Netherlands

Dutch history

Dutch culture



  The "new spelling" of Dutch


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 common, popular systems of spelling the same language.

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

The "allowed" (toegelaten) spelling included many deviations from phonetic, and it was these which the preferred spelling (voorkeurspelling) was intended to correct. The variations — many of which originated in the adoption of foreign words* — were standardized. There are exceptions,* but this modern Dutch is a highly-phonetic language.

The Green Book itself is not the legal arbiter of proper Dutch, but is based upon the spellingbesluit of 1996. This was the law instituting the Nieuwe Spelling. 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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*In late 2004, the word for "gift" was spelled in two different ways on the window of a
Nijmegen shop....

• "Kadoshop," in the new spelling, means "gift shop."

• "Cadeautjes" is a use of the kleinwoord (diminutive) form in the old spelling, and stood above a list of items available.

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Note: As of 2015, Genootschap Onze Taal says that "cadeau" has always been formally correct, but that "kado" is acceptable.

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  ↑ Return to "spells the word both ways" ...

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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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* The Dutch langauge seems to incorporate a word with ease and speed when that word is effective.

It also makes verbs of nouns without hesitation. For example, "googelen" is a verb, and has been since the search engine became prevalent. Before "google" became a verb in the English-speaking world, the Dutch had already automatically converted it.

  ↑ Return to "adoption of foreign words" ...



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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..."