Dutch language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pronunciation: IPA: [ˈneːdərlɑnts]
Spoken in: Netherlands, Belgium, France, Suriname, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles, Indonesia, and other countries.
Total speakers: 22 million (2006)[1] 
Ranking: 37–48 (depending on counting method)
Language family: Indo-European
  West Germanic
   Low Franconian
Writing system: Latin alphabet (Dutch variant
Official status
Official language of: Aruba, Belgium, European Union, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, South American Community of Nations, Suriname
Regulated by: Nederlandse Taalunie
(Dutch Language Union)
Language codes
ISO 639-1: nl
ISO 639-2: dut (B)  nld (T)
ISO 639-3: nld 

Dutch-speaking world

Dutch (Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 22 million people, mainly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Suriname, but also by smaller groups of speakers in parts of France, Germany and several former Dutch colonies. It is closely related to German and also the North Germanic languages, and has some linguistic connections with English. The language is a descendant of Old Frankish which is also the parent language of Afrikaans, one of the official languages of South Africa. Dutch and Afrikaans are to a large extent mutually intelligible, though both have separate spelling standards and dictionaries and have separate language regulators. Standard Dutch (Standaardnederlands) is the standard language of the major Dutch speaking-areas and is regulated by the Nederlandse Taalunie ("Dutch Language Union").

Dutch grammar follows the same basic word order as all Germanic languages (Subject Verb Object). There are, however, some interesting differences of word order between the main clause and the subclause. Dutch grammar also shares many traits with German, but has a less complicated morphology (inflection system), which puts it closer to English. Dutch has only two basic genders (three in some interpretations), which is similar to the gender systems of the Continental Scandinavian languages.

The consonant system of Dutch has not been part of the High German consonant shift and has more in common with how English and the Scandinavian languages, especially Swedish and Norwegian, are pronounced. Like most Germanic languages it has a syllable structure that allows fairly complex consonant clusters. Dutch is often noted for the prominent use of velar fricatives (pronounced in the back of the mouth) something which is often a poignant source of amusement or even satire.

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

One of the major dialect groups of Dutch, Flemish, is spoken in the southwestern Netherlands and the northern half of Belgium. It is sometimes claimed to be a separate language, an issue which can be very controversial for the Dutch-speaking population of Belgium. Officially, both Belgium and the Netherlands adhere to Standard Dutch and the difference between Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch are comparable to the difference between American and British English.


[edit] History

Main article: History of Dutch

The history of the Dutch language begins around 450–500 AD, after Old Frankish, one of the many West Germanic tribal languages, was split by the Second Germanic consonant shift while at more or less the same time the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law led to the development of the direct ancestors of modern 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 now 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 subtrate within the southern Limburgish dialects of Dutch. Because the two groups were so similar it is often very hard 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 most of the time do not differentiate.

Dutch, like most modern languages, is conventionally divided into three phases:

  • 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. It should be noted that Standard Dutch is very similar to most Dutch dialects.

To actually see the evolution of the Dutch language the following, originally Old Dutch, sentence has been translated into 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 zij die genaken mij, want onder menigen hij was met mij" (Modern Dutch)

(Using correct contemporary Dutch word order)

"Hij zal mijn ziel verlossen in vrede (net als) zij die (mijn ziel) genaken, want onder menigen was hij met mij" (Modern Dutch)
"He will relieve my soul in peace like he will relieve the souls of others who lived like me as He was amongst many with me" (Loose English translation)

A process of standardization 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 standardization 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 first major Dutch Bible translation was created that people from all over the United Provinces could understand. It used elements from various, even Low Saxon, dialects but was predominantly based on the urban dialects of Holland.

[edit] Etymology of the word "Dutch"

see also Deitsch

The word Dutch comes from the proto-Germanic word *þeudisko-z, and became Duutsc in Middle Dutch, which later gave the two early modern Dutch forms, Duits in the north and Diets in the south.[2] Duits has taken on the meaning of "German" and Diets meaning "Dutch" (along with "Nederlands") but no longer in general use (see the Diets article), dropped for its Nazi-era overtones. German Deutsch meaning "German" has the same origin.[3][4]

The English word Dutch has also changed with time. It was only around 1550, with growing cultural and economic contacts and the rise of an independent country, that the modern meaning arose, i.e., 'designating the people of the Netherlands or their language'. Prior to this, the meaning was more general and could refer to any Germanic-speaking area or the languages there (including the current Germany, Austria, and Switzerland as well as the Netherlands). For example:

  • William Caxton (c. 1422–91) wrote in his Prologue to his Aeneids in 1490 that an old English text was more akin to Dutche than English. In his notes, Professor W.F. Bolton makes clear that this word means German in general rather than Dutch.
  • In four books containing the Chronography and History of the whole world, Vol. II (London, 1677: 154) contains "…the Dutch call Leibnitz," adding that Dutch is spoken in the parts of Hungary adjoining to Germany.

[edit] Classification

Dutch is a Germanic language, and within this family it is a West Germanic language. Dutch did not experience the High German consonant shift (apart from the transition from /θ/ to /d/), and is a Low Franconian language. There was at one time a dialect continuum that blurred the boundary between Dutch and Low Saxon. In some small areas, there are still dialect continuums, but they are gradually becoming extinct.

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. Dutch has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter although masculine and feminine have merged to form the common gender (de), whilst the neuter (het) remains distinct as before. The inflectional grammar of Dutch, for instance in adjective and noun endings, has been simplified over time.

For many English speakers, basic Dutch, when written, looks recognizable, but the pronunciation may be markedly different. This is true especially of the diphthongs and of the letter <g>, which is pronounced as a velar continuant. The rhotic pronunciation of <r> causes some English-speakers to believe Dutch sounds similar to a West Country accent; this is the reason for Bill Bryson's famous remark that when one hears Dutch one feels one ought to be able to understand it. Dutch pronunciation is, however, difficult to master for English speakers, its diphthongs and gutturals being the greatest obstacles.

[edit] Geographic distribution

 national  |  official (administrative)  |  secondary, non-official  |  minority 

Dutch is spoken by almost all inhabitants of the Netherlands and Flanders (the northern half of Belgium); in Flanders, it is often referred to by the dialect name Vlaams (Flemish). It is also spoken in the bilingual region of Brussels, together with French and other languages. In the northernmost part of France, the Dunkirk arrondissement in the Nord département, Dutch is still spoken as a minority language, also often called Vlaams. On the Caribbean islands of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, Dutch is used, but is less common than Papiamento (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire) and English (Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius, Saba). Dutch is spoken as a mother tongue by about 60% of the population in Suriname, most of whom are bilingual with Sranan Tongo or other ethnic languages (2005, Nederlandse Taalunie: [1], in Dutch). There are also some speakers of Dutch in countries with many Dutch and Flemish immigrants, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In South Africa and Namibia the closely-related language Afrikaans is spoken. There are also a number of Dutch speakers in Indonesia.

[edit] Official status

Dutch is an official language of the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, and the Netherlands Antilles. The Dutch, Flemish and Surinamese governments coordinate their language activities in the Nederlandse Taalunie ('Dutch Language Union'). Dutch was an official language in South Africa up until 1961 (it had fallen into disuse after Afrikaans became an official language in 1925). A noticeable minority of the inhabitants of New Zealand, 16,347 (0.4%) are sufficiently fluent in Dutch to carry on an everyday conversation.[5]

Standaardnederlands or Algemeen Nederlands ('Common Dutch', abbreviated to AN) is the standard language as taught in schools and used by authorities in the Netherlands, Flanders, Suriname, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles. The Dutch Language Union defines what is AN and what is not.

Since efforts to uplift people came to be considered rather presumptuous, the earlier name Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands ('Common Civilized Dutch') and its abbreviation ABN have been replaced with Algemeen Nederlands and thus AN.

[edit] Dialects

The main Dutch dialectal groups.
The main Dutch dialectal groups.

In Flanders, there are 4 main dialect groups: West Flemish, East Flemish, Brabantian, which includes several main dialect branches, including Antwerpian, and Limburgish. Some of these dialects, especially West and East Flemish, have incorporated some French loanwords in everyday language. An example is fourchette in various forms (originally a French word meaning fork), instead of vork. Brussels is especially heavily influenced by French because roughly 85% of the inhabitants of Brussels speak French. The Limburgish in Belgium is closely related to Dutch Limburgish. An oddity of West Flemings (and to a lesser extent, East Flemings) is that, when they speak AN, their pronunciation of the "soft g" sound (the voiced velar fricative) is almost identical to that of the "h" sound (the voiced glottal fricative), thus, the words held (hero) and geld (money) sound nearly the same, except that the latter word has a 'y' /j/ sound embedded into the "soft g". When they speak their local dialect, however, their "g" is almost the "h" of the Algemeen Nederlands, and they do not pronounce the "h". Some Flemish dialects are so distinct that they might be considered as separate language variants, although the strong significance of language in Belgian politics would prevent the government from classifying them as such. West Flemish in particular has sometimes been considered a distinct variety. Dialect borders of these dialects do not correspond to present political boundaries, but reflect older, medieval divisions. The Brabantian dialect group, for instance, also extends to much of the south of the Netherlands, and so does Limburgish. West Flemish is also spoken in part of the Dutch province of Zeeland, and even in a small area near Dunkirk, France that borders Belgium.

The Netherlands also have different dialect regions. In the east there is an extensive Low Saxon dialect area: the provinces of Groningen (Gronings), Drenthe and Overijssel are almost exclusively Low Saxon. Zuid-Gelders is a dialect also spoken in the German land of North Rhine-Westphalia. Brabantian (Noord-Brabant) fades into the dialects spoken in the adjoining provinces of Belgium. The same applies to Limburgish (Limburg (Netherlands)), but this variant also has the status of official regional language in the Netherlands (but not in Belgium). It receives protection by chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Limburgish has been influenced by the Rhinelandic dialects like the Cologne dialect: Kölsch Platt, and has had a somewhat different development since the late Middle Ages.

Zealandic of most of Zeeland is a transitional regional language between West Flemish and Hollandic, with the exception of the eastern part of Zealandic Flanders where East Flemish is spoken. In Holland proper, Hollandic is spoken, though the original forms of this dialect, heavily influenced by a Frisian substratum, are now relatively rare; the urban dialects of the Randstad, which are Hollandic dialects, do not diverge from standard Dutch very much, but there is a clear difference between the city dialects of Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam or Utrecht.

In some rural Hollandic areas more authentic Hollandic dialects are still being used, especially north of Amsterdam. Limburgish and Low Saxon have been elevated by the Netherlands (and by Germany) to the legal status of streektaal (regional language) according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which causes some native speakers to consider them separate languages.

Dutch dialects are not spoken as often as they used to be. Nowadays in The Netherlands only older people speak these dialects in the smaller villages, with the exception of the Low Saxon and Limburgish streektalen, which are actively promoted by some provinces and still in common use. Most towns and cities stick to standard Dutch - although many cities have their own city dialect, which continues to prosper. In Belgium, however, dialects are very much alive; many senior citizens there are unable to speak standard Dutch. In both the Netherlands and Belgium, many larger cities also have several distinct smaller dialects.

Many native speakers of Dutch, both in Belgium and the Netherlands, assume that Afrikaans and Frisian are 'deviant' dialects of Dutch. In fact, they are different languages, though Afrikaans has evolved mainly from Dutch. In fact, a (West) Frisian standard language has been developed.

Until the early 20th century, variants of Dutch were still spoken by some descendants of Dutch colonies in the United States. New Jersey in particular had an active Dutch community with a highly divergent dialect that was spoken as recently as the 1950s. See Jersey Dutch for more on this dialect.

[edit] Derived languages

Afrikaans is derived from Dutch and is one of the 11 languages of South Africa and the mother tongue of about 15% of its population. It is also spoken or understood by many more. Afrikaans originated from modern Dutch (16th century-present).

Before the United Kingdom took control of South Africa from the Netherlands in 1814, the Afrikaans language (which wasn't called or considered Afrikaans at that time) was exposed to a steady stream of Dutch language influence, and the two languages were therefore almost identical. The differentiation and major changes from Dutch started when the Dutch settlers moved deep inland (Trek Boers). In addition, when the UK seized South Africa, the Dutch language spoken in South Africa was practically cut off from other Dutch-speaking areas, allowing the language to differentiate and evolve further. In 1922 the Afrikaans language was recognized as one of South Africa's official languages, alongside Dutch and English. Dutch was formally derecognized in South Africa only in 1984 (since 1961 it had merited only a mention in the legislation). By that time, however, it had no longer been in everyday official use for a long time.

The distinction of Afrikaans from the Dutch language was perhaps briefly in danger just after the Second World War when a great number of Dutch immigrants chose South Africa as their new homeland. However, the Afrikaans language survived the new influx of Dutch speakers, which might otherwise have turned Afrikaans into a mixed language. Almost all of the Dutch immigrants and their descendants now speak Afrikaans instead of Dutch, be it (in the case of the Dutch-born parents) with a slight accent. A great deal of mutual intelligibility still exists.

Someone who is able to speak Dutch usually can read and understand Afrikaans (especially when the native dialect is Hollandic, Zealandic, Flemish or Brabantic). There are also Dutch-based creole languages.

[edit] Names of the Dutch language

Because of the turbulent history of both the Netherlands, Belgium as well as the Dutch language, the names that other peoples have chosen to use to refer to it vary more than for most other languages. Mostly the name is derived either from "Holland" an important historical province, or a translation of "Low Countries", but many other variants exist including those deriving from "Flanders", the ancient Germanic word for "the people" and ancient Germanic tribes living in the region of the Low Countries at the time of the Roman Empire.

[edit] Sounds

Main article: Dutch phonology

Dutch devoices all consonants at the ends of words (e.g. a final /d/ becomes [t]; to become 'ents of worts'), which presents a problem for Dutch speakers when learning English. This is partly reflected in the spelling, the singular huis has the plural huizen (house(s)) and duif becomes duiven (dove). The other cases, viz. ‘p’/‘b’ and ‘d’/‘t’ are always written with 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/. Further south these phonemes are certainly present in the middle of a word. Compare e.g. logen and loochen /loɣən/ vs. /loxən/. In the South (i.e. Zeeland, Brabant and Limburg) and in Flanders the contrast is even greater because the g becomes a palatal. ('soft g').

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 North East (Low Saxon) and the South West (West Flemish) where the ending becomes a syllabic n sound.

Dutch is a stress language; the stress position of words matters. Stress can occur on any syllable position in a word. There is a tendency for stress to be at the beginning of words. In composite words, secondary stress is often present. There are some cases where stress is the only difference between words. For example vóórkomen (occur) and voorkómen (prevent). Marking the stress in written Dutch is optional, never obligatory, but sometimes recommended.

The syllable structure of Dutch is (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C)(C). Many words, like in English, begin with three consonants - e.g. straat (street). There are words that end in four consonants - e.g. herfst (autumn), ergst (worst), interessantst (normally: interessant(interesting)) instead of (most interesting), sterkst (strongest) - most of them being adjectives in the superlative form.

The greatest amount of consonants in a single cluster can be found in the word slechtstschrijvend (worst writing) with 9 consonants (though there are only 7 phonemes since 'ch' represents a single phoneme).

[edit] Vowels

The vowel inventory of Dutch is large, with 14 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 Dutch monophthongs
IPA chart Dutch diphthongs
Dutch Vowels with Example Words
Symbol Example
IPA IPA orthography English translation
ɪ bɪt bit 'bit'
i bit biet 'beetroot'
ʏ hʏt hut 'cabin'
y fyt fuut 'grebe'
ɛ bɛt bed 'bed'
beːt beet 'bite'
ə de 'the'
øː nøːs neus 'nose'
ɑ bɑt bad 'bath'
zaːt zaad 'seed'
ɔ bɔt bot 'bone'
boːt boot 'boat'
u ɦut hoed 'hat'
ɛi ɛi, ʋɛin ei, wijn 'egg', 'wine'
œy œy ui 'onion'
ʌu zʌut, fʌun zout, faun 'salt', 'faun'

[edit] Consonants

IPA chart Dutch consonants
Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Plosive p b t d k g1 ʔ 2
Nasal m n ŋ
Fricative f v 3 s z 3 ʃ ʒ 4 x ɣ 3 ʁ 5 ɦ
Approximant ʋ 6 j
Lateral l

Where symbols for consonants occur in pairs, the left represents the voiceless consonant and the right represents the voiced consonant.


1) [g] is not a native phoneme of Dutch and only occurs in borrowed words, like goal.

2) [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.

3) In some dialects, notably that of Amsterdam, the voiced fricatives have almost completely merged with the voiceless ones, and [v] is usually realized as [f], [z] is usually realized as [s], and [ɣ] is usually realized as [x].

4) [ʃ] and [ʒ] are not native phonemes of Dutch, and usually occur in borrowed words, like show and bagage (baggage). And even then they are usually realized as /sj/ and /zj/ respectively. However, /s/ + /j/ phoneme sequences in Dutch are often realized as /sj/, like in the word huisje (='little house'). In dialects that merge s and z [zj] often is realized as [sj].

5) The realization of the /r/ phoneme varies considerably from dialect to dialect. In "standard" Dutch, /r/ is realized as [r]. In many dialects it is realized as the voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] or even as the uvular trill [ʀ].

6) The realization of the /ʋ/ varies considerably from the Northern to the Southern and Belgium dialects of the Dutch language. In the South, including Belgium, it is sometimes realized as [w]. Some, mainly Hollandic, dialects nearly pronounce it like [v].

Dutch Consonants with Example Words
Symbol Example
IPA IPA orthography English translation
p pɛn pen 'pen'
b bit biet 'beetroot'
t tɑk tak 'branch'
d dɑk dak 'roof'
k kɑt kat 'cat'
g gol goal 'goal' (sports)
m mɛns mens 'human being'
n nɛk nek 'neck'
ŋ ɛŋ eng 'scary'
f fits fiets 'bicycle'
v ovən oven 'oven'
s sɔk sok 'sock'
z zep zeep 'soap'
ʃ ʃɛf chef 'boss, chief'
ʒ ʒyʁi jury 'jury'
x ɑxt acht 'eight'
ɣ ɣaːn gaan 'to go'
ʁ ʁɑt rat 'rat'
ɦ ɦut hoed 'hat'
ʋ ʋɑŋ wang 'cheek'
j jɑs jas 'coat'
l lɑnt land 'land / country'
ʔ bəʔamə beamen 'to confirm'

[edit] Historical sound changes

Dutch (with the exception of the Limburg dialects) did not participate in the second Germanic (High German) Sound Shift - compare German machen /-x-/ Dutch maken, English make, German Pfanne /pf-/, Dutch pan, English pan, German zwei /ts-/, Dutch twee, English two.

Dutch underwent a few changes of its own. For example, words in -old or -olt lost the l in favor of a diphthong as a result of vocalisation. Compare English old, German alt, Dutch oud.

Germanic */uː/ turned into /y/ through palatalization, which sound in turn became a diphthong /œy/, spelt 〈ui〉. Long */iː/ also diphthongized to /ɛi/, spelt 〈ij〉.

The phoneme /ɡ/ became a voiced velar fricative /ɣ/, or a voiced palatal fricative /ʝ/ (in the South: Flanders, Limburg).

[edit] Grammar

Main article: Dutch grammar

Like all other continental West Germanic languages, Dutch has a word order that is markedly different from English, which presents a problem for some Anglophones learning Dutch. A simple example often used in Dutch language classes and text books is "Ik kan mijn pen niet vinden omdat het veel te donker is" which word-for-word translates to "I can my pen not find because it much too dark is" but actually translates to "I can't find my pen because it's much too dark". This can be explained by saying that the first (main) verb goes at the beginning of the sentence whilst all the remaining verbs go to the end. It must also be noted that Dutch (like German) often splits larger sentences into smaller ones, each of which can have distinctly different grammatical rules depending on what is actually being said and where the emphasis is placed.

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 singular), wier (whose, feminine or plural), although the latter is quite formal and rarely used in speech, comparable to English ‘whom’. Nouns and adjectives are not case inflected (except for the genitive of proper nouns (names): -'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 all 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:

een mooi huis (a beautiful house)
het mooie huis (the beautiful house)
mooie huizen (beautiful houses)
de mooie huizen (the beautiful houses)
een mooie vrouw (a beautiful woman)

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.

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)

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). Sometimes hottentottensoldatententententoonstellingsterreinen (hottentot soldiers tents exhibition terrains) is jocularly quoted as the longest Dutch word (note the four times consecutive ten), but outside this usage it actually never occurs. Notwithstanding official spelling rules, many Dutch people nowadays tend to write the parts of a compound separately, which is sometimes dubbed “the English disease”.

[edit] Vocabulary

See the list of Dutch words and list of words of Dutch origin at Wiktionary, the free dictionary and Wikipedia's sibling project

Like English, Dutch includes words of Greek and Latin origin. Its number of Romance-based loanwords is higher than in German, but much lower than in English. 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. High German had an important influence on Dutch vocabulary in the formation stage of the standard language in the 16th and 17th century. Except for the adverbs überhaupt and sowieso, the few more recent German loanwords are relatively rarely used. However, even though few true loanwords are present, German has had a major effect in the 19th and 20th century upon the lexicon of the language, mainly by the adaptation and change of German words into words that seem Dutch (so-called germanisme), a process probably to be ascribed to the likeness of the two languages. Some of these forms have become so integral to Dutch that few Dutch are aware of their origin; they include words like opname (from German Aufnahme), aanstalten (from Anstalten). The Dutch vocabulary is one of the richest in the world and comprises over 350,000 headwords.

[edit] Writing system

Main article: Dutch orthography

Dutch is written using the Latin alphabet, (see Dutch alphabet). One of the clues to recognise that a piece of text is written in Dutch is the occurrence of many doubled letters. This happens both to vowels and consonants. One cause is the many compound words where the same letter ends one part and begins the next part. Another cause is formed by spelling devices used to distinguish the many more vowel sounds in the Dutch language, than there are vowel letters in the Latin alphabet. A prime example is the word voorraaddoos (supply box).

The diaeresis (called 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 (accent aigu) 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 (accent grave) is used to clarify pronunciation ('hè' (what?, what the ...?, tag question 'eh?'), 'bèta') and in loanwords ('caissière' (cashier), 'après-ski'). In the recent spelling reform, the accent grave was dropped as stress sign on short vowels in favour of the accent aigu (e.g. 'wèl' was changed to 'wél'). Other diacritical marks such as the circumflex only occur on a few words, most of them loanwords from French.

The most important dictionary of the modern Dutch language is the Van Dale groot woordenboek der Nederlandse taal,[6] more commonly referred to as the Dikke van Dale ("dik" is Dutch for "fat" or "thick"), or as linguists nicknamed it: De Vandaal (the vandal). However, it is dwarfed by the "Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal", a scholarly endeavour that took 147 years from initial idea to first edition, resulting in over 45,000 pages.

The official spelling is given 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 little green book", 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 (Society Our Language) decided to publish an alternative list, "het witte boekje" ("the little white book"), 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.

[edit] Dutch as a foreign language

The number of non-native speakers of Dutch who voluntarily learn the language is small. This is partly because Dutch is not geographically widespread and because in its home countries the Netherlands and Belgium most of its speakers are proficient in other European languages. In the Netherlands German is spoken with varying levels of proficiency (especially in the regions bordering Germany) and the language is part of the core curriculum in schools for 2-5 years. In Belgium, German is less widely spoken, and not always required, but is still spoken by a considerable number of people.

The neutrality of this article is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.

French is also taught for 2-6 years in the Netherlands, but it is not as widely spoken. In Flanders (Belgium) French is required from age 10 to 18 (from 8 to 18 for Dutch-language schools in bilingual Brussels) and is quite widely spoken, not so strange when one considers that the southern half of Belgium is Francophone. But on the other hand, Francophone Belgians are far less proficient in Dutch; recently, Walloon schools were allowed to choose to teach English as first foreign language, instead of Dutch.

In the Netherlands, English is taught in schools from a young age - starting in the second highest grade in elementary school from age 10 or 11, and in Flanders from the age of 13 or 14, but typically until the completion of secondary education. Most universities in the two countries, recognizing the importance of the English language in the modern world, continue to teach the language to those students who need to improve their skills. As a result English is spoken throughout the Netherlands and Belgium with members of the younger generation sometimes being fluent or near fluent speakers. The majority of the population of both countries speaks some English.

Some non-native residents of the Netherlands and of Belgium have never learnt to speak Dutch, probably because of a perception of its difficulties. Moreover, and especially in Belgium, the difference between the standard language and the language people speak (their local dialect or, more often, a version of the standard language heavily influenced by it) can be very important and cause difficulties. In addition, native Dutch speakers themselves are often so linguistically proficient that they will try to help a struggling Dutch learner by replying in his or her own (second) language – usually English, or in Belgium also French.

The Dutch often make fun of their own language — for example Tom Meyer, a radio commentator, used to say on air that "Dutch isn't a language; it's a disease of the throat." Pronunciation can be a challenge as many of the Dutch vowel sounds are difficult for non native speakers. Diphthongs such as the "ui" sound in such words as "zuid" (south) or "huis" (house), the "eu" in "keuze" (choice) or "sleutel" (key), and the "ij" sound in words like "mijt" (mite) or "wijn" (wine) present difficulties and even though some of these words are superficially like their English equivalents the correct sound is very different.

Another issue with pronunciation is the "sch"-sound, which Dutch native speakers pronounce as /sk/ or /sx/. It has no counterpart in English, although it comes close to sch-sound in words like "school". There is a well-known Second World War anecdote in which the name of Dutch town Scheveningen was used as a Shibboleth by the Dutch Resistance, as there is also no counterpart in German. Therefore native German speakers will pronounce the sch in Scheveningen as /ʃ/ (as in the English word short), while Dutch native speakers will pronounce it as /sx/. This linguistic difference provided a good mechanism to uncover German spies in the ranks of the Dutch resistance.

Its cohesiveness sometimes also produces words that might baffle speakers of other languages due to the high amount of consecutive consonants, such as the word "angstschreeuw"  (scream in fear), which has grand total of eight in a row (ngstschr). It has to be noted though that the pronunciation of a word can differ greatly from its written form. In this case, "angstschreeuw" actually features 6 consonants (ng-s-t-s-ch-r) originating from two distinct linked words ("angst" and "schreeuw"), which is reduced further in everyday pronunciation by blending consecutive consonants into one sound - e.g. "ch" and "r".

Native speakers of German usually have the biggest advantage of all people when learning Dutch from a grammar and vocabulary point of view but almost always struggle with the pronunciation. However, those residents or visitors who do learn some Dutch will be rewarded, not only by the extra fillip this gives to their understanding of Dutch history and culture, but also because it will enable them to converse with people in areas away from the big cities where other languages are less commonly spoken and experience other Dutch culture.

[edit] Examples

Translation Phrase IPA
Dutch Nederlands ˈnedəɾlɑnts
Hello Hoi / Hallo ɦɔi / ɦɑˈloː
I am [...] Ik ben [...] ɪg bɛn [...]
My name is [...] Ik heet [...] ɪk ɦeːt [...]
Good morning Goedemorgen xudə ˈmɔɾxən
Good day Goedendag xudə dɑx
Good evening Goedenavond xudə ˈaːvɔnt
Good night Goedenacht xudə nɑxt
Good-bye Dag / Tot ziens dɑx / tɔt sins
Please Alstublieft ɑstyˈblift
You are welcome Graag gedaan xɾaːx xəˈdaːn
Thank you Dank u wel dɑŋk y ʋɛl
That Dat dɑt
How much? Hoeveel? ɦuˈveːl
Yes Ja / Jawel jaː / jaːˈʋɛl
No Nee / Neen neː / neːn
I want that, please Doe dat maar, alstublieft du dɑt maːɾ ɑstyˈblift
Where is the toilet? Waar is het toilet? ʋaːɾ ɪs ət tʋɑˈlɛt
Generic toast Proost pɾoːst
Do you speak English? Spreekt u Engels? spɾeːkt y ˈɛŋəls
I don't understand Ik begrijp het niet ɪg bəˈxɾɛi̯p ət nit
I'm sorry Het spijt me ət spɛi̯t mə
I don't know Ik weet het niet ɪk ʋeːt ət nit

[edit] Popular misconceptions

[edit] The language of Flanders

Dutch is the language of government, education, and daily life in both the Netherlands and the Flemish Region, the northern part of Belgium. There is no officially recognized language called Flemish, and both the Dutch and Belgian governments adhere to the standard Dutch (Algemeen Nederlands) defined by the Nederlandse Taalunie ("Dutch Language Union").

The actual differences between the spoken language of Dutch and Belgian speakers are comparable to the differences between American and British English. Some of these differences are recognized by the Taalunie and major dictionaries as being interchangeably valid, although some dictionaries and grammars may mark them as being more prevalent in one region or the other.

The use of the word Vlaams ("Flemish") to describe Standard Dutch, including its variations prevalent in the Flemish Region and used there, is common in the Netherlands and Belgium. Flemish is also a collective term used for the Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium.

See Flemish (linguistics) and Flanders for more details.

[edit] German dialect

Dutch cannot be defined as a German dialect. The Dutch standard language by definition cannot be a dialect of another standard language, in this case Standard German. The dialect group from which Dutch is largely derived, Low Franconian, belongs to the whole of the continental West Germanic dialect set. This whole is sometimes imprecisely indicated by the word "German", but it might as well be called "Dutch". Indeed the Low Franconian dialects and languages are morphologically closer to the original form of Western Germanic than the High German from which standard German is derived. No intrinsic quality of the whole of the component dialects favours one standard over the other: both were rivals and historical contingency decided the range of their use. The state border does not reflect dialectal subdivisions. Only since the dialect continuum of continental West Germanic was broken by the 19th century introduction of mass education have the respective ranges been fixed; in the 18th century standard Dutch was still used as the normal written standard in the Lower Rhine, the county of Bentheim and East Frisia, now all part of Germany.

[edit] Relation to English

Dutch does have a relatively close genetic relationship to the descendants of Middle English (such as English and Scots), since both belong to the West Germanic languages and both lack most or all of the High German consonant shift that characterizes the descendants of Middle High German (such as German and Yiddish).

Frisian, however, is even more closely related to the Middle English descendants than Dutch. Languages and dialects sharing some features found in English and Frisian are referred to as Anglo-Frisian languages or, occasionally, Ingvaeonic languages.

[edit] Pennsylvania Dutch

Pennsylvania Dutch, a West Central German variety called Deitsch by its speakers, is not a form of Dutch. The word "Dutch" has historically been used for all speakers of continental West Germanic languages, including, the Dutch people, Flemish, Austrians, Germans, and the German-speaking Swiss. It is cognate with the Dutch archaism Diets, meaning "Dutch", and the German self-designation Deutsch. The use of the term "Dutch" exclusively for the language of Belgium, or for the inhabitants of the Netherlands or some of its former colonies, dates from the early 16th century.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Dutch language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wikibooks has more about this subject:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

[edit] Dictionaries

[edit] References

  1. ^ Hoeveel mensen spreken Nederlands als moedertaal? (How many people speak Dutch as mother tongue?), Nederlandse Taalunie, 2005.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary: MDu. dutsch, duutsch, duutsc, ‘Hollandish, or, in a wider sense, Netherlandish, and even German’ (Verdam), in early mod. Du. duytsch, now duitsch, ‘German’, = Ger. deutsch, MHG. diutsch, ‘German’, OHG. diutisc, popular, vulgar.
    OHG. diutisc, OS. thiudisc, OE. þéodisc, Goth. *þiudisks: OTeut. *þeudisko-z, meant ‘popular, national’, f. OTeut. *þeudâ-, Goth. þiuda, ON. þjóð, OS. thioda, thiod, OE. þéod (ME. THEDE), OHG. diota, diot, people, nation. In Germany, the adj. was used (in the 9th c.) as a rendering of L. vulgaris, to distinguish the ‘vulgar tongue’ from the Latin of the church and the learned; hence it gradually came to be the current denomination of the vernacular, applicable alike to any particular dialect, and generically to German as a whole.
  3. ^ American Heritage Dictionary: Pennsylvania Dutch: Dutch.
  4. ^ American Heritage Dictionary: Pennsylvania Dutch.
  5. ^ Statistics New Zealand - Concerning Language 2004 - Profile of First Language Retention
  6. ^ www.vandale.nl
Major Modern Germanic languages
Afrikaans | Danish | Dutch | English | German | Norwegian | Swedish | Yiddish
Minor Modern Germanic languages
Faroese | Frisian | Icelandic | Luxembourgish
Reg. acknowledged Germanic languages/dialects
Limburgish | Low German / Low Saxon | North Frisian | Saterland Frisian | Scots | Ulster Scots

Official languages of the European Union
Bulgarian | Czech | Danish | Dutch | English | Estonian | Finnish | French
German | Greek | Hungarian | Irish | Italian | Latvian | Lithuanian | Maltese
Polish | Portuguese | Romanian | Slovak | Slovenian | Spanish | Swedish
Source: European Union website