Meertens Instituut


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Morphology Atlas of Dutch Dialects

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Read on or click to data source | finance & team

The Morphology Atlas of Dutch Dialects is an atlas unique of its kind. No atlasses before have had its size and depth. The theme of plural formation alone already comprises 40 main maps.
Several sidemaps are drawn to illustrate subthemes and tonal features.

Insights into the variability of human language, in casu Dutch dialects, coupled to images of spatial relations, provide for better understandings of areas like language history, language contact, the human cognition.

origin of data
recorded localities gif
recorded localities html
finance & team
dynamic dialectology ppt
dynamic dialectology html
verbal stem
verbal inflexion.
Read more in new window:
selections of plurals and diminutives
examples of verbs



Language change
Regular large scale fieldwork is of great importance in order to preserve the ever changing variational facts for future research. Only in this way will it be possible to investigate the lines along which variation tales place.

The sound recordings of Dutch dialect speech of 611 localities around the Netherlands, Flanders and French Flanders come after a period of 55 years since the start of the Reeks Nederlandse Dialectatlassen.
(The last recording (directly on paper) of the RND actually took place in 1975.)

on language change
course on language variation
An example of language change made visisble is the pronunciation of s and z before a vowel like is attested in the new material compared with an analysis of data from the 14th century Corpus Van Reenen-Mulder.

Another example illustrates the rise of the phenomenon of dropping word final e in the singular. Data on frequencies within the 14th century show the phenomenon slowly conquering the area where people are nowadays unaware it even existed.

Comparison with more recent material suggests that language contact between dialects is very limited nowadays; language changes seem to have come to a halt. A comparison with data from 1936 show few changes regarding the palatal element within the diminutive suffix.

s / z
final -e
article on final -e

Theory development
As important is the challenge for current theories within linguistics. The size and variety of the gathered data allow for statistical methods being applied for uncovering underlying structures within language variation.

An example of challenging research is the study into variation regarding word final t-drop; current linguistic theories cannot as yet integrate this structured variation.

Another example pertains to the within variation regarding t-drop in verbal endings. Because of the scope and size of the collection it is possible to show the structure of the within variation by means of graphics right where ususal geographical maps are not apt for uncovering this detail.

Studies into word final n, again only made possible because of the scale of the project, show the role of abstract categorizations in the realization (or not) of final n.

Theories on pronunciation of graphemes in medieval writings can now be related to current dialect variation: maps extracted from the 14th century Van Reenen-Mulder corpus are being confirmed by images on the basis of the MAND material. The gh (before a front vowel) indeed appears to be the spelling of velar g (like in Gherard) while g appears to signal the palatalized g (Gilles). Furthermore it appears that the u in the medieval east remained representing IPA [u] while u in the medieval west has come to mean IPA [y].


Data source & related projects

dynamic dialectology ppt
dynamic dialectology html
The current atlas project is sistered by the Phonological Atlas of Dutch Dialects (FAND) covering present day variation in pronunciation. The FAND (published by the Belgian Academy) highlights its themes from an histiorical perspective and contains hundreds of colored maps. FAND
Both projects base themselves upon the already mentioned fieldwork which took place from 1980 till 1995 and was initiated by
en Van Reenen.
GTRP home
motivation and history
A new round of fieldwork takes place around the Syntax Atlas of Dutch Dialects (SAND). The number of recorded places however has been quite reduced but elicitation of this specific kind of data is far more complicated.


Finance & team

The first volume (on plurals and diminutives) will arise form a close cooperation of the Meertens Instituut, the Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature (KANTL) at Ghent and the Free University (VU) at Amsterdam.


Participants are
  • dr A.C. Goeman, Meertens Instituut-KNAW
  • dr G. C. de Schutter, Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde
  • dr P.Th. van Reenen, Vrije Universiteit
  • mw drs Th. de Jong, Meertens Instituut-KNAW (deel 1a)
  • drs B.L. van den Berg, Meertens Instituut-KNAW
We welcome your questions and remarks.


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on dr Goeman
related to dr De Schutter