• Mission


    The Meertens Institute has a long 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.

    International perspective

    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 teams

    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.


  • Organisatie

    Het Meertens Instituut is een onderzoeksinstituut dat zich bezighoudt met de bestudering en documentatie van Nederlandse taal en cultuur. Centraal staan de verschijnselen die het alledaagse leven in onze samenleving vormgeven.


    Algemeen directeur: Prof. dr. Antal van den Bosch

    Directeur bedrijfsvoering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Voorzitter Onderzoeksraad: Dr. Irene Stengs

    Hoofd Technische Ontwikkeling: Ir. Marc Kemps-Snijders


    Het onderzoek aan het Meertens Instituut is georganiseerd in thema’s. De onderzoeksthema’s rouleren om de vijf jaar. Alle onderzoekers van het Meertens Instituut voeren onderzoek uit op één of meerdere thema’s en maken samen deel uit van de Onderzoeksraad.

    Voorzitter: Dr. Irene Stengs


    De niet-wetenschappelijke diensten op het instituut, zoals personeelszaken, financiën, communicatie, DTP, receptie en secretariaat zijn ondergebracht bij het bedrijfsbureau van het KNAW Humanities Cluster.

    Directeur bedrijfsvoering: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    De medewerkers van de afdeling communicatie zijn verantwoordelijk voor de organisatie van interne en externe communicatieactiviteiten en uitingen. Hieronder vallen ook werkzaamheden als webredactie en DeskTopPublishing (DTP). Het secretariaat biedt daarnaast ondersteuning aan het MT.

    Communicatie & PR: Drs. Simone Wolff
    Webredacteur: Dr. Mathilde Jansen


    Al meer dan 60 jaar verwerft het Meertens Instituut archieven en worden er collecties aangelegd door onderzoekers. Dit unieke materiaal op het terrein van de Nederlandse etnologie en variatielinguïstiek behoort tot het nationale erfgoed van Nederland.

    Coördinator bibliotheek: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Coördinator onderzoekscollecties: Drs. Douwe Zeldenrust

    Technische Ontwikkeling

    De afdeling Technische Ontwikkeling beweegt zich op het grensvlak van ICT, onderzoek en cultureel erfgoed. Daarnaast beheert zij verschillende websites namens het Meertens Instituut waarmee algemene informatie en resultaten van onderzoek voor algemeen publiek en andere onderzoekers ontsloten wordt.

    Hoofd: Ir. Marc Kemps-Snijders


    De wetenschapscommissie is een door de KNAW benoemde commissie die zowel de directie van het instituut adviseert als de directie van de KNAW. Momenteel bestaat de wetenschapscommissie uit de volgende leden:

    Prof. dr. ir. John Nerbonne (voorzitter)
    Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

    Prof. dr. Alexandra Lenz
    Institüt for Germanistiek Wien

    Prof. dr. Marc Jacobs
    Vlaams steunpunt voor cultureel erfgoed FARO

    Prof. dr. Liliane Haegeman
    Universiteit Gent

    Prof. dr. Regina Bendix
    Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

    Prof. dr. Roeland van Hout
    Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

    Prof. dr. Joep Leerssen
    Universiteit van Amsterdam



  • Press

    For questions about the research, meetings or policy of the Meertens Institute, please contact the Communication Department. Our staff there can also help you find the experts you are seeking: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    Would you like to receive the press releases (in Dutch) from the institute? Please send an e-mail to our communications officer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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  • Working method

    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.

    Theoretical approaches

    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.