Roald Smeets – Dutch Dialects
08/26/2012 § Leave a comment
dialects are primarily the dialects that are both cognate with the Dutch language and are spoken in the same language area as the Dutch standard language. Dutch dialects are remarkably diverse and are found in the Netherlands and northern Belgium.
The province of Friesland is bilingual. The West Frisian language, distinct from Dutch, is spoken here along with standard Dutch and the Stadsfries dialect. A (West) Frisian standard language has also been developed.
In the east there is an extensive Dutch Low Saxon dialect area: the provinces of Groningen (Gronings), Drenthe and Overijssel are almost exclusively Low Saxon, and a major part of the province of Gelderland also belongs to it. The IJssel river roughly forms the linguistic watershed here. This group, though not being Low Franconian and being very close to neighbouring Low German, is still regarded as Dutch, because of the superordination of the Dutch standard language in this area ever since the seventeenth century; in other words, this group is Dutch synchronically but not diachronically.
Extension across the borders
Gronings, spoken in Groningen (Netherlands), as well as the closely related varieties in adjacent East Frisia (Germany), has been influenced by the Frisian language and takes a special position within the Low Saxon Language.
South Guelderish (Zuid-Gelders) is a dialect spoken in Gelderland (Netherlands) and in adjacent parts of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany).
Brabantian (Brabants) is a dialect spoken in Antwerp, Flemish Brabant (Belgium) and North Brabant (Netherlands).
Limburgish (Limburgs) is spoken in Limburg (Belgium) as well as in Limburg (Netherlands) and extends across the German border.
Flemish (Vlaams) is spoken in West and East Flanders (Belgium), Zeelandic Flanders (Netherlands) and historically also in French Flanders (France).
Zeelandic (Zeeuws) is spoken in most of Zeeland (Netherlands) and is a transitional regional language between West Flemish and Hollandic. In the eastern part of Zeelandic Flanders, East Flemish is spoken.
In Holland, Hollandic is spoken, though the original forms of this dialect (which were heavily influenced by a Frisian substratum) are now relatively rare; the urban dialects of the Randstad, which are Hollandic dialects, do not diverge from standard Dutch very much, but there is a clear difference between the city dialects of Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam or Utrecht.
Dutch dialects and their peripheries to the West (French Flemish) and to the East (Low Rhenish)
In some rural Hollandic areas more authentic Hollandic dialects are still being used, especially north of Amsterdam. Another group of dialects based on Hollandic is that spoken in the cities and larger towns of Friesland, where it partially displaced West Frisian in the 16th century and is known as Stadsfries (“Urban Frisian”).
Limburgish has the status of official regional language in the Netherlands (but not in Belgium). It receives protection by chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Limburgish has been influenced by the Rhinelandic dialects like the Cologne dialect: Kölsch, and has had a somewhat different development since the late Middle Ages.
Limburgish and Dutch Low Saxon have been elevated by the Netherlands (and by Germany) to the legal status of streektaal (regional language) according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which causes some native speakers to consider them separate languages.
Dutch dialects are not spoken as often as they used to be. Nowadays in the Netherlands only older people speak these dialects in the smaller villages, with the exception of the Low Saxon and Limburgish regional languages, which are actively promoted by some provinces and still in common use. Most towns and cities stick to standard Dutch – although many cities have their own city dialect, which continues to prosper. In Belgium, however, dialects are very much alive; many senior citizens there are unable to speak standard Dutch.
In Flanders, there are four main dialect groups:
West Flemish (West-Vlaams) including French Flemish in the far North of France,
East Flemish (Oost-Vlaams),
Brabantian (Brabants), which includes several main dialect branches, including Antwerpian, and
Some of these dialects, especially West and East Flemish, have incorporated some French loanwords in everyday language. An example is fourchette in various forms (originally a French word meaning fork), instead of vork. Brussels is especially heavily influenced by French because roughly 85% of the inhabitants of Brussels speak French. The Limburgish in Belgium is closely related to Dutch Limburgish. An oddity of West Flemings (and to a lesser extent, East Flemings) is that, when they speak AN, their pronunciation of the “soft g” sound (the voiced velar fricative) is almost identical to that of the “h” sound (the voiced glottal fricative), thus, the words held (hero) and geld (money) sound nearly the same, except that the latter word has a ‘y’ /j/ sound embedded into the “soft g”. When they speak their local dialect, however, their “g” is almost the “h” of the Algemeen Nederlands, and they do not pronounce the “h”. Some Flemish dialects are so distinct that they might be considered as separate language variants, although the strong significance of language in Belgian politics would prevent the government from classifying them as such. West Flemish in particular has sometimes been considered a distinct variety. Dialect borders of these dialects do not correspond to present political boundaries, but reflect older, medieval divisions.
The Brabantian dialect group, for instance, also extends to much of the south of the Netherlands, and so does Limburgish. West Flemish is also spoken in Zeelandic Flanders (part of the Dutch province of Zeeland), and by older people in French Flanders (a small area that borders Belgium).
Sister and daughter languages
Many native speakers of Dutch, both in Belgium and the Netherlands, assume that Afrikaans and West Frisian are ‘deviant’ dialects of Dutch. In fact, they are separate and different languages, a daughter language and a sister language, respectively. Afrikaans evolved mainly from Dutch, but had influences from various other languages in South Africa. However, it is still largely mutually intelligible with Dutch. (West) Frisian evolved from the same West Germanic branch as Anglo-Saxon and is less akin to Dutch.
Until the early 20th century, variants of Dutch were still spoken by some descendants of Dutch colonies in the United States. New Jersey in particular had an active Dutch community with a highly divergent dialect that was spoken as recently as the 1950s. See Jersey Dutch for more on this dialect.
In Pella, Iowa, a derivation of South Guelderish called the Pella Dutch dialect exists.
Despite its name, Pennsylvania Dutch is not a Dutch dialect – it is actually German-based.
Plautdietsch is a Low German variety with influences and elements of Dutch.
Russia today also has some people in small colonies who speak Dutch-based dialects.
- Flemish days at Floriade (flanderstoday.eu)
- The week in sci & ed (15/08/2012) (flanderstoday.eu)
- The jarring word ‘ajar’ (oup.com)