Linguistics and Language Variation

The Linguistics and Language Variation research group researches language, language variation, and language change in the Netherlands, as well as Dutch languages around the world. The Linguistics team brings together a wealth of expertise in various fields, such as quantitative and qualitative sociolinguistics, dialectology, formal linguistics, computational linguistics and multimodal interaction. The researchers have also accumulated specialist knowledge on the power-relation dynamics between standard languages, non-standard varieties and young people’s slang.

Central to the research is the complex interaction between identity, culture and diversity, against the background of (global) social change. The group researches how these factors affect perceptions of languages and language use, language structure and language variation in the Netherlands and in other communities where forms of Dutch are spoken.

Exploring language boundaries

One of the main objectives is to challenge conventional definitions of language. Taking this perspective as a basis, our researchers explore the concepts of language boundaries and consider political, structural and identity-based dimensions of linguistic diversity. Although language boundaries often coincide with geographical regions, they are becoming increasingly dynamic and are influenced by factors such as migration, colonisation and globalisation. The multifaceted nature of the term ‘boundary’ is therefore also a research topic, with a focus on multilingual communities and dialect continuity.
Our research explores the structural boundaries of language systems, paying particular attention to the boundaries of grammatical variation. We focus on different aspects of language, such as phonology, word formation and sentence structure, and examine how grammatical stability and flexibility relate to the formation of linguistic identity.

As language is influenced to a large extent by historical and political factors, we also examine how political boundaries shape or reshape language and how communities conceptualise languages and language boundaries. By contributing to language planning and policymaking for political, educational and media bodies, our research also has practical, societal value.

Language and Identity

Another important aspect of our research is understanding how language helps individuals shape their identity. Language acts as a marker of cultural identity and our research shows how linguistic variation is used to express belonging to specific communities and social groups.

Within our team we also devote attention to the language of young people, placing a particular emphasis on regional and multi-ethnic aspects of such language use, especially in online social-media contexts.

New Perspectives on Language

Our research even goes beyond human language: a relatively new research topic within the group is the interaction between humans and animals (mainly cows and cats). Through this research we highlight the added value of studying interaction beyond traditional language boundaries. This could lead to new perspectives on human language and on the way humans relate to the animals they live with.


The research group Linguistics and Language Variation also has its own website – LiME (Linguistics @ Meertens). This is where the continuous LiME-lectures are kept track of, among other things.

Research Output

You may find the full research output/publications of the research group Linguistics and Language Variation on the KNAW PURE page ‘Meertens Instituut – Variatielinguïstiek‘.

Research projects