Historical Demography and Historical Sociolinguistics: The Role of Migrant Integration in the Development of Dunkirk French in the 17th Century

in Language Dynamics and Change
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Abstract

Widespread minority language shift in Early Modern Europe is often ascribed to restrictive language policies and the migration of both majority- and minority-language speakers. However, without a sociohistorically credible account of the mechanisms through which these events caused a language shift, these policies lack explanatory power. Inspired by research on 'language histories from below,' we present an integrated sociohistorical and linguistic account that can shed light on the procresses taking place during a case of language shift in the 17th and 18th centuries. We present and analyze demographic data on the immigration and integration of French speakers in previously Dutch-speaking Dunkirk in this period, showing how moderate intermarriage of immigrants and locals could have represented a motive and a mechanism for language shift against a backdrop of larger language-political processes. We then discuss the modern language-shift dialect of Dunkirk in comparison with different dialects of French. The linguistic data suggests a large influence from the dialects of migrants, underlining their role in the language shift process. The combination of sociohistorical and linguistic evidence gives us a better understanding of language shift in this period, showing the value of an integrated 'from below' approach.

Historical Demography and Historical Sociolinguistics: The Role of Migrant Integration in the Development of Dunkirk French in the 17th Century

in Language Dynamics and Change

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