Talk:Dutch language

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 Definition West-Germanic language spoken by roughly 20 million people in the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles. [d] [e]
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Michel, I see that you distinguish clearly a dialect from a language. I was told a long time ago that the difference was mainly political (own country and/or big mouth). Do linguists have settled the dispute finally?--Paul Wormer 10:07, 1 May 2008 (CDT)

No. :) The varieties of Dutch/Flemish are not clearly differentiated on linguistic grounds, but socially I think the Belgians would see their language as distinct, and not just 'Dutch' (in a similar way that, for example, you could claim that Hindi and Urdu are the same language if you just looked at the grammar and basic vocabulary). I fear this article is a little Dutch-centric at the moment, because it describes Flemish as Dutch. What we actually have in Belgium and the Netherlands are lots of mutually intelligible dialects that don't match up with political borders (and indeed, they merge with varieties across in Germany as well). I don't think Flemish branched off from Dutch as spoken in the Netherlands; but I don't know enough about these varieties to be able to make many meaningful changes. John Stephenson 23:38, 5 May 2008 (CDT)
I cannot agree with John that Flemish-speaking Belgians would consider "Flemish" a distinct language. Linguistically, Flanders is very, very tricky because there are three sociolinguistic layers: dialect - tussentaal - Algemeen Nederlands. Most educated (Dutch-speaking) Belgians do recognize that there is no essential difference between the standard language in Belgium (Flanders) and in Holland. In fact, the two countries have worked together for decades to develop a unified standard. So, on TV and in parliament in Flanders (and on a national level in Dutch-speaking areas) Algemeen Nederlands is the standard that many people aim for. In written language, Standard Dutch (Algemeen Nederlands) is the only accepted language, and the greater majority of Dutch-speaking Belgians can speak it. This is Dutch, not some other language. However, it cannot be denied that there is a fluid spectrum towards the local dialects and the notion of "tussentaal" did develop out of a felt desire to have a specific Belgian standard because many Belgians do feel that Algemeen Nederlands is a foreign model imposed on them (though this is not technically true--it was agreed upon by both countries' governments on an equal footing). We can explain this situation more clearly in a section on "Dutch in Belgium" or "Tussentaal and dialects" or whatever we end up calling it, and we may well include a sociolinguistic discussion on the question of what is language and what is dialect. As for the dialect-language distinction, it is certainly essentially true that the distinction has to do with politics rather than primarily with linguistic features. However, I don't want to get into that discussion in this talk comment or even in this article, at least at great length. There is nothing inherently wrong with calling "Flemish" a dialect of Dutch as a short-hand definition, especially because the official position of the national Belgian and Flemish regional governments speak of "Dutch" as their official language. The situation is exactly analogous to Austria: their official language is German, but their variety of German differs sharply from Standard German as spoken in Germany. I hope that clears things up at least some... :-) Michel van der Hoek 15:22, 6 May 2008 (CDT)
OK, you're the expert on this, Michel. :) John Stephenson 04:07, 7 May 2008 (CDT)
I quote from another CZ article: In 1973 the Flemish Cultural Council decreed that the language should be designated officially as Dutch, and not Flemish.
--Paul Wormer 04:35, 7 May 2008 (CDT)
the 1973 decree is noted at [1] -- I am certainly not a linguist but I have followed some of the debates among historians on the matter.Richard Jensen 06:42, 7 May 2008 (CDT)

One more note on "Flemish." From a linguistic point of view, Flemish is only one of the dialects spoken in Dutch-speaking Belgium (namely, in the provinces of West- and East-Flanders). In other Belgian provinces there are dialects of Brabantic or Brabantish (Antwerp, Flemish Brabant, and the easternmost section of East-Flanders) and Limburgic or Limburgish (Belgian Limburg). That is another reason why it is difficult to use "Flemish" as a designation for ALL Dutch dialects of Belgium. Michel van der Hoek 10:50, 7 May 2008 (CDT)

Afrikaans as a creole

I removed the information about Afrikaans being a creole form of Dutch; this is a controversial claim which involves changing the accepted definition of what a creole is (i.e. a former pidgin language that has become as complex as any other through being acquired as a native language). It is probably more accurate to say that Afrikaans started as a variety of Dutch, whose grammar and lexicon underwent a substrate influence from local African languages. John Stephenson 23:47, 5 May 2008 (CDT)

I agree that this is a tricky question. I don't think there is any consensus. It used to be called a "creole" but that does not quite fit. There is a trend to call Afrikaans a "dialect" of Dutch and there is some justification for that claim based on morphological, phonological, and lexical similarities as well as continued mutual intelligibility. But as the other comment (above) indicates, there are also disputes about the definitions of "language" and "dialect." As I understand it, the problem is in comparative linguistics where scholars have been shifting the definitions of these concepts, largely because of more studies on global languages, with the result that traditional categories no longer apply. I compromised by calling it a "creolized dialect" which, I will grant, is also not accurate. I have no objection to calling Afrikaans a language, because it is a language in its own right. Michel van der Hoek 14:06, 6 May 2008 (CDT)
I have discussed definitions before with published experts, and they seemed to use 'creole' in the post-pidgin sense. An interesting aside to this is the use of 'creoloid': I recall Afrikaans being referred to in this way but I think the experts were reluctant to use this word and said there was no agreed definition. It seems to mean something that looks a bit like a creole but isn't, or something influenced by creoles, or even a mixed language created from a creole and something else. In other words, vague. So I would rather we say it's a language (as above). John Stephenson 04:07, 7 May 2008 (CDT)
A colleague of mine, who knew a lot about Afrikaans and is working on an etymological dictionary of Afrikaans, told me that it is a very complex question because it goes to the heart of the question how Afrikaans arose. Everyone is agreed that the substance of Afrikaans arose out of a number of dialects centered on Zeelandic/Hollandic and the ancient 17th-century Amsterdam dialect, but the details get tricky. It is usually supposed that many changes happened because many Dutch settlers left the raising of their children to native (African) slaves who did not speak Dutch properly. But, as I understood from my friend, reliable records for the crucial period of development (before 1800) are scanty so scholarship is not certain about all the influences on Afrikaans. It certainly was never a pidgin and in view of that we should not call it a "creole" as that term is defined nowadays. It seems more likely that this is an example of an African substrate having influenced the conqueror's language. Under that view, it would not be unjustifiable to call Afrikaans a dialect of Dutch (with extensive admixtures), though I do not propose we adopt that position. Michel van der Hoek 10:57, 7 May 2008 (CDT)


I don't like the example IJmuiden for the loss of n from mond, because IJmuiden is a relatively recent and constructed name. The place and its name were created around 1875 during the digging of the North Sea canal. (I know this because I grew up there). Can't you think of an older (and more convincing) example? --Paul Wormer 06:33, 2 June 2008 (CDT)

Fair enough. I wasn't aware of the particular history of this town. The name element was what counted for me. How about Muiden, Arnemuiden, Diksmuide (Belgium), or Muide (Belgium)? Though the last one may come from a different root, related to English "mud", rather than "mouth", but I don't have the resources to check that now. The former two should do. I'm hoping to work more on this, though, but that will take some time. Bear with me. Michel van der Hoek 22:53, 2 June 2008 (CDT)