Which family does Dutch belong to? & Who speaks Dutch?
Nederlands belongs to the group of West Germanic languages. It is spoken by over 22 million people natively and over 5 million people as a second language. It is mother official tongue in Netherlands and Belgium (with French and German); it is the official language of the Flanders and of the Capital-Region of Brussels where it is generally called Flemish (Vlaams). Outside Europe Dutch is the official language of the South American country of Suriname (ex-colony of the Netherlands), where in recent decades it has evolved from second language into mother tongue of the inhabitants. It is also the official language, but spoken as a second language in this case, in the Caribbean territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Aruba and Curaçao (where the mother tongue is Papiamento) and Sint Maarten (where the mother tongue is English).
In Indonesia, Dutch has a certain importance from a historical point of view (Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands until 1949) and it is particularly important for archival and legal reasons.
The Nederlandse Taalunie (literally: Union of the Nederland language) is an international organization founded in 1980 to collect the territories in which Dutch is spoken; part of the union are: The Netherlands (including the Caribbean dependencies), the Flemish Community of Belgium and, since 2004, Suriname.
Interestingly, the Afrikaans language, spoken in South Africa and Namibia, is closely related to Dutch. Its grammatical peculiarities (almost total lack of verb conjugation, no imperfect tense, double negation, one grammatical gender) and its lexical features (the introduction of a number of words from African dialects) have made it a separate language, which developed independently from the Dutch of the 18th century; however, learning fluent Dutch is very easy for a speaker of Afrikaans and the two languages are mutual intelligible.
What are the main linguistic features of Dutch?
Dutch has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, although for many speakers, masculine and feminine have merged to form the common gender (article: de), while the neuter (article: het) remains distinct as before. This gender system is similar to those of most Continental Scandinavian languages.
- Enciclopedia Grolier