Comparison of Afrikaans and Dutch

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Dutch and Afrikaans

Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch[1][2][3][4][5] and—unlike Netherlands Dutch, Belgian Dutch and Surinamese Dutch—a separate standard language rather than a national variety.[6][7][8] As an estimated 90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin,[9][10][11] there are few lexical differences between the two languages;[12] however, Afrikaans has a considerably more regular morphology,[8] grammar, and spelling.[13] There is a degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages,[8][14][15] particularly in written form.[7][13][16]

Afrikaans acquired some lexical and syntactical borrowings from other languages such as Malay, Khoi and San languages, Portuguese,[17] and of the Bantu languages,[18] and to a lesser extent, Low German. Nevertheless, Dutch-speakers are confronted with fewer non-cognates when listening to Afrikaans than the other way round.[16] Mutual intelligibility thus tends to be asymmetrical, as it is easier for Dutch-speakers to understand Afrikaans than for Afrikaans-speakers to understand Dutch.[16] In general, research suggests that mutual intelligibility between Dutch and Afrikaans is better than between Dutch and Frisian[19] or between Danish and Swedish.[16]

General differences[edit]

Orthographic differences[edit]

Orthographic differences between Dutch and Afrikaans are mainly due to phonetic evolutions and spelling simplifications in Afrikaans, and the more conservative character of and recent changes to modern Dutch orthography.

Afrikaans simplifications[edit]

  • The Dutch digraph ⟨ij⟩ was converted to ⟨y⟩ in Afrikaans, although pronunciation remained [ɛi]. An example is "prijs" (price), which is spelt "prys" in Afrikaans. Dutch words ending in ⟨lijk⟩, however, end in ⟨lik⟩ in Afrikaans, not ⟨lyk⟩, for example "lelijk" (ugly) in Dutch becomes "lelik" in Afrikaans. In both languages, this suffix is pronounced [lək], with a schwa.
  • Afrikaans uses ⟨k⟩ for the Dutch hard ⟨c⟩, both pronounced [k]. Compare Dutch "cultuur" (culture) with Afrikaans "kultuur". Before the 1990s major spelling reform, the latter spelling was also accepted in Dutch.
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch trigraphs ⟨tie⟩ and ⟨cie⟩ to a single spelling ⟨sie⟩. Apart from ⟨tie⟩, which is pronounced [tsi] in the Netherlands, there is no difference in pronunciation. Compare Dutch words "provincie" (province) and "politie" (police) with "provinsie" and "polisie" in Afrikaans.
  • The Dutch cluster ⟨tion⟩ became ⟨sion⟩ in Afrikaans. Compare "nationaal" (national) with "nasionaal". In Dutch, the pronunciation differs from region to region and include [tsiɔn], [siɔn], and [ʃon].
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch digraphs and trigraphs ⟨ou⟩, ⟨ouw⟩, ⟨au⟩, and ⟨auw⟩—pronounced identically by many Dutch speakers—to a single spelling ⟨ou⟩. Compare Dutch "vrouw" (woman) and "dauw" (dew) with Afrikaans "vrou" and "dou" respectively.
  • At the end of words, Afrikaans often dropped the ⟨n⟩ in the Dutch cluster ⟨en⟩ (pronounced as a schwa, [ə]), mainly present in single nouns and plurals, to become ⟨e⟩ Compare Dutch "leven" (life) and "mensen" (people) to Afrikaans "lewe" and "mense". Also in Dutch, final -n is often deleted after a shwa, but the occurrence and frequency of this phenomenon varies between speakers, and it is not recognised in spelling.

Phonetically induced spelling differences[edit]

Afrikaans frequently has simplified consonant clusters in final position that are still present in Dutch.

  • Afrikaans merged Dutch consonants ⟨z⟩ and ⟨s⟩ to a single sound [s], spelt ⟨s⟩. A similar phonetic evolution can be found in the Northern Netherlands. Dutch "zorg" (care) became "sorg" in Afrikaans.
  • In the middle of words, Afrikaans merged Dutch ⟨v⟩ and ⟨w⟩ to a single sound [v] and consequently to a single spelling, ⟨w⟩. Compare Dutch "haven" (port) with Afrikaans "hawe", both pronounced [ɦaːvə]. A similar near-assimilation of ⟨w⟩ to ⟨v⟩ can also be found in the Northern Netherlands, where ⟨w⟩ is pronounced [ʋ], and ⟨v⟩ [v].
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch fricatives ⟨ch⟩ and ⟨g⟩ to a single sound [χ], spelt ⟨g⟩, unless it is preceded by ⟨s⟩ in which case ⟨sk⟩ is used. A similar phonetic evolution can be heard in the Northern Netherlands, where the sounds have also been merged to [χ] or [x], although the spelling difference has been retained. In Belgium and Suriname, however, the phonetic distinction between ⟨ch⟩ and ⟨g⟩ has been preserved.[20]
  • Syllable-initially, Afrikaans spells ⟨sk⟩ (pronounced [sk]) where Dutch uses ⟨sch⟩ (pronounced [sx], [sχ] or [sç]): compare Dutch "school" (school) with Afrikaans "skool". In some Dutch dialects, notably Southern West Flemish, ⟨sk⟩ can also be heard.
  • At the end of words, Dutch clusters ⟨cht⟩ and ⟨st⟩ were reduced to ⟨g⟩ and ⟨s⟩, respectively, in Afrikaans. Compare Dutch "lucht" (air, pronounced [lʏxt]) and "dienst" (service, pronounced [dinst]) with Afrikaans "lug" ([ləχ]) and "diens" ([dins]).
  • Between two vowels, the Dutch ⟨g⟩ and ⟨v⟩ are omitted in Afrikaans. Compare Dutch "hoger" (higher) and "regen" (rain) with Afrikaans "hoër" and "reën", where the second vowel requires a trema to avoid confusion with the digraphs ⟨oe⟩ and ⟨ee⟩.
  • At the end of words, Dutch ⟨g⟩ is sometimes omitted in Afrikaans, which opens up the preceding vowels, now written with a circumflex. For example, the Dutch verb form "zeg" (say, pronounced [zɛx]) became "sê" (pronounced [sɛː]) in Afrikaans.
  • Afrikaans ⟨ê⟩, ⟨ô⟩, ⟨û⟩ contrast with Dutch, where the use of the circumflex is essentially limited to French borrowings. A circumflex is used with single vowel letters in open syllables, indicating the long monophthongal pronunciations /eː/ or /ɛː/, /ɔː/ and /œː/, as opposed to the vowel letters without a circumflex, pronounced as /eə/, /oə/ and /y/, respectively. Examples include "wêreld" (world, Dutch "wereld"), "môre" (morning, Dutch "morgen"), and "brûe" (bridges, Dutch "bruggen").
  • In diminutive forms, Afrikaans uses ⟨tjie⟩ (normally pronounced [ki]) where Standard Dutch uses ⟨tje⟩ (pronounced [cə] or [tjə]). In Belgium and the Southern Netherlands, the diminutive is often realised as [kə] in the spoken language. Conversely, in the Western Cape it is common to hear it realised as [tji].

Phonetic differences[edit]

See Help:IPA for Dutch and Help:IPA for Afrikaans

Afrikaans pronunciation tends to be closest to the dialects of the province South Holland, in particular of Zoetermeer.[5]

  • At the start of words, Afrikaans often merged Dutch voiced [v] with voiceless [f], as in "ver" (far), pronounced [fɛr] in Afrikaans and [vɛr] in Standard Dutch. The same merger is present though in the areas around Amsterdam, where all voiced consonants merged with the voiceless ones, pronounced as the latter ones.
  • Afrikaans merged Dutch voiced [w] with voiced [v], as in "werk" (work), pronounced [vɛrk] in Afrikaans and [wɛrk] in Belgium and Suriname or [ʋɛrk] in the Netherlands.

Grammar differences[edit]

Grammar differences are arguably the most considerable difference between Dutch and Afrikaans.

  • Afrikaans, unlike Dutch, has no grammatical gender. Therefore, Afrikaans only has one form of the definite article die, while standard Dutch has two (de and het) and spoken South-Dutch has three (den, de and het).
  • In Afrikaans verbs, the same form is generally used for both the infinitive and the present tense (with a couple of notable exceptions), and there is no inflection for person. Afrikaans has dropped the simple past tense for all but seven verbs, mostly modals. It uses instead the present perfect or the present tense, depending on context. Afrikaans has also lost the pluperfect. Afrikaans also lacks the distinction between the subject and object form for plural personal pronouns.
  • Unlike Dutch, Afrikaans has dropped the distinction between verbs that use zijn (to be) and verbs that use hebben (to have) in the present perfect.
  • The past tense of the passive voice uses is instead of werd. In Dutch, the passive voice can be constructed by both zijn and worden.
  • Afrikaans has a double negative, which is absent in standard Dutch (yet still exists in some dialects like West Flemish).[21] For example, Dutch Ik spreek geen Engels (I do not speak English) in Afrikaans becomes Ek praat nie Engels nie. Similar constructions can be found in French (Je ne parle pas anglais) but also in West Flemish (k en klappe geen Engels) as well as in other dialects in the southern part of Holland (Ik praat geen Engels nie)
  • Like Dutch, adjectives are generally inflected (with a number of exceptions) in the attributive position (when preceding the noun) and not in the predicative. Unlike Dutch, this inflection depends only on position, not grammatical gender.

Influences on Afrikaans from other languages[edit]


Due to the early settlement of a Cape Malay community in Cape Town, who are now known as Coloureds, numerous Malay words were brought into Afrikaans. Some of these words entered Dutch via the Indonesian language as part of the colonial heritage. Malay words in Afrikaans include:[22]

  • Piesang, which means banana. This is different from the common Dutch word banaan. The Indonesian word pisang is also used in Dutch, though usage is less common.
  • Baie, which means 'very'/'much'/'many' (from 'banyak') is a very commonly used Afrikaans word, different from its Dutch equivalent veel or erg.
  • Baadjie, Afrikaans for jacket, where Dutch would use jas or vest. The word baadje in Dutch is now considered archaic and only used in written, literary texts.


Some words originally came from Portuguese such as sambreel (umbrella) from the Portuguese sombreiro, kraal (pen/cattle enclosure) from the Portuguese curral, and mielie (corn, from milho). These words have become common in South Africa to an extent of being used in many other South African languages. Some of these words also exist in Dutch, like sambreel "parasol",[23] though usage is less common and meanings can slightly differ.

Khoisan languages[edit]

The word gogga, meaning insect, comes from the Khoisan word of the same meaning, xo-xo. Various other words used in Afrikaans also come from the Khoisan languages, such as assegaai (spear), karos (blanket of animal hides), and dagga (marijuana).[22] Some of these words also exist in Dutch, though with a more specific meaning: assegaai for example means "South-African tribal javelin"[citation needed] and karos means "South-African tribal blanket of animal hides".[24]

Bantu languages[edit]

The following words are some of the many Bantu words that have been adapted for use in both Afrikaans and South African English.[22]

  • Chana, from the Zulu word umtshana. Used to refer to a friend.
  • Fundi, from the Zulu word umfundi. Meaning someone who is a student/expert on a certain subject, i.e. He is a language fundi.
  • Tjaila / tjailatyd, an adaption of the word Chaila, meaning 'to go home'

Comparisons of various words and phrases in Dutch and Afrikaans[edit]

Afrikaans Dutch English
Verstaan jy my? Versta jij mij? / Begrijp je me?[25] Do you understand me?
Ek verstaan dit Ik versta dit / Ik begrijp het[25] I understand it
Wat is jou naam? Wat is jouw naam? What is your name?
Wat maak jy? Wat ben je aan het doen?
Compare Dutch Wat maak jij? (What are you making?)
What are you doing?
Ek is lief vir jou Ik hou van jou
Compare Dutch Ik ben lief voor jou (I am sweet to you)
I love you
Ek het jou lief Ik heb jou lief / Ik hou van jou
I love you
Is jy honger? Heb je honger? / Heb jij honger? Are you hungry?
Dié boek is vir jou Dit boek is voor jou This book is for you
Ek het al geëet Ik heb al gegeten I have already eaten
Stem jy saam? Ben je het daarmee eens?
Stem jij daarmee in?
Do you agree?
Stem jy [daartoe] in? Stem jij daarmee in? / Ga je daarmee akkoord? Do you agree [to it]?
Oop vanaand Open vanavond Open tonight
Hulle woon hier Ze wonen hier
Dialectal: Hullie wonen hier
They live here
Kan ons die middestad besoek? Kunnen we de binnenstad bezoeken?
Less common: Kunnen we de middenstad bezoeken? [26]
Can we visit the city centre?
piesang banaan
Less common: pisang
hoender kip
Less common: hoen, hoender
spinnekop spin, spinnenkop spider
padda kikker
Compare Dutch: pad (toad)
jasje, vest jacket
Ek is halfpad daar Ik ben halverwege I am halfway there
Hierdie vrug proe/smaak sleg Die vrucht hier smaakt slecht This fruit tastes bad
Het jy dit gesê? Heb jij dit gezegd? Did you say that?
Hy het op die lughawe aangekom Hij is op de luchthaven aangekomen He has arrived at the airport
As dit reën, sal dié sambreel jou beskerm Als het regent, zal deze paraplu jou beschermen[27] * If it rains, this umbrella will protect you
’n Lemoen is ’n oranjekleurige vrug Een sinaasappel is een oranjekleurige vrucht An orange is an orange-coloured fruit
’n Lemmetjie is ’n klein groen sitrusvrug Een limoen is een kleine groene citrusvrucht A lime is a small green citrus fruit
Ons hou daarvan om te braai Wij houden ervan om te barbecueën
Compare Dutch: braden (to roast), Wij houden ervan om te braaien (braaien is a recent loanword from Afrikaans) **
We love to barbecue
Ek kan dit nie glo nie Ik kan dit niet geloven I cannot believe it

* In some Dutch dialects it is also common to pronounce als as as.
** In Dutch, in some dialects d between two vowels tends to degenerate to i (pronounced -[jən]) or w (e.g. goedendag > goeiedag (good day), bloeden > bloeien (bleed), rode > rooie (red), poeder > poeier (powder), loden > looien (lead), lang geleden > lang gelejen (long ago), wij deden > wij dejen (we did), onthouden > onthouwen (remember)), some of which forms are more common and more accepted than others (dialectical, spoken, informal or standard language).

Comparison of sample text[edit]

Below is a comparison of the Afrikaans words of Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (formerly the national anthem of South Africa) with the Dutch translation.

Afrikaans Dutch English translation (literal)
Uit die blou van onse hemel, Uit het blauw van onze hemel From the blue of our sky
Uit die diepte van ons see, Uit de diepte van onze zee, From the depths of our sea,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes Over onze eeuwige gebergtes, Over our eternal mountains
Waar die kranse antwoord gee. Waar de rotsen antwoord geven. Where the cliffs give answer
Deur ons vêr verlate vlaktes Door onze ver verlaten vlaktes Through our far-deserted plains
Met die kreun van ossewa. Met het gekreun van ossenwagens With the groan of ox-wagon
Ruis die stem van ons geliefde, Ruist de stem van ons geliefde, Rouses the voice of our beloved,
Van ons land Suid-Afrika. Van ons land Zuid-Afrika. Of our country South Africa
Ons sal antwoord op jou roepstem, We zullen antwoorden op je roepen We will answer to your calling,
Ons sal offer wat jy vra: We zullen offeren wat jij vraagt We will sacrifice what you ask
Ons sal lewe, ons sal sterwe, We zullen leven, we zullen sterven We will live, we will die
Ons vir jou, Suid-Afrika. Wij voor jou, Zuid-Afrika. We for Thee, South Africa.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jansen, Carel; Schreuder, Robert; Neijt, Anneke (2007). "The influence of spelling conventions on perceived plurality in compounds. A comparison of Afrikaans and Dutch." (PDF). Written Language & Literacy 10:2. Radboud University Nijmegen. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  2. ^ Mennen, Ineke; Levelt, Clara; Gerrits, Ellen (2006). "Acquisition of Dutch phonology: an overview." (PDF). Speech Science Research Centre Working Paper WP10. Queen Margaret University College. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  3. ^ Booij, Geert (2003). "Constructional idioms and periphrasis: the progressive construction in Dutch." (PDF). Paradigms and Periphrasis. University of Kentucky. p. 5. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  4. ^ Hiskens, Frans; Auer, Peter; Kerswill, Paul (2005). "The study of dialect convergence and divergence: conceptual and methodological considerations." (PDF). Lancaster University. p. 19. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  5. ^ a b Wilbert Heeringa, Febe de Wet (2007). "The origin of Afrikaans pronunciation: a comparison to west Germanic languages and Dutch dialects" (PDF). University of Groningen. pp. 445–467. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  6. ^ Geerts, G.; Clyne (ed.) (editor), Michael G. (1992). Pluricentric languages: differing norms in different nations. Walter de Gruyter. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  7. ^ a b Sebba, Mark (2007). Spelling and society: the culture and politics of orthography around the world. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  8. ^ a b c Holm, Jdohn A. (1989). Pidgins and Creoles: References survey. Cambridge University Press. p. 338. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  9. ^ Mesthrie, Rajend (1995). Language and Social History: Studies in South African Sociolinguistics. New Africa Books. p. 214. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  10. ^ Brachin, Pierre; Vincent, Paul (1985). The Dutch Language: A Survey. Brill Archive. p. 132. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  11. ^ Mesthrie, Rajend (2002). Language in South Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 205. Retrieved 2010-05-18. 
  12. ^ Sebba 1997, p. 161
  13. ^ a b Sebba, Mark (1997). Contact languages: pidgins and creoles. Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  14. ^ Baker, Colin; Prys Jones, Sylvia (1997). Encyclopedia of bilingualism and bilingual education. Multilingual Matters Ltd. p. 302. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  15. ^ Egil Breivik, Leiv; Håkon Jahr, Ernst (1987). Language change: contributions to the study of its causes. Walter de Gruyter. p. 232. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  16. ^ a b c d Gooskens, Charlotte (2007). "The Contribution of Linguistic Factors to the Intelligibility of Closely Related Languages" (PDF). Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Volume 28, Issue 6 November 2007. University of Groningen. pp. 445–467. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  17. ^ Language Standardization and Language Change: The Dynamics of Cape Dutch. Ana Deumert. John Benjamins Publishing Company. 2004. p. 22. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  18. ^ Niesler, Thomas; Louw, Philippa; Roux, Justus (2005). Phonetic analysis of Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Zulu using South African speech databases (PDF). Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. 23. pp. 459–474. 
  19. ^ ten Thije, Jan D.; Zeevaert, Ludger (2007). Receptive Multilingualism: Linguistic analyses, language policies and didactic concepts. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 17. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  20. ^ van Reenen, Pieter; Huijs, Nanette (2000). "De harde en de zachte g, de spelling gh versus g voor voorklinker in het veertiende-eeuwse Middelnederlands." (PDF). Taal en Tongval, 52 (in Dutch). pp. 159–181. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  21. ^ Bernini, Giuliano; Ramat, Paolo (2007). Negative sentences in the languages of Europe: a typological approach. Walter de Gruyter. Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  22. ^ a b c "Afrikaans history and development. The Unique Language of South Africa". Retrieved 2015-04-02. 
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 2015-04-02. 
  24. ^ "Karos II : Kros". Retrieved 2015-04-02. 
  25. ^ a b Both sentences have different connotations.
  26. ^ "Woordenboek – Betekenis van middenstad". Retrieved 2015-04-02. 
  27. ^ Dutch does have the word sambreel meaning "parasol".

External links[edit]