THE DUTCH LANGUAGE
With about 25 million native speakers, Dutch is the 3rd main Germanic language after German and English. Of course, it is the official language of Netherlands, but also of Suriname (in South America between the two Guyanas). To that, it is an official language of Belgium, with French. However, it is mainly spread in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. As well as Curacao, Sint Maarten and Aruba where Dutch is a co official language.
Even if we often forget it, the Dutch language also enjoys an official status in South Africa. And a high status in Namibia too. Finally, in spite of its status of ex Dutch colony, Indonesia no longer speaks Dutch, except small groups of people.
Since 1980, an official body, the Dutch Language Union, has been ensuring the integrity and promotion of Dutch. This one regularly publishes an official list of Dutch words, called the Little Green Book.
We have to go back to the 5th century to reach the origin of the Dutch language.
Indeed, Dutch is a Low Franconian language, derived from the ones spoken by the Salian Franks who settled in South Netherlands around 440. It then evolved to Proto-Old Dutch, between 500 and 700, derived from West Low Franconian. Its dialectal variants, Middle and High Franconian, distinguish it from Old High German. This, due to the absence of the second consonantal mutation and abandon of the casual system. However, these aspects make it quite similar to other West Germanic dialects, such as Anglo Frisian and Saxon.
In fact, many local variants remain, both in the Netherlands and Flanders.
They affect both the turn of phrase and the vocabulary and pronunciation. On the one hand, the vocabulary varies between Flemish and Dutch. On the other hand, the dialects have maintained to a greater extent in Flemish Belgium and can really vary in pronunciation. For example, a speaker from Belgian Limburg and another from West Flanders may sound like they are speaking two different dialects. As a result, it is quite easy to know who is Flemish and who is Dutch.
Among the dialects derived from Dutch is Afrikaans, spoken in South Africa and Namibia. The latter has kept many roots from the 16th and 17th centuries. Also, it greatly simplified the grammar. Other derived languages include Skepi, Berbice (Gyana), Petjo and Javindo (Indonesia), Negerhollands (Virgin Islands), Ceylon Dutch (Sri Lanka), Formosa Dutch (Taiwan), Mohawk Dutch, Negro Dutch and Low Dutch (USA).
Some unique aspects
First of all, we use the umlaut to separate consecutive vowels and thus, to avoid diphthongs. For instance, this is the case with the words België (Belgium), Kanaän (Canaan) or vacuüm (empty).
Second, we use the acute accent to highlight a tonic accent on a word which does not normally have it. Example with één (one). When spelled with accents, it becomes a numeral adjective. If there is no accent, it is an indefinite article.
Then, we sometimes consider the set ij as a single letter. In the past, in some regions, we write it with a y with or without umlaut (Ÿ/ÿ). If it is capitalized (first word of a sentence or proper noun), we usually use a capital letter for both letters. For example: IJssel (Yssel), IJsland (Iceland), de IJszee (the icy ocean), IJsbergen (icebergs), etc.
Finally, the dt rule is probably one of the most basic and major rules in spelling. It concerns the form of the verb according to the tense used. Please click here to know more about this rule.