‘Ja toch?’: Linguistic style, discourse markers and construction of identity by adolescents in Amsterdam

‘Ja toch?’: Linguistic style, discourse markers and construction of identity by adolescents in Amsterdam. By Gerda H. Schokkin. (LINCOM studies in sociolinguistics 11.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2011. Pp. 100. ISBN 9783862881710. $73.

Reviewed by Colette van Kerckvoorde, Bard College at Simon’s Rock

In recent years, many studies have concentrated on the development and the features of immigrant adolescent speech in large, northwestern urban areas of Europe. This particular book builds on said research and serves as a contribution to the investigation of multi-ethnic youth language in Amsterdam, focusing on data from conversations that include Moroccan, Turkish, and Dutch adolescents who grew up and still live in the Dutch capital. Based on an M.A. thesis that was submitted to the University of Amsterdam in 2009, Gerda H. Schokkin’s work has a narrow focus: she discusses the use of two discourse particles, maar and toch, in Moroccan Flavoured Dutch (MFD).

This book is divided into two sections. The first one is theoretical and aims to introduce the reader to the history of sociolinguistics, to explore concepts that are relevant to the study at hand, to highlight research on multi-ethnolects, and to discuss definitions and the use of discourse particles. The goals for the first part are ambitious, especially when one considers the length of this book, and at times the reader may be left with some unanswered questions. For example, the author introduces the terms straattaal and Murks (20) but does not immediately provide a clear definition for them. In addition, the discussion of the discourse particles that are at the center of the study is brief; the book is definitely written for native or near-native speakers of Dutch.

In the second part, S describes her main hypotheses concerning the use of the discourse particles maar and toch, her method of data-gathering and analysis, and then concentrates on her findings. She admits that the investigation of her data does not allow her to provide clear answers to her hypotheses, but in the process of her research, she uncovered some interesting facts, for example, that ja toch is completely absent from the speech of the Dutch participants, even though the expression occurs in the speech of Moroccan and Turkish participants.

Despite its values, this book is somewhat disappointing: sometimes it seems superficial, especially in that the history of sociolinguistics is described in a few pages. At other times, the reader feels that some background information is assumed, as exemplified earlier. This could easily have been avoided, particularly when one takes into consideration that the entire work is only about 100 pages long. As a result, I can recommend this study only to readers who have read prior material about MFD.