ICLAVE edition:8 location:LEIPZIG date:27-29 May 2015
This paper presents a mixed methods approach to assessing how Flemish mothers and fathers use accommodation strategies and child-directed speech (CDS) to help their children acquire sociolinguistic awareness concerning variants and varieties of Dutch (compare Smith et al. 2013).
The long and complex standardization history of Dutch is responsible for an intriguing tension between norm and use in Flanders. For day-to-day communication, the Flemish rely on Colloquial Belgian Dutch (CBD), a supraregional, yet non standard variety of Dutch. CBD is lexically, morpho-phonologically and syntactically different from the standard language, which is itself characterized by an exonormative orientation on the language of the North (Zenner et al. 2009). Due to extensive efforts from language policy makers, the Flemish are generally very aware of these differences between their home language and the Northern Dutch norm (Speelman et al. 2013). An important perspective on current language regards towards CBD (and, hence, on its future) can be gained by focusing on the way in which parents use (or avoid) CBD features when talking to their children.
Specifically, e scrutinize parents’ alternation between Standard Dutch and Colloquial Belgian Dutch when interacting with their children. By integrating insights and methods from variationist and interactional sociolinguistics, we not only pay attention to macro-social categories (such as the age of the children), but also to the micro-social and pragmatic context of the style-shifts (e.g. frames). As a practical consequence of this combination of course-grained quantitative analyses and fine-grained qualitative analyses, our study focuses on a single case. We rely on detailed transcriptions of three hours of recordings for one Flemish household with four children (age nine months and four, five and seven years old). Our results reveal significant variation in the style-shifts of mother (age 35) and father (age 39) with respect to the four children, which can be interpreted against the background of comments made by the parents during a sociolinguistic interview that followed the recordings.
These analyses allow us to provide a nuanced insight into the social meaning of the two language layers (Standard Dutch and Colloquial Belgian Dutch) as they are distributed across the speakers and situations in this family, revealing a link between the attested patterns of child-directed speech and the acquisition of sociolinguistic norms. As such, our data also provide evidence on prevailing standard language ideologies in Flanders.