Flemish (Vlaams in Dutch) is a popular informal term to refer to Belgian Dutch (Belgisch-Nederlands in Dutch), Dutch as spoken in Belgium. Among linguists, 'Flemish' refers to two specific dialects of Dutch alone, namely East and West Flemish. Occasionally 'Flemish' is used to refer to tussentaal a Dutch sociolect, also spoken in Belgium.
Dutch is the majority language in Belgium, being spoken natively by about 59% of the population. Its various dialects contain a number of lexical and a few grammatical features which distinguish them from the standard language. As in the Netherlands, the pronunciation of Standard Dutch is affected by the native dialect of the speaker.
All Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium (with the exception of East Flemish) are spoken in adjacent areas of the Netherlands as well. At the same time East Flemish forms a continuum with both Brabantic and West Flemish. Standard Dutch is primarily based on the Hollandic dialect (spoken in the Northern Netherlands) and to a lesser extent on Brabantian, which is the most dominant Dutch dialect of the Southern Netherlands and Flanders.
The main difference between Dutch spoken in Belgium and the Netherlands, is that Dutch in Belgium is uses the sound inventory of the Brabantic dialects. which is often called tussentaal ("in-between-language", between dialects and standard Dutch). This evolution is somewhat similar to the emergence of Poldernederlands in the Netherlands, a medium of everyday speech heavily influenced by Hollandic. It should be emphasized that neither Poldernederlands nor Tussentaal are dialects or different standard forms, but sociolects.
Among Belgian Dutch vowels, the diphthong "ou/au" (as in bout bolt
) is realized as [ɔu], whereas northern Dutch realizes it as [ʌu]. Among consonants
, the northern Dutch pronunciation of "w" (as in wang cheek
) is [ʋ] or [v], in some southern Dutch dialects it is [β]. Probably the most obvious difference between northern and southern Dutch is the northern voiceless velar fricative
[x], which is equivalent in southern Dutch to either a voiced velar fricative
[ɣ], most often when spelt "g", or a voiceless palatal fricative
/ç/, most often when spelt "ch".
Belgian Dutch encompasses more French loanwords in everyday vocubulary than Dutch spoken in the Netherlands. At the same time Brabantian, traditionally the most spoken Dutch dialect in Belgium, has had a larger influence on the vocabulary used in Belgium. Examples include beenhouwer
(Brabantian) and slager
(Hollandic), both meaning butcher
; and schoon
(Brabantian) vs. mooi
(Hollandic) "beautiful". The changes (isoglosses
) from northern to southern Dutch dialects are gradual, both vocabulary-wise and phonetically, and the boundaries do not coincide with territorial borders.
("in-between-language") is a primarily informal variety of speech which occupies an intermediate position between regional dialects and the standard language. This tussentaal
incorporates phonetic, lexical and grammatical elements that are not part of the standard language but are drawn from local dialects.
It is a relatively new phenomenon that has been gaining popularity during the past decades. Some linguists note that it seems to be undergoing a process of (limited) standardisation.
Dutch dialects in Belgium
There are four principal Dutch dialects in Flanders: Brabantian
, East Flemish
, and West Flemish
. Linguistically however, Flemish is used as a general term encompassing both East Flemish
and West Flemish
. Despite the name, Brabantian is the dominant contributor to the tussentaal.
Both uses of the term derive from name of the historically most powerful county
in the area, the County of Flanders