Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[LINK] "Why we don't all speak Dutch: Language extinction and language survival"

Thanks to Language Hat for linking to Martin C. Langeveld's essay "Why we don't all speak Dutch: Language extinction and language survival", an examination of how the Dutch language survived for well over a century after the transformation of Dutch New Netherland to English New York and this story's possible implication for minoritized languages worldwide.

The Dutch lost control of their colony in 1664, when the English took over, without firing a shot, during one of the periodic Anglo-Dutch wars of that century. However, the Dutch did not go away after the English takeover, nor did their culture fade away. In fact, despite the fact that only a tiny minority of immigrants to the New York region after 1664 came from the Netherlands, the Dutch language continued to be widely spoken in the New York region for over 200 years. Not until 1764 was English used to preach in New York’s Dutch Reformed churches. President Martin Van Buren (born in 1782 not far from here in Kinderhook and elected in 1836) spoke Dutch at home with his wife. The first 20th century president, Theodore Roosevelt, grew up hearing his grandparents speak Dutch at the dinner table in New York City in the 1860s. Sojourner Truth, the anti-slavery orator and associate of Frederick Douglass, was born as a slave in Ulster County, New York about 1797, and grew up speaking nothing but Dutch until she was eleven years old. Dutch was spoken in parts of Brooklyn into the mid 1800s and is quite likely the origin of the so-called Brooklyn accent.

[. . .]

Although it eventually died out, the survival of Dutch over such long time against all odds raises some interesting questions. Why did Dutch hang on, when the languages of other immigrants, like the Germans, Italians and Poles, typically disappear within a generation or two? And where else, in the world, can we find pockets in which a language survives against improbable odds and without constant refreshment from the mother country? Perhaps most importantly, are there lessons in these examples that may help preserve minority languages that are rapidly disappearing in all parts of the world?

Go, read. Also, thoughts?
Tags: dutch language, language conflict, links, new york
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