About the project

Going Dutch. The Construction of Dutch in Policy, Practice and Discourse, 1750-1850 is a VIDI project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Project leader, PI and co-promotor: Gijsbert Rutten
Promotor: Marijke van der Wal
Project advisors: Joep Leerssen (Amsterdam), Richard Watts (Bern)

Spread of Standard Dutch

The project Going Dutch investigates why the link between being or becoming Dutch, and knowledge of Standard Dutch is so often taken for granted in public discourse, by diving into its historical roots. The link is a fairly recent product of history, only established in the decades around 1800. In these early years of European nationalism, however, policy was not targeted towards foreigners and foreign languages. Instead, it aimed at the integration of autochthonous minorities into the one Dutch nation. The project claims that the spread of Standard Dutch at the cost of other varieties has its origins in this period, and is the result of a nationalist ideology of homogeneisation.

Enduring tension

Around 1800, the Netherlands were a multilingual country. French, German, English and Latin were used in such diverse domains as trade, education and cultural practices. Nationalist language planning was not concerned with these prestigious foreign languages. Following Van der Ploeg’s (1800) well-known dictum that the platte taalen ‘coarse languages’ should be suppressed, because they would limit people’s cognitive capacities, language planning was aimed at traditional dialects, which stood in opposition to supraregional Standard Dutch. The leitmotiv of this project is the enduring tension between officially promoted Standard Dutch on the one hand, and local varieties on the other, in a fundamental phase of Dutch nation building.


Focusing on the crucial period of 1750-1850, the project will show the origins of the linguistic side of nationalism by:

  • Studying the opposition of Standard Dutch and other variaties in public and academic discourse on linguistic diversity (subproject 1 – Gijsbert Rutten)
  • Reconstructing educational policy aimed at the spread of Standard Dutch and the suppression of other varieties (subproject 2 – Bob Schoemaker)
  • Assessing policy success by examining its influence on language use (subproject 3 – Andreas Krogull).

Thus, the project will disclose the roots of linguistic nationalism prevailing in public discourse in Europe and beyond up to the present day.

Last Modified: 25-02-2014