Wiktionary:About Middle Dutch

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Middle Dutch is the ancestor of modern Dutch, and the descendant of Old Dutch or Old Low Franconian. It was spoken between approximately 1200 and 1500.

Pronunciation and orthography[edit]

Spelling in Middle Dutch was highly variable, which presents a problem for working on Wiktionary. Middle Dutch dictionaries such as VMNW generally use a normalised spelling. There is no "standard" normalisation, so different dictionaries use different schemes, which leaves it open for us to use our own scheme. The scheme used here is similar to the one used by VMNW, with some small differences (g and sch instead of gh and sc).

It's probably best to normalize this spelling according to specific spelling rules for the lemma, and then treat any other possible spellings as alternative forms. For the sake of attestation, the normalised spelling should considered exempt (i.e. may not be attested at all) as long as at least one spelling variety is attested for that lemma, conforming to WT:LDL.

Phoneme Normalized Alternative forms Notes
/aː/ ae, a a Use ae in closed syllables, a in open syllables.
/ɛː/ and /eː/ ee, e e, ei Use ee in closed syllables, e in open syllables. ei occurs mostly in Limburg and West Flanders.
/iː/ ij, i i, ii, y Use ij in closed syllables, i in open syllables.
/ɔː/ and /oː/ oo, o o, oe, oi Use oo in closed syllables, o in open syllables. oi is common in Brabant.
/yː/ uu, u u, ui, uy Use uu in closed syllables, u in open syllables.
/uə/ oe o, ou, u, ue u and ue are common in the eastern areas.
/ou/ ou ol, al ol and al are unshifted spellings, occurring in the eastern dialects.
/a(ː)u/ au aeu
/øː/ ue, o o, oe, u, eu, e Use o for long o that has been umlauted (in the east), ue for short u that has been umlauted and lengthened.
/x/ ch gh, h
/ɣ/ g gh
/ɪ/ i j
/j/ j i, jh
/z/ s z
/sk/, /sx/ sch sc, sk
/ʏ/ u v
/w/ w v, u

Some rules:

  • k is used before e and i, c is used elsewhere.
  • The combination kw is written qu.
  • Word-final devoicing is reflected in the spelling: v > f, g > ch, d > t, b > p, ng > nc.

Vowel length[edit]

Vowel length can be deduced from the normalised spelling, so it's not necessary to indicate it. Vowel length is based on whether a syllable is checked (closed) or free (open), see w:Dutch orthography. Checked vowels are short, free vowels are long. When a long vowel occurs in a closed syllable, another letter is added: Long vowels are written a, e, i, o, u when free, ae, ee, ij, oo, uu when checked. Double consonants were still produced as doubled and therefore created a closed syllable, so short vowels do not occur in free syllables at all.

Neither the normalised spelling nor any of the original spellings distinguish the two types of long a, e and o. In descriptions of Middle Dutch, originally-long vowels are indicated using a circumflex: â, ê, ô. Originally-short vowels that were lengthened in late Old Dutch are indicated with a macron: ā, ē, ō. Length is not indicated at all for long i and u, as these always represent originally-long vowels (when lengthened from short vowels, they became ē and ue, respectively). Diacritics should not be used in entry names. However, they can be added to displayed forms of words using the head= parameter on the various headword-line templates, or when linking to them. The diacritics should be placed on both single vowels (in open syllables) and two-vowel combinations (in closed syllables). When added to the latter, place it only on the first vowel. Examples:

Word with diacritics Template example Old Dutch origin
brêet {{dum-adj|head=brêet}} breit (eastern), *brēt (western), long vowel
stēlen {{dum-verb|head=stēlen}} *stelan, short vowel
slâpen {{dum-verb|head=slâpen}} *slāpan, long vowel
bōde {{dum-noun|head=bōde}} bodo, short vowel
lôpen {{dum-verb|head=lôpen}} loupan (eastern), lōpan (western), long vowel
hēvet, hēeft {{l|dum|hēvet}}, {{l|dum|hēeft}} hevit, short vowel

Note that in the last example, syncope of the schwa has created a lengthened vowel in a closed syllable. This is still fairly rare in Middle Dutch outside syncopated inflectional endings, but it becomes much more frequent in late Middle Dutch when apocope of final schwa starts to appear (i.e. dachte > dacht).

Because the distinction between these two vowels is based on etymology, it may not always be possible to determine which of the two types occurs in a particular word. This happens in particular with loanwords that were borrowed during Middle Dutch times. Old French of the time did not have vowel length distinctions, so when an Old French word is borrowed into Middle Dutch with a long vowel (as happened frequently), which type of vowel was used? This cannot be determined through Middle Dutch alone, but it may be possible to find out using later (dialectal) sources where the two types are more clearly distinguished. For example, in modern Limburgish the distinction between â and ā is often reflected as ao versus aa.

Standard references[edit]

  • A. van Loey (1980) Middelnederlandse spraakkunst; I: Vormleer, II: Klankleer.
  • J. Verdam & E. Verwijs, Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek.
  • J. Verdam with editing by C.H. Ebbinge Wubben, (1932) Middelnederlandsch handwoordenboek.
  • Middelnederlandsch woordenboek; Corpus Gysseling; ca. 285 literary texts from 1250-1500. ISBN13: 9789075566901

See also[edit]