12 Languages

12.4 Dutch and Afrikaans

12.4.1 Introduction

Dutch is the language of the Netherlands. The Dutch spoken in northern Belgium, formerly called Flemish, is now officially called Dutch (Nederlands in Dutch). Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa, and was derived from the Dutch brought to the Cape by settlers in the seventeenth century.

12.4.2 Dutch


The alphabet is the same as English, but q and x are used only in foreign loanwords. In dictionaries ij precedes ik; in directories and encyclopedias it is sometimes treated as equivalent to y. The apostrophe occurs in such plurals as pagina’s (‘pages’), but not before s in the genitive.


The acute is used to distinguish één (‘one’) from een (‘a’), and vóór (‘before’) from voor (‘for’). The only other accent required—except in foreign loanwords—is the diaeresis:

knieën ‘knees’

provinciën ‘provinces’

zeeën ‘seas’

Punctuation and capitalization

Punctuation is less strict than in, for example, German. Capitals are used for the pronouns U ‘you’ and Uw ‘your’, for terms indicating nationality (Engelsman ‘Englishman’, Engels ‘English’), and for adjectives derived from proper nouns, but not for days or months; in institutional names capitalize all words except prepositions and articles.

The abbreviated forms of des and het (’s and ’t respectively) take a space on either side except in the case of towns and cities, where a hyphen follows: ’s-Gravenhage. When a word beginning with an apostrophe starts a sentence, it is the following word that takes the capital: ’t Is.

Word division

Do not divide the suffixes -aard, -aardig, -achtig, and any beginning with a consonant. This applies to the diminutive suffix -je, but note that a preceding t may itself be part of the suffix: kaart-je (‘ticket’), but paar-tje (‘couple’).

Take over single consonants; the combinations ch, sj, tj (which represent single sounds) and sch; and consonant + l or r in loanwords. Take over the second of two consonants (including the g of ng and the t of st); when more than three come together take over those combinations that may begin a word. Do not divide double vowels or ei, eu, ie, oe, ui, aai, eei, ieu, oei, ooi.

12.4.3 Afrikaans

Alphabet, accents, and spelling

There is no ij in Afrikaans, у being used as in older Dutch; s is used at the start of words where Dutch has z, and w between vowels often where Dutch has v.

The circumflex is quite frequent; the grave is used on paired conjunctions (òfòf, ‘either … or’) and a few other words. The acute is found in the demonstrative dié to distinguish it from the article die, and in certain proper nouns and French loan-words. There is no diaeresis with ae (dae ‘days’).


As in Dutch, when a word beginning with an apostrophe starts a sentence in Afrikaans, the following word is capitalized. This rule is important, since the indefinite article is written ’n:

n Man het gekom, ‘A man has come’
The pronoun ek ‘I’ is not capitalized.

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New Hart's Rules


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