Dutch dialects

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Dutch 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.

Map of the Frisian-speaking areas in the Netherlands

First dichotomy[edit]

In the east, there is a Dutch Low Saxon dialect area: in Groningen (Gronings), Drenthe, Overijssel, and major parts of Gelderland, Low Saxon is spoken. The IJssel river roughly forms the linguistic watershed here. The group is not Low Franconian and is very close to neighbouring Low German, but it is still regarded as Dutch from the superimposition of the Dutch standard language over this area ever since the 17th century: it is Dutch synchronically but not diachronically.

Extension across the borders[edit]

Holland and the Randstad[edit]

In Holland, Hollandic is spoken, though the original forms of this dialect (which were heavily influenced by a Frisian substratum and, from the 16th century on, by Brabantian dialects) 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").

Minority languages[edit]

Limburgish has the status of official regional language (or streektaal) in the Netherlands and Germany. It receives protection by chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In Belgium, where Limburgish is spoken as well, it does not receive such recognition or protection, because Belgium did not sign the charter. 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.

Dutch Low Saxon has also 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.

Recent use[edit]

Dutch dialects and regional languages are not spoken as often as they used to be. Recent research by Geert Driessen shows that the use of dialects and regional languages among both Dutch adults and youth is in heavy decline. In 1995, 27 percent of the Dutch adult population spoke a dialect or regional language on a regular basis, while in 2011 this was no more than 11 percent. In 1995, 12 percent of the primary school aged children spoke a dialect or regional language, while in 2011 this had declined to 4 percent. Of the three officially recognized regional languages Limburgish is spoken most (in 2011 among adults 54%, among children 31%) and Dutch Low Saxon least (adults 15%, children 1%); Frisian occupies a middle position (adults 44%, children 22%). 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:

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.

Minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux

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[edit]

Many native speakers of Dutch, both in Belgium and the Netherlands, assume that Afrikaans and West Frisian are 'deviant' dialects of Dutch.[citation needed] In fact, they are separate and different languages, a daughter language and a sister language, respectively. Afrikaans evolved mainly from 17th century Dutch dialects, 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.

Non-European dialects[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bont, Antonius Petrus de (1958) Dialekt van Kempenland 3 Deel [in ?5 vols.] Assen: van Gorcum, 1958-60. 1962, 1985


  • Ad Welschen 2000-2005: Course Dutch Society and Culture, International School for Humanities and Social Studies ISHSS, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • Cornelissen, Georg (2003): Kleine niederrheinische Sprachgeschichte (1300-1900): eine regionale Sprachgeschichte für das deutsch-niederländische Grenzgebiet zwischen Arnheim und Krefeld [with an introduction in Dutch. Geldern / Venray: Stichting Historie Peel-Maas-Niersgebied, ISBN 90-807292-2-1] (German)
  • Driessen, Geert (2012): Ontwikkelingen in het gebruik van Fries, streektalen en dialecten in de periode 1995-2011. Nijmegen: ITS.
  • Elmentaler, Michael ( ? ): "Die Schreibsprachgeschichte des Niederrheins. Forschungsprojekt der Uni Duisburg", in: Sprache und Literatur am Niederrhein, (Schriftenreihe der Niederrhein-Akademie Bd. 3, 15-34).(German)
  • Frins, Jean (2005): Syntaktische Besonderheiten im Aachener Dreiländereck. Eine Übersicht begleitet von einer Analyse aus politisch-gesellschaftlicher Sicht. Groningen: RUG Repro [Undergraduate Thesis, Groningen University] (German)
  • Frins, Jean (2006): Karolingisch-Fränkisch. Die plattdůtsche Volkssprache im Aachener Dreiländereck. Groningen: RUG Repro [Master's Thesis, Groningen University] (German)
  • Frings, Theodor (1916): Mittelfränkisch-niederfränkische Studien I. Das ripuarisch-niederfränkische Übergangsgebiet. II. Zur Geschichte des Niederfränkischen in: Beiträge zur Geschichte und Sprache der deutschen Literatur 41 (1916), 193-271; 42, 177-248.
  • Hansche, Irmgard (2004): Atlas zur Geschichte des Niederrheins (= Schriftenreihe der Niederrhein-Akademie; 4). Bottrop/Essen: Peter Pomp. ISBN 3-89355-200-6
  • Ludwig, Uwe & Schilp, Thomas (eds.) (2004): Mittelalter an Rhein und Maas. Beiträge zur Geschichte des Niederrheins. Dieter Geuenich zum 60. Geburtstag (= Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur Nordwesteuropas; 8). Münster/New York/München/Berlin: Waxmann. ISBN 3-8309-1380-X
  • Mihm, Arend (1992): Sprache und Geschichte am unteren Niederrhein, in: Jahrbuch des Vereins für niederdeutsche Sprachforschung; 1992, 88-122.
  • Mihm, Arend (2000): "Rheinmaasländische Sprachgeschichte von 1500 bis 1650", in: Jürgen Macha, Elmar Neuss, Robert Peters (eds.): Rheinisch-Westfälische Sprachgeschichte. Köln (= Niederdeutsche Studien 46), 139-164.
  • Tervooren, Helmut (2005): Van der Masen tot op den Rijn. Ein Handbuch zur Geschichte der volkssprachlichen mittelalterlichen Literatur im Raum von Rhein und Maas. Geldern: Erich Schmidt ISBN 3-503-07958-0