the nursing homes.
Comparative Analyses of Situated Language Practices
By concentrating on the three case-studies mentioned above, this section
demonstrates how sociolinguistic research is conducted within the context
of the Chair in “Languageculture in Limburg” at Maastricht University. For
each case-study, we will briey describe and analyze an example from the
data generated.
(Un)Belonging to the Nursing Home Communit y through Language Practices
People may encounter many di culties in their transition to a nursing home.
For instance, it cannot be taken for granted that they experience a nursing
home as a place where they belong (Boelsma et al., 2014; Makkinga, 2017).
During Makkinga’s eldwork, residents were also faced with  nancial cuts
in care for the elderly by the national government. As a result, many nursing
homes in the Netherlands had to close down. The residents of Mola, a nursing
home in Maastricht (Limburg), were transferred to the nearby nursing home
Leem (where the eldwork took place). Both nursing homes were part of the
same health care organization. Even though Mola was located only a few
hundreds of meters away from Leem, while residents spoke the same dialect,
the residents of the two nursing homes did not get along well. “Extract 1”
below shows how Mrs. Poem perceives the new residents from Mola when
conversing with eldworker Makkinga. Mrs. Poem had already been living at
Leem for six years at the time of recording, and she perceived herself to be a
“Maastrichteneer,” speaking the Maastricht dialect. The former residents of
Mola had been living at Leem for six months at the moment of the recording.
1Poem: Ik zeg altied, en daa n moot
I say always, and then Mrs. X always
2Poem: X altied lache, (.1) ik zeg hej zit
to laugh, (.1) I say there is scum here
but there are
3Poem: meh hej zit te ook nette mense. also decent people here.
4Jolien: Ja. Yes.
5Poem: Dat zal je euveral wel höbbe. Which you will see anywhere, huh?
6Jolien: Ja (.1) en wie zijn die net te mensen Yes (.1) and who are those decent
7Jolien: dan? people here?
8Poem: Die haol je er wel oet hoor. You can easily pick them out.
Extract 1. Interacti on between Mrs. Poem (Poe m) and Makkinga (Jolien). Recording conduc ted in
Mrs. Poem made a sharp distinction between people originating from
Leem, who are “decent” people, and people originating from Mola, whom
she labels “krapuul” (line 2). Mrs. Poem explained when asked by Makkinga
(line 6–7) that “it is easy to pick out” the decent people in Leem (line 8).
As the research continued over time, it became clear that the distinction
made between people from Mola and Leem was related to their language
practices. The majority of the residents who originated from Maastricht
and spoke the Maastricht dialect perceived this dialect as the norm that
should be spoken within the nursing home. While residents from Leem and
Mola both spoke the Maastricht dialect, the original residents from Leem
informed Makkinga that the former residents of Mola did not adjust to the
language norms, values, and language practices considered to be typical of
Leem, and therefore they were evaluated as showing non-social behavior.
As Makkinga found out, language practices between residents of Mola
and Leem difered to a large extent in the use of terms of address: former
residents from Mola were used to address and being addressed by staf and
other residents much more informally, calling each other joong (“boy”) or
sjat (“honey”) (see “Extract 2” below), a practice they continued to sustain in
their new nursing home. The original residents of Leem, on the other hand,
were used to being addressed and also wished to be addressed as Mr. or Mrs.
followed by their surname. This they perceived as the norm, also after the
arrival of the Mola residents. As Mrs. Peeters explains in “Extract 2” below,
she knows it whether people originally belonged either to Leem or to Mola.
1Peeters: Ze zegt geen dingen als (.1)
She doesn’t say things like (.1) for
2(.1) sommige zeggen schatje (.1) some say honey
3Jolien: Oja. Yeah, really.
4Peeters: En zoiets allemaal. Ja dat was ik
And such thing and all. Yes I was
not used
5gewend. to that.
6Jolien: Nee, (.1) nee. No, (.1), no.
7Peeters: Enneh, zij is toch een beetje And, uh, she is bit more civilized,
8beschaafder, eigenlijk, vind ik. Dat actually, I think. I
9merkte ik meteen. noticed that immediately.
Extract 2. Interaction between Miss Peeters (Peeters) and Makkinga (Jolien). Recording conduc ted
in August2016.
The formal way of addressing by Mrs. Poem and Mrs. Peeters is meant
to indicate politeness, decency, and a sense of belonging to the group of
established residents already living at Leem. Many of the new residents
from Mola, however, felt excluded by the use of words such as honey and boy;
like Mrs. Poem and Mrs. Peeters, they felt these words to be too informal,
if not slightly indecent, for mutually addressing each other. This illustrates
that in subtle ways residents engage in a politics of belonging by sustaining
boundaries (Yuval-Davis, 2006) that are informed by and construed through
language practices, and that in turn contribute to residents’ sense of being
more or less entitled to belong to the place.
Linguistic Resources in the Former Mining Cité of Eisden,
Maasmechelen (BE)
A peripheral area where speakers have been engaged in dynamic multilin-
gual practices for decades is the cité of Eisden (BE) (see Auer & Cornips, 2018;
Pecht, 2013, 2015, 2019, 2021). The speakers, now all men in their eighties,
have socially interacted with each other closely since their childhood. They
label their way of speaking Cité Duits (“mining district German”). Whereas
Duits refers to the “German language,” the word cité is French for “district”
and refers, in the given context, to a residential area for coal miners built by
the mining companies. Cité Duits developed among the locally born male
children of immigrant miners in the common miners’ district in the 1930s. It
mainly consists of features of German, Belgian Dutch, and the Limburgish
dialect called “Maaslands” spoken in this area, but it also includes lexical
items from other European languages such as Polish and French. In addi-
tion, it contains residuals from the local coal mining vocabulary (van de
Wijngaard & Crompvoets, 2006). Yet, Cité Duits clearly goes beyond the
commonly attested processes of lexical borrowing.
Despite signicant bodies of work within the  eld of language contact
focusing on a variety of linguistic contexts (Poplack, 1980; Matras, 2009;
Muysken, 2014; Bakker, 1997) language practices within coal mining districts
have been little studied, and this is true in particular for Eisden (Auer &
Cornips, 2018; Pecht 2015, 2019; Cornips & Muysken, 2019). The fact that these
speakers are now in their eighties and grew up in a socially isolated environ-
ment makes these practices even more interesting and worth investigating (for
a sociohistorical overv iew, see Pecht, 2019, 2021). To give an impression of what
the language practices of the community investigated look like, an example
of the data from sociolinguistic  eldwork is provided below in “Extract 3.”
1L: godverdomme. een paar dage später Damn! A few days later came-
2 kam- kam der chef-guarde. nach
schule. (…)
the head controller [mining terminol-
ogy] to our school. (…)
3 un(d) da war der mutter van, r.s. and there was the mother from R. S.
4J: ahh. ha.
5L: der hat uns verrate. she betrayed us.
6 joa:. un dann, bei dinge, maar von Yes, and then, but things, but
vatter kezem abgetrokken. fathers’ salary was subtracted.
7R: und dann noch, hammel gekriech, ja. and then, we got beaten up.5
8uhh, die habe geschmeckt. those were tasty.
9 R jaa, de(r) wart gut. yes, that was good.
Extract 3. Interaction between J., L. and R., recording conducted in November2015.
In this fragment, we  nd a number of linguistic features that can be associ-
ated with Dutch (godverdomme), German (Schule, Hammel), the Maaslands
dialect (wart, 3. person singular past tense “to be”), and French (guarde,
kezem, coming from quinzaine). In a similar vein, speakers use pronominal
5 D ue to the natur e of the speech (uns tructu red inform al spoken lang uage), literal t ranslation
into Eng lish does not al ways work; in t hese insta nces, a slight ly less litera l transl ation is provided .
forms that are not found in Dutch but do exist in German (der, 3. person
singular), and word-internal mix ture, for example in dage (“days”). In the latter
case, the nal syllable ge- is a stop, and it is realized according to German
phonology whereas the initial syllable corresponds to Dutch dagen (c ompa re
German Tage). Final n-deletion in words such as verrate und habe, on the other
hand, is rather typical of spoken Dutch/Maaslands. What we see here is that
boundaries between two or more varieties are not clear-cut. In other words,
the speakers mix the languages to such a degree that it is often impossible to
identify the source language of the clause. Thus, grammatical constructions
are not xed but negotiable, and they may reect fuzzy boundaries.
The preliminary ndings by Pecht suggest that Cité Duits is only spoken by
men who grew up in Eisden-cité in the 1930s. Women of the same generation
do not speak it, although they are as multilingual as the men, as illustrated
in “Extract 4”:
1F: Wat is uw moedertaal? (…) What is your mother tongue?
2L: Ja, wat ís mijn moedertaal? Ik ben in Yes, what is my mother tongue? I
3 België geboren, dat zal wel eh was born in Belgium, thus it must
4Nederlands zijn, maar eh, mijn eh be Dutch, but my parents were
5ouders waren Italiane(n), dus eh, Italians, so primarily Italian
6 primer het Italiaans ook wel. Ik weet as well. I don’t know. (Pause)
7 het niet. [Pauze] En eigenlijk, Frans Actually, we also spoke a lot of
8 hebben we ook veel gesproken in huis French at home since my brother
9 met mijn, mijn broer is in eh Charleroi was born in Charleroi6 and went to
10 gebore, dus daar ging hij ook naar school there before they moved to
11 school, eer dat ze naar hier kwamen, this place. Therefore, we often
12 Frans gesproke. Het was een beetje spoke French at home. It was a
13 alles. En dan, eh, mijn schoonzuster little bit of everything. And then,
14 was een écht Italiaanse, en die kont, my sister-in-law was a ‘real’ Italian
15 toen ze naar hier kwam alléén and she spoke only Italian when
16 Italiaans, dus met haar werd ook weer she moved here. With
17 Italiaans gesproke. En zo, ‘t is een her, we spoke Italian. All in all, it was
18 beetje een mengelmoes geweest. a bit of a mishmash.
Extract 4. Interview bet ween Nantke Pecht (F=Fieldwo rker) and Lena (L), conducted in
As this example shows, Lena (age 80), daughter of a miners’ family that
originated from the Italian-Slovenian border region and married to a former
Italian miner from Modena, hesitated when being asked about her mother
tongue and she repeated the question (“What is my mother tongue”?). She
6 Charleroi is situated in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
then went on to explain that it is supposed to be Dutch, but the reality is a
diferent one: she grew up speaking French, Italian and Dutch. Fur thermore,
as she reported during the interview, she picked up bits and pieces of the
local dialect. As illustrated by these two extracts, speakers from this former
mining district, both men and women, grew up highly multilingual. While
women mainly seemed to switch between the diferent language varieties,
the language use of the men ex hibits such a high degree of mixture that often
the boundaries between language A, B, and C have completely disappeared,
leading to what the speakers themselves refer to as Cité Duits.
Social Categorization by Students in a School Context
About half of the students in section “4b” of “South High School” had a
migration background. These adolescents were confronted with diversity on
a daily basis through their contact with (and in many cases, personal ali-
ation with) people, goods, information, languages, and cultures perceived
as originating in other places. Although almost all students were born in
the Netherlands, those with a migration background frequently labeled
themselves Turk (“Turk”), Marokkaan (“Moroccan”), and/or buitenlander
(“foreigner”), while calling others (but not themselves) Nederlander. They
constructed these categories as self-evident, naturally distinct kinds of
people. The following “Extract” and its analysis illustrates how students
engaged in such identication practices, and thus how the tactics of in-
tersubjectivity played out in ordinary conversation among students. The
transcribed conversation took place between Nikki (age 16, labeled herself
Nederlander), Amira and Dounia (both age 15, labeled themselves Marok-
kaan), Hatice and Meryem (both age 15, labeled themselves Tu rk). These girls
were sitting together, waiting for the bell to mark the end of class, while
discussing two common acquaintances (who were not classmates). The
researcher was sitting nearby but did not participate in the conversation.
1Nikki: wie valt er nou op een wannabe who would ever be into a
2Turk? Asjeblieft wannabe Turk? (.) please
3Amira: is hij Turk? is he Turk?
4Dounia nee ( ) ze is Algerijn no ( ) she is Algerian
5Nikki ja daarom (.) hij doet de hele tijd yes that’s why (.) he always
6e e e e dan begint ie
does e e e e then he starts
7 Turks te praten zogenaamd speaking Turkish supposedly
8Amira wat de [fa:k] what the [fu:ck]
9Dounia [o hij] is een wannabe Turk [o he] is a wannabe Turk
10 Nikki ja daarom yes that’s why
11 (1.2) (1.2)
12 Amira hij is alles wannabe heh heh he is wannabe ever ything heh heh
13 Dounia ja wannabe Marokkaan, wannabe
yes wannabe Moroccan, wannabe
14 Hatice wat is ie nou eigenlijk? so what is he really?
15 Dounia hij is Pakistaans he is Pakistani
16 Nikki dan kan hij toch geen Turks? then he can’t speak Turkish right?
17 (1.5) (1.5)
18 ((iedereen praat 1.5” door elkaar)) ((all speak for 1.5”))
19 Meryem hij praat gewoon (.) he just speaks (.)
20 hij zegt alleen die scheldwoorden he only says those swear words
Extract 5. Nikki, Amira, Dounia, Hatice and Meryem in informal conversation before the star t of
class. Recording conducted in June2017.
In “Extract 5,” two tactics of intersubjectivity can be clearly distinguished.
By introducing the term “wannabe Turk” in lines 1-2, Nikki calls into exist-
ence the possibility of a “real Turk.” She thereby engages in the “tactic of
intersubjectivit y” authentication-denaturalization (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004).
She denaturalizes the identity supposedly presented by someone who used
language that – in the girls’ eyes – is incongruent with his category. The
students assumed that, underneath any potential “fake” identity, there
is always an objective and “true” membership to be uncovered. This is
illustrated by Hatice’s question in line 14: “what is he really”? At the same
time, Nikki engages in the tactic of adequation-distinction: by distin-
guishing herself from this “inauthentic” individual, she can (implicitly)
present herself as authentic, as on a par with the other participants in
the conversation.
It occurred very frequently that these students discussed other in-
dividuals who they, at some point in the conversation, would label as
member of a certain category. They treated category membership as a
given and discussed it with an air of naturalness and commonsense, and
furthermore as a rich source of information. Identi cation with ethnic
categories in this peer group was much more complex than suggested
by their essentialist terms, however. Although most students did not
hesitate overtly to label themselves “Turks,” “Moroccans,” or even “foreign-
ers,” they also explicitly dis-identi ed with Moroccans in Morocco and
Turks in Turkey. These categories were thoroughly embedded in their
local context: people labeled themselves and others on the basis of their
(family’s) migration history, but the labels came to be associated with
characteristics that had little to do with the country they referred to.
Instead, when discussing Turken, Marokkanen, or buitenlanders, students
often mentioned dress style, physical appearance, having a good sense
of humor, or being generous. Labels functioned to engage in local, intra-
national categorization.
Furthermore, as can also be seen from “Extract 5,” students used labels
to construct a local social hierarchy, in which the categories Turk, Marok-
kaan and buitenlander had status (van de Weerd, 2019). This local prestige
led to the possibility of “wannabes.” This represents a striking reversal
of particular discourses in Dutch society that exclusively problematize
people with migration backgrounds (Bouabid, 2016). This overt reversal
of categories’ social status may well be seen as the students’ commentary
on, and resistance to, the stigmatization they experience in much popular
The Added Value of the Three Case-Studies
In the three interdisciplinary projects discussed in this chapter, societal
concerns are center stage in the formulation of the research questions. More
speci cally, they address the challenge of inclusion and exclusion practices,
as well as regional and social identity constructions in a nursing home, in
a former coal miners’ district, and in a peripheral region school. What is
more, they study individuals in diferent communities and in diferent
stages of life: older people in a nursing home, retired coal miners in a cité,
and teenagers in a classroom. In all three contexts, communication is
increasingly determined by both societal and individual multilingualism
rather than by monolingualism, and linguistic practices of today’s speakers
involve the use of features that can be associated with several linguistic
resources, as illustrated most in Pecht’s project. By analyzing seemingly
ordinary, day-to-day conversations against a background of ethnographic
knowledge about participants and their context, one can observe how
diferent kinds of identities are invoked and put to work. The teenagers
in van de Weerd’s project conjured up a social universe in their everyday
classroom interactions, in which they discussed ethnic category membership
as being all but stable or straightforward. As such, their negotiation shows
that “identities” may take on specic new meanings all the time, and that
social boundaries are created, maintained, and shifted in interaction. By
problematizing processes of identication, and examining the meaning
of labels in their context of use, we can avoid over-simplifying social op-
positions. Makkinga also shows how social and local identities are invoked
through language practices, and how the use of specic terms of address
contribute to a sense of (un)belonging. As such, these projects contribute
to the research efort within the context of the Chair in “Languageculture
in Limburg” by shedding light on the local particularities and situational
elements that shape the experience of people in a region perceived as
peripheral, but which is also afected by processes of globalization in its
own ways (cf. Wang et al., 2014).
Once people from diferent sociocultural backgrounds will begin to move
through space, they will also take their linguistic knowledge with them,
and share and alter it together with those they encounter along the way.
The contemporary reality of linguistic interaction encompasses a vast
array of linguistic resources, ranging from the alternating use of several
linguistic varieties to all sorts of language mixing. To examine how language
practices and the choice for particular linguistic varieties and forms are a
resource for identity formation, we relied on a combination of methodologies:
ethnographic eldwork completed with participant observation, informal
conversations and audio recordings, and sociolinguistic interviews in the
more language-oriented research.
All our case-studies illustrate that speakers deal with linguistic resources
and social realities in creative ways. The research conducted by Makkinga
shows that processes of inclusion and exclusion by residents of a nursing
home take place through language practices, and through terms of address
in particular, resulting in experiences of (un)belonging. Pecht’s research
highlights how a combination of social factors has inuenced language
choice and mixing within a former coal mining community in Belgian
Limburg. Van de Weerd’s project demonstrates that the efects of globaliza-
tion are recognizable in regions perceived as peripheries. Her analysis of
language use in daily interactions among students at a school in the North
of Limburg (NL) sheds light on the ways these students negotiate their
“multi-ethnic” context by constructing social boundaries and negotiating
the implications of category membership.
All three projects reveal how (groups of) individuals (dis)identify with
others through specic language, labeling, and addressing practices. As
such these practices constitute a robust social semiotic system that allows
actors to express a full range of social concerns in a given community.
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About the Authors
Leonie Cornips holds the Chair Languageculture in Limburg at the Faculty of
Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University, and she is a senior-researcher
at NL-Lab, Humanities Cluster (KNAW). She publishes on language variation,
multilingualism, bidialectal child language, regional construction through
language practices, and, very recently, she is making a plea for an animal
turn in linguistics.
Jolien Makkinga was a PhD candidate at Maastricht University and the
Meertens Institute (Humanities Cluster, KNAW). Her research focuses on
the linguistic construction of belonging in a nursing home. She presented
her work at several national and international conferences and she published
in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford.
Nantke Pecht obtained her PhD at Maastricht University (2021) on the
morphosyntactic and sociolinguistic aspects of a moribund coal miners’
language. Nantke holds a MA in European Linguistics and a BA in Spanish
literature, language and media studies (major), and English and American
Studies (minor) from the Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg. She is
enrolled in the Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics (LOT) and is a
member of the Societas Linguistica Europaea (SLE), Algemene Vereniging
voor Taalwetenschap (AVT), and the Limburgish-section of Levende Talen.
Pomme van de Weerd is a linguistic anthropologist. She obtained her
PhD at Maastricht University, with a fellowship from Université Libre de
Bruxelles, with a dissertation based on linguistic ethnographic eldwork
among secondary school pupils in Venlo, the Netherlands. Using concepts
from linguistics, anthropology, conversation analysis, and membership
categorization analysis, she analyzes pupils’ self- and other-categorization
in ethnic terms.
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Full-text available
Older people who live in a nursing home do not take the experience of belonging for granted. Until now little research has been done on the role that language practices can play in the experience of belonging in a nursing home. During conversations between nursing staff and residents, the former often adjust their language practices, producing cultural narratives on ageing to which residents in nursing homes are often exposed in the process of achieving belonging. However, older people do not necessarily identify with these narratives, which affect whether residents experience belonging. This article explores the adjustments in language practices made by nursing staff and shows how they reinforce the cultural narratives on ageing. The results demonstrate that these altered language practices reinforce cultural narratives on ageing, and that adjustments are made towards what is perceived to be a homogenous group of older people, thereby overlooking the individuality and capacities of residents.
This article investigates grammatical features of Cité Duits , a moribund in-group coalminers’ language spoken in the town of Eisden in Belgian Limburg. Based on audio data from eight multilingual speakers collected through a method of sociolinguistic interviews in 2015, I show that certain features are a fusion of Belgian Dutch, German and the Maaslands dialect spoken in this area, in addition to ‘well-known’ and ‘new’ features. Since grammatical properties of this contact variety have hardly been researched yet, this contribution aims at filling this gap by providing a first analysis of selected morphosyntactic features including negation, bare NPs, non-inverted V3s and participle formation. Building on Aboh’s hybridity approach to the emergence of grammar (2017), I suggest that Cité Duits displays a recombination of linguistic features that have become part of a stable system over the decades. The basic idea is that speakers are capable of weaving together abstract properties of different varieties present in the input. Research on this mining language is therefore an extraordinary opportunity to investigate language and dialect contact, largely because of its recent emergence and direct information about the first generation of speakers and their social ties.
The functional ability of older people has come to play a significant role in their care. Policies and public debate promote active aging and the need to maintain functioning in old age, including among older people living in long-term care. This study explores the meanings given to functional ability in the interview talk of long-term care nurses (n = 24) and older people living in long-term care (n = 16). The study is based on discourse analysis and positioning theory. In this study, accounts of functioning differed between nurses and older residents. For the nurses, functional ability was about the basic functions of everyday life, and they often used formal and theoretical language, whereas for older long-term care residents, functional ability was a more versatile concept. Being active was promoted, particularly in the nurses' talk but also sometimes in residents' talk, thereby reflecting the public discourse about functioning. In their talk, the nurses positioned themselves in relation to functional ability as competent professionals and active caregivers. In residents' talk, we found three positions: an active individual taking care of him or herself, a recipient of help, and a burden to nurses. To move in a direction that promotes activity and rehabilitative care, a better understanding of older people's individual needs and their own views of functional ability is needed