Modern Language: DUTCH

Indo-European > Germanic > West Germanic > Dutch

Dutch is a Low German language spoken by over twelve million people in the Netherlands and about five million in Belgium, where it is traditionally called Flemish. It is also found in such far-flung corners as Suriname and Indonesia, and is the close ancestor of Afrikaans, spoken by about six million people in South Africa.

It is generally accepted that Dutch developed from a form of Old Low Franconian; what is known is that Middle Dutch rose in prominence as the vernacular spoken by successful medieval merchant cities of Bruges, Ghent, Delft and Utrecht. Dialectal variance was a feature for many centuries, for the Low Countries were never a single unitary state, and at various times were ruled by foreign powers. The Dutch Revolt in the late 16th C brought independence from Catholic Spain for the Protestant Netherlands, but not for Belgian Flanders. The Golden Age in the 17th C saw a standard emerge, supported by the States Bible (Staatenbijbel) of 1637. This in turn put the Dutch in the driving seat of their language, restricting the influence of the Flemings.

While traditionally having two names, Dutch and Flemish are the same language, a fact now recognised officially in Belgium, which now uses the term Nederlands. Flemish pronunciation, however, is considered to be softer and far less guttural than that of Amsterdam. The fact that English speakers call the language of Holland Dutch dates back to medieval contact with Low German traders, and is comparable to the Modern German Deutsch.

Over the centuries Dutch has provided English with many loanwords. Shipping and commerce in the Middle Ages gave us words such as boom, smuggler and yacht, while later colonialism in North America provided US English with such words as cookie (from koekje), boss and even Santa Claus from Sinter Klaas (McArthur, 2002: p145). However the traffic is almost all one-way these days. The inexorable influence of English is such that it is almost impossible to find young Dutch people who do not speak it. While all schools teach it, many universities teach largely in English, leading to concerns that the increasing academic and political prestige of English could have dark consequences for Dutch in its native country.

examples of dutch

1. Daarna zeide de HEERE tot Noach: Ga gij, en uw ganse huis in de ark; want u heb Ik gezien rechtvaardig voor Mijn aangezicht in dit geslacht.
2. Van alle rein vee zult gij tot u nemen zeven en zeven, het mannetje en zijn wijfje; maar van het vee, dat niet rein is, twee, het mannetje en zijn wijfje.
3. Ook van het gevogelte des hemels zeven en zeven, het mannetje en het wijfje, om zaad levend te houden op de ganse aarde..
'Staatenbijbel', Genesis 7, 1637.

O dierbaar België
O heilig land der vaad'ren
Onze ziel en ons hart zijn u gewijd.
Aanvaard ons hart en het bloed van onze adren,
Wees ons doel in arbeid en in strijd..
Alexandre Dechet, 'De Brabançonne', The Belgian National Anthem (1830). (Translation: "O beloved Belgium, sacred land of our fathers,Our heart and soul are dedicated to you. Our strength and the blood of our veins we offer,Be our goal, in work and battle.")

Ik houd van de Nederlanders, ik houd van ons land, ik houd van de taal, en wil hier werken. En al zou ik aan de Koningin zelf moeten schrijven, ik zal niet wijken voor mijn doel bereikt is.
Ann Frank, 'The Diary of a Young Girl', 1940s. (Translation: "I love the Dutch, I love this country, I love the language and want to work here. And even if I have to write to the Queen myself, I will not give up until I have reached my goal.")

a short dutch bibliography
  • E. Konig & J. Van Der Auwera, The Germanic Languages, (Routledge, London: 1994)
  • more to follow

some dutch links


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