The Meertens Institute studies and documents language and culture in the Netherlands as well as Dutch language and culture throughout the world. We focus on the phenomena that shape everyday life in society. Together with the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens ING) and the International Institute of Social History (IISH) the Meertens Institute forms the KNAW Humanities Cluster.
Managing Director: Prof. Dr Antal van den Bosch
Director of Operations: Yildiz van den Akker
Head of Research Council: Prof. Dr Irene Stengs
Head of Digital Infrastructure: Gertjan Filarski
The non-scholarly services and facilities of the institute – such as the departments of Personnel, Finance, Communications, DTP, Reception, and the Secretariat – have been housed at the Planning and Control Department of the KNAW Humanities Cluster.
Director of Operations: Yildiz van den Akker
The staff members of the Communications Department are responsible for the organisation of internal and external activities and expressions related to communications. These also include activities such as web editing and desktop publishing (DTP). In addition, the Secretariat provides support to the Management Team.
Communications & PR: Simone Wolff, MA
Webmaster: Dr Mathilde Jansen
For more than sixty years, the Meertens Institute has been acquiring archives and its researchers have been building collections. This unique material in the field of Dutch ethnology and variation linguistics is part of the national heritage of the Netherlands.
Library Coordinator: Lidy Jansen
Collection Manager: Douwe Zeldenrust, MA
The Digital Infrastructure Department moves at the interface of ICT, research, and cultural heritage. It also manages several websites on behalf of the Meertens Institute that enable accessibility of general information and reseach results to the general public and to other researchers.
Head: Gertjan Filarski
The Science Committee is a committee appointed by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) which advises both the management of the institute and the Board of Management of the KNAW. At present, the Science Committee includes the following members:
Prof. Dr John Nerbonne, M Sc (Head), University of Groningen
Prof. Dr Liliane Haegeman, Ghent University
Pf. Dr Valdimar Hafstein, University of Iceland
Prof. Dr Henkjan Honing, University of Amsterdam
Prof. Dr Roeland van Hout, Radboud University Nijmegen
Prof. Dr Marc Jacobs, Flemish Interface Centre for Cultural Heritage (FARO)
Prof. Dr Joep Leerssen, University of Amsterdam
Prof. Dr Alexandra Lenz, Institute of Germanic Studies (University of Vienna)
Prof. Dr Andreas Witt, University of Cologne
The Meertens Institute has a long tradition in the documentation and research of Dutch language and rituals we encounter in everyday culture. In the previous decades the Institute’s focus has shifted from documentation to research. At present, research is the major component of the Institute’s activities, and documentation and other activities are to a large extent made dependent on the scientific efforts.
The Meertens Institute has systematically built and acquired a large number of collections which provide unique perspectives on our language and culture. These collections form the starting point for most research projects.
The focus of our research activities is directed towards the understanding of variation and diversity in Dutch language and culture. Moreover, the research is comparative and should be internationally prominent, giving rise to new theoretical insights and perspectives. Its scientific prominence should follow from important publications in a-level journals and books with prestigious publishers and lectures at leading conferences.
The rapid development of electronic databases and tools has opned up new and fascinating research perspectives, especially with regard to large quantities of data. Whenever relevant, research projects at the Meertens Institute have an eHumanities component in which new approaches to the data are exploited and investigated. The Meertens Institute is one of the prospective CLARIN centres of the CLARIN ERIC (http://www.clarin.eu).
Research in the Meertens Institute is organized in groups in which researchers, collection specialists and technologists work together. These teams work on temporary topics with a concrete focus in terms of scientific relevance, explicit goals, concrete workplan and planned output.
Working in a national and international network is important for creating cooperation between research groups focusing on the same or similar research questions. Existing international networks are Edisyn, SIEF, the Diachrony network and the eLaboratory for Oral Culture. The Meertens Institute will continu and expand relationships with national and foreign universities. Cooperation with other KNAW-humanities institutes will receive special attention.
For the succes of the research projects it is important to have a wider audience that the scientific research community alone. Projects should be active in finding ways of enhancing their impact by connection to societal demands or interests. The increasing collaboration with partners in commercial and governmental areas and in heritage institutions is important to create products that have a wider relevance than the scientific community alone.
The Meertens Institute studies the diversity in language and culture in the Netherlands. Within this broad empirical domain, four research fields are being distinguished: oral culture, traditions and rituals, syntactic variation and phonological variation. The research area referred to as oral culture investigates the oral tradition of songs and folk tales in the Netherlands. Traditions and rituals are primarily considered as forms of (public) action in which a person or group experiences and propagates his, her or its identity. Syntactic variation focuses on linguistic variation within sentences, whereas phonological variation focuses on linguistic variation within sounds. These four domains have a long history in the Meertens Institute: they are supported by large constructed corpora, and the Institute’s researchers belong to the international top of their fields.
The four research fields employ a synchronic and a diachronic perspective while focusing on the understanding of the present situation. They study how present-day phenomena came about and how they spread an develop.
Given the variability and complexity of the data, the research fields are studied by four theoretical approaches. First of all, we have the structuralist approach which approaches the empirical object by investigating the observable properties and trying to find empirical generalizations that may give rise to an explanatory theory. In linguistics, the generative theory is important at the Meertens Institute. In ethnology, there are various approaches that are reminiscent of the structuralist approach, especially in the study of oral culture. A second option is the interpretive approach, which at this point is an important perspective in ethnology, focusing on the meanings and symbols people employ in human interaction and emphasizing agency and performance over structure. The interpretive approach is part of modern sociolinguistics as well, and as such connects to the main perspective in ethnology. Another way to gain insight into the phenomena is a quantitative approach making use of statistical techniques. In sociolinguistics, for instance, structuralist approaches are quite naturally connected to quantitative approaches. A quantitative orientation is relevant in some domains in the cultural sciences as well. Finally, we have the rather new and daring cognitive science approach to variation in language and culture. Obiously, the selected research domains have a cognitive significance, for instance with regard to the mental organization of the linguistic system or the way music is organized in the brain.
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