QLVL members - Eline Zenner


Eline Zenner studied Germanic Languages (Dutch-English) at the University of Leuven from 2003 until 2007. She started her education with an interest in literature, but she soon developed a passion for linguistics and consequently decided to specialize in the field. In March 2013, she defended her PhD thesis, titled "Cognitive Contact Linguistics. The macro, meso, and micro influence of English on Dutch". Eline is currently holding a postdoctoral scholarship. Her main research interests lie in the fields of quantitative lexicology, sociolinguistics and contact linguistics.


E-mail: eline.zenner@arts.kuleuven.be
Phone: +32 16 32 48 20
Fax: +32 16 32 47 67
Surface mail: Department of Linguistics, Blijde-Inkomststraat 21 PO Box 3308, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
Office: room 02.39 of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Leuven



For her PhD, Eline conducted four case studies, based on three different datasets.

The first study focuses on two different ways in which the English language is diffusing. On the one hand, it is more and more used as a language for communication. On the other hand, English intrudes in European languages by means of lexical borrowing. Intriguingly, macro and micro level research have largely developed independently from each other. This study sets out to discover to what extent this lack of communication between the paradigms is warranted. Based on a diachronic corpus of over 16 000 job ads collected from the Belgian Dutch job ad magazine Vacature and the Netherlandic Dutch Intermediair, factors underlying macro-level language choice (what determines whether an ad is written in Dutch or in English) and micro-level language choice (in Dutch ads, what determines whether English is used in the job titles) are compared. The data are analyzed by means of a new visual representation technique that is based on the confidence intervals around logistic regression estimates.

The next two case studies rely on two large, syntactically parsed and lemmatized Dutch newspaper corpora, together comprising over one billion words. The studies present an onomasiological success measure for loanwords: the success of an anglicism is defined as the relative preference for the anglicism vis-à-vis existing synonymous expressions. Both case studies present a mixed-effect regression model to pattern variation in the use and success of about 150 English person reference nouns (i.e. common nouns used to designate people such as manager, babysitter) in Dutch. The first study empirically assesses which of a number of possible motivations for the use of loanwords (lexical gaps, speech economy) influences variation in the success of this group of anglicisms. The second study disentangles some issues with the traditional claim that core vocabulary is highly resistant to borrowing, proposing a usage-based operationalization of coreness in terms of entrenchment, and of borrowability in terms of onomasiological success.

The final case study addresses the remaining question of the social meaning of English insertions in Dutch. To this end, a series of analyses on the use of English in three seasons of the Dutch reality TV show Expeditie Robinson is conducted. First, the prototypical speaker of and the prototypical context for the use of English in non-referential language use is defined based on a logistic regression model. Second, the chapter zooms in on creative uses of the prototype, most notably in the form of accommodation patterns. Next, the different types of English elements occurring in the data are discussed, zooming in on the possibility of borrowed phraseology.

Representative publications

The following publications are representative of Eline's research. The rest of her published work can be found in the QLVL publication list.

Zenner, Eline, Dirk Speelman & Dirk Geeraerts. In press. "A sociolinguistic analysis of borrowing in weak contact situations: English loanwords and phrases in expressive utterances in a Dutch reality TV show". International Journal of Bilingualism, in press.

Zenner, Eline, Dirk Speelman & Dirk Geeraerts. In press. "Core vocabulary, borrowability, and entrenchment: A usage-based onomasiological approach." Diachronica 31(2).

Zenner, Eline, Dirk Speelman & Dirk Geeraerts. 2013. "Macro and micro perspectives on the distribution of English in Dutch. A quantitative usage-based analysis of job ads." Linguistics 51(5), 1019-1064.

Zenner, Eline, Dirk Speelman & Dirk Geeraerts. 2012. "Cognitive Sociolinguistics meets loanword research: Measuring variation in the success of anglicisms in Dutch". Cognitive Linguistics 23(4): 749-92.