Dutch Before 1200
linguists want to refer to the Dutch language as it was spoken before
1200, they use the term Old Dutch (>link)
(Oudnederlands). Very little is known about this early phase.
There are two main reasons for this. First, we have hardly any written
records dating back to that time. During the last millennium many valuable
collections and archives were lost: libraries were looted by invaders
or burnt down. Also, as the Dutch language gradually changed, people
were unable to read and understand these early texts so they were simply
thrown away. Second, the manuscripts (>link)
that did survive are usually written not in Dutch but in Latin. (Old)
Dutch was the language of oral, every-day communication, but when something
had to be recorded, then Latin was used. Latin was the language of the
Church, and because most writing was done by monks in monasteries, there
was little or no demand for material in the native language of the people.
That is also why so many early texts are of a religious nature.
these Latin manuscripts are not without interest for people who want
to study the earliest stages of the Dutch language. Sometimes we find
translations in Old Dutch of individual words or phrases scribbled
in between the Latin text or in the margins of the page. These glosses
(>link), as they
are called, were meant for monks who had only a basic knowledge of
Latin. As it happens, the most famous text in Old Dutch that has come
down to us was discovered in 1932 on a flyleaf of a Latin manuscript
produced in Rochester (UK). It was written by a Flemish monk as he
tried out his new pen and reads:
olla vogala nestas hagunnan
hinase hic enda thu wat unbidan we nu
alle vogels [hun] nesten begonnen
behalve ik en jij, wat beiden (= wachten) we nu?
all birds started with their nests
me and thee, what are we abiding now?
Though this text was written down almost 1000 years ago, we can easily
recognize it as a form of Dutch: the first three words, for instance,
are very similar to the corresponding words in the modern Dutch transcription.
are so many surviving manuscripts from before 1200 written in Latin?
your answer (>link)
Click here (>link) to study some
linguistic features of Old Dutch.