Saturday, September 22, 2018

Forms of address in Norwich Dutch (of Norwichs Vlaams)

So far this blog has often discussed Dutch as a contact language and Dutch loanwords borrowed by other languages as a result of this contact. However, this post looks at forms of address, which in English are typically 'you'. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, thousands of Dutch or nederduytsch speakers left the Low Countries for religious and or economic reasons. Some settled in England, including my hometown Norwich. I am working on a project looking at Dutch as an emigrant language in Norwich. One source for this is a series of letters written by Dutch-speakers, mainly from West Flanders, to friends and relatives who remained in the Low Countries. These tend to be fairly informal in nature and the language probably comes quite close to the Dutch/Flemish that would have been heard on the streets of early modern Norwich. It should be noted that they only survive in transcription, so we must use the results from them with caution. 
Another source for 'Norwich Dutch' is correspondence written by leaders of the Dutch church in Norwich to leaders of Dutch churches elsewhere in England, above all in London. I have compared the forms of address in each set of letters and the results are quite unequivocal. The dominant subject form of address is the g-form, ghy (or variant spellings). This is to be expected as this was the dominant form in Flanders at this time. Perhaps less expected is the total absence of the older pronoun du (cf. German Du), which still persisted in Flanders in the sixteenth century, although it was in recession. As for the church letters, the dominant form there is ulieden or u.l (the u-form). The result for these two sets of letters is statistically significant,  χ2 (1) = 21.0022, p < .01. So it can be tentatively asserted that there was what linguists call a T-V (Tu/Vos) distinction in Norwichs Vlaams between the informal g-form and the formal u-form. The detailed results of this study are on the Facebook page 'The History of Language in Norfolk'. I would like to compare these results with those from other sets of letters in (West)-Flemish - please let me know of any such collections.

A letter written by a Flemish 'Stranger' in Norwich to family in Ieper

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