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Dutch Dialects

In Flanders, there are 4 main dialect groups: West Flemish (West-Vlaams), East Flemish (Oost-Vlaams), Brabantian (Brabants), which includes several main dialect branches, including Antwerpian, and Limburgish (Limburgs). Some of these dialects, especially West and East Flemish, have incorporated some French loanwords in everyday language. An example is fourchette in various forms (originally a French word meaning fork), instead of vork. Brussels is especially heavily influenced by French because roughly 85% of the inhabitants of Brussels speak French. The Limburgish in Belgium is closely related to Dutch Limburgish. An oddity of West Flemings (and to a lesser extent, East Flemings) is that, when they speak AN, their pronunciation of the "soft g" sound (the voiced velar fricative) is almost identical to that of the "h" sound (the voiced glottal fricative), thus, the words held (hero) and geld (money) sound nearly the same, except that the latter word has a 'y' /j/ sound embedded into the "soft g". When they speak their local dialect, however, their "g" is almost the "h" of the Algemeen Nederlands, and they do not pronounce the "h". Some Flemish dialects are so distinct that they might be considered as separate language variants, although the strong significance of language in Belgian politics would prevent the government from classifying them as such. West Flemish in particular has sometimes been considered a distinct variety. Dialect borders of these dialects do not correspond to present political boundaries, but reflect older, medieval divisions. The Brabantian dialect group, for instance, also extends to much of the south of the Netherlands, and so does Limburgish. West Flemish is also spoken in part of the Dutch province of Zeeland, and even in a small area near Dunkirk, France that borders Belgium.

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The Netherlands also have different dialect regions. In the east there is an extensive Dutch Low Saxon dialect area: the provinces of Groningen (Gronings), Drenthe and Overijssel are almost exclusively Low Saxon. Zuid-Gelders is a dialect also spoken in the German land of North Rhine-Westphalia. Brabantian (Noord-Brabant) fades into the dialects spoken in the adjoining provinces of Belgium. The same applies to Limburgish (Limburg (Netherlands)), but this variant also has the status of official regional language in the Netherlands (but not in Belgium). It receives protection by chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Limburgish has been influenced by the Rhinelandic dialects like the Cologne dialect: Kölsch, and has had a somewhat different development since the late Middle Ages.

Zealandic of most of Zeeland is a transitional regional language between West Flemish and Hollandic, with the exception of the eastern part of Zealandic Flanders where East Flemish is spoken. In Holland proper, Hollandic is spoken, though the original forms of this dialect, heavily influenced by a Frisian substratum, are now relatively rare; the urban dialects of the Randstad, which are Hollandic dialects, do not diverge from standard Dutch very much, but there is a clear difference between the city dialects of Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam or Utrecht.

In some rural Hollandic areas more authentic Hollandic dialects are still being used, especially north of Amsterdam. Limburgish and Dutch Low Saxon have been elevated by the Netherlands (and by Germany) to the legal status of streektaal (regional language) according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which causes some native speakers to consider them separate languages.

Another group of dialects based on Hollandic is that spoken in the cities and larger towns of Friesland, where it displaced Frisian in the 16th century and is known as Stadsfries ("Urban Frisian").

Dutch dialects are not spoken as often as they used to be. Nowadays in The Netherlands only older people speak these dialects in the smaller villages, with the exception of the Low Saxon and Limburgish streektalen, which are actively promoted by some provinces and still in common use. Most towns and cities stick to standard Dutch - although many cities have their own city dialect, which continues to prosper. In Belgium, however, dialects are very much alive; many senior citizens there are unable to speak standard Dutch. In both the Netherlands and Belgium, many larger cities also have several distinct smaller dialects.

Many native speakers of Dutch, both in Belgium and the Netherlands, assume that Afrikaans and Frisian are 'deviant' dialects of Dutch. In fact, they are different languages, though Afrikaans has evolved mainly from Dutch. In fact, a (West) Frisian standard language has been developed.

Until the early 20th century, variants of Dutch were still spoken by some descendants of Dutch colonies in the United States. New Jersey in particular had an active Dutch community with a highly divergent dialect that was spoken as recently as the 1950s. See Jersey Dutch for more on this dialect. Russia also has some people today who speak Dutch-based dialects.

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