Middle Dutch Sentence and Word Phonology

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Linguistics Philology and Phonetics


Our knowledge of the linguistic systems of early Germanic come from manuscripts. In this project, we plan to examine two separate Middle Dutch manuscripts, dated about 25 years apart. The first manuscript, Marshall-29 is held at the Bodleian Library and is one of the most complete surviving Middle Dutch manuscripts (dialect of Brabant), comprising 102 folios. Written in a single hand around 1375 it contains absorbing details about word and sentence phonology. Since the manuscript is complete and has not been made accessible by a reliable edition so far, it provides new material for the study of Middle Dutch phonology. The second manuscript we are interested in is the Comburg manuscript, dated between 1380-1425 written in Flemish and fairly close to Marshall-29. Since the dialects are different, varying changes in different social contact situations will be of special interest.

Our central goals are to:
A. Trace the sentence and word phonological system for a period of 600 years, from Middle to
Modern Dutch, based on our transcription of little-known medieval manuscripts.
B. Establish the conditions under which phonological and syntactic structure differ.
C. Trace the time-course of dialectal variation from manuscripts which are closely related but
geographically apart.

More specifically we plan to achieve the following:
i) On the basis of the transcription, we will provide a comprehensive synchronic analysis of 15th-century Middle Dutch sentence phonology ( including cliticisation, prosodic word formation and and prosodic phrasing) and trace the development to Modern Dutch, touching on 14th and 17th century systems based on other manuscripts.
ii) Analyse the segmental phonology of Middle Dutch and trace its development to Modern Dutch, with emphasis on both qualitative and quantitative aspects. We analyse across-word as well as within-word phonological alternations.
iii) Produce a transcription of the complete text of Marshall-29 that will be made accessible by e-publication. Since Marshall 29 is one of the few complete manuscripts of Middle Dutch non-religious texts and has yet been little studied, e-publication will enhance the options for linguistic as well as literary research of this period. This will be an invaluable addition to Middle Dutch philology.

We believe that our work will be vital for scholars working on the syntax-phonology interface, historical linguistics, and dialectologists. Within a broader perspective, the results will be added to the Dutch dialect atlas, providing invaluable data concerning sentence-phonology of medieval dialects and tracing the development to modern times. The transcription and critical edition will be of interest to scholars in Dutch poetry and literature, as well as provide information on medieval Dutch culture.

Planned Impact

I. WHO will benefit?
a) General linguists, particularly phonologists and syntacticans, historical linguists, scholars of Germanic;
b) Dialectologists
c) Scholars of Dutch history, culture, literature, and poetry;

II. HOW will they benefit? WHAT sort of impact will it have?

a) Linguists: Our results will be of great immense interest to linguists working on syntax-phonology interface and on language change.
Syntax-Phonology interface: Our work will affect theories of syntax-phonology mapping and add evidence to the controversies surrounding this research. We hope to establish that mismatch in phonological phrasing and syntactic grouping is dependent on prosodic principles like 'trochaic grouping' (build a strong+weak structure) rather than base the mapping largely on syntactic phrasing with minimal differences.
Historical Linguistics: Since sentence phonological research is rare based on medieval manuscripts, tracing the sentence phonology from early to modern times is also rare. Our research will considerably add to our knowledge in this area.

b) Dialectologists: Given that the two manuscripts are written in different dialects, the analyses and the data will be of vital significance to dialect researchers. The data will add to the sentence phonology of dialect atlases of the medieval period, a sad lacunae at the moment.

c) Other scholars: The manuscripts hold considerable interest for the non-linguists since they refer to the lives of ordinary Dutch people during the 14th century, with a philosophical and moral tone. The texts are secular and not religious and will be of value to scholars of Dutch history, culture and literature, and poetry.

C) HOW will the potential benefit/knowledge be made known?
A webpage about the project will provide general background information about the project and the manuscripts and crucially links to published papers and to the text edition.

a) For linguistics audience, the most important way in which we can ensure that the research has the expected impact, we plan to give papers at conferences where specialised international audience is present and publish in top peer reviewed journals.
The annual meetings of the Linguistics Society of America and the Linguistic Society of Great Britain will reach theoretical phonologists as well as historical linguistics. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft (DGfS) and Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference (GLAC) will allow international scholars interested in historical Germanic linguistics to listen to our work, and the Manchester Phonology Meeting attracts top phonologists.
We plan to publish in the (i) Journal of Germanic Linguistics for Germanic specialists, (ii) in the Journal of Linguistics for those working in the syntax-phonology interface and (iii) in Diachronica for historical linguists.
To ensure that our research is presented to topmost researchers in the field on whom our theoretical findings will have the greatest impact, we plan a small intensive WORKSHOP with six invited scholars. This way we can put forth our ideas in detail and also get feed back very directly.

(b) Dialectologists: The best way we feel to inform the dialect researchers is to present at the Meertens Institute of Dialectology, the main institute for Dutch Dialectology and in charge of modern linguistic atlases of Dutch dialects. This way we hope to ensure that our data is added to the relevant atlases.

(c) General audience - various methods are planned to ensure that our results and efforts are made public. Our edited version of ms. Marshall 29 will make it easier for Dutch readers to access the stories of their ancestors and for literary scholars to translate texts for use in secondary schools. In at least one newspaper article, we will highlight how communication between 14th century Dutch and British me


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Description Our goals were the following:
a) Provide a text edition for the Middle Dutch manuscripts in Marshall 29 in the Bodleian library and
b) to provide comprehensive phonological analyses related to rhymes and the phonology syntax interface, a synchronic analysis of 14th century Middle Dutch word and sentence phonology and a diachronic analysis of the Middle Dutch vowel system, traced back to Proto Germanic.
Our central findings are:
(i) First, the ms Marshall 29 has been transcribed and edited diplomatically and made available through e-publication. It is the first diplomatic edition of ms Marshall 29.
(ii) We described the Middle Dutch Vowel system by investigating rhymes and found various changes of quality and that had taken place since ProtoGermanic times. Rhymes have shown that words of the same Germanic origin can rhyme, whereas words that are written with the same vowel but are of different origin, never rhyme. We concluded that these must be of different quality in Middle Dutch although their Modern Dutch counterparts are written and pronounced the same.
(iii) By comparison of our texts to the older Life of St Lutgart manuscript we found that the process of Open Syllable Lengthening which the grammars assume was finished in the Old Dutch period had only just started in Lutgart (around 1300) whereas it was complete in two investigated texts from Ms Marshall 29, Mellibeus and Saladijn (around 1375).
(iv) We studied word and sentence phonology synchronically and looked especially at cliticisation. Our texts in verse have enabled us to draw conclusions based on rhythm and metre as well as on orthography. We found that encliticisation is far more frequent than procliticisation and involves a greater variety of lexical items that can host a clitic. Procliticisation of function words occurs when encliticisation is not possible, i.e. at the start of a sentence or when the first of two function words is unstressed and cannot take a clitic.
Exploitation Route The text edition is freely available and may be used by students and scholars of Middle Dutch literature and of Middle Dutch language and linguistics alike. It may be used in teaching of high school students and undergraduates, as well as for literary or linguistic research by post-graduate students and academics. (ii) OSL has been researched for the Brabant dialect. Based on our findings further research into other dialect areas would help understand the way in which OSL has developed throughout the language area.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.ling-phil.ox.ac.uk/dutch
Description Our findings have social importance. It is of great interest to the Dutch community to know how words were actually pronounced in medieval times and how the pronunciation changed over time. Our website is freely available to Dutch speakers interested in the actual texts and the historical context of the manuscript. We have presented our findings at 8 different conferences in Europe and America, ensuring the impact of our research on the academic community across the world.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Advanced Investigator Award : "WORDS:
Amount € 243,000,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Research Council (ERC) 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 10/2011 
End 09/2016
Description Collaboration with Antwerp University 
Organisation University of Antwerp
Department Department of Literature
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our input has been requested in a PHD project similar to our project, title: *The Measure of Middle Dutch: Rhythm and Prosody Reconstruction for Middle Dutch Literature, A Data-Driven Approach.*
Collaborator Contribution Dr Mike Kestemont has helped to identify the authors of anonymous texts in our manuscript.
Impact The contact with Dr Kestemont and his PhD student will remain.
Start Year 2013
Description Collaboration with Leiden University 
Organisation Leiden University
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The manuscript edition and the further information on our website has been used by a senior lecturer at Leiden University for his teaching to a group of master students including historians and Dutch linguists. The students have also used our texts for their research.
Collaborator Contribution The partners have indicated which texts they needed for their research, so that we could update them on the progress of the project.
Impact Students and linguistics have written master theses based on our texts. Students belonged to the discipline of history and of Dutch language and culture.
Start Year 2014
Title Oxygen XML editor 
Description with Oxygen XML editor we were able to edit the transcriptions of our manuscript in a TEI compliant way so that the text edition can be accepted in Oxford Text Archive. Also, the text can be changed to various formats, including html, Word or PDF. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact The transcriptions could easily be changed into html so that they could be placed onto the project website. 
Description electronic edition Marshall 29 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Geert Warnar (Senior Lecturer Dutch Language and Literature, Leiden University) has read and discussed the Jan van Boendale texts in Marshall 29 with a goup of master students. Some of these students were historians, some were Dutch linguists. He also recommended the site to colleagues in Flanders. One of his students contacted us in April 2014 about the date of publication of *Van den coninc Saladijn ende van Hughen van Tabaryen* by Hein van Aken, in book IV of our manuscript. The students and lecturer were kept informed of final publication.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016