The city dialect of Nijmegen, known as Nimwèègs in the local vernacular, is a Low Frankish dialect of Germanic (Indo-European), spoken in the city of Nijmegen (Gelderland, The Netherlands), in particular in the so-called Benedenstad and the Waterkwartier by the descendants of an early twentieth century working class that settled in the city centre in the dawning of local industrialization and urbanisation (q. v. Janssen, 1981). The birth of the dialect of Nijmegen seems to be related to two particular situations: the isolation of the Benedenstad (van Hout, 1989, p. 40), and the emergence of a sense of city identity. According to van Hout, due to the isolation of the Benedenstad, the real Nimwèègs or the so-called ‘echte platte Nimweegs’ was not under the influence of the standard language. This, of course, has radically changed over the last fifty years.
From a functional point of view, Nimwèègs seems to be following the trend of other local Cleverlandish vernaculars, such as Kleefs, that have almost faded away. To date, most of the competent speakers of Nimwèègs are from the baby-boomers generation (60+ years old). Among the younger generations, Nimwèègs is not well-known or thought to be long gone. This stems from a widespread tendency towards the demeaning of the dialect by all social groups. The use of Nimwèègs has been discouraged in all social strata. People in Nijmegen consider Nimwèègs to be “onbeschoft, ongemeen en brutaal” (lit. rude, uncommon and bold) (Berns, 2002, p. 33).
The current project aims at understanding the communicative place of Nimwèègs in the linguistic ecology of Nijmegen. The project draws from advances in modern sociolinguistics, linguistic fieldwork techniques, and communication studies.
Image: The Benedenstad, the heart of Nimwèègs. Photo taken by Luis Miguel Rojas Berscia