The Languages of the Netherlands
Dutch is spoken by approx. 24 million speakers as the first language and by five million speakers as a second language. In addition to the Netherlands, it is an official language in the Flemish part of Belgium, Surinam, Aruba, Curacao and Sint-Marteen. Dutch immigrants spread the language all over the world and it is still spoken in little communities in France, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada and the United States. In the Netherlands, Frisian is an official minority language of the province Friesland.
Dutch has many dialects, which differ within syntactic constructions and lexical meanings. The most significant discrepancies exist between the dialects spoken in the Netherlands and in the Flanders. It is an Indo-European language of the West-Germanic family and belongs to the Low-Franconian branch.
Features of Dutch:
- The speaker is allowed to use a relatively free word order. It is common to use subjects, objects and adverbials in the first position of the sentence.
- New words are formed with the help of composition which is a highly productive process of word formation.
- There are so called “R pronouns” which tend to occur distant to the prepositions they belong to. In addition, the pronouns sometimes have more then one function or preposition they belong to. For Natural Language Processing, it is difficult to allocate these pronouns to their phrases.
- Dutch, like German, has verbs with prefixes which occur in different positions of the sentence.