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Changes in Modern Frisian verbal inflection

Synchronie en diachronie in taal

Our project investigates changes in Modern Frisian verbal inflection and is a joint project of the UCF, the ACLC (UvA) and the Fryske Akademy (FA). The research will be conducted in four years (2014-2018) and the supervision is in the hands of prof. dr. A.P. (Arjen) Versloot (UvA/ACLC) as supervisor and promotor and dr. W. (Willem) Visser (Fryske Akademy) as daily supervisor and co-promotor. The goal of the project is twofold. The more concrete goal is to give a detailed overview and account of the on-going changes in the verbal inflection of Frisian. The theoretical goal is to find out why certain changes occur and others do not and how this relates to morphological theory in general.

 

 

Promovendus (AiO)
Anne Merkuur MA

Promotor
prof. dr. Arjen Versloot

Co-promotor
dr. Willem Visser 

Onderzoeksthema
Synchronie en diachronie in taal

Looptijd
18/04/2014-17/04/2018

Samenwerkingsverband met
UCF/UCL, Universiteit van Amsterdam

 

 

A debate which is still unsettled in linguistics and cognitive science is the one about the nature of language processing. So far, this so-called past tense debate has mainly focused on monolingual situations and on majority languages like English and German, which generally have quite clear standards and which, in the case of English and German, show clear distinctions between regular and irregular morphology. Recently, there has been an increasing interest in the verbal morphology of languages which do not exhibit such clear distinctions between regular and irregular verbal morphology (Ktachenko, 2010).


Hence, this project aims to study recent changes in the verbal inflection of Modern Frisian. Frisian is the minority language of Fryslân, a northern province of the Netherlands, which is currently spoken by approximately 400,000 bilingual (Dutch and Frisian) speakers (Gorter, 1996). As a written language, Frisian has a weak position. It is mostly because of the limited education in Frisian and the bilingual situation in Fryslân that Dutch, the official  language of the Netherlands, exerts a heavy pressure on Frisian (Popkema, 2006, p. 37). Due to its weak standard, the language is known to change more rapidly (Versloot, 2010).  Not only is the verbal morphology of Frisian influenced by this weak standard, but the language also has a relatively complex inflectional system, with two classes of weak (regular) verbs (class I ending in – ə, class II ending in –jə), several (sub)classes of strong and irregular verbs, and considerable dialectical variation. In short: Frisian forms a perfect breeding ground for language change and, because of the recent changes in its verbal inflection, is an excellent language to study in the light of the past tense debate.


The overarching focus and goal of the dissertation is twofold. The more concrete goal is to give an overview and account of the on-going changes in the verbal inflection of Frisian. We will do so by testing language users on their use of verbal inflections on existing and non-existing words. As far as changes in the inflection of Frisian verbs are concerned, it is hardly conceivable that 'anything goes'. The question is what can ‘go’, and in which direction. The theoretical goal then, is to find out why certain changes occur and others do not and how this relates to morphological theory in general. We will try and test the goodness of fit of several theoretical accounts on language processing and change, by studying these current changes in the form of separate case studies, which will all together form the dissertation. To determine which theory fits best, i.e. discover whether and how these forms are stored or processed, predictions of these several theories will be compared with the results of the language tests.