LINGUIST List 4.221

Fri 26 Mar 1993

Sum: Dutch and Afrikaans

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  • John Cowan, Summary: Dutch and Afrikaans

    Message 1: Summary: Dutch and Afrikaans

    Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1993 12:07:18 Summary: Dutch and Afrikaans
    From: John Cowan <>
    Subject: Summary: Dutch and Afrikaans

    In response to my query about Dutch and Afrikaans, I received mail from:

    Alexis Manaster Ramer <> Audrey Immelman <> Catharina de Jonge <> Craig Thiersch <> Daan Wissing <> Dirk Elzinga <> Emile van der Zee <VANDERZEEBINAH.CC.BRANDEIS.EDU> Erica Lynn Grevemeyer <> Jeroen Wiedenhof <> Reinier Post <> Robert S. Kirsner <IDT1RSKMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU> Tucker Childs <> Zev bar-Lev <>

    The general answers to my questions were that mutual intelligibility is high but not total: highest for written documents, somewhat lower for passively understanding conversations, and lowest for participating in conversations, as one would expect. The best guess about 19th-century Afrikaans is that it would be closer to 19th-century Dutch; one correspondent said that most of the drift has taken place in the last 50 years or so.

    On Dutch television, Afrikaans is subtitled; but on Dutch radio, Afrikaans is not translated, and interviews where the interviewer speaks Dutch and the interviewee speaks Afrikaans are typical. Several correspondents also mentioned private conversations of this mixed type; one person outright characterized Afrikaans and Dutch as "two dialects of the same language", and another said that "Afrikaans is about as difficult to understand [for Standard Dutch speakers] as the typical Dutch dialect [in the Netherlands]".

    Subjectively, Dutch-speakers perceive Afrikaans as "childish" or "archaic". For the converse reaction, see Kirsner's wonderful anecdote quoted below.

    In answer to various correspondents' questions: I do not myself speak either Dutch or Afrikaans; my interest is essentially abstract.

    From: "Robert S. Kirsner" <IDT1RSKMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>

    > I am an American who has learned both Afrikaans and Dutch as > foreign languages and they are very different ball games, kind of like > tennis and badminton. The trouble is that there is a lot of > PSEUDO-mutual intelligibility, where people think they understand > but actually don't because of false cognates, different idioms, etc. > And different stylistic levels .


    > I once heard the following conversation: Dutch woman to Afrikaans-speaking > woman: Excuse me, but when I hear you speak Afrikaans it sounds so > childish. Afrikaans woman's answer: I guess you'll have to excuse me, > but when I hear you talk, you sound so dead.

    -- John Cowan ...!uunet!lock60!snark!cowan e'osai ko sarji la lojban.