Volume 71, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0039-8691
  • E-ISSN: 2215-1214



This paper focuses on the geography and dynamics of indefinite pronoun variants in West-Flanders (Belgium). Whereas traditional dialect data show (‘something’) as being the traditional West-Flemish dialect variant, recent studies have attested a new variant in the area: This paper addresses the questions (1) where this new dialect variant is used, (2) by whom, (3) how it relates to other variants of the indefinite pronoun and to the interrogative pronoun variants and (4) whether the grammatical context in which it occurs is of any influence. To answer these questions, we analyse 10.000 surveys collected in 2018 in 249 West-Flemish locations. Given that a sample of this size is difficult to analyse using traditional dialectological methods, we introduce generalized additive mixed-effects regression as a means of simultaneously analyzing the diatopic, diastratic and diachronic variation in these surveys (cf. Wieling et al. 2014:689). These generalized additive mixed-effects models reveal striking dynamics in the pronominal system in West-Flanders: the variant is clearly taking over the role of as dialectal indefinite pronoun, with the region of the cities Ieper and Poperinge as ‘expansion tank’. The rise of the non-standard pronoun is remarkable, given that Flanders is generally marked by dialect shift and dialect levelling (usually in favour of the standard language). We will argue that the pronominal changes in West-Flanders can be interpreted as a sign of linguistic with as means of indexing regional identity in times of homogenizing informal language use.


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