Dutch language

West Germanic language

Dutch (Dutch: Nederlands) is a West Germanic language. It comes from the Netherlands and is the country's official language.[3] It is also spoken in the northern half of Belgium (the region called Flanders), and in the South American country of Suriname. A language known as Afrikaans was developed from Dutch by the people in southern Africa and is now spoken mainly in South Africa but also in nearby Namibia. About 22 million people around the world speak Dutch.[4]

Pronunciation[ˈneːdərlɑnts]  ( listen)
Native toNetherlands and Flanders
RegionNetherlands, Belgium, and Suriname;
also in Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, French Flanders
Native speakers
22 million (2016)[1]
Total (L1 plus L2 speakers): 28 million (2018)[2]
Early forms
Signed Dutch (NmG)
Official status
Official language in

Regulated byNederlandse Taalunie
(Dutch Language Union)
Language codes
ISO 639-1nl
ISO 639-2dut (B)
nld (T)
ISO 639-3nld Dutch/Flemish
Dutch-speaking world (included are areas of daughter-language Afrikaans)
Distribution of the Dutch language and its dialects in Western Europe
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

History change

Dutch is a West Germanic language[5] The West Germanic branch is divided into English, Frisian, German and Dutch.[5] Dutch has a similar vocabulary and grammar to English but is closer to German.

The North Germanic languages of Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic are also part of the Germanic language branch.[5] Dutch is also in some cases like those languages.

The Dutch of before 1170 is called Old Dutch (Oudnederlands). The Dutch between 1170 and 1500 is called Middle Dutch (Middelnederlands), which is also called Diets and so that is why it is called Dutch in English. The word "Dutch" itself came from the Proto-Germanic word theodiscus, which means "language of the common people" and then was also used to refer to the Germans and their language. Over time, the Modern English usage now refers to that the Netherlands, not the Germans. The Dutch word for German, Duits, comes from the same origin.

The oldest Dutch book known is Wachtendonckse Psalmen, which was written in 900. The first Dutch writer known by name is Hendrik van Veldeke, who was born around 1150.

Letters change

Dutch uses the letters of the same Roman alphabet as English.

Vowels change

Short Long
a – like the a in art. aa – somewhat like the "a" in far
e – like in pet ee – like the "a" in space
o – like in organic oo – like in no
u – somewhat like the "e" in the uu – like the "ü" in the German word für
i – like in lip i.e. – like in piece

Note: The e can also be a schwa (like in the)

Note: The short vowels (a, e, i, o, u) are pronounced long in open syllables (explaned further down below).

  • oe – like the "ou" in you
  • eu – like the French "eu" in fleur
  • ui – typical Dutch sound, but almost identical to the French word oeuil (= eye)
  • ou/au – like in sound
  • ij/ei – typical Dutch sound, the same as "ej" in Esperanto (not in Polish) In Amsterdam, the sound instead is "i" in ice.
  • aai – like the "i" in ice
  • eeuw – typical Dutch sound
  • ieuw – somewhat like "iew" in view

Open and closed syllables change

Vowels are said differently on the if the syllable is open or closed. If a syllable is open, short written vowels are said as long ones. However, short written vowels are said short if the syllable is closed.:

The word praten has two syllables: pra|ten. Because pra is open, the a is pronounced like aa.
The word plat had only one syllables and so the a is short (just a).

There is, however, an exception to this rule. This is the "e". This is because "e" can also be a "mute e" (Schwa) (IPA character ə). In most words, where an open syllable ends with e it is a short e. Therefore, open syllables with a long e (ee) are written as ee. Example:

The word "me" contains an e and is not pronounced as "mee". (Mee has a totally different meaning).

There are, however, exceptions to this rule as well. This can be seen in the word meenemen. This word can be divided into three syllables: mee|ne|men. The e's in the first two syllables are long ones, but the last one is a mute e.

The mute e also occurs in the ending of verbs (usually -en).

Consonants change

  • b
  • c
  • d
  • f
  • g/ch – not pronounced as the English G; the Dutch G is pronounced in the back of the throat with a "scratching" sound. In the south of the Netherlands, the G is spoken differently (so called soft G) than in the north (hard G).
  • h
  • j – like "y" in you
  • k
  • l
  • m
  • n
  • p
  • q – only used rarely; spoken as k
  • r – not like English; the Dutch R is a more rolling R
  • s
  • t
  • v
  • w
  • x – only used rarely, mostly in foreign words, pronounced as ks
  • z

Note: In words that end with "-d", the "-d" is pronounced like "-t".

Grammar change

Spoken Dutch
Eva speaking Dutch

The grammar of Dutch is slightly more complex than that of English. Word order in sentences is different in complex sentences. The basic simple sentence-structure is subject-verb.

Verbs change

Dutch has few grammatical tenses. These are most used:

  • onvoltooide tegenwoordige tijd (present simple)
  • onvoltooide verleden tijd (past simple)
  • voltooide tegenwoordige tijd (present perfect)
  • voltooide verleden tijd (past perfect)

Onvoltooid tegenwoordige tijd change

The most simple verb-time is the onvoltooide tegenwoordige tijd (ott; present simple). The ott is used when something happens now, or regularly (like Hij eet regelmatig (He eats regularly)). Most verbs are conjugated (changed) in a regular form (these verbs are called regelmatige werkwoorden (regular verbs)). The word stem of the verb is still there in all of the conjugations (verb changes). The correct way of doing so is

Person Verb conjugation Example with "lopen" (to walk)
Ik (I) Stem Ik loop
Jij (you) Stem+t Jij loopt
Hij/Zij (he/she) Stem+t Hij loopt
Wij (we) stem+en* (infinitive) Wij lopen
Zij (they) stem+en* Zij lopen
Jullie (you, plural) stem+en* Jullie lopen
U (you, polite) stem+t' U loopt

Note: The stem of a verb is the infinitive of the verb without the -en. In some verbs, the first syllable is open and so any vowel is long. The stem changes to a written long vowel so the stem of lopen becomes loop. If the -en is then added to the stem (like with wij), the written form becomes short again, but it is still said as a long vowel).

Onvoltooid verleden tijd change

The past form of the ott is the onvoltooid verleden tijd (ovt; past simple). How verbs are conjugated (changed) in the ovt is not easy to understand. Mistakes are common because some verbs are add a D, but others add a T. The "'t kofschip" rule is that the verb without -en (the stem in most verbs) ends with a consonant, which is also in "'t kofschip", the verb is changed with a T:

The verb praten (to talk) is changed with a T because prat ends with a T.

The verb can now be changed as the following:

Person Verb conjugation (with T) Result with praten
Ik stem+te Ik praatte
Jij stem+te Jij praatte
Hij/Zij stem+te Hij praatte
Wij stem+ten Wij praatten
Zij (they) stem+ten Zij praatten
Jullie stem+ten Jullie praatten
U stem+te U praatte

There are some words for which "'t kofschip" is not so easy. In vrezen (to fear), the stem of the verb is vrez, but the singular form is vrees and it looks as if it is changed with a T. However, it changes to a D because vrezen without -en is vrez. The Z is not in "'t kofschip" and so the verb is changed to a D.

The verb can now be changed as follows:

Person Verb conjugation (with D) Result with Vrezen
Ik stem+de Ik vreesde
Jij stem+de Jij vreesde
Hij/Zij stem+de Hij vreesde
Wij stem+den Wij vreesden
Zij (they) stem+den Zij vreesden
Jullie stem+den Jullie vreesden
U stem+de U vreesde

Continuating verbs change

Although Dutch has present continuous (the -ing form of verbs in English), it is not used often:

The senctence "I am eating", is in Dutch "Ik eet", which is literally "I eat".
The present continuous in Dutch is "Ik ben etende", but it is almost never used.

Actually, there are three types of continuous verbs in Dutch.

  1. The first type is a form of the verb zijn (to be) with the actual continuous verb. That is done by adding de on the infinitive. It is rare but correct to use it in Dutch, and it is used only in very formal texts.
  2. The second type is a type in and which the verb actually functions as an adverb. Depending on the subject, the verb is changed by adding either a "d" or "de" to the infinitive. The verb then has the function of while..... An example: Hij liep drinkend de supermarkt uit. English uses He walked out of the supermarket while drinking .
  3. The third type is a type that is often used. Its use can be compared with the English type of continuous. Something is being done at the moment but is not completed. The form of zijn + aan het comes before the infinitive: Ik ben aan het lopen, which means I am walking (at the moment).

Examples change

Spoken Dutch

hallo (hello)
Ik heet ... (my name is...)
Ik hou van je (I love you)
ja (yes)
nee (no)

Numbers change

een (one)
twee (two)
drie (three)
vier (four)
vijf (five)
zes (six)
zeven (seven)
acht (eight)
negen (nine)
tien (ten)
elf (eleven)
twaalf (twelve)

In number with three digits (e.g. 100), the Dutch change the u into o and replace 1 of the r's. Example:

The number 100 becomes: honderd, which literally means hundred.

Basic Dutch expressions change

Dutch English
Hallo Hello
Hoi Hi
Dag Bye (formal)
Doei! Bye! (informal)
Tot later! See you later!
Goedemorgen/Goedemiddag Good morning/Good afternoon
Goedenavond/Goedenacht Good evening/Good night
Hoe gaat het met je? How are you? (informal)
Hoe gaat het met u? How are you? (formal)
Met mij gaat het goed! I am fine!
Dank je/Dank u Thank you (informal/formal)
Graag gedaan You are welcome
Spreekt u Engels? Do you speak English?
Spreekt u Nederlands? Do you speak Dutch?
Ik begrijp het niet I do not understand
Ik weet het niet I do not know
Tot ziens Goodbye
Tot straks See you later
Mijn naam is... My name is...
Ik ben... I am...
Alsjeblieft Please (informal)
Alstublieft Please (formal)
Wat is je naam? What is your name? (informal)
Wat is uw naam? What is your name? (formal)
Waar kom je vandaan? Where are you from? (informal)
Waar komt u vandaan? Where are you from? (formal)
Ik kom uit Nederland/België I'm from the Netherlands/Belgium
Wat is er? What's wrong?
Sorry, waar is het station? Excuse me, where is the train station?
Hoeveel kost deze trui? How much is this sweater?
Mevrouw Miss/Mrs.
Meneer Mr.
Waar Where
Misschien Maybe
Goede reis Have a good trip
Prettige dag Have a nice day

References change

  1. Dutch at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. "Dutch". Languages at Leicester. University of Leicester. Archived from the original on 2014-05-02.
  3. "Language". I Amsterdam. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  4. Wayne C. Thompson, Western Europe 2015-2016 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), p. 201
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Pierre Brachin, The Dutch Language: A Survey (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985), p. 4