Gender marking in Dutch dialects

There is a great deal of variation and change in how Dutch and other dialects mark gender. For instance, the Brabant dialects originally have a three-gender system, but the current situation for these dialects demonstrates substantial variation on this point. Language contact in our dynamic and rapidly changing society has led to a convergence of the Brabant dialects into the standard language, resulting in dialect leveling and loss. However, in a pilot study we conducted, we saw that while, in some contexts, gender markers were used less often, they were used more often in others: speakers are using markers where they were not possible in the original dialect and are even creating new markers.

These patterns of variation between and among speakers of the same dialect are a direct indication that a language is in a state of change. In this project we will research this variation and change in the Brabantian dialects, in order to gain better insight into the more general processes that lie at the foundation of linguistic variation and change. In this study we will study the language structures as well as the social, stylistic, or cultural influences on the variation and change, and we will connect the dots between them in order to determine the dynamic interaction between language system and language use during the process of change and variation.