A Seven-League Strides Sightseeing Trip Through Past and Present of Standard Dutch

  • Frans Hinskens
Keywords: Dutch, standardisation, language policy, external language history, norms, pluricentricity, pluriareality, domains of language use


Standard Dutch is an official language in the Netherlands, in the northern part of Belgium (Flanders and Brussels) and in very multilingual Surinam. The standardisation process started in the early 16th century; because of the political separation of the Seventeen Provinces after 1585, it came to a halt in the South (roughly present-day Flanders). From then onwards, Standard Dutch developed in its own way in the North and the South – in the South with a delay until the second half of the 19th century. In Surinam, Dutch was imported as a colonial language; in the decades after the abolishment of slavery (1863) and the education laws passed in 1876, the black descendants of the enslaved, the creole population and the various other ethnic groups gradually started acquiring it. This paper sketches the differential development of Standard Dutch in the three parts of the language area and relates the resulting divergence to the question as to whether Dutch should be seen as a pluricentric or rather a pluriareal language. On the basis of recent data (mainly from large-scale online questionnaires) the position of the language and its future are discussed in the main societal domains in the three parts of the language area.