Dutch history

Dutch culture

  The "new spelling" of Dutch

De and het, two words for "the"...

The nieuwe spelling of the Dutch language became official in 1996, compulsory in government and education.

It was not a new system, but (mostly) only the promotion of one orthography over another. There had been two popular systems.

The "allowed" (toegelaten) spelling included many deviations from phonetic, mostly due to the adoption of foreign words. It was this variability which the preferred spelling (voorkeurspelling) was intended to correct. There are exceptions,* but modern Dutch is a highly-phonetic language.

In 1954, the Netherlands and Flanders (northern, Dutch-speaking Belgium) collaborated to publish the first Green Book,* the standard of "preferred Dutch" spellings.

The Green Book itself is not the legal arbiter of proper Dutch, but a guide presenting the lexicon in both forms of spelling. The spellingbesluit of 1996 was the law instituting the Nieuwe Spelling by officially preferring the voorkeurspelling. The Green Book, without official status, is nonetheless the "non-official official" reference. It is produced by the Nederlandse Taalunie for use in the Netherlands, Flanders, Suriname, and the Dutch Antilles. The governments in these regions determine how to conform to specification.

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* The Dutch term for the Green Book is Groene Boekje.

This usage of the word boek in the kleinwoord or "small-word" form, is a bit Dutch. The suffix "-je," somewhat like the Spanish "-ito/-ita,)" conveys a sense of smallness while not always describing a small object. It can function as a softening modifier: a "kopje koffie" is no smaller than a cup of coffee; but it sounds less imposing.

The Green Book is indeed imposing.

The naming of this publication as a "booklet" may in fact be an example of dry Dutch humor — the wry understatement.

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  ↑ Return to "Green Book"...

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* There is a list of 39 words that do not follow the 1954 voorkeurspelling.

There are various other divergences from complete regularity, for example the fact that "ei" and "ij" represent the same diphthong.

  ↑ Return to "there are exceptions..."