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|Crash-course Dutch grammar for genealogists|
|On this page I will try to give you a little insight into the grammatical construction of Dutch surnames. Simple Dutch names like 'Backer', 'Jansz' or 'TerVeer' will not occasion much brain racking. More complex names, however, like compositions with 'Van der-', 'Ter-' or 'Tot-' for example will be a little bit tougher to fathom. And, what do these suffixes '-sen', '-sz' and others stand for? Wouldn't it be nice also to get a grip on all those unspeakable Dutch diminutive endings in order to get a better understanding of male and female given names? If you have a few minutes -it will not take much more- to follow this crash-course, a few mysteries might be disclosed forever...|
|cases and case endings|
|NOTE: to listen to soundfiles of Dutch diftongs, vowels and consonants: go to the Uitspraak-page of the Carpark-site|
|For the history and description of the Dutch languages and it's dialects and regional languages: go to the 'Language-page'|
DE , HET ('t)
Unlike in English, Dutch uses two definite articles. The gender of the noun to follow determines the choice of the article. DE is used for nouns of masculine and feminine gender. HET -or the substituting shortened 't- is the definite article we use when dealing with a noun of neuter gender. Examples:
De man, de mannen, de vrouw, de vrouwen (= the man, the men, the woman, the women)
Het schip, ('t schip), de schepen (= the ship, the ships)
In plural De is always used, irrispective of gender.
Note 1: diminutives will always be preceded by the definite article HET. Example:
Het vrouwtje (= the little woman)
Note 2: In earlier days contractions of the article 'De' and the radical words, starting with an 'h' have taken place in Flanders. This resulted in surnames like: 'Dhondt' (=de Hondt), 'Dhaen' (- de Haan) and 'Dhaese' (= de Haese).
Like in English, Dutch only uses one indefinite article: EEN, or the substituting shortened 'n. Examples:
Een koekje,('n koekje) (= a cookie)
|In the Old- and Middle Dutch language 4 cases were present: nominativus, genitivus, dativus and accusativus. We can still find them in the German language: der Mann, des Mannes, dem Manne, den Mann). Both in English and Dutch the use of this case-system did disappear in the course of time. In Dutch surnames we can still, however, see the remnants of these old cases:|
|De Koning, De Backer, Debacker, De Hondt, D'hondt||Nominative.|
|Hendricks, Govertsz, Jacobssen, Simonsdr||Genitive ending. Actually: 'son of...', 'daughter of...'|
Ten Eycken, Ter Heune, Van den Bogaerd, Van der Grift
Dative ending.Ten and Ter both are contractions of the preposition 'Te' (= at) and the articles 'den' or 'der'. 'Den' and 'der' being the dative male and female declensions of 'de'.
|Dativeending. Dialectal forms of respectively 'In den' and 'Aan den'. ('In' and 'At') These forms are to be found especially in the German/Dutch area between Rhine and Meuse: south east Netherlands.|
Den Hartog, Den Dunne, Den Duytsen
Accusative ending. This type of surnames originate from the 16th- and 17th century: not earlier. We don't find this type of names in Brabant nor in Flanders, but almost exclusively in the province of Zuid-Holland, especially in the Rotterdam area.
|Aan de||Aandeweg, Aan de weg, Aendekerk|
Aan de(n) = at, on. Preposition adjunct. Fieldnames, meaning respectively: 'living at the road' and '...living next to the church'. [This type of fieldnames is appearing quite frequently in the Dutch province of Limburg, and, to a lesser extend in the province of Zuid Holland]
Aangeveld, Aangenend, Angenent
|The preposition-article combination Aan de(n) can change to Aan ge(n) in the southeastern part of the Netherlands and the adjacent part of Germany. Actually one could roughly say: the area between Rhine and Meuse. The examples shown here respectively mean: '...living next/close to the field', '...living at the end (of a road)'|
|Ingen||Ingendael, Ingebos, Ingenhove|
Ingen = In de (English: in the) We find these names in the same area as the Aan ge(n) names.The examples shown here respectively mean:'...living in the valley', '...living in the woods/forest' and '...living in garden/ farmyard'
In the rest of the Netherlands we find inge spelled as in de, in den or in die
|Op de(n), Op ter/ -ten||Op den dyck, Opdyck, Op ten Brincke, Op ter Meenthe||Op de(n) = at, on, upon. Here:'...living upon the dike' and '...living at the village greens'|
|Te||Te Brinke, Te Bos||Te = at, in. We find these names -and all the following declension variations on te- almost exclusively in the eastern Netherlands (the province of Overijssel and the eastern part of the province of Gelderland) Names given here mean respectively: '...living at the village greens' and '...living at or in the woods'|
|Ter||Terbeek, Ter Beek||Ter = fusion of the preposition te with the declined article der. This example means: '...living at the brook'|
|Ten||Ten Brincke, Tenbrink||Ten = fusion of the preposition te with the declined article den. This example means: '...living at the village greens'|
|T(h)o||To Swoll, Toe Water||Old spelling of te. Meaning: '...living at -the city of- Zwolle' and '...living at the water-/riverside'|
|T(h)oe||Van Harinxma thoe Slooten||Old spelling of te. The name here means: 'the family Harinxma living at Slooten'. Thoe can be found in Frisia.|
|Van||Van Zutphen, VanCleef|
Van = from. Geographical name, meaning: '...coming/originating from Zutpen, Cleef etc'
|Van der, van den||Van den Bogaerd, Van der Heide, Van der Heyden, VanderHeyden||Van, meaning the same as mentioned above. Unlike the preposition te, van doesn't fuse with the article de. The difference between der and den is caused by the gender of the noun: before a female word the declined article gets an r, an n will be added in front of a male substantive.|
|Ver||Verheyden, Vervoort||Ver is a fusion of the preposition van and the article der. These surnames respectively mean: '...living near or on the heath' and '...living at a fordable place at a river'|
|Uit den, Uyt den||Uittenhage, Uytenhaege||Uit = from. The article den becomes a t(t) as an effect of assimilation. The name here can mean both '...originating from the Hague', or '...originating from an area with bushes or a hedgerow'|
In the Southern Netherlands -comprising nowadays Belgium and the Dutch provinces Limburg and especially Brabant- it was more a custom to join prepositions and/ or articles and the substantive. Where we usually find Van der Heide and De Keizer in the Northern Netherlands, we will find them spelled like VanderHeyde or Verheyde and Dekeyser in the Southern Netherlands frequently. Of course there are exceptions to this rule; but you might try to look for Dekeyser's roots in Belgium or the Dutch province Noord-Brabant first!
1.The Real diminutive endings:
-je, -(e)tje and -pje
|Ending||Word/ Given name||Diminutive|
|-je (-ie)||Boot (=boat, vessel)||Bootje|
Aaltie ('ie' probably pronounced like 'je'. Writing an 'i' instead of 'j' was more a kind of a tradition, especially with female given names)
|-tje||Vader (= father)||Vadertje|
|-etje||Man (= man)||Mannetje|
|-pje||Oom (= uncle)||Oompje|
2. Diminutive suffixes used to create pet-names and nicknames.
-(e)ke, -(e)ken, -(e)kin, -(e)kijn, -ske(n), -(e)gen, -(e)gijn, -(e)chien, -(e)lijn, -ijn, -ijnne, -ien, -ine, -ina and -el
This group of suffixes can express both endearment and/or contempt, disrespect. The latter, however, is generally reserved when used with normal nouns. Given names and surnames obtain an endearing quality when these suffixes are added.
|-eke(n)||Jan, Mette||Janneke(n), Metteke|
-gen, -gijn (B)
|-chien, -kien (Gr, Dr)||Lamme||Lammechien, Lemmechien|
|-ine, -ina||Jacob||Jacobine, Jacobina|
|-el (old diminutive)||Trom (= drum)||Trommel|
hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan
'Have all birds begun to build their nest, exept you and me, what are we waiting for?'
Dutch spelling of ‘the vernacular language’,as used by the educated citizens, originates from the 12th- century.
|In Old- and Middle Dutch, especially in Belgium, the 'e' and 'i' sometimes were used to prolong the pronunciation of the proceeding vowels 'a', 'o' and 'u':|
|aa - ae||Claas - Claes||Sound not present in English language|
|aa -ai||Allaart -Allairt||Sound not present in English language|
|oo - oe||Anthonus - Anthoenus||Sounds like the 'o' in the English word 'bonus'|
|oo - oi||Van Doorn - Van Doirn||Sounds like the 'o' in Al Gore|
|uu - ue||Van der Schuur - Van der Schuer||Sound not present in English language|
|u -ui||Gruter - Gruiter||Don't mix up with the Dutch diphthong 'ui'|
The characters 'i','ij', 'j' and 'y' were completely interchangeable:
Actually the 'y' isn't a Dutch vowel. It is a so called 'i-grec' who entered the Dutch language in loan-words only. When we see an 'y' in old records it actually should be regarded as an 'ij'. This typical Dutch character evolved from the 'ii' .This was a prolonged'i'(sounding like the 'e' of the English alphabet). Later this 'ii' was written as 'ij', but mostly without the two dots. The sound also evolved to the sound of the Dutch diphthong 'ei'(which sounds -a little bit- like the English personal pronoun 'I'). This process of diphtongization started already in the 14th-century in Brabant. Not until 1700 it appeared in the northern Netherlands.
|i - ij - y||Cornelis, Cornelijs, Cornelys||All expressing the Dutch closed 'i'-sound (like in the English word 'bit')|
|ei - eij - ij - y - ai||Reiner, Reijner, Rijner, Reyner, Rainer||All expressing the Dutch 'ei'- or 'ij' sound ( a bit like the 'i' in the English word 'fine')|
|i- ij - y - j||Heie, Heije, Heye, Heyje||All expressing the Dutch 'j'-sound (like in the English word 'yes' ) The Dutch character 'j' came late in our alphabet: till then the 'i' was used in most cases|
|i - ie - ey - y||Simen, Siemen, Seymen, Symen||All expressing the 'ie'-sound (like in the English word 'tree')|
The diphthongs'au' and 'ou' were interchangeable and often other vowels were added -seemingly- at random:
|au - ou||Laurens, Lourens||Both diphthongs are sounding like the English 'o' in 'now'|
|au -aau - aue - aeu||Blau, Blaauw, Blaue, Blaeu||Both diphthongs are sounding like the English 'o' in 'now'|
The diphthongs 'oe' and 'ou' and the vowel 'u' were used alternately. We don't find it too often and it probably will have been caused by the influence of France and Germany. The French and German equivalents of the Dutch 'oe'-sound are, respectively: 'ou' and 'u'. (Like the English 'ou' in 'you'). It is not unusual to see the 'ou' and 'u' appear respectively in the southern- and southeastern Netherlands. Next to that in some cases 'ue' could be used instead of 'ou' or 'oe' :
|oe -ou -ue||Van den Broek, VandenBrouck, VandenBrueck||Sounding like the 'ou' in the English word 'you'|
|oe - u||Roelof, Rulof||Sounding like the 'ou' in the English word 'you'|
The diphthongs 'ie' and 'ieu' could be used alternately:
|ie - ieu||Liewert, Lieuwert||Sound not present in English language|
Sometimes the separatecharacters of the diphthongs 'eu' and 'ue' simply changed places:
|eu - ue||Brueghel, Breughel||Sound not present in English language.|
|Long list of interchangeable (combinations of) consonants :|
|c - ck - k||Dirc, Dirck, Dirk||Like English 'k'|
|c - k||Coert, Koert||Like English 'k'|
|ch - c - k||Christiaan, Cristiaan, Kristiaan||Like English 'k'|
|ch - g||Brechtje, Bregtje||The notorious Dutch 'G'|
|g- gh||Gerritsz, Gherritsz||Adding of the 'h' only took place in front of the vowels 'e' and 'i'. Still the same sound as teh notorious Dutch 'G'|
|p - b||Jop, Job||Both consonants like the 'p' in the English word 'pants'|
|d - dt - t||Gerard, Gerardt, Gerart||Each character (combination) to be pronounced as a normal sharp 't'|
|t - tt||Metje, Mettje|
|t - th||Tomas, Thomas||Both 't' and 'th' pronounced as a normal sharp 't'|
|ks -cs - cx - cks -x-ckx||Hendriks, Hendrics, Hendricx,Hendricks, Hendrix, Hendrickx||All sounding like in Jimmy Hendrix|
|kw - qu||Kwaak, Quaak|
Almost identical to the 'q' in the English word 'quit'
|s - z||Van Santfoort, van Zandvoort||Sounding like the voiceless 's' in the English word 'sand'|
|v - f||Volckert, Folkert||Sounding like the 'f ' in the English word 'fat'|
|f - ph||Josefus, Josephus||Sounding like the 'f ' or 'ph' in the English given name 'Rufus/Ruphus'|
|j||Johannes, Jsaac||Dutch 'j' is sounding like the 'y' in the English word 'yes'. The Dutch character 'j' came late in our alphabet: till then the 'i' was used in most cases. The character 'j' can be regarded as a vowel as well as a consonant. That's why the 'j' alternately served as a 'j' or an 'i'|
|xpr - chr||Xpristina, Christina|
|The Dutch characters 'u', 'v' and 'w'|
|u - v||Uytenbogaerd,Vytenbogaerd||Sound not present in English language.|
|v - u||Lieuen, Lieven||So unding like the 'v' in the English word 'victim'|
|uu - vv - w||uuillem, vvillem, willem||Sounding a bit like the 'w' in the English word 'water'. But, the Dutch word is a labio-dental, which means that it is pronounced with the lower lip touching the upper teeth|
© 2002 willem rabbelier