Dutch is a West Germanic language with about 24 million speakers, mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium. There are about 16 million Dutch speakers in the Netherlands, where it is the official language. There are about 7.6 million Dutch speakers in Belgium, mainly in Antwerp, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant and Limburg provinces, and also in Brussels.
Dutch is spoken in Curaçao, Aruba, Sint Maarten and elsewhere in the Caribbean Netherlands by about 19,760 people. There are about 126,200 Dutch speakers in Suriname, and in Indonesia some lawyers know Dutch as certain legal codes written in Dutch. Other countries with significiant numbers of Dutch speakers include Germany (151,000), the USA (142,000) and Canada (103,000) [source].
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), which was 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, Standard Dutch.
The Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium are collectively known 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 Modern Dutch.
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. Y is also known as Griekse ij, i-grec or ypsilon. ĳ is sometimes written with accents on both parts (íj́).
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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)
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Page last modified: 26.09.21
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