The history of the Dutch language begins around AD 450–500, after Old Frankish, one of the many West Germanic tribal languages, was split by the Second Germanic consonant shift while at more or less the same time the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law led to the development of the direct ancestors of modern Dutch Low Saxon, Frisian and English.
The northern dialects of Old Frankish generally did not participate in either of these two shifts, except for a small amount of phonetic changes, and are hence known now as Old Low Franconian; the "Low" refers to dialects not influenced by the consonant shift. The most south-eastern dialects of the Franconian languages became part of High, though not Upper, German even though a dialect continuum remained. The fact that Dutch did not undergo the sound changes may be the reason why some people say that Dutch is like a bridge between English and German. Within Old Low Franconian there were two subgroups: Old East Low Franconian and Old West Low Franconian, which is better known as Old Dutch. East Low Franconian was eventually absorbed by Dutch as it became the dominant form of Low Franconian, although it remains a noticeable substrate within the southern Limburgish dialects of Dutch. Because the two groups were so similar it is often very hard to determine whether a text is Old Dutch or Old East Low Franconian, hence most linguists will generally use Old Dutch synonymously with Old Low Franconian and most of the time do not differentiate.
Dutch, coincidentally like other Germanic languages, is conventionally divided into three phases. In the development of Dutch these phases were:
450/500–1150 Old Dutch (First attested in the Salic Law)
1150–1500 Middle Dutch (Also called "Diets" in popular use, though not by linguists)
1500–present Modern Dutch (Saw the creation of the Dutch standard language and includes contemporary Dutch)
The transition between these languages was very gradual and one of the few moments linguists can detect somewhat of a revolution is when the Dutch standard language emerged and quickly established itself. It should be noted that Standard Dutch is very similar to most Dutch dialects.
The development of the Dutch language is illustrated by the following sentence in Old, Middle and Modern Dutch.
"Irlôsin sol an frithe sêla mîna fan thên thia ginâcont mi, wanda under managon he was mit mi" (Old Dutch)
"Erlossen sal [hi] in vrede siele mine van dien die genaken mi, want onder menegen hi was met mi" (Middle Dutch)
(Using same word order)
"Verlossen zal hij in vrede ziel mijn van degenen die [te] na komen mij, want onder velen hij was met mij" (Modern Dutch)
(Using correct contemporary Dutch word order)
"Hij zal mijn ziel in vrede verlossen van degenen die mij te na komen, want onder velen was hij met mij" (Modern Dutch) (see Psalm 55:19)
"He will deliver my soul in peace from those who attack me, because, amongst many, he was with me" (English translation) (see Psalm 55:18)
A process of standardization started in the Middle ages, especially under the influence of the Burgundian Ducal Court in Dijon (Brussels after 1477). The dialects of Flanders and Brabant were the most influential around this time. The process of standardization became much stronger at the start of the 16th century, mainly based on the urban dialect of Antwerp. In 1585 Antwerp fell to the Spanish army: many fled to the Northern Netherlands, especially the province of Holland, where they influenced the urban dialects of that province. In 1637, a further important step was made towards a unified language, when the first major Dutch Bible translation was created that people from all over the United Provinces could understand. It used elements from various, even Dutch Low Saxon, dialects but was predominantly based on the urban dialects of Holland.
Dutch Translation Articles:
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