Dutch is a West Germanic language with about 20 million speakers mainly
in the Netherlands and Belgium. There are small Dutch-speaking
communities in northern France around Dunkerque and Dutch is also spoken
in Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, Suriname and in Indonesia.
The official or standard form of Dutch is known as Algemeen Beschaafd
Nederlands (ABN), 'general civilized Dutch'. It is taught in schools
and used by authorities in the Netherlands, Flanders (Belgium), Suriname and
the Netherlands Antilles. An association known as the Taalunie
(Language Union) set up by governments of the Netherlands and Flanders
regulates the orthography and spelling of ABN. Alternative names for ABN
are Algemeen Nederlands (AN), general Dutch, and Standaardnederlands,
The Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium are collectively know as Flemish
(Vlaams). They differ to some extent from the Dutch spoken in the
Netherlands in terms of intonation and pronunciation, and there are minor
differences in vocabulary, including loanwords from French and English not
found in Standard Dutch.
The Dutch language developed from the Lower Franconian (Niederfränkisch)
dialect of Low German. The earliest known example of written Old Franconian
appears in a 9th century Latin manuscript, the Laws of the Salic Franks,
and in translations of the Psalms. Some poetry written in Middle Dutch dating
from the 12th and 13th centuries survives. The Dutch translation of the Bible,
the Staten-Bijbel, of 1619-1637 was one of the first major works in
There is also a digraph, Ĳ ĳ (lange ij), which was once
written Y y, a letter which is now mainly used in foreign loanwords.
Dutch pronunciation (Nederlandse uitspraak)
Sample text in Standard Dutch
Alle mensen worden vrij en gelijk in waardigheid en rechten geboren.
Zij zijn begiftigd met verstand en geweten, en behoren zich jegens elkander
in een geest van broederschap te gedragen.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)