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Dutch Progression: The Changes in the Dutch Language in the 20th Century


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The Dutch language is spoken by more than 22 million people, most of them in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium. Given this statistic, Dutch can be considered as one of the more popular languages in Europe.

Before the 17th century the Dutch language was not yet standardized. There were many dialects in existence that it was beginning to pose a problem.

After the 17th century, after the standardization of the Dutch language has taken place, it became so much easier to identify the distinctions between the standard Dutch language and its dialects. But the developments surrounding the Dutch language has continued well into the 19th and 20th century. Because of the influences being exerted by other languages like German, French, and English, the standard Dutch language is undergoing a change.

One of the more noticeable change in the Dutch language over the past century is with regards to pronunciation. The voiceless pronunciation of certain letters or syllables are now entering the standard language and is a unique feature that was more commonly heard from a dialect found in a province in Holland. These voiceless pronunciations commonly revolve around “v” as “f”, “z” as “s” and “g” as “x”. This current trend mirrors the desire for a change in spelling Dutch as near to its phonological sound as possible. This would mean that each particular sound is represented by a single letter or that a grapheme is only made in one particular way.

There is also a shift in how three diphthongs are being pronounced. The diphthongs in reference are ei, ui, and ou. The current shift for these are now moving towards aai, ou, and aau. This change was first seen among women who are middle aged and well educated and who come from the upper middle class. These women are identified with the world of the academia, politics, arts and literature.

From these beginnings the practice eventually spread out to women from other demographics. But lately even men have started employing this language change. It is also becoming employed by children, even those under the age of ten years and from very diverse backgrounds.

Already, this change can be heard in large parts of the Netherlands, but most especially among women of Turkish or Moroccan descent.

There are also some changes being seen in the area of morphology. One very significant change is inclusion of plural endings ( -s) even for nouns. This change is mostly seen in words that end in –e – for example, hoogte – de hoogtes, which was usually hoogten.

Even the suffix –baar is becoming more and more prevalently used in modern Dutch usage more often in the use of neologisms. In turn, the suffix -(e)lijk is becoming less and less used and in fact is being ignored in favor of the aforementioned –baar.

There is even a rising use of “concentrations” in modern Dutch. This is most commonly seen when using multi part compound nouns.

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  • Posted On December 6, 2006
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