12 April 2011

Dutch language


(websource Wikipedia)

Dutch (nederlands or hollands in dutch) is a West Germanic language spoken natively by majorities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Spoken in the European Union as a first language by about 23 million and as a second language by another 5 million, it also holds official status in the Caribbean island nations of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint-Maarten.

Historical minorities remain in parts of France and Germany, and to a lesser extent, in Indonesia, while up to 600,000 native Dutch-speakers may live in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa have been standardised into Afrikaans, a mutually intelligible daughter language of Dutch which today is spoken to some degree by an estimated total of 15 to 23 million people in South Africa and Namibia.

Dutch is closely related to English and German and is said to be midway between both. Apart from not having undergone the High German consonant shift, Dutch—as English—also differs from German by the overall abandonment of the grammatical case system, the relative rarity of the Germanic umlaut, and a more regular morphology. Dutch has effectively two grammatical genders, but this distinction has far less grammatical consequences than in German. Dutch shares with German the use of subject-verb-object word order in main clauses and subject-object-verb in subordinate clauses. Dutch vocabulary is mostly Germanic and contains the same Germanic core as English, while incorporating more Romance .

Though Dutch generally refers to the language as a whole, Belgian varieties, collectively known as Flemish, are differentiated from Netherlands varieties, sometimes known as Netherlandic, though this last term is only used in specialist linguistic literature.

ancient franks
The language has been known under a variety of names. During the Middle Ages, Dutch used the dialectal variants dietsc and duutsc, dūtsch (from which English Dutch is borrowed), both referring invariably to the Dutch, Low German, and German languages.

The word was used to translate Latin (lingua) vulgaris "popular language" and to set apart the spoken vernacular from Latin—the language of writing and the Church During the Renaissance in the 16th century, differentiation began to be made by opposing duytsch (modern Duits) "German" and nederduytsch "Low German" with dietsch or nederlandsch "Dutch", a distinction that is echoed in English later the same century with the terms High Dutch "German" and Low Dutch "Dutch".

However, due to Dutch commercial and colonial rivalry in the 16th and 17th centuries, the English term came to refer exclusively to the Dutch. In modern Dutch, Duits has narrowed in meaning to refer to "German", Diets went out of common use because of its Nazi associations and now somewhat romantically refers to older forms of Dutch, whereas Hollands and Vlaams are popularly used to name the language.

Nederlands, the official Dutch word for "Dutch", did not become firmly established until the 19th century. The repeated use of "neder" or "low" to refer to the language is a reference to the Netherlands' downriver location at the mouth of the Rhine (harking back to Latin nomenclature, e.g., Germania inferior vs. Germania superior) and the fact that it lies in the lowest dip of the Northern European plain.


    All three languages have shifted earlier /θ/ → /d/, show final obstruent devoicing (Du brood "bread" [bro:t]), and experienced lengthening of short vowels in stressed open syllables which has led to contrastive vowel length that is used as a morphological marker.
  •  Dutch stands out from Low German and German in its retention of the clusters sp/st, shifting of sk to [sx] and initial g- to [ɣ], highly simplified morphology, and the fact it did not develop i-mutation as a morphological marker.
  •  In earlier periods, Low Franconian of either sort differed from Low German by maintaining a three-way plural verb conjugation (Old Dutch -un, -it, -unt → Middle Dutch -en, -t, -en), but this has levelled into a single form -en (Du we/jullie/ze maken "we/you(pl)/they make"); however, it is still possible to distinguish it from German (which has retained the three-way split) and Low German (which has -t in the present tense: wi/ji/se niemmet "we/you(pl)/they take").
  • Dutch and Low German show the collapsing of older ol/ul/al + dental into ol + dental, but inconsonantal and after a short vowel, it vocalized, e.g., Du goud "gold", zout "salt", woud "woods" : LG Gold, Solt, Woold : Germ Gold, Salz, Wald.
    With Low German, Dutch shares the development of /xs/ → /ss/ (Du vossen "foxes", ossen "oxen", LG Vösse, Ossen vs. Germ Füchse, Ochsen), /ft/ → [xt] /cht/ though it is far more common in Dutch (Du zacht "sweet", LG sacht vs. Germ sanft, but Du lucht "air" vs. LG/Germ Luft), generalizing the dative over the accusative case for certain pronouns (Du mij "me" (MDu di "you (sg.)"), LG mi/di vs. Germ mich/dich), and neither has undergone German's distinctive second consonant shift.
  • Dutch and Low German have also monophthongized Germanic *aiē and *auō in all positions, e.g., Du steen "stone", oog "eye", LG Steen, Oog vs. G Stein, Auge, though this is not true of Limburgian (cf. sjtein, oug).
    Dutch shares with German the reflexive pronoun zich (Germ sich), though this was originally borrowed from Limburgian, which is why in most dialects (Flemish, Brabantine) the usual reflexive is hem/haar, just like in the rest of West Germanic.
  •  Also, both languages have diphthongized Germanic ē² and long ō (Du hier "here", voet "foot", Germ hier, Fuß (from earlier fuoz) vs. LG hier [iː], Foot "foot" [oː]) and voiced pre-vocalic initial voiceless alveolar fricatives, e.g., Du zeven "seven", Germ sieben [z] vs. LG söven, seven [s]. The German pronoun wir "we" is absent from Dutch, but Limburgian has veer "we" instead of Dutch we (wij).

     Geographic distribution

    Dutch is an official language of the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Dutch is also an official language of several international organisations, such as the European Union and the Union of South American Nations. It is used unofficially in the Caribbean Community.



    Dutch is the official and foremost language of the Netherlands, a nation of 16.4 million people, of whom 96 percent say Dutch is their mother tongue. In the province of Friesland and a small part of Groningen, Frisian is also recognised, but is spoken by only a few hundred thousand Frisians.
  •  In the Netherlands there are many different dialects, but these are often overruled and replaced by the language of the media, school, government (i.e., Standard Dutch). Immigrant languages are Indonesian, Turkish, English, Spanish, Berber, Moroccan Arabic, Papiamento, and Sranan. In the second generation these newcomers often speak Dutch as their mother tongue, but sometimes alongside the language of their parents.


    Language situation in Belgium
    Belgium has three official languages, which are, in order from the greatest speaker population to the smallest, Dutch (sometimes colloquially referred to as Flemish), French, and German. An estimated 59% of all Belgians speak Dutch, while French is spoken by 40%.
  • Dutch is the official language of the Flemish Region (where it is the mother tongue of about 97% of the population) and one of the two official languages —along with French— of the Brussels Capital Region. Dutch is not official nor a recognised minority language in the Walloon Region, although on the border with the Flemish Region, there are four municipalities with language facilities for Dutch-speakers.
  • The most important Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium are West Flemish, which has a dialect continuum in North-West French Flanders (Frans Vlaanderen); East Flemish, Brabantian and Limburgish, the latter having a dialect continuum in northeastern Wallonia (as Low Dietsch).

    Home languages (Brussels Capital Territory, 2006)
      French only
      French & Dutch
      French & language other than Dutch
      Dutch only
      Neither French nor Dutch
    Since the founding of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830, Brussels has transformed from being almost entirely Dutch-speaking to being a multilingual city with French as the majority language and lingua franca. This language shift, the Frenchification of Brussels, is rooted in the 18th century but accelerated after Belgium became independent and Brussels expanded past its original boundaries.
  • Not only is the French-speaking immigration responsible for the frenchification of Brussels, but more importantly the language change over several generations from Dutch to French was performed in Brussels by the Flemish people themselves.
  •  The main reason for this was the low social prestige of the Dutch language in Belgium at the time. From 1880 on more and more Dutch-speaking people became bilingual resulting in a rise of monolingual French-speakers after 1910. Halfway through the 20th century the number of monolingual French-speakers carried the day over the (mostly) bilingual Flemish inhabitants.
  • Only since the 1960s, after the fixation of the Belgian language border and the socio-economic development of Flanders was in full effect, could Dutch stem the tide of increasing French use. This phenomenon is, together with the future of Brussels, one of the most controversial topics in all of Belgian politics.

  • Today an estimated 16 percent of city residents are native speakers of Dutch, while an additional 13 percent claim to have a "good to excellent" knowledge of Dutch.


    Language situation in the Dunkirk district of northern France.
    Charlemagne, frankish king &
    emperor of the "Holy" "Roman"
     French Flemish, a variant of West Flemish, is spoken in the north-east of France by an estimated population of 20,000 daily speakers and 40,000 occasional speakers. It is spoken alongside French, which is gradually replacing it for all purposes and in all areas of communication.
  • Neither Dutch, nor its regional French Flemish variant, is afforded any legal status in France, either by the central or regional public authorities, by the education system or before the courts. In brief, the State is not taking any measures to ensure use of Dutch in France.
  • In the 9th century the Germanic-Romance language border went from the mouth of the Canche to just north of the city of Lille, where it coincided with the present language border in Belgium.
  • From the late 9th century on, the border gradually started to shift northward and eastward to the detriment of the Germanic language. Boulogne-sur-Mer was bilingual up to the 12th century, Calais up to the 16th century, and Saint-Omer until the 18th century.
  •  The western part of the County of Flanders, consisting of the castellanies of Bourbourg, Bergues, Cassel and Bailleul, became part of France between 1659 and 1678. However, the linguistic situation in this formerly monolingually Dutch-speaking region did not dramatically change until the French Revolution in 1789, and Dutch continued to fulfil the main functions of a cultural language throughout the 18th century.
  • During the 19th century, especially in the second half of it, Dutch was banned from all levels of education and lost most of its functions as a cultural language. The cities of Dunkirk, Gravelines and Bourbourg had become predominantly French-speaking by the end of the 19th century. In the countryside, until World War I, many elementary schools continued to teach in Dutch, and the Roman Catholic Church continued to preach and teach the cathechism in Flemish in many parishes.
  • Nonetheless, since French enjoyed a much higher status than Dutch, from about the interbellum onward everybody became bilingual, the generation born after World War II being raised exclusively in French. In the countryside, the passing on of Flemish stopped during the 1930s or 1940s. As a consequence, the vast majority of those still having an active command of Flemish belong to the generation of over the age of 60. Therefore, complete extinction of French Flemish can be expected in the coming decades.
  •  Africa

     Belgian Africa

    The Belgian colonial empire.
    medieval artifact from the
    Belgium, which had gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1830, also held a colonial empire from 1901 to 1962, consisting of the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi. Contrary to Belgium itself, the colonies had no de jure official language. Although a majority of Belgians residing in the colonies were Dutch-speaking, French was de facto the sole language used in administration, jurisdiction and secondary education. After World War II, proposals of dividing the colony into a French-speaking and a Dutch-speaking part —after the example of Belgium— were discussed within the Flemish Movement. In general, however, the Flemish Movement was not as strong in the colonies as in the mother country. Although in 1956, on the eve of Congolese independence, an estimated 50,000 out of a total of 80,000 Belgian nationals would have been Flemish, only 1,305 out of 21,370 children were enrolled in Dutch-language education. When the call for a better recognition of Dutch in the colony got louder, the évolués ("developed Congolese") —among whom Mobutu Sese Seko— argued that Dutch had no right over the indigenous languages, defending the privileged position of French. Moreover, the image of Afrikaans as the language of the apartheid was injurious to the popularity of Dutch.

  • The colonial authorities used Lingala, Kongo, Swahili and Tshiluba in communication with the local population and in education. In Ruanda-Urundi this was Kirundi. Knowledge of French —or, to an even lesser extent, Dutch— was hardly passed on to the natives, of whom only a small number were taught French to work in local public services. After their independence, French would become an official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Of these, Congo is the most francophone country. Knowledge of Dutch in former Belgian Africa is virtually nonexistent.


    Distribution of Afrikaans across South Africa: proportion of the population speaking Afrikaans in the home.

    Distribution of Afrikaans across South Africa: density of Afrikaans home-language speakers.
      <1 /km²
      1–3 /km²
      3–10 /km²
      10–30 /km²
      30–100 /km²
      100–300 /km²
      300–1000 /km²
      1000–3000 /km²
      >3000 /km²
    The largest legacy of the Dutch language lies in South Africa, which attracted large numbers of Dutch, Flemish and other northwest European farmer (in Dutch, boer) settlers, all of whom were quickly assimilated. After the colony passed into British hands in the early 19th century, the settlers spread into the hinterland, taking their language with them. The subsequent isolation from the rest of the Dutch-speaking world made the Dutch as spoken in Southern Africa evolve into what is now Afrikaans. European Dutch remained the literary language until the early 20th century, when under pressure of Afrikaner nationalism the local "African" Dutch was preferred over the written, European-based standard In 1925, section 137 of the 1909 constitution of the Union of South Africa was amended by Act 8 of 1925, stating "the word Dutch in article 137 [...] is hereby declared to include Afrikaans". The new constitution of 1961 only listed English and Afrikaans as official languages. It is estimated that between 90% to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin. Both languages are still largely mutually intelligible, although this relation can in some fields (such as lexicon, spelling and grammar) be asymmetric, as it is easier for Dutch-speakers to understand written Afrikaans than it is for Afrikaans-speakers to understand written Dutch. Afrikaans is grammatically far less complex than Dutch, and vocabulary items are generally altered in a clearly patterned manner, e.g. vogel becomes voël "bird" and regen becomes reën "rain").It is the third language of South Africa in terms of native speakers (~13.3%), of whom 53 percent Coloureds and 42.4 percent Whites. In 1996, 40 percent of South Africans reported to know Afrikaans at least at a very basic level of communication. It is the lingua franca in Namibia, where it is spoken natively in 11 percent of households. In total, Afrikaans is the first language for about 6 million and a second language for 10 million people, compared to over 22 million and 5 million respectively, for Dutch.


    medieval map of the Netherlands
    The history of the Dutch language begins around AD 450–500 after Old Frankish, one of the many West Germanic tribal languages, was split by the Second Germanic consonant shift. At more or less the same time the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law led to the development of the direct ancestors of modern Dutch Low Saxon, Frisian and English. The northern dialects of Old Frankish generally did not participate in either of these two shifts, except for a small amount of phonetic changes, and are hence known as Old Low Franconian; the "Low" refers to dialects not influenced by the consonant shift. The most south-eastern dialects of the Franconian languages became part of High – though not Upper – German even though a dialect continuum remained. The fact that Dutch did not undergo the sound changes may be the reason why some people say that Dutch is like a bridge between English and German. Within Old Low Franconian there were two subgroups: Old East Low Franconian and Old West Low Franconian, which is better known as Old Dutch. East Low Franconian was eventually absorbed by Dutch as it became the dominant form of Low Franconian, although it remains a noticeable substrate within the southern Limburgish dialects of Dutch. As the two groups were so similar, it is often difficult to determine whether a text is Old Dutch or Old East Low Franconian; hence most linguists will generally use Old Dutch synonymously with Old Low Franconian and mostly do not differentiate.
    Dutch, like other Germanic languages, is conventionally divided into three development phases which were:
    • 450(500)–1150 Old Dutch (First attested in the Salic Law)
    • 1150–1500 Middle Dutch (Also called "Diets" in popular use, though not by linguists)
    • 1500–present Modern Dutch (Saw the creation of the Dutch standard language and includes contemporary Dutch)
    The transition between these languages was very gradual and one of the few moments linguists can detect somewhat of a revolution is when the Dutch standard language emerged and quickly established itself. Standard Dutch is very similar to most Dutch dialects.
    The development of the Dutch language is illustrated by the following sentence in Old, Middle and Modern Dutch:

    "Irlôsin sol an frithe sêla mîna fan thên thia ginâcont mi, wanda under managon he was mit mi" (Old Dutch)
    "Erlossen sal [hi] in vrede siele mine van dien die genaken mi, want onder menegen hi was met mi" (Middle Dutch)
    (Using same word order)
    "Verlossen zal hij in vrede ziel mijn van degenen die [te] na komen mij, want onder menigeen hij was met mij" (Modern Dutch)
    (Using correct contemporary Dutch word order)
    "Hij zal mijn ziel in vrede verlossen van degenen die mij te na komen, want onder menigeen was hij met mij" (Modern Dutch) (see Psalm 55:19)
    "He shall my soul in peace free from those who me too near come, because amongst many was he with me" (English literal translation in the same word order)
    "He will deliver my soul in peace from those who attack me, because, amongst many, he was with me" (English translation in unmarked word order) (see Psalm 55:18)
    A process of standardisation started in the Middle Ages, especially under the influence of the Burgundian Ducal Court in Dijon (Brussels after 1477).

  • The dialects of Flanders and Brabant were the most influential around this time. The process of standardisation became much stronger at the start of the 16th century, mainly based on the urban dialect of Antwerp.

  •  In 1585 Antwerp fell to the Spanish army: many fled to the Northern Netherlands, especially the province of Holland, where they influenced the urban dialects of that province. In 1637, a further important step was made towards a unified language, when the Statenvertaling, the first major Bible translation into Dutch.

  • It was created that people from all over the United Provinces could understand. It used elements from various, even Dutch Low Saxon, dialects but was predominantly based on the urban dialects of Holland.


    Dutch dialects in the Low Countries
    Dutch dialects are remarkably diverse and distinct in the Netherlands. The same applies to the dialects in the Flanders region in Belgium. A dedictated article on Dutch dialects provides more information. Sounds
    This article contains IPA phonetic symbols.
    Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
    Dutch devoices all obstruents at the ends of words (e.g. a final /d/ becomes [t]), which presents a problem for Dutch speakers when learning English. This is partly reflected in the spelling: the singular of huizen (houses) becomes huis, and that of duiven (doves) becomes duif.

  • The other cases, viz. "p"/"b" and "d"/"t" are always written with the letter for the voiced consonant, although a devoiced one is actually pronounced, e.g. sg. baard (beard), pronounced as baart, has plural baarden and sg. rib (rib), pronounced as rip has plural ribben.

  • Because of assimilation, often the initial consonant of the next word is also devoiced, e.g. het vee (the cattle) is /(h)ətfe/. This process of devoicing is taken to an extreme in some regions (Amsterdam, Friesland) with almost complete loss of /v/, /z/ and /ɣ/. These phonemes are certainly present in the middle of a word. Compare standard Dutch pronunciation logen and loochen /loɣən/ vs. /loxən/. In the dialects the contrast is even greater: /loʝən/ vs. /loçən/.

  • Karl hinn Stori
    Carol Magnus
    The final n of the plural ending -en is often not pronounced (as in Afrikaans where it is also dropped in the written language), except in the northeast Netherlands where dialects of Low German are traditionally spoken.


    The vowel inventory of Dutch is large, with 13 simple vowels and four diphthongs. The vowels /eː/, /øː/, /oː/ are included on the diphthong chart because they are actually produced as narrow closing diphthongs in many dialects, but behave phonologically like the other simple vowels. [ɐ] (a near-open central vowel) is an allophone of unstressed /a/ and /ɑ/.

  • IPA chart of Netherlandic Dutch monophthongs
    IPA chart of Netherlandic Dutch diphthongs
    Dutch Vowels with Example Words
    IPAIPAorthographyEnglish translation
    ɛiɛi, ʋɛinei, wijn'egg', 'wine'
    ʌuzʌut, fʌunzout, faun'salt', 'faun'
    Some vowels are pronounced differently when followed by 'r', but this is not normally reflected in the IPA rendering, since they are allophones. The vowel in beer, being different from both bet and beet, is usually represented by /eː/. Similarly the one in boor, is neither like bot nor boot, and represented by /oː/.


    The syllable structure of Dutch is (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C)(C). Many words, as in English, begin with three consonants; for example, straat (street). There are words that end in four consonants, e.g., herfst 'autumn', ergst 'worst', interessantst 'most interesting', sterkst 'strongest', the last three of which are superlative adjectives.
    The most number of consonants in a single cluster is found in the word slechtstschrijvend 'horrible writing.

  • With 9 consonants (though there are only 7 phonemes since 'ch' represents a single phoneme, and in normal speech the number of phonemes is usually reduced to 6 because of assimilation of 'tstsch' to 'stsch', or even to 5 by many speakers who pronounce the cluster 'schr' as 'sr').

  • Like most Germanic languages, Dutch consonant system did not undergo the High German consonant shift and has a syllable structure that allows fairly complex consonant clusters. Dutch is often noted for its prominent use of velar fricatives.
    voicedbdɡ 2
    Fricativevoicelessfsʃ 3ç 4x ~ χ 4
    voicedv 5z 5ʒ 3ʝ 5ɣ 5ʁ 6ɦ 6
    Trillr 6
    Approximantβ ~ ʋ 7l 8j
    • ^1 [ʔ] is not a separate phoneme in Dutch, but is inserted before vowel-initial syllables within words after /a/ and /ə/ and often also at the beginning of a word.
    • ^2 /ɡ/ is not a native phoneme of Dutch and only occurs in borrowed words, like goal or when /k/ is voiced, like in zakdoek [zɑɡduk].
    • ^3 /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ are not native phonemes of Dutch, and usually occur in borrowed words, like show and bagage ('baggage'). However, /s/ + /j/ phoneme sequences in Dutch are often realized as [ʃ], like in the word huisje ('little house').
    • ^4 The sound spelled <ch> is a uvular fricative in Standard Dutchand velar in Belgian dialects.
    • ^5 In some dialects, the voiced fricatives have almost completely merged with the voiceless ones; /ɦ/ is usually realized as [h], in the North /v/ is usually realized as [f], /z/ is usually realized as [s], yet only in the North. In the South /v/ is pronounced [v] and /z/ is [z]. In the North /ɣ/ is usually realized as [x], whereas in the South the distinction between /ʝ/ and /ç/ has been preserved.
    • ^6 The realization of the /r/ phoneme varies considerably from dialect to dialect. In "standard" Dutch, /r/ is realized as the alveolar trill [r], but the uvular trill [ʀ] is a common alternative. In some dialects it is realized as the alveolar tap [ɾ], the voiced uvular fricative [ʁ], or even as the alveolar approximant [ɹ].
    • ^7 The realization of the /ʋ/ varies considerably from the Northern to the Southern and Belgium dialects of the Dutch language. A number of Belgian dialects[ pronounce it like a bilabial approximant ([β]). Other, mainly Northern Dutch, dialects pronounce it as a labiodental approximant: [ʋ].
    •  Furthermore, in Suriname it is pronounced [w].
    • ^8 The lateral /l/ is slightly velarized postvocalically.
    Dutch consonants with example words
    IPAIPAorthographyEnglish translation
    ɡɡoːlgoal'goal' (sports)
    mmɛnsmens'human being' or 'mankind'
    x (North)ɑxtacht'eight'
    ç (South)ɑçtacht'eight'
    ɣ (North)ɣaːngaan'to go'
    ʝ (South)ʝaːngaan'to go'
    llɑntland'land / country'
    ʔbəʔaːmənbeamen'to confirm'

     Common difficulties

    Some Dutch vowel sounds are not straightforward. Diphthongs such as the <ui> sound in such words as zuid "south" or huis "house", the <au/ou> in pauw "peacock" or koud "cold", and the <ij> sound in words like mijt "mite" or wijn "wine" present difficulties. Even though some of these words are superficially like their English equivalents the correct sound is very different.

  • Another issue with pronunciation is the <ch>-sound if preceded by s, which Dutch native speakers pronounce as /χ/ (North) or /ç/ (South). It has no counterpart in English. Particularly the voiced equivalents, northern /ɣ/ and /ʝ/ in the south, are rare among other European languages. In Northern Dutch there is a tendency for using the voiceless sound in all places.

  • The morphological flexibility and cohesiveness of Dutch sometimes produces words that might baffle speakers of other languages due to the large number of consonant clusters, such as the word About this sound angstschreeuw [ɑŋstsxreːw] "scream in fear", which has a total of six in a row -ngstschr- (the ng and ch being digraphs). It has to be noted though that the pronunciation of a word can differ greatly from its written form.

  •  In this case, angstschreeuw actually contains 6 consonant sounds (ng-s-t-s-ch-r) originating from two distinct compounded words (angst and schreeuw), which is reduced further by some speakers in connected speech by blending consecutive consonants (ch and r) into one sound. This can be even further shortened to [ɑŋsreːw] by those who normally reduce the schr-sequence to sr.

     Historical sound changes

    Dutch (with the exception of the Limburg dialects) did not undergo the second or High German consonant shift—compare German machen /-x-/ vs. Dutch maken, English make; German Pfanne /pf-/ vs. Dutch pan, English pan; German zwei /ts-/ vs. Dutch twee, English two.

  • Dutch underwent a few changes of its own. For example, words in -old/olt lost the /l/ to a diphthong after l-vocalization (compare English old, German alt vs. Dutch oud), and -ks- sounds were reduced to -s- (compare English fox, German Fuchs vs. Dutch vos).

  • Germanic */uː/ fronted to /y/, which in turn became a diphthong /œy/, spelt 〈ui〉. Long */iː/ also diphthongized to /ɛi/, spelt 〈ij〉.
    (NOTE: I cannot verify that this photo was 
    taken in NL. I got it from Google Images,
    under the search-phrase"Amsterdam
    Unusually for a Germanic language (but like some Slavic ones), the phoneme /ɡ/, originally in allophonic variation with /ɣ/, became /ɣ/ in every position except after /n/ (where it instead merged with /n/ into /ŋ/). It later palatalised to /ʝ/ in the South (Flanders, Limburg, Brabant).

    [Polder Dutch]

    A notable deviation from the official pronunciation of Standard Dutch in younger generations in the Netherlands has been dubbed "Polder Dutch" by Jan Stroop. The diphthongs spelt <ij>, <ou>, and <ui> are pronounced not as /ɛi/, /ʌu/, and /œy/, but lowered, as /ai/, /au/, and /ay/ respectively. Instead, /eː/, /oː/, and /øː/ are pronounced diphthongal now, as /ɛi/, /ɔu/, and /œy/ respectively, which makes this change an instance of a chain shift.

  • This change is interesting from a sociolinguistic point of view because it has apparently happened relatively recently, in the 1970s, and was pioneered by older well-educated women from the upper middle classes.

  •  The lowering of the diphthongs has long been current in many Dutch dialects, and is comparable to the English Great Vowel Shift, and the diphthongisation of long high vowels in Modern High German, which have reached the state found in "Polder Dutch" already centuries earlier.

  •  It appears that the diphthongisation of the high vowels is part of a trend widespread in the West Germanic languages, which has, however, been artificially frozen in an intermediary state by the standardisation of Dutch pronunciation in the 16th century, where lowered diphthongs found in rural dialects were perceived as ugly by the educated classes and accordingly declared substandard. Stroop compares the role of Polder Dutch with the urban variety of British English pronunciation called Estuary English.
    Among Belgian Dutch-speakers, this vowel shift is not taking place, as the diphthongs /ɛi/, /ɔu/ and /œy/ are pronounced as the monophthongs /ɛː/, /ɔː/ and /œː/.


    Dutch is grammatically similar to German, such as in syntax and verb morphology (for a comparison of verb morphology in English, Dutch and German, see Germanic weak verb and Germanic strong verb). Dutch has grammatical cases, but these are now mostly limited to pronouns and set phrases.

  • Originally, Dutch had three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, although for many speakers, masculine and feminine have merged to form the common gender (de), while the neuter (het) remains distinct as before. This gender system is similar to those of most Continental Scandinavian languages. As in English, the inflectional grammar of the language (e.g., adjective and noun endings) has simplified over time.

     Genders and cases

    The table of definite articles below demonstrates that contemporary Dutch is less complex than German. The article has just two forms, de and het, more complex than English, which has only "the".
    Masculine singularFeminine singularNeuter singularPlural (any gender)Masculine singularFeminine singularNeuter singularPlural (any gender)
    The genitive articles 'des' and 'der' are grammatically correct and understood in Dutch, but are not frequently used and are often considered prosaic or archaic. In most circumstances the preposition 'van' is instead used, followed by the normal definitive article 'de' or 'het'. For the use of the articles in the genitive, see for example:
    • Masculine singular: "des duivels" (of the devil)
    • The famous Leidseplein in Amsterdam
    • Feminine singular: het woordenboek der Friese taal (the dictionary of the Frisian language)
    • Neuter singular: de vrouw des huizes (the lady of the house)
    • Plural: de voortgang der werken (the progress of (public) works)
    Dutch also has a range of fixed expressions that make use of the genitive articles, such as for example "'s ochtends" (with 's as abbreviation of des; in the morning) and "desnoods" (lit: of the need, translated: if necessary).

  • The Dutch written grammar has simplified over the past 100 years: cases are now mainly used for the pronouns, such as ik (I), mij, me (me), mijn (my), wie (who), wiens (whose: masculine or neuter singular), wier (whose: feminine singular, masculine or feminine plural). Nouns and adjectives are not case inflected (except for the genitive of proper nouns (names): -s, -'s or -'). In the spoken language cases and case inflections had already gradually disappeared from a much earlier date on (probably the 15th century) as in many continental West Germanic dialects.

  • Inflection of adjectives is a little more complicated: nothing with indefinite neuter nouns in singular and -e in all other cases. Note that water and huis are neuter, the other words in the table are masculine or feminine. (This was also done in Middle English, as in "a goode man".)
    Masculine singular
    Feminine singular
    Plural (any gender)
    Neuter singular
    (with definite article
    or pronoun)
    de mooie huizen (the beautiful houses)
    die mooie vrouwen (those beautiful women)
    het mooie huis (the beautiful house)
    mijn mooie huis (my beautiful house)
    dit koude water (this cold water)
    with indefinite article or
    no article and no pronoun)
    een mooie vrouw (a beautiful woman)
    mooie huizen (beautiful houses)
    koude soep (cold soup)

    een mooi huis (a beautiful house)
    koud water (cold water)
    An adjective has no e if it is in the predicative: De soep is koud.More complex inflection is still found in certain lexicalized expressions like de heer des huizes (literally, the man of the house), etc. These are usually remnants of cases (in this instance, the genitive case which is still used in German, cf. Der Herr des Hauses) and other inflections no longer in general use today.

  •  In such lexicalized expressions remnants of strong and weak nouns can be found too, e.g. in het jaar des Heren (Anno Domini), where “-en” is actually the genitive ending of the weak noun. Also in this case, German retains this feature.

     Word order

    Dutch exhibits Subject Object Verb word order, but in main clauses the conjugated verb is moved into the second position in what is known as verb second or V2 word order. This makes Dutch word order almost identical to that of German, but often different to English, which has Subject Verb Object word order and has since lost the V2 word order that existed in Old English.

  • An example sentence used in some Dutch language courses and text books is "Ik kan mijn pen niet vinden omdat het veel te donker is", which translates into English word for word as "I can my pen not find because it far too dark is", but in standard English word order would be written "I can not find my pen because it is far too dark". If the sentence is split into a main and subclause and the verbs highlighted, the logic behind the word order can be seen.

  • Main clause: "Ik kan mijn pen niet vinden"
    Verbs are placed in the final position, but the conjugated verb, in this case "kan" (can), is made the second element of the clause.
    Subclause: "omdat het veel te donker is"
    The verb or verbs always go in the final position.


    Nordic Dutchwoman,
    this type is extremely
    common in the Nether-
    lands & Flemish.
    Dutch nouns can take endings for size: -je for singular diminutive and -jes for plural diminutive. Between these suffixes and the radical can come extra letters depending on the ending of the word:
    boom (tree) - boompje
    ring (ring) - ringetje
    koning (king) - koninkje
    tien (ten) - tientje (a ten euro note)
    These diminutives are very common. As in German, all diminutives are neuter. In the case of words like "het meisje" (the girl), this is different from the natural gender. A diminutive ending can also be appended to an adverb or adjective (but not when followed by a noun).
    South-Holland's provincial
    flag, it'svirtually identical to the
    flag-stickeron my car, which is
    theroyalbanner for Scotland
    klein (little, small) - een kleintje (a small one)

     Compounds (Ken here, here is my rationale for writing compoundwords with NO space in between them or a hyphen)

    Like most Germanic languages, Dutch forms noun compounds, where the first noun modifies the category given by the second, for example: hondenhok (doghouse).

  •  Unlike English, where newer compounds or combinations of longer nouns are often written in open form with separating spaces, Dutch (like the other Germanic languages) either uses the closed form without spaces, for example: boomhuis (Eng. tree house) or hyphenated: VVD-coryfee (outstanding member of the VVD, a political party).

  • Like German, Dutch allows arbitrarily long compounds, but the longer they get, the less frequent they tend to be. The longest serious entry in the Van Dale dictionary is  wapenstilstandsonderhandeling (ceasefire negotiation).

  •  Leafing through the articles of association (Statuten) one may come across a 30-letter  vertegenwoordigingsbevoegdheid (authorisation of representation). An even longer word cropping up in official documents is ziektekostenverzekeringsmaatschappij (health insurance company) though the shorter ziektekostenverzekeraar (healthinsurer) is more common. Notwithstanding official spelling rules, some Dutch people nowadays tend to write the parts of a compound separately, which is sometimes dubbed “the English disease” or "de Engelse ziekte".


    Dutch vocabulary is predominantly Germanic in origin, considerably more so than English. This is to a large part due to the heavy influence of Norman on English, and to Dutch patterns of word formation, such as the tendency to form long and sometimes very complicated compound nouns, being more similar to those of German and the Scandinavian languages.

  • The Dutch vocabulary is one of the richest in the world and comprises at least 268,826 headwords. In addition, Het Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (English: "The Dictionary of the Dutch language") is the largest dictionary in the world in print and has over 430,000 entries of Dutch words.

  • Like English, Dutch includes words of Greek and Latin origin. Somewhat paradoxically, most loanwords from French have entered into Dutch vocabulary via the Netherlands and not via Belgium, in spite of the cultural and economic dominance exerted by French speakers in Belgium until the first half of the 20th century.

  • This happened because the status French enjoyed as the language of refinement and high culture inspired the affluent upper and upper-middle classes in the Netherlands to adopt many French terms into the language. In Belgium no such phenomenon occurred, since members of the upper and upper-middle classes would have spoken French rather than Frenchify their Dutch. French terms heavily influenced Dutch dialects in Flanders, but Belgian speakers did (and do) tend to resist French loanwords when using standard Dutch.

  •  Nonetheless some French loanwords of relatively recent date have become accepted in standard Dutch, also in Belgium, albeit with a shift in meaning and not as straight synonyms for existing Dutch words. For example, "blesseren" (from French blesser, to injure) is almost exclusively used to refer to sports injuries, while in other contexts the standard Dutch verbs "kwetsen" and "verwonden" continue to be used.

  • Especially on the streets and in many professions, there is a steady increase of English loanwords, rather often pronounced or applied in a different way (see Dutch pseudo-anglicisms). The influx of English words is maintained by the dominance of English in the mass media and on the Internet.

  • The most important dictionary of the modern Dutch language is the Van Dale groot woordenboek der Nederlandse taal,[ more commonly referred to as the Dikke van Dale ("dik" means "thick"). However, it is dwarfed by the 45,000-page Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, a scholarly endeavour that took 147 years from initial idea to first edition.

    Writing system

    Dutch is written using the Latin alphabet. Dutch uses one additional character beyond the standard alphabet, the digraph IJ. It has a relatively high proportion of doubled letters, both vowels and consonants. This is due to the formation of compound words and also to the spelling devices for distinguishing the many vowel sounds in the Dutch language. An example of five consecutive doubled letters is the word voorraaddoos.

  • The diaeresis (Dutch: trema) is used to mark vowels that are pronounced separately. In the most recent spelling reform, a hyphen has replaced the diaeresis in compound words (i.e., if the vowels originate from separate words, not from prefixes or suffixes), e.g. zeeëend (seaduck) is now spelled zee-eend.

  • The acute accent occurs mainly on loanwords like café, but can also be used for emphasis or to differentiate between two forms. Its most common use is to differentiate between the indefinite article 'een' (a, an) and the numeral 'één' (one); also 'hé' (hey, also written 'hee').

  • The grave accent is used to clarify pronunciation ('hè' [what?, what the ...?, tag question 'eh?'], 'bèta') and in loanwords ('caissière' [female cashier], 'après-ski'). In the recent spelling reform, the accent grave was dropped as stress sign on short vowels in favour of the acute accent (e.g. 'wèl' was changed to 'wél').
    Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, a
     descendant of Vincet VanGogh
     was murdered by a "peace-loving"
    and tolerant, muslims right after a
    film airedon dutch TV about Muslim
    spousal abuse. Muslims are
    not at all like demonic, children
    who throw a fit and slaughter
    innocent people if they are insulted,
    or if their religion is in any way
    criticized...They bring democracy,
    & respect for women, forgiveness
    peace,tolerance and most of all
    acceptance of other religions.
    His murderer ispeace-loving,
    forgiving,open-minded Morrocan-born
    Mohammed Bouyeri. Mohammed
    believe he had the right to shoot
    & kill Van Gogh becaue he'd
    just seen Van Gogh's film on
    how Muslims (not all, but most)
    treat women like cattle.
    Other diacritical marks such as the circumflex only occur on a few words, most of them loanwords from French.
    The official spelling is set by the Wet schrijfwijze Nederlandsche taal (Law on the writing of the Dutch language; Belgium 1946, Netherlands 1947; based on a 1944 spelling revision; both amended in the 1990s after a 1995 spelling revision). The Woordenlijst Nederlandse taal, more commonly known as "het groene boekje" (i.e. "the green booklet", because of its colour), is usually accepted as an informal explanation of the law. However, the official 2005 spelling revision, which reverted some of the 1995 changes and made new ones, has been welcomed with a distinct lack of enthusiasm in both the Netherlands and Belgium. As a result, the Genootschap Onze Taal (Our Language Society) decided to publish an alternative list, "het witte boekje" ("the white booklet"), which tries to simplify some complicated rules and offers several possible spellings for many contested words. This alternative orthography is followed by a number of major Dutch media organisations but mostly ignored in Belgium.

     Dutch as a foreign language

    As a foreign language, Dutch is mainly taught in primary and secondary schools in areas adjacent to the Netherlands and Flanders. In French-speaking Belgium, over 300,000 pupils are enrolled in Dutch courses, followed by over 20,000 in the German states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, and over 7,000 in the French region of Nord-Pas de Calais (of which 4,550 already in primary school). Dutch is the obligatory medium of instruction in schools in Suriname, even for non-native speakers. Dutch is taught in various educational centres in Indonesia, the most important of which is the Erasmus Language Centre (ETC) in Jakarta. Each year, some 1,500 to 2,000 students take Dutch courses there. In total, several thousand Indonesians study Dutch as a foreign language.

  • At an academic level, Dutch is taught in over 225 universities in more than 40 countries. About 10,000 students worldwide study Dutch at university. The largest number of faculties of neerlandistiek can be found in Germany (30 universities), followed by France and the United States (20 each). 5 universities in the United Kingdom offer the study of Dutch. Due to centuries of Dutch rule in Indonesia, many old documents are written in Dutch. Many universities therefore include Dutch as a source language, mainly for law and history students. In Indonesia this involves about 35,000 students. In South Africa, the number is difficult to estimate, since the academic study of Afrikaans inevitably includes the study of Dutch. Elsewhere in the world, the number of people learning Dutch is relatively small.


  • Indo-European languages
    • Germanic
      • West Germanic
        • Low Franconian
          • West Low Franconian (Dutch)


Dutch belongs to its own West Germanic dialect group, West Low Franconian, paired with its sister language Limburgian, or East Low Franconian, both of which stand out by mixing characteristics of Low German and German.

 Dutch is at one end of a dialect continuum known as the Rhenish fan where German gradually turns into Dutch. There was also at one time a dialect continuum that blurred the boundary between Dutch and Low German. In some small areas, there are still dialect continua, but

1 comment:

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