Prof.dr. M.J. (Marijke) van der Wal

  • Professor
  • Historical linguistics and historiography

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2134
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics, LUCL Nederlands
Office Address: Witte Singel-complex
P.N. van Eyckhof 1
2311 BV Leiden
Room number 2.03c

Key Publications

Gijsbert Rutten & Marijke J. van der Wal. 2014. Letters as Loot. A sociolinguistic approach to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins.


Research interests:

  • history of Dutch
  • language change
  • language history from below
  • standardisation process
  • uniformity versus diversity
  • historical syntax
  • historiography of linguistics

Research programme Letters as Loot. Towards a Non-Standard View on the History of Dutch, funded by NWO:

Central to this research project is the recently rediscovered extraordinary collection of Dutch letters dating from the second half of the 17th to the early 19th centuries, confiscated during the wars fought between The Netherlands and England. These so-called "sailing letters" are kept in the National Archives of Kew (UK) and comprise a rich variety of both commercial and private Dutch correspondence, from brief notes to elaborate letters. What makes this huge collection of over 38,000 letters so interesting are the private letters, written by men, women and even children of all social ranks, including the lower and middle classes. They offer an unprecedented opportunity to gain access to the everyday and colloquial language of the past and will consequently enable us to fill major gaps in the history of Dutch.

The linguistic data will be analysed from a socio-historical perspective which will allow us to present a more complete view of the history of Dutch than ever before. By looking at language from the perspective of the language history from below we will be able to complement current accounts of the history of Dutch from a non-standard perspective. Two PhD- or "aio"-projects correspond with crosssections to be made in the source material: Everyday Dutch of the lower and middle classes. Private letters in times of war (1665-1674) and A perspective from below. Private letters versus printed uniformity (1776- 1784). The third subproject of the research programme, Filling the gaps: rewriting the history of Dutch, will result in a monograph, written by the post-doc participating in the programme and myself. In this monograph the history-from-below-approach will be evaluated.

I am delighted that the funding by NWO allows me, with a team of two aio’s and a post-doc, to start large-scale linguistic research of the sailing letters, which though mere booty for privateers at the time, nowadays represent priceless material for historical linguists of the 21st century!


  • Marijke van der Wal, Onvoltooid verleden tijd. Witte vlekken in de taalgeschiedenis (oratie 17 november 2006), Amsterdam: Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen, 2006. Websites: Open Access Leiden University.
  • Marijke van der Wal (in samenwerking met Cor van Bree), Geschiedenis van het Nederlands, Utrecht: Spectrum, 2004, 4e druk. 
  • M.J. van der Wal, De moedertaal centraal. Standaardisatie-aspecten in de Nederlanden omstreeks 1650, Den Haag: SDU, 1995.
  • Marijke J. van der Wal, Aan mijn dierbare Cecilia, 16de-eeuws lief en leed in brieven. Websites: Leiden University.
  • Marijke J. van der Wal, “Relativisation in the History of Dutch: Major Shift or Lexical Change?”. In: Patricia Poussa (ed.), Relativisation on the North Sea Littoral, LINCOM Studies in Language Typology (LSLT), München: Lincom Europa, 2002, 27-35. 
  • Marijke J. van der Wal, “Lambert ten Kate and Eighteenth-Century Dutch Linguistics”, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft 12, 2002, 49-63.
  • Marijke J. van der Wal, "Eighteenth-century linguistic variation from the perspective of a Dutch diary and a collection of private letters". In: S. Elspass, N. Langer, J. Scharloth & W. Vandenbussche (Eds.), Germanic Language Histories from Below (1700–2000), Berlin/New York: De Gruyter, 2007, 83-96.

Other publications can be found under 'Published work' (top of page). 


Teaching activities

Current teaching interests:

  • history of Dutch
  • historical linguistics
  • historical sociolinguistics
  • historical syntax
  • historiography of linguistics
  • second language acquisition in the past

Curriculum Vitae

1968 - 1975 Study of Dutch Linguistics and Literature, language philosophy and logic at Leiden University
1975 Assistant professor of historical linguistics
1986 PhD Passiefproblemen in oudere taalfasen. Middelnederlands sijn/ werden + participium praeteriti en de pendanten in het Gotisch, het Engels en het Duits.
1993 - 1994 Participation in the interdisciplinary NWO programme Nederlandse cultuur in Europese context for the 1650 project
1995 - 2011 Co-editor of the linguistic journal Nederlandse Taalkunde
1998   Associate professor of Historical linguistics
2001 - 2003 Master of Public Administration (MPA) at the Nederlandse School voor Openbaar Bestuur (The Netherlands School of Public Administration, The Hague)
2006 - 2009 KNAW-Muller chair History of Dutch
2009 -present   Chair History of Dutch (Merweborgh foundation) 

Last Modified: 11-12-2015