LINGUIST List 7.1316

Sun Sep 22 1996

Sum: Dutch-Flemish

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>




Date: Sat, 21 Sep 1996 09:44:41 CDT
On Sept. 2, I posted to this list the following query:

> Can anyone enlighten me on just the major differences between Dutch
> and Flemish? I have studied Dutch on my own and have been to
> Antwerp, but I noticed no difference (except for a slight difference
> in pronunciation) between the Dutch I had learned and the Flemish
> I encountered in Antwerp. I have also never seen anyone juxtapose
> contrasting fragments of Dutch and Flemish.
> If there are any major lexical or morphosyntactic differences between
> Dutch and Flemish, could someone demonstrate them for me with a
> contrasting sentence or two?

I am grateful to the following respondents:

Frederik Fouvry (
Larry Trask (
Kurt Godden (
Sue Medeiros (
Katrien Christie (
Ronald Horsselenberg (
Reinhild Vandekerckhove (
Bart de Boer (
Lee Hartman (
Peter Daniels (

Because the majority of respondents were kind enough to describe
the Dutch/Flemish linguistic situation in considerable detail, the
replies are too long to be posted here all together. I shall there-
fore attempt a summary in my own words, with the caveat that any
errors contained in this summary are strictly the result of my own
misreading of the replies.

All of the respondents seem to agree that the term "Flemish" refers
nowadays to that variety of Dutch spoken in Belgium, or, more
specifically, Belgian dialects of Dutch. The standard (written,
literary) language is the same in both the Netherlands and Belgium,
to wit the so-called "Algemene nederlandse spraakkunst." A genera-
tion or so ago, Dutch-speaking Belgians (Flemings) did insist that
Flemish and Dutch were separate languages, but this view has largely
been abandoned. One respondent related that on a visit to Brussels
in 1993 he "met a Belgian who said his native language was 'that
variety of standard Dutch that you foreigners call Flemish'." (This,
however, begs the question why music stores in Flanders typically
separate their recordings by language into "Frans" and "Vlaams"
rather than "Frans" and "Nederlands.")

In speaking with foreigners, Flemings will tend to speak standard
Dutch; therefore, it is unlikely that foreigners will notice much of
a difference between the Belgian and Netherlands varieties of Dutch,
except in the pronunciation. This concerns the pronunciation of the
phoneme written as g, which in the Netherlands is a (voiceless?)
uvular fricative (close to [x]) and in Belgium is a voiced glottal
glide (voiced [h]) or velar fricative. There is also a tendency
in NL to pronounce long /e/ and /o/ as diphthongs, i.e., with a palatal
or labial glide, resp.: [ey], [ow]; this tendency is not present in
Belgium. One respondent reports a difference in the pronunciation
of the phoneme written w: in the Netherlands, this is a voiced bi-
labial fricative ([B] - Greek beta); in Belgium, this is a bilabial
glide ([w]).

Lexical differences between the Belgian and Netherlands varieties of
Dutch are reminiscent of those that exist between U.S. and British

Flemish Netherlands Dutch
- ----- -----------------

chauffage verwaarming 'heating'
jeans spijkerbroek 'jeans'
microgolf magnetron 'microwave oven'
camion vrachtwagen 'truck' (U.S.), 'lorry' (U.K.)
frigo koelkast 'refrigerator, fridge, ice box'

Excuseer Pardon/Sorry 'Excuse me'
Het is niks. Het geeft niet. 'It doesn't matter.'
Wablief? Wat (zegt U)? 'Pardon?' 'What did you say?'
hetwelk hetgeen/wat 'that, which' (relative pronoun)
Ik vind het Ik vind dit 'I like this (very much).'
 plezierig. heel leuk.
Jan ziet Marie Jan houdt van 'John loves Marie.'
 graag. Marie.

Also, "stappen" means 'to walk' in Belgium, 'to step' in the Netherlands;
"lopen" means 'to walk' in NL, but 'to run' in B (cf. standard German
"laufen" 'to run' vs. southern German "laufen" 'to walk'; also standard
German "sich verlaufen" 'to get lost while walking' [not running!]).

There are some slight grammatical differences between Flemish (again,
this means the spoken southern Dutch [zuid-nederlands] dialects of
Belgium) and Dutch. In Dutch the 2nd p. sg. pronoun is "jij/je," while
in Flemish it is "gij/ge" (and is never used in writing). This
difference is accompanied by a difference in verb inflection (agreement):
Dutch: "Heb jij dat gedaan?" 'Did you do that?/Have you done that?'
Flemish: "Hebde gij dat gedaan?"

Also, Flemish exhibits a tendency to use the formal 2nd p. sg. pronoun
in contexts where Dutch exhibits the informal: (Flemish) "Kan ik uw
pen lenen?" vs. Dutch "Kan ik je pen lenen?" 'May/Can I borrow your

Flemish tends to reduplicate the 1st p. sg. pronoun when it is preceded
by the predicate verb: (Flemish) "Dat hebek ik gedaan," (Dutch) "Dat
heb ik gedann" 'I did/have done that'; (Flemish) "Wat ruikek ik hier?",
(Dutch) "Wat ruik ik hier?" 'What do I smell here?' Reduplication is
observable also after the relative pronoun "dat": (Flemish) "het papier
dakek ik U gegeven heb," (Dutch) "het papier dat ik U gegeven heb" 'the
paper that I gave you (have given you)'.

When modal verbs occur with compound infinitives, Flemish differs from
Dutch in the order of the constituents:
Dutch: "Dat zal gedaan moeten worden."
Flemish: "Dat zal moeten gedaan worden." 'That will have to be done.'
Dutch: "Dat zal gedaan kunnen worden."
Flemish: "Dat zal kunnen gedaan worden." 'It will be possible to do that.'

(cf. in this regard U.S. "He gave me it" vs. U.K. "He gave it me" or a
3rd variation on the ordering of constituents found in German: "Das
wird getan werden muessen," "Das wird getan werden koennen," resp.)

Where the standard language (Dutch) exhibits common (non-neuter) gender,
the Belgian dialects (Flemish) may still exhibit a distinction between
masculine and feminine nouns, cf. West Flemish "'n/den baard" (masc.),
"ne/de tafel" (fem.) vs. Dutch "een/de baard," "een/de tafel," 'a/the
beard,' 'a/the table,' resp.

Finally, Flemings tend to use sentence-final tag words translatable
as 'hear,' 'say,' 'say you' (comparable to the Canadian use of sentence-
final 'eh?'). These are often used by outsiders trying to imitate
the speech habits of Flemings.

Again, I am very grateful to all those who were kind enough to provide
such comprehensive replies to my queries.

Associate Professor Ph (316) WSU-3180 (978-3180)
Wichita State University Fx (316) WSU-3293 (978-3293)
Wichita, Kansas 67260-0011 USA
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