Dutch is a language that developed amongst Flemmings and Dutchmen alike. It is also the official and majority[1] language in Suriname (spoken at home by nearly half of the Surinamese) and one of the official languages at Aruba (but spoken in less than 7% of the households). The language is part of the Germanic sub-family and is closely related to English and German.

The standard language

The normal language at Mechelen Mapt is standard Dutch. It's the only version that has well described rules (which have changed over time) and, except for highly excentric or purely linguistic purposes, the only one that is ever written. This speech is taught at schools and heard in most of the local television productions, and by nearly everyone often spoken in daily life –by some speakers even always. It does not correspond to any particular local dialect, it was agreed upon by the speakers of several groups of dialects of which some had a larger influence than others.

The dialects, the speech of some

Local dialects of areas that can be described geographically, are more closely related than those within the set of dialects in any other area. Most native speakers can hear whether a speaker of standard Dutch grew up in the Netherlands or in Flanders, hence north or south of the border. Nevertheless, in the provinces rather near to that border, the largest differences between groups of dialects occur between western, middle and eastern areas, each group being cross-border from a nation point of view. And once again, even of people who never learned to speak a dialect, few can hide in which of those three areas one grew up.

Amongst speakers of dialects that do not belong to a same or adjacent group of dialects, if each would uphold one's dialect proper, a conversation might be nearly impossible. Without even becoming clearly aware however, if not reverting to the standard language as has become more and more common, most people tend to 'clean-up' their speech by moving slightly towards a middle-of-the-road dialect based on the heard responses and by avoiding certain characteristics their earlier experience had shown to be pretty local.

In general, in the Netherlands the authentic dialects became used by fewer people or in fewer places and/or became closer to the standard language, than in Flanders. There, dialects tend to have survived well, still alive and kicking; but a few specifics of the separate dialects all but disappeared by constant standard language influences. Also, more often than in the old days, people meet others from areas with more or less different dialects, or they even came to live in a same suburb with too few locals imposing theirs. Though one may still use one's own dialect, typical differences tend to disappear. The younger the generation, the fewer people will speak a local dialect in a truly authentic way as it still had been observed by their parents or grandparents.

The (main) dialect at Mechelen

Mechelen, which is the general topic of this site, is situated near the middle of Flanders. Its local dialect belongs to the Brabantine dialects. Historically, the city had remained independent of the Duke of Brabant most of the time. But it was by no means isolated from its surroundings. Thus, be it slightly arguably, its local dialect can be called a mainstream Brabantine dialect (Antwerp being the other historically influencial city of which one may say the same). Brabantine dialects also occur far into the present-day Netherlands.

Rare usage of the local dialect on this site

On this site Mechelen Mapt, the local dialect becomes demonstrated at several occasions (some words or phrases, quotes, songs, etc). These parts will be shown oblique (which style is not however, exclusively used for this purpose). The sounds of the dialect can not be represented well by ordinary Dutch spelling rules, and some of its vowel sounds do not exist in standard Dutch (one not even in other Brabantine dialects). For the purpose of this site, and for speakers of Dutch from outside the area of Mechelen to be able to imagine what Mechlinian sounds like, we developed a special spelling (only explained in Dutch and tuned for who knows Dutch spelling) using also a few characters outside the ordinary alphabet. Thus when you encounter characters like ɘ,ε or œ, you are reading Mεchɘls, e.i. Mechlinian.

For more general information about the Dutch language, see Wikipedia.

  1. Americans would say plurality though in this particular case, it comes close to a simple majority