Alternative name(s): Niederländisch (de), néerlandais (fr), holandés (es), Nederlands (nl), Nederländska (sv)
Language family: Indo-European
Language Group: Germanic
Geographical use: The Netherlands (incl. colonies), Suriname, and Indonesia (as trade language), officially also in Flanders (see Flemish)
Information: Dutch developed from the dialect
spoken in the district of Holland. The history of Dutch can be split up
into three periods. Old Dutch goes until around 1100 AD. Middle Dutch
goes from 1100 to 1500. In this period the language underwent changes
in sound and declension. There was no standard writing yet. The writers
used their own dialect as a basis for the written language.
Modern Dutch goes from 1550 to present. The main event for Dutch in this period was the publication of the Dutch Authorized Version of the Bible. This provided the language with a standard. Yet, the language kept on changing. The latest change is a new spelling, introduced in 1996.
Of all the major modern Germanic languages, Dutch is the closest relative of English.
Spelling and grammar are tied to very strict rules that
usually can be explained in a few lines.
Vowels are represented by the way they are usualy written. The sound written as 'a', for example, represents the sound of the dark and short version of this vowel (like in man) and 'aa' represents the clear and longer version (like in maan). Nevertheless the 'aa' sound is written as a single a when it stands at the end of a word or syllable (like in ma-nen). This works for all vowels except the e at the end of a word.
As to the word order, like in most languages, the basic sentence starts with the subject, followed by the (first) verb. Something typical for Dutch though, is that all other verbs are basically placed at the end of the sentence. Thus the order is: subject - 1st verb - (when/where/how/object) - (other verbs).
The term Dutch is also used to denote the language of the Flemish people in Belgium. Please see Flemish for more on this. However, please note that people who have studied Dutch in their country have great difficulty to understand the so-called Dutch spoken in Flanders and will have to learn a lot of new words and idiomatic expressions.