Flemish Language
What is Flemish? | So, why is it called Flemish? | A little history...

The reasons for all these differences and varying attitudes can be found in the past. In the early 16th Century, the Low Countries were governed by the Hapsburg Empire, which had lands as far apart as Austria and Spain, and colonies all over the globe. During the second half of that century, the Northern Provinces, which we now know as the Netherlands, gained independence. Ever since then there has been a discrepancy in the language spoken in the two countries.

Until the independence of Belgium in 1830, the Flemish were ruled by a variety of foreign occupants (Spanish, Austrian, French), who all spoke a foreign language. To this day, language and politics are inextricably linked in Belgium. Only in this century the Flemish have been able to gain social and economic equality with the French speaking Belgians, who formed the upper layer of society for centuries.

French was also the language of education. This meant that Dutch as spoken in Flanders was not standardised as soon as it was in the Netherlands, and the standardised language is not as widely used. In fact, its spread and consolidation is still an ongoing process.

Information on this page was gleaned from: Liesbeth Koenen & Rik Smits, Basishandleiding Nederlands, Bijleveld, Utrecht, 1998.

If you read Dutch, you can find more information on the differences between Flemish and Dutch in: Ton van der Wouden, Verboden op het werk te komen, SIWU, Enschede, 1997. ISBN 90-74900-13-5.

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