Dialect Web App Eèsjdes (the Eijsden dialect) and Mestreechs (the Maastricht dialect)
On Friday 1 September, Professor Leonie Cornips, professor by special appointment of Language Culture at Maastricht University in Limburg and the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam, launched a Dialect Web App for the Limburg dialects ‘Eèsjdes’ (the Eijsden dialect) and ‘Mestreechs’ (the Maastricht dialect) in the Council Chamber of the municipality of Eijsden-Margraten. The Web App is intended for anyone who wants to learn dialects, allow others to hear their dialect and enjoy dialects. The app contains about fifty sentences in Eèsjdes and Mestreechs (offered in dialect, Dutch and English) that are useful for any tourist or visitor. With the help of the app, anyone can ask for directions in Eèsjdes and Mestreechs, order a beer in a café, ask for the menu in a restaurant or find the nearest cash machine. The phrases were chosen in such a way that they will not only be useful for tourists, but also contain a number of linguistic characteristics that are interesting for research.
The Dialect Web App has three goals. Dialect recording: anyone who speaks the Mestreechs or Eèsjdes dialect, in whatever form, can read out the dialect phrases and record them for others. Dialect learning: tourists, newcomers, immigrants/migrants and other long or short-term residents can use the app to hear how the dialect sounds and try to speak and record it themselves. Research: the app collects as many phrases as possible from hopefully many speakers of the same sentences in Eèsjdes and Mestreechs for linguistic research.
A wealth of information
The more people pronounce the sentences in their form of Mestreechs or Eèsjdes, the more individual differences there will be to explore. This will provide linguistics researchers with a wealth of information on how the current Mestreechs and Eèsjdes dialects are spoken, by men and women, by the elderly and children, by newcomers and settled immigrants and by speakers whose parents may or may not speak another dialect or language. It is important that everyone can participate, regardless of how they speak Eèsjdes or Mestreechs.
Leonie Cornips aims to enter many more dialects and sentences into the app, but this will require a larger budget. The app was made possible thanks to the expertise of linguists and IT developers, excellent cooperation and, last but not least, the goodwill of dialect lovers. Huub Hamers of the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University presented Cornips to an excellent BA student (Programmer and IT Developer) named Somtochukwu (Somto) Enendu, who developed the app. Somto is from Nigeria, understands and reads a bit of Dutch and now even knows a little Limburg dialect. He knows everything about multilingualism, as he speaks English, Igbo and French at home. The municipality of Eijsden-Margraten offered to sponsor the app, and the Meertens Institute offered Somto an internship. Director and professor of language and speech technology Antal van den Bosch, Leonie Cornips and especially Henk van den Heuvel and Wessel Stoop of Radboud University’s Centre for Language and Speech Technology (CLST) provided Somto with guidance and support. Many volunteers read phrases into the app, which Laurent Rutten and Roger Weijenberg then translated into Eèsjdes and Mestreechs. However, above all, it is Somto’s dedication and skill that really made this project a success.
‘Kal Plat’ campaign
The Dialect Web App was developed as part of the Kal Plat campaign for dialect and language development of the municipality of Eijsden-Margraten. The aim of this campaign is to promote awareness of the positive effects of dialect use, without imposing dialects on anyone. With this campaign, the municipality wants to demonstrate that speaking Dutch and speaking dialects are perfectly compatible.
From 1 September, the Dialect Web App (under the name ‘Maasgeluide.nl’) will be available online, free of charge, via recent versions of Google Chrome and Firefox. ‘Maasgeluide’ is spelled without an ‘n’, because this is Mestreechs, and not Dutch. This is a call to all speakers of Eèsjdes and Mestreechs. Help with the research! Go to MaasGeluide.nl and record as many phrases as possible!
Left: Prof. Leonie Cornips
Right: Somtochukwu (Somto) Enendu (App design)
Photographer: Gert Lammer