Four decades of study of synchronic variation in varieties of Dutch. A sketch
This contribution addresses three of the most influential general tendencies in the recent history of the linguistic study of synchronic language variation in the Dutch language area: the social turn, the re-orientation on theoretical debates in linguistics and, thirdly, the improvement and miniaturization of recording equipment along with the rapid rise of digital research techniques. A section each will be dedicated to each of these tendencies and their impact in the Low Countries. An additional section will be devoted to the incipient widening of the research object to include externally motivated variation. Unlike the preceding sections, which have the form of succinct overviews, this last one goes into some depth in that a recent research project is outlined, along with a brief discussion of some preliminary findings. In the introduction it will be pointed out that there is only a partial overlap between the studies which are (for the most part briefly and shallowly) discussed here and sociolinguistics at large. The latter is considerably wider and more varied in scope, orientation and approach, while not all of the studies which are sketched in this contribution are sociolinguistic in topic, research question and method.