Looking for something else, I just found this grammar, lexicon and corpus of Syldavian, the invented language used in the Tintin adventures King Ottokar’s Sceptre, Destination Moon and The Calculus Affair. Since I read Hergé before I learnt Dutch, and since, while old Syldavian uses the Roman alphabet, the contemporary script is Cyrillic, I’d always assumed that Syldavian was Slavic. Not so, says Mark Rosenfelder, it’s Germanic and based on Marols, the Brussels Flemish spoken by Hergé’s granny.

On Wugi’s Brusselse Spraute, part of a fascinating site dealing with various forms of Flemish, we read that

The summit of mutual fertilisation was Marols-Marollien, a pidgin in which French and Flemish sentences alternate, or in which they cross-dress for parts of sentences. However, it went out of everday use more than half a century ago, and competent speakers are disappearing rapidly. (The Marollen district around the Hoogstraat takes its name from the Mariolatrous Mari(c)ollen nuns.)

As Wugi points out, there are/were various almost-lects in use in Brussels. The Francophone community now has its own Académie pour la Défense et l’Illustration du Parler Bruxellois which in 1989 produced its first lexicon, the Dictionnaire Bruxellois marollien-Français / Français-Bruxellois Marollien (more resources here under Brussel), and for some reason in 1990 they made Jacques Delors an académicien honoris causa.

One day I’ll get my hands on the dictionary, but for now I wonder whether it might be worth Mark Rosenfelder looking at Brussels’ Sephardim for his mysterious bilabial approximant and to the city’s eastern Jews for a couple of other things things that don’t seem to fit. There’s still quite a significant community in the area which seems to form the spiritual home of Marols-Marollien.

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Last updated 06/02/2004

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Flanders (31): Flanders], French: Flandre [flɑ̃dʁ], German: Flandern, [flɑndɛɹn]) is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium, although there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history.

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Natural history (512): Natural history is the research and study of organisms including animals, fungi and plants in their environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study.

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