Subproject 1: Framing similar situations in Dutch

Languages are rich instruments for framing situations or events in various ways. A report on a football game, for instance, could be written from the perspective of the winner, the loser, or a neutral observer; a financial transaction can be reported from the buyer or the seller; a medical case can be framed from the perspective of the patient or the doctor. We use different words and expressions in language to frame similar situations differently depending on our interest, our motivation, and the audience. The perspective on a situation that is associated with the choice of words is what we call linguistic framing. It determines what we see as important and what as background, it expresses emotions and judgments, and it suggests motivations and expectations. A concrete case in point is work by Cybulska and Vossen (2010) who demonstrate how the Fall of Srebrenica is framed differently depending on the time passed between the event taking place and the moment of reporting. As historic distance increases, less detail (e.g. abstracting from the precise time, location and participants) but more explanations, motivations, and judgments (deportation, genocide) were given. Fokkens et al. (2018) investigate how stereotypes and images we want to create are reflected in textual micro-portraits (framings of individuals in stories) and show, for instance, that Dutch newspapers mostly specifically label people as `Dutch’ when they win in sports.

Clearly, language is a powerful instrument to shape our view of the world, and it is therefore important to get a good understanding of how framing works. Yet, little is known about framing in Dutch. What are the Dutch words and expressions used to frame the same situations or events in different ways? How does Dutch framing differ from other languages?  How much variation exists and what are the underlying semantic and pragmatic factors for using these variants in contexts? This project, therefore, addresses the following research questions:

  • What are the Dutch expressions to frame similar situations differently (competence)?
  • What frames do Dutch writers use in different contexts for these situations (performance)
  • What underlying semantic and pragmatic factors correlate with this choice of framing?
  • How similar and different is framing in Dutch compared to other languages?