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Dag van de Grunneger Toal: Eem Kieken

On a windy and cold day, 17th of March 2018, warmth and joy settled in hearts of people who visited the Dag van de Grunneger Toal 2018 (Day of Groninger Language).  The Dag is actually an annual festival, held this year for the 9th time already in the Groningen Archives. Visitors of the Dag were presented the diversity and beauty of the Groninger dialect through a wide range of presentations, several stalls, typical Groninger food options (to mention but two stamppot mous and the infamous eierbal) musical performances, and, last but definitely not least, interviews by students of the course Into the Local Laboratory: Cultural Heritage from the University of Groningen (RUG). 

School print for learning Gronings at the book market of the Dag van de Grunneger Toal. (MD)
Gronings, or Grunnegs as its called by the locals, is the umbrella-term for the Friso-Saxon dialect spoken in the province of Groningen. It is a dialect with a lot of different sub-varieties (as seen on the map to the right), but it has suffered greatly under negative language attitudes in the 1960s and 1970s, causing a great decline in the transmission of Gronings since it was thought of as 'useless' and 'hindering job opportunities' (Jensma, et al., 2018). Nowadays, among younger generations, Gronings is more a cultural, or 'passive', knowledge of the language, with some researchers fearing extinction is in sight. 
Groninger Dialekte.png
Overview of the varieties of Gronings. (Wikipedia)

This fear was not apparent at the Dag of the Grunneger Toal. Coming from a non-Dutch Erasmus student, the Dag was quite the opposite. "Judging on my own experience, I can say the Day of Groninger Language is a great possibility to get acquainted with the authentic culture of Groningen. Not so much mythologised or preserved not by taught 'mediators', but by ordinary (usually, elderly) people." He is amazed by the versatility of such a, relatively, small dialect in a tiny region of the Netherlands. 

As a group of four, we profited of the Dag van de Grunneger Toal as an opportunity to carry out fieldwork by means of interviewing visitors. These interviews made use of self-assessment in Grunnegs and questions on their language ideologies and opinions on Gronings and Groningers (locals). At the end the participants had to do a picture-naming task, a quick count to 10 and read a short list of local words. This way, participants could test their knowledge of Gronings. We interviewed more than ten people on the Dag. Most participants were older that 65, and rated themselves high on their Gronings proficiency. The results were filmed and streamed during the Dag itself, after which a master student of the Master Multilingualism (also from the RUG) will further analyse them for her own research.

Enjoying ourselves at the Dag. (KK)
What was striking about the interviews was the clear trend towards speaking Gronings in private spheres (e.g. family and friends) and speaking in ABN ('Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands', or Standard Dutch) to strangers or at work, all naming 'mutual intelligibility' as an important factor in determining language choice. In line with our knowledge of local dialects, the participants also shared that few spoke in dialect with their children, with most reporting that their children did have a passive command of the language. One woman reported, that she did not speak Gronnings with her children when they were young but did now speak it with her grandchild, to keep the language alive. While 'self-report' can be useful to indicate overt language attitudes, they are only to some extend accurate in revealing the 'true', or 'actual', linguistic practices of people. There is often a big difference between what people say and what they do. The second part of the interview took care of this with the picture-naming task, quick count, and the reading task. Especially, the older participants were very good at naming the Groninger names of the pictures, usually giving both the Dutch and Gronings term. When confronted with a picture of trousers, one man said: "I always say 'broek', but I know they used to call them 'boksem'" (translated from Gronings).

Overall, the Dag was a great experience where we had a lot of fun. We did great interviews with wonderful people, tasted wonderful local food (we recommend stamppot mous with rookworst to everyone), visited the book market, and, were lucky enough to meet (and interview) famous Groninger singer 'Rooie Rinus'. Lastly, we went to an interesting lecture about the Future of Gronings (Toukomst van het Grunnegs) by our own professor Goffe Jensma, Marlene Bakker (a Groninger singer), and poet Jan Glas. All in all, we learned a lot and very much look forward to next year. Moi!



Jensma, Goffe, Marlene Bakker, and Jan Glas. "Toukomst van het Grunnegs". Lezing. Groninger Archieven (17 March, 2018). 


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