7

In another thread, I asked if Yiddish was a German dialect. Actually, I think I said "a dialect of German", but what I really meant was "is it a German dialect in general? In response, some people cited the different spelling system used as a reason it wasn't a dialect. Of course, I don't agree with this. The Mennonites have their own spelling system too, but they do that (as the Jews do, especially when they romanize the spelling) to purposely distance themselves from the Standard German.

But all that brings us around to the question of Dutch. I don't know Dutch, but I can see that it's pretty close to German. Actually, on a line between English and German, I'd say Dutch is about three-quarters of the way to German. But that's not my question.

Of course, the Dutch spell their language completely differently. They're entitled to, because they pronounce it differently. But the English pronounce things differently from the French, and yet we spell many of our Latin words exactly the same as the French do. We just pronounce them differently.

In the other thread, I give some examples to show how, if you wanted to, you could spell Yiddish almost exactly like the Germans, and it would be perfectly understandable. There are vowel shifts, like when the Germans say "au", the Yiddish is read as "oy". But the vowel shifts are mostly systematic, so you just follow the local convention. I add some accents over the vowels when there is an ambiguity in the vowel shift, but it ends up looking just like German.

And so I'm wondering: how hard would it be to do the same for Dutch? Like, they say "hoos" and write "huis", but they could just as well write "haus" and still pronounce it as "hoos". Or could they? In other words, would the shifts be systemic and predictable, so that it would make perfect sense to transport the German spellings over?

I hope I've made the question clear and I'm interested in what people would think who know both German and Dutch.

  • I don't know (and I am also not completely sure that I understand the question), but I do not think that it would make Dutch easier to read for me. What would help, would probably be to know a bit about the pronunciation. – Carsten S Mar 23 '16 at 20:43
  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it compares two languages and therefore should be migrated to linguistics.stackexchange.com – Hubert Schölnast Mar 24 '16 at 12:28
  • 7
    @HubertSchölnast For most other pairs of languages I might agree, but this is a variant of the question if Dutch can be considered a German dialect, hence it is on-topic. – Crissov Mar 25 '16 at 13:22
  • 5
    Before somebody complains about me using my mod powers to reopen this question: All moderators agreed on this, which would make for the needed five votes to reopen. If anybody desires further discussion on the on-topicness of this particular question, I suggest to take it to German Language Meta. – Wrzlprmft Apr 1 '16 at 10:26
9

Most differences are quite regular and it should have been possible to create a unified orthography for the West Germanic languages. The resulting writing system would probably be a bit more complex or “deeper” than the Dutch, more akin to the English one, because there would be an inherent need to preserve etymologic traits.

A major difference between spoken Dutch and German are the results of the High German consonant shift (“zweite Lautverschiebung”). As a result, many Dutch words have /s/, /d/, /t/, /g|x/ where German has /ʃ/, /t/, /ts/, /k/, for instance. Dutch also u-diphthongizes some /l/, e.g. German alt = Dutch oud = English old.

Major differences between written Dutch and German are z and s (for /z/ before vowels), long vowels and diphthongs. There are lots of minor differences, too.

Some core vocabulary

I’ve tried to Germanize some 200 Dutch words below. Judge yourself.

  • ‘English’: DutchGermanized Dutch German
  • ‘English’: (Already Germanized) Dutch German
  • ‘English’: DutchGermanized Dutch = German
  • ‘English’: Dutch = German
  • ‘I’: ikick ich
  • ‘you’: U (je) du
  • ‘he’: hijhei/hie er
  • ‘she’: zese sie
  • ‘it’: hethet es
  • ‘we’: wijwei/wie wir
  • ‘they’: zijsei/sie sie

  • ‘this’: ditdit/ditt dies

  • ‘that’: datdat/datt das
  • ‘here’: hier
  • ‘there’: daardar/dahr dort, da

  • ‘who’: wie wer

  • ‘what’: watwat/watt was
  • ‘where’: waarwar/wahr wo
  • ‘when’: wanneerwannehr wann, wenn
  • ‘how’: hoehu wie

  • ‘not’: niet → __ nicht

  • ‘all’: all alle
  • ‘many’: veelvehl/fehl/fel viel
  • ‘some’: aantalantal/antahl einige
  • ‘few’: paar
  • ‘other’: andere
  • ‘one’: eénehn ein(s)
  • ‘two’: tweetwe zwei
  • ‘three’: drie drei
  • ‘four’: vier
  • ‘five’: vijffeif/fief fünf

  • ‘big’: grote groß

  • ‘long’: lang
  • ‘wide’: breedbred breit, weit
  • ‘thick’: dikkedicke dick
  • ‘heavy’: zwaresware schwer
  • ‘small’: kleine klein
  • ‘short.’: kort kurz
  • ‘narrow’: smalle schmal
  • ‘thin’: dunnedünne dünn

  • ‘human being’: mensMens(ch) Mensch

  • ‘man, husband’: manMann
  • ‘woman, wife’: vrouwFrau
  • ‘child’: kindKind
  • ‘mother’: moederMuder Mutter
  • ‘father’: vaderVader Vater
  • ‘animal’: dierDier Tier
  • ‘fish’: visFiss/Fis(ch) Fisch
  • ‘bird’: vogelFogel Vogel
  • ‘dog’: hondHond Hund
  • ‘louse’: luisLeus/Läus/Lus Laus
  • ‘snake’: slangSlang Schlange
  • ‘worm’: wormWorm Wurm

  • ‘tree’: boomBohm/Bom Baum

  • ‘forest’: bosBos(ch) Wald
  • ‘stick’: stokStock
  • ‘fruit’: vruchtFrucht
  • ‘seed’: zaadSaad/Sad Saat, Samen
  • ‘leaf’: bladBlad Blatt
  • ‘root’: wortelWortel Wurzel
  • ‘bark’: schorsSchors Rinde, Borke, (Schorf)
  • ‘flower’: bloemBlum Blume
  • ‘grass’: grasGras
  • ‘rope’: touwTau Seil, Tau

  • ‘skin’: HuidHäut/Heut/Hüt Haut

  • ‘meat, flesh’: vleesFles(ch) Fleisch
  • ‘blood’: bloedBlud Blut
  • ‘bone’: beenBen/Behn Knochen (Bein)
  • ‘fat’: vedFed Fett
  • ‘egg’: eiEi

  • ‘horn’: hoornHorn

  • ‘tail’: staartStart Schwanz (Steert)
  • ‘feather’: veerFehr/Feher Feder
  • ‘hair’: haarHaar
  • ‘head’: hoofdHofd Kopf, Haupt
  • ‘ear’: oorOhr
  • ‘eye’: oogOg Auge
  • ‘nose’: neusNeus/Näus/Nös Nase
  • ‘mouth’: mondMond Mund
  • ‘tooth’: tandTand Zahn
  • ‘tongue’: tongTong Zunge
  • ‘nail’: nagelNagel
  • ‘foot’: footFot Fuß, Pfote
  • ‘leg’: beenBen/Behn Bein
  • ‘knee’: knieKnie
  • ‘hand’: handHand
  • ‘wing’: vleugelFlögel/Fleugel Flügel
  • ‘belly’: buikBük/Bäuk/Beuk Bauch
  • ‘guts’: darmenDarmen Darm, Gedärme, Eingeweide
  • ‘neck’: nekNeck Hals, Nacken
  • ‘back’: rugRug/Rüg Rücken
  • ‘breast’: borstBorst Brust
  • ‘heart’: hartHart Herz
  • ‘liver’: leverLever/Lewer Leber

  • ‘drink’: drinken trinken

  • ‘eat’: eten essen
  • ‘bite’: bijtenbeiten beißen
  • ‘suck’: zuigensäugen/seugen/sügen saugen
  • ‘spit’: spugen spucken
  • ‘vomit’: overgevenovergeven/owergewen übergeben
  • ‘blow’: blazenblasen
  • ‘breathe’: ademen atmen
  • ‘laugh’: lachen
  • ‘see’: ziensiehen sehen
  • ‘hear’: horen hören
  • ‘know’: weten wissen, kennen
  • ‘think’: denken
  • ‘smell’: ruikenreuken/räuken/rüken riechen
  • ‘fear’: vrezenfresen fürchten
  • ‘sleep’: slapens(ch)lapen schlafen

  • ‘live’: levenleven/lewen leben

  • ‘die’: stervensterven/sterwen sterben
  • ‘kill’: dodendoden/döden töten
  • ‘fight’: vechtenfechten kämpfen
  • ‘hunt’: jagen
  • ‘hit’: raken schlagen
  • ‘cut’: snijdensneiden schneiden
  • ‘split’: splitsensplitzen spalten
  • ‘stab’: steken stechen
  • ‘scratch’: krassen kratzen
  • ‘dig’: gravengraven/grawen graben

  • ‘swim’: zwemmens(ch)wemmen schwimmen

  • ‘fly’: vliegenfliegen
  • ‘walk’: lopen laufen, gehen
  • ‘come’: komen kommen
  • ‘lie’: liggen liegen
  • ‘sit’: zittensitten sitzen
  • ‘stand’: staanstahen stehen
  • ‘turn’: draaiendrai(h)en/drei(h)en drehen, wenden
  • ‘fall’: vallenfallen
  • ‘give’: gevengeven/gewen geben
  • ‘hold’: houdenhauden halten
  • ‘squeeze’: knijpenkneipen kneifen, quetschen
  • ‘rub’: wrijvenwreiven/wreiwen reiben
  • ‘wash’: wassen waschen
  • ‘wipe’: vegenfegen wischen, fegen
  • ‘pull’: trekkentrecken ziehen
  • ‘push’: duwendüwen drücken
  • ‘throw’: gooiengeu(h)en werfen
  • ‘tie’: binden, knoten
  • ‘sew’: naaiennei(h)en/nai(h)en nähen
  • ‘count’: tellentellen/tällen zählen
  • ‘say’: zeggenseggen sagen
  • ‘sing’: zingensingen
  • ‘play’: spelen spielen
  • ‘float’: drijvendreiven/dreiwen treiben
  • ‘flow’: stromen strömen, fließen
  • ‘freeze’: bevriezenbefriesen gefrieren
  • ‘swell’: zwellens(ch)wellen schwellen

  • ‘sun’: zonSonn Sonne

  • ‘moon’: maanMan/Maan/Mahn Mond
  • ‘star’: sterSter Stern
  • ‘water’: waterWater Wasser
  • ‘rain’: regenRegen
  • ‘river’: rivierRivier/Riwier Fluss, Strom
  • ‘lake’: meerMeer/Mehr See, Teich
  • ‘sea’: zeeSee, Meer
  • ‘salt’: zoutSaut Salz
  • ‘stone’: steenSte(h)n Stein
  • ‘sand’: zandSand
  • ‘dust’: stofStof Staub
  • ‘earth’: aardeArde Erde
  • ‘cloud’: wolkjeWölkje Wolke
  • ‘fog’: mistMist Nebel
  • ‘sky’: hemelHemel/Hemmel Himmel
  • ‘wind’: windWind
  • ‘snow’: sneeuwS(ch)nö? Schnee
  • ‘ice’: ijsEis
  • ‘smoke’: rookRok Rauch, Qualm
  • ‘fire’: vuurFuhr/Fur/Fuher/Fuer Feuer
  • ‘ashes’: asAs(ch)/Ass Asche
  • ‘burn’: branden brennen
  • ‘road’: wegWeg, Straße
  • ‘mountain’: bergBerg

  • ‘red’: rode rot

  • ‘green’: groengrun grün
  • ‘yellow’: gele gelb
  • ‘white’: witte weiß
  • ‘black’: zwartes(ch)warte schwarz

  • ‘night’: nachtNacht

  • ‘day’: dagDag Tag
  • ‘year’: jaarJahr

  • ‘warm’: warme warm

  • ‘cold’: koudekaude kalt
  • ‘full’: volfoll voll
  • ‘new’: nieuwenöwe? neu
  • ‘old’: oudeaude alt
  • ‘good’: goedegude gut
  • ‘bad’: slechtes(ch)lechte schlecht
  • ‘rotten’: rotte verdorben, verrottet
  • ‘dirty’: vies, vuilfies, feul/fäul dreckig, schmutzig (fies, faul)
  • ‘straight’: rechte gerade
  • ‘round’: ronde rund
  • ‘sharp’: scherp scharf
  • ‘dull’: saaisai/sei stumpf
  • ‘smooth’: glad glatt, weich
  • ‘wet’: natte nass
  • ‘dry’: droogdrog trocken

  • ‘correct’: correctkorrekt, richtig

  • ‘near’: buurtburt/buhrt/buhert nah
  • ‘far’: verfer fern
  • ‘right’: rechts
  • ‘left’: links

  • ‘at’: bijbei

  • ‘in’: in
  • ‘with’: met mit
  • ‘and’: en und
  • ‘if’: als wenn, ob
  • ‘because’: omdatomdatt weil, da
  • Interesting analysis. So you "get" what I'm looking for. It turns out that Dutch is a much tougher fit that Yiddish. I went through your whole list, and 90% of the German words would go straight into Yiddish with no change at all or in some cases a trivial or systemic change, like dropping the final consonant or changing long "a" to "o" or long "o" to "oy". The remaining (22) words mostly have very minor and easily recognizable changes, e.g. sterben goes to starben. – Marty Green Mar 24 '16 at 0:11
0

As a German speaking Dutch I'd like to add that even though much words seem to be alike, sometimes the differences are bigger than they seem:

The German word bellen means to bark, while the Dutch word bellen means to call/ring.

The German word brauchen would, according to a "transformation" to Dutch be transformed into the Dutch word gebruiken, but brauchen means to need while gebruiken means to use.

The German word wie means like, while the Dutch word wie means who

Although I think it's really interesting to compare the languages like you do, I just wanted to tell you to be aware of things like this, because there are many words like this. But right now, thinking in 3 languages at the same time, I can't find any more examples.

  • 4
    But german gebrauchen also means to use. And klaarkommen and klarkommen are two very different things. – ohno Apr 18 '16 at 17:20
0

The question of whether x is a dialect of y is always controversial and often has little to do with how similar the two varieties of speech are. There are cases where two varieties sound virtually the same, such as Hindi and Urdu, but count as different languages, and cases where people speaking the same language cannot understand each other.

Many linguists accept that a language is defined by

  • Government
  • Religion
  • Orthography

Thus someone from Donnegal (far north of Irish Republic) may speak "Irish" that is almost identical to "Scots Gaelic" spoken by someone from Islay in Scotland but they are different languages because

  • One is in Ireland and the other is in Scotland
  • One is Catholic and the other is Presbyterian
  • They use spelling systems that vary about as much as German and Dutch

There are many people who live on the Spanish/Portuguese border and you cannot tell by listening if they are speaking Portuguese or Spanish. You can easily tell if you look at their passport or their writing.

In the same way it is hard to hear any difference between Hindi and Urdu but most Hindi speakers are Hindu whereas most Urdu speakers are Muslim. You can also look at their passport or their writing (جرمن زبان vs जर्मन भाषा)

This means that the spelling system is fundamental to Dutchness. It simply would not be Dutch if it were spelt in German, but there could be a dialect of German that sounds like Dutch. It would just count as German if it used German spelling.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.