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The Dutch language area

Dutch is a Germanic language (>link), which means that it belongs to the same language group as Afrikaans, Danish, English, Faeroese, Frisian, German, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish. It is spoken by over 21 million people in Europe: 15 million of them live in the Netherlands, the other 6 million live in Flanders, which comprises the northern half of Belgium. We can put these figures into context: there are more speakers of Dutch than of all Scandinavian languages put together, but more people in Europe speak Polish.

The language situation in Belgium is fairly complex in that there are three official languages: Dutch (in Flanders), French (in the Walloon provinces), and German (in the east). >>Brussels, the capital, is officially bilingual (Dutch and French). Not many people abroad realize that Dutch is the largest language in Belgium, spoken by about 60% of the population. You should not use the term Flemish (>link) when referring to the language used in Flanders. Despite some minor differences in usage, the Flemish and the Dutch share the same standard language, rely on the same grammar books and dictionaries, and write according to the same spelling rules.

Dutch survived in a number of former Dutch colonies including Suriname, Indonesia, and the Dutch Antilles. The influence of indigenous languages and local dialects often led to the emergence of hybrid forms, creoles (>link) or pidgins (>link). Afrikaans, which is spoken in South Africa, originates from the dialect spoken by the first Dutch settlers in the seventeenth century. It is now recognized as a separate language. Frisian, the language spoken in the northern province of Friesland, has also obtained official recognition as a Germanic language in its own right. The use of Frisian, which is historically closer to English than Dutch or German, is actively promoted by the Frisian Academy (@link) [Multilingual website of the Fryske Akademy (Frisian Academy), the research and education centre for Friesland and Frisian].

Please click (>link) to see a linguistic map of the Low Countries.

Click (@link) to read more about the different standard languages and dialects spoken in Belgium [English-language, personal website on Belgian dialects, offering maps, sound files etc].

Question 4:

How many (indigenous) standard languages are used in the Netherlands?

Check your answer (>link)

Click (>link) to start with the linguistic history of Dutch.


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