Language Dynamics in the Dutch Golden Age

Workshop 2020

Due to the current developments resulting from the coronavirus, we have decided to postpone the workshop Cross-disciplinary approaches to linguistic variation in Early Modern West Germanic to 2021. The dates and a new call for papers will follow the next months. 

The workshop Cross-disciplinary approaches to linguistic variation in Early Modern West Germanic derives from the hypothesis that language variation is determined by grammatical developments and restrictions, as well as literary-communicative factors. The workshop particularly focuses on the three major West-Germanic languages – i.e. English, German and Dutch – during the Early Modern period (ca. 1500-1800). This period marks one of transition in many domains including language: political, scientific, cultural and religious changes led e.g. to the use of languages in new domains (scientific, religious and literary), language standardization and mass migration of people. These developments influenced the West-Germanic languages, resulting in a situation in which massive intra- and inter-author variation was exhibited as well as radical language change. During the workshop, we seek to gain a deeper insight in morpho-syntactic variation (e.g. variation pertaining to case, negation, verbs, etc.) in these Early Modern West Germanic languages, and will try to understand how (the interplay of) grammatical/linguistic and socio-cultural/literary factors impacted on this wealth of variation. To answer these questions various research methodologies will be employed, among which quantitative data analysis using computational linguistic techniques.

We welcome both interdisciplinary and monodisciplinary contributions addressing (comparisons between) morpho-syntactic language variation and change in Early-Modern West-Germanic languages from (a combination of) the following disciplines: (historical) sociolinguistics; (historical) formal linguistics; computational linguistic; pragmatics; (Early Modern) literary studies.

Possible workshop topics include but are not limited to: 

  • How does the use of case relate to text genre and do we see the same effects for the use of, for instance, adpositional phrases? How can we identify case marking, text genre, and adpositional phrases automatically to quantify the results?
  • What are the socio-cultural, rhetorical and grammatical influences on variation in Early Modern Dutch author’s use in perfect tense and double perfects?
  • How is language variation used as a rhetorical function in letters written by higher- or lower-class people?
  • What are the socio-cultural, rhetorical, pragmatic, semantic and syntactic aspects of the use of embracing negation and single negation in Early-Modern authors? Do we see differences between highly literary genres and, for instance, ego-documents?
  • In general, how do we automatically process historical text in order to quantify linguistic and literary variation? Which tagging/parsing tools and annotated corpora exist for these tasks, for which languages or language variants? What kind of processing is needed to address research questions on language variation? How reliable are the existing resources? How can they be improved and extended?
  • How can computational linguistics, in turn, benefit from historical (socio-)linguistics? What are the effects of small data, suboptimal quality, and a large amount of language variation and change in a short time span, on automatic processing?

Invited speakers:

The conference will be held in Utrecht University (The Netherlands).

All questions about submissions should be emailed to