Anticipating on his talk at the LUCL public event “Wie is de baas over de taal” (Who makes the rules in a language?) next Saturday, Geert Joris wrote in NRC-Handelsblad on Thursday that he dislikes Dunglish. He claims to be much more in favour of proper Dutch and proper English co-existing as indepent languages in Dutch speaking territories.
My own talk at the same event, “Van wie is het Engels”? (Who owns English”), will deal with precisely that as well, though from an English perspective. So I will be looking forward to the forum discussion afterwards.
Meanwhile, I’d be interested to hear what you think about Dunglish. Fill in this poll, and let us have your views here, so that I’ll be able to report on them next week.
Ik heb het tweede antwoord aangeklikt, maar in principe zou ik zeggen: Dunglish is beter dan niets. Alleen dat neemt niet weg dat ik het moeilijk kan laten om me eraan te ergeren als ik mensen taalfouten hoor maken in het Engels. Daarom ervaar ik zelf ook altijd een hoge drempel als ik Frans/Duits/Italiaans moet spreken, want ik weet dat ik dan foutjes maak. Tegelijk vind ik natuurlijk ook dat ik me gewoon moet proberen te redden in de voertaal van het land waar ik ben en niet moeilijk moet doen over mogelijke taalfouten zolang ik redelijk begrepen word.
I am bilingual. My parents spoke different languages (English and Dutch) when I was a child. So from the outset I have mixed these two languages on the level of vocabulary and grammar. You could say that I am a native speaker of Dunglish or EngIutch. I spent much of my school days at international schools, where Dunglish, Swedlish, Norweglish, Spanlish were dominant languages in many ways. I was raised in a culture in which language impurity was not only the norm, but seemed to be entirely natural. All the pupils had international backgrounds and many had parents with different nationalities. We all picked up words and phrases from each other and these became part of our international-school vocabulary and idiom. This kind of English was obviously imperfect in terms of following established English-language rules, but it was very rich in its expressive potential. I learned at school that the English and Dutch that is currently considered “proper” English and Dutch was influenced heavily by living as well as dead languages on its way to becoming the current standard. We would certainly not have had today’s standard modern English without Latin, Greek, French, Celtic, Welsh and so on. This suggests to me that languages are inherently fluid and ungraspable entities that will change as the cultures that speak them change and interact with other cultures that speak other languages. As a literary scholar I am specifically interested in the expressive power of language. My gut feeling says that the more features one language absorbs from another language the greater its expressive potential could be. We would not have had the majestic English lines of Paradise Lost had Milton not been such a master of Latin grammar. We would not have been able to enjoy the beauties of Burns’s lyrics if poetry in Scots dialect would have been considered improper for literary magazines. The Nobel-Prize winning Samuel Beckett wrote much of his work in French, which was not his native language, and then translated it into his own version of Irish-English. Mark Twain’s masterpiece, Huckleberry Finn, is also notable for its style, which is the style of a not-so-well educated young boy, who has difficulty stringing a single grammatical sentence together, but has absolutely no difficulty at all in getting his story across. I think that many modern authors embrace local dialect, slang, and mixed-language styles because this broadens the scope of expression and reflects current language-use out in the “real” world, so to speak.
Hi Ingrid, I was a conference assistant at the Helsinki Corpus Festival in 2011, so I’ve been interested in your project for some time. You left a fifth option off your poll — “Dunglish doesn’t exist”. Like “Finglish” here in the north, none of these -lishes can be considered an independent language or even a dialect of English. Dialect formation requires a community of speakers interacting with each other, and Finns don’t speak Finglish with each other. I assume the Dutch don’t speak Dunglish with each other, either. Like Evert pointed out, these -lishes are typically found in contact with each other, i.e. in lingua franca interactions where speakers of Dutch, Finnish, Spanish, etc. need a common language to start with. English then gets adjusted to the local group of speakers, like Evert also described in the international school.
These mythical -lishes are just features shared by second-language users from similar first-language backgrounds. The Wikipedia article you linked to describes these as “errors” and “mistakes”, in line with the fact that -lishes are often invoked by language purists to sneer at the local variety of “Bad English”. Finns almost always mention Finglish with these connotations of deficiency and shame, which only discourages already shy people from using their often commendable English skills with confidence.
I see the discourse of -lishes as very much connected to the traditions of prescriptivism and purism you discuss on this blog. “Ownership” is a big part of this, and now that the “owners” have become a minority of users of English, is there even a need to use these misleading terms for English used as a lingua franca? I’d like to hear about your presentation, hopefully there’s more to come!
Many thanks for your comment! I’m sorry it took so long for me to reply (it was summer vacation after all), but I’d be happy to send you my ppt presentation for the paper I gave (if you can read Dutch, that is). I can’t upload any documents here unfortunately. Just to give brief reply: I used David Crystal’s discussion of Spanglish (see Lynda Mugglestone’s Oxford History of English, 2006, p. 396) as a model to try and analyse the situation with respect to Dutchlish. It seemed to work as well, as just that week, two critical comments on Dutchlish had appeared in one of the leading Dutch newspapers (= “outcry from purists”).
But my paper was mostly about what we do in the Bridging the Unbridegable project.
Hi Ingrid, unfortunately I don’t know Dutch (my last remaining native-speaker brain cells have been committed to Finnish). But I did have a look at the discussion you referenced by Crystal, and I think he sums it up nicely. There’s a big gap between the linguistic study of the features he discusses and the popular stereotypical uses of Dutchlish et al. Personally, I’m inclined to reject the stereotypical terms altogether that circulate in popular discourse, but as linguists attempting to influence these “memes”, I suppose we’re always several steps behind.
I think Dunglish is funny. Make that the cat wise!