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The New International Encyclopædia/Dutch Language

For works with similar titles, see Dutch Language.

DUTCH LANGUAGE. Dutch is the language of the inhabitants of the Netherlands and, in a strongly marked dialectic form, of the Boers in South Africa. It was also in general use in and about New York long after the cession of the province to the English. The name Dutch is derived from Dietsch, meaning the vernacular, as distinguished from Latin. It is the same word as the German Deutsch, with which it is sometimes confounded, as in Pennsylvania Dutch and in the ordinary speech of uneducated persons. The Dutch themselves call their language Nederlandsch, while in German it is called Holländisch. Dutch belongs to the Low Frankish division of the Low German, and is very closely related to the Flemish, with which it is now practically identical in its written form. Like English, the language may be divided into three main periods: (1) Old Dutch, extending to about 1100. The only important monument of this period that has been preserved is a translation of the Psalter. (2) Middle Dutch, from 1100 to 1550. The language during this period suffered similar changes in sounds and inflections to those that can be observed in the contemporary English. As in English, no standard written form of the language was at first recognized, but each writer used his own dialect. In the thirteenth century a determined effort was made to assert the claims of a literary Dutch, the leader in the movement being Jacob van Maerlant (1235-1300). But in spite of all efforts the use of individual dialects continued. (3) Modern Dutch extends from 1550 to the present day. The most important single event in the history of the language during this period was the publication (1619-37) of the Statenbijbel, the authorized version of the Scriptures, which did much to spread the use of this form of Dutch in the Low Countries. The effect of this translation was similar to that of Luther's version upon High German, in establishing a standard of language and orthography that was generally recognized as authoritative. During the eighteenth century the efforts to purify the language were carried to an absurd extent, and it therefore suffered greatly from the mistaken zeal of its users. During the nineteenth century a saner view of the spirit, based upon a more intelligent study of grammar and philology, has given greater freedom of expression. During the past forty years efforts have been made to reform the orthography and to effect uniformity of usage in Holland and Belgium, the present system having been adopted in Belgium in 1864 and in Holland in 1883.

The Dutch language is in its structure practically the same as the other members of the Germanic group of dialects. It belongs in its phonology to the Low German division, so that its consonants agree in general with the English (Dutch te, English to, German zu). Its orthography is somewhat awkward, and does not represent the sounds of the language (e.g. oe = ū). In inflection and in syntax Dutch corresponds closely to German. It is written in the Roman alphabet, and coincides in the use of capitals almost exactly with English.

The standard modern Dutch dictionary is Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, edited by de Vries and others (The Hague, 1864 et seq.). The best etymological dictionary is Joh. Franck's (1884-92). For English students there are Bomboff's (Arnheim, 1877), and Calisch's (Leyden, 1890). Of grammars in English, may be mentioned Ahn's (Loudon, 1887), and Hoogvliet's (The Hague, 1890). The best account of the language outside of Holland is Jan te Winkel's in Paul, Grundriss der germanischen Philologie, vol. i. (2d ed. Strassburg, 1901).