14 October 2011


In English usage, Flemish (Dutch:Vlaams) can refer to:
Belgian-Dutch (Belgisch-Nederlands) the national variety of the Dutch language as spoken in Belgium, be it standard (as used in schools, government and the media) or informal (as used in daily speech, "tussentaal"); Nevertheless, the use of the word Flemish to refer to the official language in Flanders is misleading. The only official language in Flanders is Dutch. 

East-Flemish, West-Flemish and French-Flemish which are interrelated southwestern dialects of Dutch.
Etymology: Flemish is derived from the name of the County of Flanders, from Middle Dutch vlāmisch, vlemesch. The name of the County of Flanders itself was first attested in Ghent and etymologically it derives from ‘Flandr’, which is Old-Dutch roughly meaning ‘that which is flooded/flooded area’; compare Common Germanic *flōðuz, "flood".
Dutch in Flanders:
Dutch is the majority language in Belgium, being spoken natively by three-fifths of the population. Its various dialects contain a number of lexical and a few grammatical features which distinguish them from the standard language. As in the Netherlands, the pronunciation of Standard Dutch is affected by the native dialect of the speaker.

All Dutch dialect groups spoken in Belgium are spoken in adjacent areas of the Netherlands as well. At the same time East Flemish forms a continuum with both Brabantic and West Flemish. Standard Dutch is primarily based on the Hollandic dialect (spoken in the Northern Netherlands) and to a lesser extent on Brabantian, which is the most dominant Dutch dialect of the Southern Netherlands and Flanders.

"Flemish" can also refer to standard Dutch as spoken in Belgium, which is very similar to standard Dutch spoken in the Netherlands. The main differences are pronunciation and the relative popularity of certain words and adverbs.

There are no spelling differences. In this way, certain words that are mainly used in Flanders could be referred to as "Flemish" even though they are also part of standard Dutch and are listed in the wordlist of the Dutch language.

Phonological differences
Among Belgian Dutch vowels, the diphthong "ou/au" (as in bout bolt and fauna) is realized as [ɔu], whereas northern Dutch realizes it as [ʌu]. Among consonants, the northern Dutch pronunciation of "w" (as in wang cheek) is [ʋ], in some southern Dutch dialects it is [β]. Probably the most obvious difference between northern and southern Dutch is in the sounds spelled <ch> and <g>. 

The sound spelled <ch> is a voiceless velar fricative [x] in Northern Dutch and a voiceless palatal fricative [ç] in Southern Dutch. In the North the sound spelled <g> is usually realized as voiceless velar fricative [x] or voiceless uvular fricative [χ], whereas in the South the distinction between voiced and unvoiced has been preserved and <g> is pronounced as voiced palatal fricative /ʝ/. 

Lexical differences
Belgian Dutch encompasses more French loanwords in everyday vocabulary than Dutch spoken in the Netherlands. At the same time Brabantian, traditionally the most spoken Dutch dialect in Belgium, has had a larger influence on the vocabulary used in Belgium. Examples include beenhouwer (Brabantian) and slager (Hollandic), both meaning butcher; and schoon (High-German "HG", schön) (Brabantian) vs. mooi (Hollandic) "beautiful". 

The changes (isoglosses) from northern to southern Dutch dialects are somewhat gradual, both vocabulary-wise and phonetically, and the boundaries within coincide with territorial borders: there is a distinct boundary located in the river area of the Netherlands, a historical border of the Roman empire, south of which "Brabants" is spoken, a Dutch dialect. 

This Dutch dialect has some of the phonological traits commonly associated with Belgium, and a second distinct border area around the border with the Belgian territories, where the transition is mostly lexical, but also with an intensification of the phonological diversion from northern Dutch. An exception to the border with the Belgian territories for this border is Zeelandic Flanders ("Zeeuws-Vlaanderen"), a part of the Netherlands where Flemish is spoken.

The differences between Dutch in the Netherlands and Flemish are significant enough for Flemish and Dutch television shows with rather informal speech customarily to become subtitled for the other country in the standard language.

In 2009 a Dutch dictionary was published that for the first time distinguished between the two natiolectic varieties "Nederlandsnederlands" (or "Netherlandish Dutch") and "Belgisch-Nederlands" ("Belgian Dutch") and treated both variations as equally correct.

 The selection of the "Flemish-Dutch" words was based on the Referentiebestand-Belgisch Nederlands (RBBN): an electronic database built under the supervision of Prof. Dr. W. Martin (Free University in Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Prof. Dr. W. Smedts (Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium).

Professor Willy Martin, one of the Flemish editors, claimed that the latter expressions are "just as correct" as the former. This formed a break with the previous lexicologists' custom to comment on a Flemish word that it is mainly used in Flanders, while the specific use in Holland of its Dutch-Dutch equivalent had remained unmentioned. Thus it had appeared as if the Flemish word was somehow aberrant Dutch.

In the Dutch language, around 3,500 words exist which are generally and typically considered Flemish, and 4,500 words considered Dutch.

The supra-regional, semi-standardized colloquial form (mesolect) of Dutch spoken in Belgium, which uses the vocabulary and the sound inventory of the Brabantic dialects, is often called Tussentaal ("in-between-language", i.e. between dialects and standard Dutch). 

Its evolution is somewhat similar to the emergence of Poldernederlands in the Netherlands, a medium of everyday speech heavily influenced by Hollandic. Poldernederlands and Tussentaal are sociolects (not dialects or separate standard forms).

The tussentaal ("in-between-language") is a primarily informal variety of speech which occupies an intermediate position between regional dialects and the standard language. This tussentaal incorporates phonetic, lexical and grammatical elements that are not part of the standard language but are drawn from local dialects. 

It is a relatively new phenomenon that has been gaining popularity during the past decades. Some linguists note that it seems to be undergoing a process of (limited) standardisation. 

Dutch dialects in Belgium
There are five principal Dutch dialects in Flanders: Brabantian, Limburgish, East Flemish, Antwerpish and West Flemish. Linguistically however, Flemish is used as a general term encompassing both East Flemish and West Flemish.

 As a result of political emancipation of the region of Flanders hower, the combined culture of that region, which consists out of West Flanders, East Flanders, Brabant and Limburg, is named Flemish and so are the four languages sometimes. Despite the name, Brabantian is the dominant contributor to the tussentaal. Both uses of the term derive from the name of the historical County of Flanders.

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