Tweants: Wikis

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Tweants
Spoken in Netherlands[1]
Region Northeast, Overijssels province.[1]
Total speakers 338,000 (2003)[1]
Language family Indo-European
Official status
Official language in Netherlands (as part of Low Saxon)[1]
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 gem [Germanic, other]
ISO 639-3 twd

Tweants (Dutch: Twents) is a West Dutch Low Saxon group of dialects spoken by approximately 62% of the population of Twente, a region in the Dutch province of Overijssel bordering on Germany. Its speakers also refer to Tweants as plat or simply dialect. A widespread misconception is the assumption that it is a variety of Dutch. It is, however, a variety of Dutch Low Saxon, recognised by the Dutch government as a regional language according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. As such, it enjoys some loose stimulation from the part of the government. This does not go as far, however, as the legal protection granted to Frisian, a local language in the Netherlands.

Contents

Pronunciation and characteristics

Tweants does not have a standardised pronunciation or spelling; all towns and villages in Twente have their own local variety, which, although they are mutually intelligible and similar, makes it hard to be tagged as a single dialect. Due to this fragmentation, and the lack of a standard variety, many speakers of Tweants mostly do not refer to their language as "Tweants" or "Dutch Low Saxon", but call it by the locality their variety is from (e.g. a person from Almelo would say he speaks "Almeloos" rather than "Tweants"). Another possibility is that speakers combine these two possibilities: a speaker from Rijssen could say he speaks "Riesns Tweants". There are, however, a number of characteristics that are shared across all varieties.

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Phonetic details

The following paragraphs contain IPA symbols.

vowels

[ɪ] - as in the English word kit, e.g. lippe (lip)
[i] - as in the word deep, e.g. wiek (neighbourhood)
[ʏ] - as in the Dutch word hut, e.g. zuster (sister)
[y] - as in the French word voiture, e.g. dure (door)
[u] - as in the English word goose, e.g. hoes (house))
[ɛ] - as in the English word bed, berre (bed)
[æ] - as in the English word sack, e.g. lädder (ladder)
[e] - as in the English word say, e.g. breef (letter)
[ɜ] - as in the English word nurse, e.g. lös (loose)
[œ] - as in the German word lösung, e.g. heudjen (little hat)
[ʌ] - as in the English word buck, e.g. taske (bag)
[a] - as in the Dutch word vader, e.g. maakn (to make)
[ɒ] - as in the English word lot, e.g. rotte (rat)
[o] - as in the English word over, e.g. boot (boat)

This survey of vowels includes only the most general vowels present in (nearly) all varieties, and does by no means give an all-encompassing overview of all varieties, as pronunciation differs per village and town, and may differ even within a town. This is the case in the town of Rijssen, where two pronunciation forms of the past tense verb form of go are commonly accepted: gung /ɣʏŋ/ and gong /ɣɔŋ/.

A number of varieties feature an additional set of vowels, which need a trained ear to be distinguished from each other, although they may sound totally different to the speakers of these varieties.

Tweants shares many features with multiple varieties of British English. This can to some extent be ascribed to historical events, that evoked language contact.

  • Tweants, like upper class British English, has a linking -r, or intrusive -r.
  • Another distinct feature of Tweants is the "swallowing" of final -en syllables (especially in infinite verb forms), which can also be referred to as syllabic -n. This may be compared to British RP pronunciation of mutton, which is pronounced somewhat like mut-n, although Tweants applies this to all verbs:
    • The infinite verb to eat, which in Dutch is eten (pronounce: ay-tə) , is etn (pronounce: etn).
  • Tweants is to a great extent non-rhotic. Speakers do not pronounce final /r/ in words consisting of more than one syllable, if no clarity or emphasis is required. In monosyllabic words, the /r/ is not pronounced before dental consonants.
  • Tweants uses extensive lenition in its spoken form. All strong consonants can be pronounced as their weak counterparts in intervocalic position (e.g. "better" can be pronounced either as /betə/ or /bedə/).
  • Tweants has little or no diphthongisation, mostly found in loanwords from Dutch.

Native speakers have a distinct accent when speaking Dutch, and are hence easily recognised. Particularly the distinct pronunciation of the 'O' and 'E' is renowned, and is somewhat similar to the Hiberno-English pronunciation of the 'O' and the 'A'. Tweants is also known for its wealth of proverbs, of which the following are only a fraction:

  • Loat mear kuuln, t löp wal lös – Literaly: Let (them) just talk, it will walk free – Never mind, it will sort itself out.
  • As de tied koomp, koomp de ploag – When the time comes, the trouble comes. Don't worry before the trouble starts.
  • Iej könt nich bloazn en t mel in n moond hoaldn – Literally, you cannot blow and keep the flour in your mouth. 'Bloazn' also means 'to brag', so its real meaning is the same as "put your money where your mouth is"
  • Hengeler weend – Wind from Hengelo, a haughty attitude.

Tweants in present-day Twente

Tweants is not used or taught in schools, a circumstance that can be ascribed to the traditionally prevalent belief that Tweants - like other dialects spoken in the Netherlands - is a boorish speech variety the use of which bespeaks little intelligence or sophistication.

It was, and still is, also believed to impede the proper acquisition by children of Standard Dutch. Parents generally acquiesced in this attitude and tried to teach their children to speak Dutch. Those parents, however, were used to speaking Tweants, which influenced especially their pronunciation of Dutch, and to a lesser extent their syntax and choice of vocabulary.

Dutch is still the prevailing and most prestigious language in Twente. This is why a majority of parents up till recently neglected to teach their children about their heritage, although there has lately been a resurgence of interest in the local language.

Because Twente is an attractive place for investment, many companies establish themselves in Twente and attract people from other parts of the country who do not speak Tweants. This aggravates the decline of the Tweants language. In the countryside, however, many people still speak it or at least understand it.

Recently, Tweants has enjoyed a resurgence because of an increasing tolerance for and pride in local culture, including local language. The resurgence enjoys the opinion of linguists who believe that that children who are brought up bilingually (In this case with Dutch and Tweants) are more receptive to other languages. The increasing interest in Tweants is expressed by writers, musicians and local television and radio, and people have been inspired to start speaking and teaching Tweants again. This renewed interest, mirrored by other local languages in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, is referred to as the dialect renaissance. An important stimulant for trend was a 2000s soap in Tweants, "Van Jonge Leu en Oale Groond" ("Of young people and old land"). The soap, focussing on a rural part of Twente, combined local traditions and culture with the life and aspirations of young people, emphasising how people can lead modern lives while cherishing and being rooted in local traditions. Originally broadcast by local television, it was later broadcast on national television with subtitles.

Written form

There is no generally accepted spelling for writing Tweants, although discussions about spellings are held on a regular basis. Rather, there are two commonly accepted spellings, although few strictly adhere to them. The previously mentioned diversity in speech varieties makes designing an all-encompassing spelling a cumbersome project, as spelling rules that fit one variety, may not be useful for others.

The (educated) debate always evolves around two points of view.

  • The spelling should be easily accessible and recognisable for speakers of other varieties of Low Saxon as well as speakers of Dutch. This means a spelling based on writing traditions from different speech varieties, which does have a recognisable layout (most notably Standard Dutch), but sounds odd or unnatural when pronounced literally, and therefore might work disturbingly.
  • the spelling should be close to the pronunciation of the people using it. This means a spelling that is not easily accessible, if not confusing to speakers and readers of other varieties, due to many written consonant clusters, although to native speakers leaves no doubt about the pronunciation.

Cultural expressions in Tweants

The earliest form of written Tweants is a poem dating from the eightteenth century, although it is a rare example. Tweants, like the other Dutch Low Saxon dialects, has had a literary tradition since the nineteenth century when Romanticism sparked an interest in regional culture. Some of the better-known authors include:

  • Johanna van Buren (poet, wrote in a Sallaans-Tweants border dialect)
  • Theo Vossebeld (poet)
  • Willem Wilmink (poet, songwriter)
  • Herman Finkers (comedian)
  • Anne van der Meijden (minister)

Since the start of the dialect renaissance, Tweants has increasingly been used as a written language, although this is still almost entirely reserved to the province of literature. Works have been translated into Tweants to stress that Tweants is as sophisticated and expressive as any other language, and to put its own aesthetic properties to use.

A renowned Dutch comedian, Herman Finkers, even translated his last shows into Tweants, using the motto "accentless at last", to indicate that he can finally sound natural by using his mother tongue, without someone mocking him about it. A number of comic books and a children's television programme have been translated into Tweants to critical success.

Reverend Anne van der Meijden, a long-standing promotor of the use of Tweants, has translated the Bible into Tweants on the basis of the original languages. He also preaches sermons in Tweants.

Twentse Welle, formerly the Van Deinse Instituut, in Enschede is an organisation that maps, monitors, promotes and develops teaching material for Tweants, Tweants identity and the culture of Twente.

References


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