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This document focusses on the pronunciation of the dutch language. The dutch pronunciation can be quite hard and contains several difficult constructions that I'll try to elaborate on in this document. It also differs quite a lot from English, especially the vowels. In order to make things as clear as possible I've recorded several soundclips with the pronunciation of all dutch words in this document. Each section of this article has it's own soundclip but to save space I've compressed all WAV files in one single ZIP file you should download first: Click here to download the ZIP file with the soundclips (3.9 MB) After download you should decompress the ZIP file using Unzip, Pkunzip, Winzip, StuffIt Expander or any other suitable program. The soundclips will consume 5.4 MB when decompressed. You can play them with any suitable WAVE player (such as Winamp, Xmms , RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player etc...) CONSONANTS Let's start with the consonants, they are easiest. First we'll get through the consonants which sound just like in English, we'll give a dutch word for each consonant along with it's approximate pronunciation. B (boot BOAT), D (dier DEER), F (fiets FEETS), H (hotel HOATEL), K (kogel KOACHUL), L (licht LIHCHT), M (maand MAAND), N (niemand NEAMAND ), P (paard PAARD), S (steen STEYN), T (tijd TEYD), V (vis VIHS), W (walvis WALVIS), Z (zee ZAY) All of the above dutch words are recorded in the soundclip similarconsonants.wav Now we'll handle the consonants that have a different sound in dutch: C Can sound like a K or an S G Sounds like CH as in the scottish word LOCH, the german word ICH or like the spanish J as in "Julio", note that it never sounds like the G as in the english word GOOD... Dutch examples: (graag, gemeen, goed) J Sounds like the Y as in the english words YES and MAY... Dutch examples:
(ja, jager, juist) Q Hardly ever used in dutch, only in words borrowed from other languages R Pronounced more thrilled as in english, therefore pronounced not as far back in the throat as in english. Sounds more like a French or Spanish R... Dutch examples: (regen, riool, raam) X Hardly even used in dutch, only in words borrowed from other languages Y Only used in borrowed words All of the above dutch words are recorded in the soundclip differentconsonants.wav VOWELS Dutch vowels sound quite differently compared to their english equivalents. First of all you should realize that dutch vowels come in pairs (except for the i). There is a short version and a long version. We'll first teach you how they sound and later on we'll show you when a vowel is to be pronounced long, and when short. A (short) Pronounced as in the british word BATH, only slightly shorter... Dutch examples: (bad, gat, tassen) A (long) Pronounced long and open as in the spanish word CHICA... Dutch example: (gaas, maand, varen) E (short) This rule only applies when the E appears in a STRESSED syllable: Pronounced slightly shorter than in the english word WET... Dutch example: (met,bed, heg) E (long) This rule only applies when the E appears in a STRESSED syllable: Pronounced like AY in the english word MAY... Dutch examples: (meer, deeg, eten), note that in the last word only the first E is a long one, the other one is an unstressed E. E (unstressed) This rule applies when the E appears in an UNSTRESSED syllable: Pronounced very short and kinda like the U in the english word MUG. You can also compare it to the sound that is produced when pronouncing the consonants "tn" as a word... Dutch examples: (gaten, muren, eten), note that in the last word only the second E is an unstressed one, the other one is a long E. I Pronounced as the I in the english word BIT... Dutch examples: (vis, tik, gil) O (short) Pronounced slightly shorter than the O in the english word SHOT... Dutch examples: (mol, lot, rok) O (long) Pronounced like OW in the english word LOW only without a clear W
sound... Dutch examples: (boot, boten, ogen) U (short) Pronounced slightly shorter than the U in the english word BUT... Dutch examples: (hut, gum, suf) U (long) This has a sound that's not heard in english...It has the same sound as the U in the french word "VOITURE". The sound can also be heard when you pronounce "EW" as in NEW, the sound that you hear between the E and the W is then the long U vowel...Note that it's certainly NOT pronounced as in spanish... Dutch examples: (muur, fuut, duren) All of the above dutch words are recorded in the soundclip vowels.wav DIPHTONGUES Diphtongues are constructions of two or more vowels joining together and forming a different sound as a whole: AU Pronounced like OW in the english word NOW... Dutch examples: (auto, lauw,dauw) EI Try to pronounce AY as in the english word MAY, but replace the A sound with the sound of the short dutch vowel E... Dutch examples: (ei, beleid, eigen) EU Pronounced like in the french word BEURRE... Dutch examples: (reus, leuk, zeug) IE Pronounced like EE in the english word BEE... Dutch examples: (biet, mier, lied) IJ Pronounced exactly the same as the dutch EI diphtongue. OE Pronounced like OE in the english word SHOE... Dutch examples: (boek, doen, voet) OU Pronounced exactly the same as the dutch AU diphtongue. UI Has a sound not known in english, it kinda sounds like a nasal A followed by an english Y sound... Dutch examples: (huis, buiten, ruit) All of the above dutch words are recorded in the soundclip diphtongues.wav COMBINED CONSONANTS Also several consonants can be combined forming somewhat different sound: NG Sounds as in English, as in the word KLING for example. Dutch examples:
(bang, vangen, eng) NK Also sounds as in English, as in the word LINK for example. SCH This is a combinations that usually causes a lot of difficulty for foreigners. It's not quite hard though, only the sound appears to be quite weird when you first hear it. It's pronounced as a S followed by CH as in the scottish word "loch"... Dutch examples: (school, schuim, schaap) All of the above dutch words are recorded in the soundclip combinedconsonants.wav LONG VOWELS AND SHORT VOWELS All of the dutch words in this section are recorded in the soundclip longandshortvowels.wav Dutch vowels come in pairs, you already know that, there are long vowels and there are short vowels. There are two exceptional vowels, the i, which is always short (you could consider the diphtongue IE the long i), and the E vowel is the second exception, it doesn't have two versions but it even has three versions! When the E appears in a stressed syllable it can be either long or short, but when it doesn't appear in a stressed syllable then you use the unstressed version (the short U sound). But now we still haven't solved the issue: How do I know whether a vowel is long or short? In order to solve this problem, we'll state a rule that should solve this question: When the vowel appears at the end of a syllable it is a LONG vowel, if it doesn't it's a SHORT vowel unless it's doubled. That is the main rule. Also note there can be only one long vowel in a sentencebecause it's always the vowel the stress falls on. But it might still be a bit vague, so we'll continue our explanation with some examples: Long (and therefore stressed) vowels will be written in uppercase and short vowels in lowercase...An unstressed "e" will be noted as 3 for notation's sake. Syllables will be seperated by a `. Diphtongues will only be written in uppercase when they stress is placed there. leven lE`v3n (life) eten E`t3n (food, to eat)
wonen wO`n3n (to live) mager mA`g3r (skinny) sleutel slEU`t3l (key) maand MAAnd (month) tas tas (bag) tassen tas`s3n (bags) bedelen bE`d3`l3n (to beg) vergeten ver`gE`t3n (to forget) muur mUUr (wall) muren mU`r3n (walls) eend EEnd (duck) aandacht AAn`dacht (attention) missen mis`s3n (to miss) zoon zOOn (son) zonen zO`n3n (sons) You see that long vowels (in uppercase) always appear at the end of a syllable (they're followed by a `) unless they're doubled (meaning they appear as AA, EE, UU or OO). Note that this is a vital aspect of the dutch language, it definately should be mastered before continuing your dutch studies. DOUBLING AND REDUCING CONSONANTS AND VOWELS All of the dutch words in this section are recorded in the soundclip doubleconsonantsandvowels.wav We've now spoken about how to determine whether a vowel is short or long. But now another important aspect is that you can apply this knowledge. To retain pronunciation in dutch there are cases when you have to double a consonant. There are also cases when a double vowel has to be reduced to only one version or vice versa. We'll try to cover these cases now: Let's start with the dutch word "zoon" (meaning: "son"), we'll make this word plural now, which is (generally speaking) done by adding EN. Now looks what happens: ZOON (zOOn) > ZOONEN (zOO`n3n) (example illustrates error)
The second form is INCORRECT altough we did apply the rule to form a plural noun correctly, this is because in dutch you always have to keep the "long/short vowel rule" in your head. In the sample above we see that the last two characters of the syllable are "OO" but this is of course not a necessity since a single vowel wil also suffice because when it appears at the end of a syllable it's always pronounced long. So we'll do it correct now: ZOON (zOOn) > ZOONEN (zOO'n3n) > ZONEN (zO'n3n) The plural of "zoon" is indeed "zonen". Some other examples now: TAAL (tAAl) > TAALEN (tAA'l3n) > TALEN (tA'l3n) MUUR (mUUr) > MUUREN (mUU'r3n) > MUREN (mU'r3n) BOOR (bOOr) > BOOREN (bOO'r3n) > BOREN (bO'r3n) Now let's try this the other way round, we'll start to make a singular noun out of a plural noun. Keep in mind that in dutch the sound of the stressed vowel should remain the same in both forms (of course there are some exceptions). ZALEN (zA`l3n) > ZAL (zal) (example illustrates error) You see that by simply removing EN, the vowel A no longer appears at the end of the syllable. That would cause the sound of the A no change from a long sound to a short sound. That is of course not allowed. So we have to take countermeasures, this is done by doubling the A. Keep in mind the rule: When the vowel appears at the end of a syllable it is a LONG vowel, if it doesn't it is a SHORT vowel unless it's doubled. ZALEN (zA`l3n) > ZAL (zal) > ZAAL (zAAl) Some more examples: FUTEN (fU`t3n) > FUT (fut) > FUUT (fUUt) BEKEN (bE`k3n) > BEK (bek) > BEEK (bEEk) ZAKEN (zA`k3n) > ZAK (zak) > ZAAK (zAAk)
The previous paragraph explained how to double and reduce vowels. Now we're going to look at doubling and reducing consonants. Note that vowels are still the trigger here, consonants are only doubled to make sure the vowel retains it's short form whereas vowels are doubled to retain their long form. Let's begin with an example, let's make the dutch noun "tas" plural TAS (tas) > TASEN (tA`s3n) (example illustrates error) We clearly see that the "A" loses it's short form here because it's displaced and ends up at the end of the syllable. In order to fix this we just move it back to the center of a syllable, and we do that by simply adding a consonant: TAS (tas) > TASEN (tA`s3n) > TASSEN (tas`s3n) You see it's all very logical once you understand how it works. Some more examples: VET (vet) > VETEN (vE`t3n) > VETTEN (vet`t3n) JAS (jas) > JASEN (jA`s3n) > JASSEN (jas`s3n) MOT (mot) > MOTEN (mO`t3n) > MOTTEN (mot`t3n) Now we'll try it the other way round again. We're gonna form singular nouns out of the plural noun "messen", which is quite easy. Only first you have to know that in dutch a syllable never ends on two equal consonants nor does one single consonant form a syllable as a whole. MESSEN (mes`s3n) > MESS > MES (mes) Some more examples: BEDDEN (bed`d3n) > BEDD > BED (bed) TOLLEN (tol`l3n) > TOLL > TOL (tol) GROTTEN (grot`t3n) > GROTT > GROT (grot) Note that, altough we've only applied these rules to nouns, they also apply to verbs and other constructions.
QUESTIONS? I hope this document kinda helped you in increasing your knowledge about dutch pronunciation... If you've any questions you can mail me at email@example.com
This page is part of The UniLang Community Homepage Made by: Maarten van Gompel (Proycon) Updated: December 2000
Dutch for Beginners: To Be As in English, the verb "zijn" (to be) is a very important word. It is used mostly as an auxilary verb, but it can also be used as a notional verb meaning "to be, to exist". The key forms of the verb are as follows: Tegenwoordige tijd Ik ben Jij bent / ben jij (*) Hij, zij is U bent (**) Wij zijn Jullie zijn Zij zijn Present tense I am You are (informal, singular) He, she is You are (polite, singular or plural) We are You are (informal, plural) They are
(*) In so-called inverted sentences (such as questions), where the personal pronoun follows the verb, "ben" (instead of "bent") is used with "jij". E.g., "Jij bent een student" = "You are a student"; but: "Ben jij een student?" = "Are you a student?" (**) "U is" is occasionally used, but this is considered very old-fashioned by most Dutch people. Verleden tijd Ik was Jij was Hij, zij was U was Wij waren Jullie waren Zij waren Voltooide tijd Ik ben geweest Jij bent geweest Hij, zij is geweest U bent geweest Wij zijn geweest Jullie zijn geweest Zij zijn geweest Past tense I was You were (informal, singular) He, she was You were (polite, singular or plural) We were You were (informal, plural) They were Perfect tense I have been You have been (informal, singular) He, she has been You have been (polite, singular or plural) We have been You have been (informal, plural) They have been
Dutch for Beginners: To Have The verb "hebben" (to have) is another important word. It is used both as a notional verb meaning "to possess, to own" and as an auxilary verb. The key forms of the verb are as follows: Tegenwoordige tijd Ik heb Jij hebt / heb jij (*) Hij, zij heeft Present tense I have You have (informal, singular) He, she has
U heeft (**) Wij hebben Jullie hebben Zij hebben
You have (polite, singular or plural) We have You have (informal, plural) They have
(*) In so-called inverted sentences (such as questions), where the personal pronoun follows the verb, "heb" (instead of "hebt") is used with "jij". E.g., "Jij hebt een boek" = "You have a book"; but: "Heb jij een boek?" = "Do you have a book?" (**) "U hebt" is sometimes also used. Verleden tijd Ik had Jij had Hij, zij had U had Wij hadden Jullie hadden Zij hadden Voltooide tijd Ik heb gehad Jij hebt gehad Hij, zij heeft gehad U heeft gehad Wij hebben gehad Jullie hebben gehad Zij hebben gehad Past tense I had You had (informal, singular) He, she had You had (polite, singular or plural) We had You had (informal, plural) They had Perfect tense I have had You have had (informal, singular) He, she has had You have had (polite, singular or plural) We have had You have had (informal, plural) They have had
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