Leonie Cornips

Multilingualism. Animal language. Embodied language. Regional identity construction. Language practices. Multispecies Ethnography.

Leonie Cornips studied Dutch Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam (UvA, 1989). In 1994, she received her PhD dissertation from the UvA on syntactic variation in the speech community of Heerlen, a former coal-mining town in the southern part of the Netherlands. Since 1994, she has been affiliated with the department of Language Variation at the Meertens Institute, and since 2019, NL-Lab and the Humanities Cluster of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her previous research focused on syntactic variation in the development of new regional varieties, due to induced language contact between speakers of Dutch and local dialects and emerging varieties in the Netherlands such as Moroccan, Turkish, and Surinamese Dutch. She always tries to combine two perspectives on ‘language’: namely, language as a social construct (sociolinguistics) and language as a psychological construct (formal linguistic theory). This allows her to examine whether, and if so how, language variation and change are driven by social factors but constrained by the nature of possible grammars. The interaction between the social meanings of linguistic forms on the one hand and formal properties of grammar on the other brings about complex and multi-layered relationships between the individual and the fluid group’s or societal grammar. The two perspectives show how individual speakers’ utterances are restricted by grammar, but, at the same time, how speakers are able to overcome these restrictions in specific situated contexts. 

Cornips was appointed professor of ‘Language culture in Limburg’ at Maastricht University in 2011. Since then, her research has also focused on local identity constructions through language practices, including linguistic place-making and belonging. 

Cornips is currently exploring non-human animal languages, problematising the a priori distinction between human and animal and/or culture and nature. She conceptualises language as a multimodal, embodied and multisensorial phenomenon from a post-humanist perspective, and is conducting ethnographic field work on industrial dairy farms in the Netherlands for this purpose.

Cornips is a board member of the Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics (Landelijke Onderzoeksschool Taalwetenschap) and a member of the society of Dutch literature (Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letteren). She supervised the Limburg portal in the Digital Library for Dutch Literature (DBNL). As a researcher, she has been involved in various European projects, including AThEME, COST New Speakers and PARTE. She is currently involved in the ‘Multilectal Literacy in Education’ project.