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Terminology list - from Arthur to Vocabulary

Quick jump links -Terminology beginning with the letter A(below) E H N S

Arthur romance:

Popular Medieval tales relating the adventures of the legendary English King Arthur and his court (the Knights of the Round Table). The stories usually describe a quest for some mysterious object (the Holy grail, a magical horn, or in the case of the Middle Dutch ##Walewein, a floating chess board) and emphasize the importance of courtly behaviour.


Style of writing that describes a lofty subject in vulgar language or a mundane topic in very high-flown terms. The tension between content and style produces a humorous effect. Notable examples of burlesque in English literature are Samuel Butler's Hudibras (1663-78).

Case system:

Case endings on *nouns and *pronouns indicate their grammatical function in a sentence, e.g. *subject or *object.

Codex (plural: codices):

Bound volume of manuscripts.


Language resulting from the blend of two or more existing languages (one of which is often of European origin) spoken as a native language by a majority of speakers in a particular region.


Regional variant of a standard language with its own distinctive features (syntax, lexicon, pronunciation). The use of dialect is often restricted to informal situations and oral communication.


Term used in the Middle Ages to distinguish the language used by ordinary people (the 'diet') from the language used by the clergy, i.e. Latin. We still recognize this form in the English word 'Dutch'. In time 'Diets' became 'Duits', which means 'German' in modern Dutch. The term 'Diets' is preserved in the expression 'iemand iets diets maken' (to explain something to someone).


A combination of two vowel sounds within one syllable. The articulation begins for one vowel sound and then glides towards another. In standard English, the following words contain diphthongs: 'wide', 'void', 'loud', 'hay', 'no'.


The phenomenon that a reduced form of a word (usually a *pronoun or an *article) is attached to the end of another existing word. This was very common in Middle Dutch. For instance: 'doedi' for 'doet ghi' (do you). See proclisis.

Flemish ('Vlaams'):

Originally the dialect spoken in the province of Flanders. Later it was used to refer to the Dutch language as spoken in Belgium. In 1973, this term was officially dropped in favour of 'Dutch'. Though the official language in Flanders, as codified in the Belgian constitution, is Dutch, many (English language) dictionaries and reference works still use the term 'Flemish' instead. This is incorrect.


Hypothetical language from which all Germanic languages (including Dutch, English, German, and the Scandinavian languages) are thought to originate. Click (@link) [Personal website in English on the different Germanic languages] to read more about the various languages that make up the Germanic language family .


An explanatory note or translation written in the margin or between the lines of a text.

Golden Age:

Generic term used to refer to the seventeenth century in the Dutch Republic characterized by a booming economy, colonial expansion (especially in the East Indies, i.e. present-day Indonesia) and cultural excellence. It was the age of, among others, the painter Rembrandt van Rijn, the poet Joost van den Vondel, and the scientists Christiaan Huygens (invented the pendulum clock and discovered Saturn's moon Titan) and Anthony Leeuwenhoek (the inventor of the microscope).


All the rules and structures used in language to form words and sentences. Also a book describing these rules and structures.

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Someone (especially in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries) who took a great interest in the culture, philosophy, and literature of Roman and Greek antiquity. Humanism gave rise to the renaissance period in Western Europe.


An entry in a dictionary.


Pertaining to the vocabulary (lexicon) of a language.

Low Countries:

Geographical area that, in the strictest sense, comprises the Netherlands, Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg (Benelux). In practice, it is used to refer to the Netherlands and Belgium (in particular Flanders).


Historically, a text written by hand on parchment. Manuscripts can be illuminated with colourful miniatures.

Middle Dutch:

The Dutch language as it developed between c.1150 and c.1500. Three important collections of medieval Dutch literature are the so-called Comburg, Gruuthuse and ##Hulthem codices.

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New Dutch:

Dutch as it developed after c.1500.

Old Dutch:

Dutch as it was spoken and written before c.1150. Unlike Old English (Beowulf, The Seafarer, The Wanderer, The Battle of Maldon), for instance, very few Old Dutch sources have been preserved.

Parchment (or vellum):

A piece of specially prepared animal skin (pig, sheep, goat or cow) on which a text can be written with ink and a quill (goose feather). The name of the material is derived from the name of the ancient city of Pergamum in Asia Minor.

>>Phonetic spelling:

A spelling that gives a good indication of how a particular word should be pronounced. This means that one particular sound is represented by one specific letter or combination of letters. Dutch has a more phonetic spelling that English. The English spelling is so difficult to learn because words that look similar on the page are not always (or no longer) pronounced in the same way. Conversely, words that sound the same are often spelt in a totally different way. Compare for instance the spelling and pronunciation of: through, tough, bough, though. The following sound all the same, but are spelt differently: there, their, they're.


Simplified language that contains words and phrases from two or more languages and that is used by people who do not share a common language. It is a corruption of the English word 'business'.

Probatio pennae:

Words or lines written to try out a new(ly cut) pen (usually made from a goose feather). The Latin phrase can be translated as: 'a tryout of the pen'.


The phenomenon that a reduced form of a word (usually an article or preposition) is attached to the beginning of another existing word. This was very common in Middle Dutch. In modern Dutch we use an apostrophe to separate the words. For instance: 'tis' for 'dat is'. See enclisis.

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The weak, unstressed sound which you can hear, for instance, in the Dutch article 'de' or in the first syllable of the English word 'ago'. In phonetic transcription it is represented as the letter 'e' put on its head: /0/.


Poem with an intricate rhyme scheme, consisting of fourteen lines usually divided into an octave (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). The sonnet was very popular in Renaissance literature.


A letter or combination of letters added to the end of a word to make a new word. For example: the suffix '-(t)jes' can turn a Dutch *adjective into an *adverb: 'zacht' (soft) becomes 'zachtjes' (softly). Compare: 'Dit kussen is zacht' (This cushion is soft) and 'Zij spreken zachtjes' (They speak softly).


The rules of a language relating to how words can be combined into phrases and sentences, e.g. word order rules.

Vocabulary (lexicon):

Totality of the words that exist in a language.


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