In historic literature Diets and Middle Dutch (Middelnederlands) are used interchangeably to describe this whole of dialects from which later standard Dutch would be derived. Although already at the beginning several Middle-Dutch variations were present, the similarities between the different regional languages were much stronger than their differences, especially for written languages and various literary works of that time today are often very readable for modern Dutch speakers, Dutch being a rather conservative language. By many non-linguists Middle Dutch is often referred to as Diets.
Within Middle Dutch we can distinguish five large groups, all believed to be mutually intelligible:
The last two of the Middle Dutch dialect groups mentioned above gradated into, respectively, Middle High German and Middle Low German, since these two areas border directly onto the German language-area in the narrow sense (i.e. that area where today German is the standard language). There was a dialect continuum, which was even more fluent than it is today.
Hollandic experienced a slow but steady transition from an Ingvaeonic variant to true Low Franconian, through the influence of the more prestigious Brabantic and Utrecht dialects. Flemish and Brabantic started to diverge in the late Middle Ages.
Then there was the problem with the letters themselves. The Dutch language used the Latin alphabet which is perfect for writing Latin, but wasn't for the Dutch language. Dutch for instance has far more vowels and consonant sounds which meant people literally ran out of letters. Several adjustments were therefore needed and it took quite a while before the letters "j", "ij", "k", "w" and "v" made it into Dutch spelling. Then there was the matter of personal taste, many writers thought it was more esthetical to use a "c" (like Latin) instead of "k". Examples include ic (ik, I) copen (kopen, to buy) and coninc (koning, king). And finally, there was no difference between short and long vowels, so that people had to find a solution for that as well. Sometimes they just duplicated the vowels, but more often they added an "i" or "e" at the end. Both forms are still present in modern Dutch, although the former is more common than the latter.
|1 sing.||2 sing.||3 sing. masc.||3 sing. fem.||3 sing. neut.||1 pl.||2 pl.||3 pl.|
Middle Dutch had a case system, somewhat similar to modern written German. Since the Middle Ages Dutch has gradually lost an active case system, first in the spoken language, much later in the written language, so it is now mostly limited to fixed expressions. The spelling reform of 1947 removed most remaining parts of the case system, among them the accusative. However, Middle Dutch and Modern Dutch were very similar, apart from the case system; one of the most prominent differences of contemporary Dutch is that it uses vast amounts of prepositions, far more than Middle Dutch, to compensate with the loss of the case system. It has to be noted, though, that even in Middle Dutch the use of prepositions, especially van, was very common. Furthermore, Middle Dutch would often use an accusative form instead of a nominative (e.g. Doe quam den edelen prince daer ("Then the noble prince arrived"), Dezen man sel op zijn hooft hebben een stalen helme ("This man will have a steel helmet on his head")). This is still common in some southern dialects. Similarly, the -n was sometimes omitted where it would be expected: in levende live (Modern Dutch in levenden lijve), des levende Gods instead of levenden ("of the living God"), van den lopende water instead of lopenden ("of the running water").
(adjective clein = small, noun worm = worm, daet = deed/action, broot = bread)
|Nominative (sing)||die cleine worm||die cleine daet||dat cleine broot|
|Genitive (sing)||des cleins worms||der cleiner daet||des cleins broots|
|Dative (sing)||den cleinen worme||der cleiner daet||den cleinen brode|
|Accusative (sing)||den cleinen worm||die cleine daet||dat cleine broot|
|Nominative (pl)||die cleine worme||die cleine dade||die cleine brode|
|Genitive (pl)||der cleiner worme||der cleiner dade||der cleiner brode|
|Dative (pl)||den cleinen wormen||den cleinen daden||den cleinen broden|
|Accusative (pl)||die clene worme||die cleine dade||die cleine brode|
Weak inflection (Nouns ending in "-e")
(adjective clein = small, noun hane = rooster, wonde = wound, beelde = image)
|Nominative (sing)||die cleine hane||die cleine wonde||dat cleine beelde|
|Genitive (sing)||des cleins hanen||der cleiner wonden||des cleins beelden|
|Dative (sing)||den cleinen hane||der cleiner wonden||den cleinen beelde|
|Accusative (sing)||den cleinen hane||die cleine wonde||dat cleine beelde|
|Nominative (pl)||die cleine hanen||die cleine wonden||die cleine beelden|
|Genitive (pl)||der cleiner hanen||der cleiner wonden||der cleiner beelden|
|Dative (pl)||den cleinen hanen||den cleinen wonden||den cleinen beelden|
|Accusative (pl)||die clene hanen||die cleine wonden||die cleine beelden|