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Expert of the Month May 2015: Leonie Cornips

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Featured Expert / Area of focus

Prof. Dr. Leonie Cornips is researcher Variation linguistics at the Meertens Institute, the Centre for Research and Documentation of Dutch Language and Culture of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam. She is also professor and extraordinary chair "Language culture in Limburg" at Maastricht University.

Face to face with Leonie Cornips

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism?

I am trained as a linguist, in the field of syntax and as a sociolinguist dealing with syntactic variation in a regional variety of Dutch in a former coalmining area. The early emergence of this contact variety between Limburgian dialects and Dutch was due to the incoming labour immigration for the coalmines in the beginning of 1900. Soon, after my PhD I started to examine new Dutch varieties like Moroccan-Dutch, Turkish-Dutch and Surinamese-Dutch and the ways of how youngsters in the large cities speak. I coupled this with interest in child acquisition and from a sociolinguistic perspective I examined bilingual children acquiring a complex phenomenon in Dutch, namely grammatical gender. Recently, I’m orienting my research in the Limburg area to anthropolinguistic theory and methodology. I’m investigating the linguistic construction of local and social identities in the Limburg area.

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

The main challenge in my field (with a Labovian, quantitative sociolinguistic background) is to research social categories such as gender, age and social class not a-priori defined but as socially constructed. Language does not simply reflect speakers but speakers are agentive and construct social categories through language. The challenge is to analyse language or dialect as a process and not as a monolithic, fixed and bound object. This has a lot of repercussions since in this perspective the concepts of bilingualism or multilingualism are superfluous. Speakers put into use whatever they need of linguistic features to construct their identities.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

The newest project (together with Kirsten van den Heuij and Elma Blom) aims to address the question whether children growing up in a bidialectal communities experience problems in the acquisition of standard Dutch vocabulary when acquiring dialect as well. The first results of 87 tested children show that the answer is negative. I now look forward to finding out whether these children have cognitive benefits of their bidialectism in comparison with the children who have a more monolingual output on the vocabulary tasks.

Another project (together with Vincent de Rooij) is about conceptualising the notion ‘belonging’ in sociolinguistics; therefore we analyse our fieldwork of carnival in the Limburg area.

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?

Leonie Cornips and Vincent de Rooij (2015 , forthcoming). Belonging through Language-cultural Practices in the Periphery. Anthropological Journal of European Cultures.
Cornips, L., J. Jaspers & V. de Rooij (2015). The politics of labelling youth vernaculars in the Netherlands and Belgium. Language, Youth and Identity in the 21st Century: Linguistic Practices Across Urban Spaces. J. Nortier & B. Svendsen (eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp 45-70
Cornips, L. (2014). Language contact, linguistic variability and the construction of local identities. In Tor A. Åfarlí & Brit Mæhlum (Eds.), The sociolinguistics of grammar (pp. 67-90).
Cornips, L. (2014) Socio-Syntax and variation in acquisition: problematizing bidialectal and bilingual acquisition Linguistic Variation 14.1: 1-25.
Cornips, L. & Rooij, V. de (2013). Selfing and othering through categories of race, place, and language among minority youths in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In P. Siemund, I. Gogolin, M.E. Schulz & J. Davydova (Eds.), Multilingualism and Language Diversity in Urban Areas: Acquisition, identities, space, education (pp. 129-164). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Links referring to research of Leonie:

Dialectsprekende kinderen
Limburgportaal in de DBNL
Personal webpage of Leonie at the Meertens Institute
Personal webpage of Leonie at the University of Maastricht

Do you have any questions on these topics?

Ask Leonie