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Grammatical features of a moribund coalminers’ language in a Belgian cité

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This article investigates grammatical features of Cité Duits, a moribund in-group coalminers’ language spoken in the town of Eisden in Belgian Limburg. Based on audio data from eight multilingual speakers collected through a method of sociolinguistic interviews in 2015, I show that certain features are a fusion of Belgian Dutch, German and the Maaslands dialect spoken in this area, in addition to ‘well-known’ and ‘new’ features. Since grammatical properties of this contact variety have hardly been researched yet, this contribution aims at filling this gap by providing a first analysis of selected morphosyntactic features including negation, bare NPs, non-inverted V3s and participle formation. Building on Aboh’s hybridity approach to the emergence of grammar (2017), I suggest that Cité Duits displays a recombination of linguistic features that have become part of a stable system over the decades. The basic idea is that speakers are capable of weaving together abstract properties of different varieties present in the input. Research on this mining language is therefore an extraordinary opportunity to investigate language and dialect contact, largely because of its recent emergence and direct information about the first generation of speakers and their social ties.


I would like to thank Leonie Cornips and Peter Auer for supporting me to work on this project, and for their valuable comments on a draft version of this article. My thanks also go to Pieter Muysken and to two anonymous reviewers. Needless to say, I am also very grateful to all informants who facilitated data collection. All shortcomings and mistakes are, as always, my own responsibility.

Fieldwork in 2015 was carried out under a grant from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). Since 01-01-2016, this project is financed by the NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research).

Appendix: Abbreviations and glossing

Glossing follows the Leipzig Glossing Rules (Comrie et al. 2015)


common gender (here based on Dutch)


Cité Duits


direct object












Maaslands (belongs to the Limburgian dialects)




relative marker






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Published Online: 2019-08-02
Published in Print: 2019-08-27

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