Leiden Language Blog

Moroccan Dutch in Gouda

Moroccan Dutch in Gouda

In recent years a specific variety has emerged among Dutch youth in cities across the Netherlands. This variety is influenced by a number of different languages; however, one of its striking features is the accent, which is specifically Moroccan Dutch.

One of the goals of the current research project AThEME is to describe the specific Moroccan Dutch features and to provide a possible explanation as to their origins. The question of substrate influence plays an important role. The development of a specific ethnolectal variety or style can then be addressed.

The Moroccan immigration to the Netherlands started in the 1960s. Moroccans are the second largest recent immigrant group in the Netherlands. They are mainly concentrated in the neighbourhoods of the big cities (Amsterdam, Utrecht, the Hague, Rotterdam) with large immigrant populations. One such neighbourhood is Oosterwei in the fairly small city of Gouda. The city has about 70.000 inhabitants of which about 10% are of Moroccan origin, the largest percentage in the Netherlands. Most of the Moroccans in Gouda are from the Berber (Tamazight) speaking region Nador (specifically from the Ayt Said). Different from other cities, there are hardly any other ethnic minorities in Gouda making it an ideal place for the researcher who wants to study their language.

The Moroccan community in the Netherlands is defined by a complex language situation. Tarifyt Berber is the main spoken language, while Moroccan Arabic plays a significant role as a lingua franca. Classical and Standard Arabic play a role in religious life and in the news media. Of course, growing up in the Netherlands the children learn Dutch and are exposed to English fairly early on in their lives. In fact, the youngsters who grew up in the Netherlands communicate mostly in Dutch with each other. So, there is a clear language loss of Berber (and Moroccan Arabic) going on.

In recent times a new variety of Dutch has emerged in the big cities among youngsters sometimes referred to a straattaal (street language). The words come mainly from Sranan Tongo (Surinamese). At the same time a specific accent has developed which is influenced by the Moroccan way of speaking. It is characterised by a number of phonetic features which stem from Moroccan Dutch.  One of the conspicuous phonetic features of this variety as spoken in Gouda is the palatalisation of sibilants. The Dutch sounds ‘s’ and ‘z’ become palatalised in certain contexts (that is, ‘s’ is pronounced as ‘sh’); for example, slaan becomes sjlaan (to hit), or zweren becomes zjweren (to swear). Another characteristic feature is the lengthening of the Dutch sound ‘z’, so that, for instance, ziek is pronounced zzziek (sick). Another example is the pronunciation of long vowels, which can be realised as short vowels; so, the long vowel in a word such as woorden (words) becomes a short vowel as in worden (become). Apart from these phonetic features, this variety is also marked by the frequent use of Moroccan discourse markers and intonation patterns. A number of these features were noticed in the past, but have not been adequately described – a gap we are hoping to fill with this project.

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