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|Connecting Vowels (and Diphthongs)||
The Apostrophe ' -
Before N, R and T, the Dutch apostrophe usually stands for a 'voiceless, unstressed E' ('schwa')
'n is short for the indefinite article een ('a') - with the same, there irregular pronunciation
m'n is short for the first person singular possessive mijn ('my')
z'n is short for the third person male singular possessive zijn ('his')
zo een 2 ('such a') is often shortened to zo'n 2 - no voiceless E, it sounds exactly the same as zoon ('son')
'r ('her; ~there') - for ease of pronunciation, often said a bit slangy as: d'r ('her; ~there')
- either short for the third person female singular possessive haar ('her') - or the word of many meanings er ('~there') >>
't ('the' (#2); 'it') is short for het 2 which can either be 'it' or 'the' ->> - the other, more frequently used definite article is de ('the' #1)
Apostrophe-s is usually pronounced
as S. It can be:
1. an indication of time: 's morgens ('in the morning') - 's middags ('in the afternoon') - 's avonds ('in the evening') - 's nachts ('at night') - 's zomers ('in Summer') - 's winters ('in Winter') - see also the 'Time' Thesaurus
2. words ending in single A, I, O or U often have a plural ending in apostrophe-S, to keep that single vowel long: foto's ('pictures, photographs') - risico's ('risks') (if we would write "fotos" or "risicos" OS would be pronounced with a short O, which is not correct, and to write "fotoos" or "risicoos" would look silly.)
3. an incorrect possessive: Jan's vrienden ("Jan's friends" - following the English, a very common mistake; it should be: "Jans vrienden.")
4. In colloquial speech, 'eens' ('once,' 'sometime') can be shortened to " 's " - with 'voiceless, unstressed E'
Ik vraag me wel eens af ... 2
Ik vraag me wel 's af ... 2
['Sometimes I ask myself ...'] - 'Sometimes I wonder ...'
ä ë ï ö ü - (het) trema
in Dutch, two dots on top of a vowel mean that there is a syllable break just before that vowel: the combination of vowels is not a diphthong or a 'long' vowel but the vowels are pronounced separately
Kanaän ('Canaan') - Israël ('Israel') - tweeëntwintig ('22, two-and-twenty') - meeëter ('acne pimple') - Californië ('California') - ruïne 2 ('ruin, dilapidated building') - cafeïne 2 ('caffeine') - coöperatie ('co-op' - venture, company; the common word for co-operation is samenwerking ) - coördinator 2 ('coordinator') - reünie ('reunion') - vacuüm 2 ('vacuum')
baby ('baby, very small child') - tank ('tank') - manager ('manager' - also English G) - tram ('streetcar, tram') - flat ('apartment; high-rise apartments building') - flatje (apartment') - flats ('high-rise apartment buildings')
aardappel ("earth-apple" - 'potato.') You'd expect pronounciation as aarT-appel, like in other words with 'aard-' such as aardolie ('crude oil') or aardas ('the earth's axis') but (probably because it's such a common word) there was a syllable split shift in pronunciation to aar-dappel; - aardappels ('potatoes') - aardappelpuree ('mashed potatoes')
AE - In names in 'old' spelling AE is 'long A,' but in
words from Latin AE is 'long E'
Kersemaeker / - Aerdenhout 2 more 'old' names
praeses / quaestor ('president; treasurer') - laesie 2 ('lesion' - medical)
French -AIL: - sounds like
detail ('detail') - failliet 2 ('bankrupt; bankruptcy') - medaille 2 ('a medal') - braille ('Braille') - taille 2 ('waist') - wespentaille ('a wasp's waist') - mitrailleur 2 ('machine gun')
Other French -AI: (like Dutch 'short E'
militair ('a soldier; military') - ordinair 2 ("common," 'vulgar') - vulgair 2 ('vulgar, cheap') - populair 2 ('popular, generally liked') - documentaire ('documentary') - migraine 2 3 ('migraine') - also French G (2)
French AU sounds like Dutch 'long O'
auto ('car') - automatisch ('automatic, automatically') - restaurant 2 ('restaurant') - aubergine 2 ('eggplant')
Some people say words like these with a Dutch AU: auto but to me that sounds awful
bibliotheek ('library') the L is usually dropped (and H of TH is never pronounced)
bijzonder ('special') - bijzonder / bijzondere - IJ is pronounced as 'long I' - 'bijzonder' lijkt de enige uitzondering ('bijzonder looks like the only exception')
Pieter Bruegel 2 (painter, c. 1525-1569) - UE is usually pronounced like 'long U' (German U-umlaut) but in this name it's pronounced as EU like in beugel 2 ('brace') and vleugel ('wing; grand piano')
C: K or S
Like in English, C is pronounced either as K or S:
- K: before A, O, U and consonants:
camera ('(movie) camera') - bioscoop ('cinema') - cultuur ('culture') - respect ('respect') - democratie ('democracy') - code ('code') - collega ('colleague') - concurrentie ('competition')
- S: before E, I, IJ and Y:
centrum ('center') - cijfer ('number, figure' ->> ) - cirkel ('circle') - precies ('precisely, exactly') - proces ('lawsuit, court case') - centraal ('central') - recept 2 ('recipe; prescription') - cynisch 2 ('cynical') - citroenen ('lemons') - fascinerend ('fascinating') - centimeter ('centimeter')
K/S: succes 2 ('success') - accent 2 3 ('accent') - accijns 2 ('excise' - tax) - gecompliceerd ('complicated') - concert ('concert') - actrice ('actress') - cyclus ('cycle')
Note the pronunciation change in these Latin-like plurals: politicus/politici 2 ('politician/politicians') - criticus/critici 2 ('critic, reviewer/plural')
Several words from French have kept the French CH (like English SH):
charme ('charm') - charmant ('charming') - cheque ('check' - money) - chirurg ('surgeon') - chocola ('chocolate') - machine 2 ('machine') - douche ('shower' - also French OU)
Most people in Holland pronounce the CH in 'Christus' and related words and names as K: christen ('a christian') - plural: christenen ('christians') - Christien (girls' name) - Chris (boys' name.) The Dutch adjective and adverb christelijk ("christian") usually refers to orthodox protestantism.
A small group of very orthodox protestants say these words and names with Dutch CH, like: christelijk
compromis (French) ('compromise') long I, and S dropped
there is a tendency to soften certain D's, but students shouldn't worry about it. (You'll hear it from Dutchmen, but it's perfectly all right to voice the full D's.)
oude ouwe ('old') - rode rooie ('red') - dode dooie 2 ('dead') - goede goeie 2 ('good') - ik houd / ik hou ("I hold") >>
The indefinite article een
is not pronounced with 'long E' you'd expect but with 'voiceless,
It's also phonetically correct written as
" 'n "
The number 1 is usually written with accents: één 2 ('one, 1')
Like 'een' above, 'eens,' meaning 'once' or 'sometime' is usually pronounced with 'voiceless, unstressed E:' or even the N is dropped: ->>
The city of Enschede is the only instance where a single E at the end of a word is not a 'voiceless, unstressed E' but a 'long E'
The -ES ending (indicating female) has short E:
priester ('priest') / priesteres ('priestess') - onderwijzer / onderwijzeres ('elementary school teacher, male/female') - leraar / lerares ('secondary, 'high' school teacher, male/ female') - leraren / leraressen ('secondary, 'high' school teachers, male/female') - zangeres 2 ('lady singer')
but 'dames' ('ladies') is with voiceless E - it's the plural of 'dame' ('lady') - this ES-ending is a plural with voiceless E.
The -ET ending has short E: opgelet! ('pay attention!') - loket ('office window, counter') - ballet ('ballet') - banket ('pastry; banquet') - bezet 2 ('occupied') - verzet ('resistance')
The HER- (meaning: re-) prefix has short E:
herinnering 2 ('a memory') - herhaling ('repetition') - hersenen ('the brain') - hersens ("brains") - herkennen ('to recognize') - heroverwegen 2 ('to reconsider') - herverdelen ('to (re-divide) reproportion') - herstel ('reparation, rebuilding') - hervorming 2 ('reformation') - hervormd ('reformed' - a main branch of Dutch Protestantism)
The TER- prefix has short E:
terwijl 2 ('while') - tergend ('annoyingly') - terrein 2 ('terrain') - terreur ('terror') - terrorisme ('terrorism') - terzijde ('on the side, aside') - ternauwernood ('barely, almost not')
é and è - as in French
hé ('hey!') - één ('one, 1') - café 2 ('cafe, bar') - hé jij daar! 2 3 ('hey you!' - not polite)
hè ('expression of disappointment') - carrière ('career') - misère 2 ('misery') - kassière ('cashier' - female)
The accent marks may also be used to give emphasis to a word or syllable
E before 'long A'
A few not uncommon words pronounce the E before a long A as Dutch long I, English EE: ideaal 2 ('ideal') - idealen ('ideals') - idealist ('idealist') - lineaal ('ruler' - straight lines) - linealen ('rulers' - straight lines) - also: meteoor 2 ('meteor')
French EAU - as Dutch 'long O'
bureau ('office; office desk') - bureaustoel ('office chair') - politiebureau 2 ('police station') - cadeau ('a present' - also written as: 'kado') - eau de Cologne ('Cologne' - 'inexpensive perfume') - the German city of Köln is called Keulen in Dutch
- pronounced somewhat like 'EE' and 'UW' combined
eeuw ('century') - leeuw ('lion') - meeuw ('seagull') - sneeuw ('snow') - 't sneeuwt ('it is snowing')
EU in names and words from Greek: Dutch
Zeus 2 - Orpheus 2 - eufemisme 2 ('euphemism') - euthanasie 2 ('euthanasia') - therapeut / pseudodemocratie ('therapist / pseudo-democracy')
-EUM ending in words from Latin:
long E, short U
museum ('museum') - petroleum ('petroleum') - the everyday cheap fuel / petroleum ('petroleum') - engineers' crude oil - Atheneum ('high-level High School')
In many words from French, the G is not like Dutch CH/G: energie 2 ('energy') - genie 2 ('genius' - person) - gel ('gel') - gênant ('embarrassing') - logeerkamer ('guest room') - passagier ('passenger') - slijtage ('wear and tear') - giraf ('giraffe') - corrigeren ('to correct') - marge 2 ('margin') - geste 2 ('gesture') - college ('class at college or university')
Also French OU: bougie ('spark plug') - courgette ('zucchini')
First G Dutch, second G French: garage ('car repair shop; car housing') - bagage 2 ('luggage')
A very small number of not very common words in Dutch have a 'hard' French G (very similar to G in English GO or BEGIN): guerilla 2 ('guerilla') - gouache ('gouache') - bigarreaux 2 ('candied cherries') - guillotine 2 ('guillotine') - gaullisme ('gaullism') - Grenoble ('a city in France')
French GN is pronounced as N - Consonant Y (Dutch NJ):
signaal 2 ('a signal') - signaleren 2 ('to notice') - magnifiek ("magnificent") - vignet 2 ("certificate") - appelbeignet ('a type of apple cake')
Compare with 'regular' Dutch: magneet 2 ('magnet') - Agnes (girls' name)
In the often-used, common word champignons ('button mushrooms') the NG has disappeared. With difficulty I say (exaggerated!) champiGNons
after vowels (except of course in diphthongs EI and UI) I is often pronounced as consonant Y (Dutch J)
maïs ('(Indian) corn, maize') - Thailand (to me, Dutch AI sounds very similar to English I)
- kraai 2 ('crow') - naaister ('seamstress') - zaaien ('to sow') - vlaai ('fruit pie on bread dough') - vermoeid / vermoeide ('tired') - groeien 2 3 ('to grow') - foei! 2 ('bad!' - disapproval) - hoi ('hurrah!; hello; goodbye' - slang) - kooi 2 ('cage') - hooi ('hay')
-IS ending exceptions French -IER IEUW
is pronounced like EW in English NEW (somewhat like
Dutch IE combined with
('initiative') - T of
-TIA- is pronounced
- unlike in English, K before N is pronounced
French LL - like
NG - like in English 'hanger' but not like
in 'anger' or 'danger'
NK - pronounced as NGK, like in English nylon
In a few common words the I of the -IS ending is pronounced as 'voiceless, unstressed E'
basis ('base') - kennis ('knowledge; an acquaintance') - Kerstmis 2 ('Christmas') ->> - vuilnis ('garbage') - tennis ('tennis') - kermis 2 3 ('small travelling amusement park') - Teunis (boys' name)
But, in a few words from French the I of the -IS ending is a 'long I':
gratis ('free, at no cost') - bis! ('encore!' - music)
Pronounced as English 'Yay,' Dutch 'jee'
premier ('prime minister') - compare with regular Dutch kassier ('male cashier')
nieuw ('new') - nieuwe 2 ('new') - nieuws ('news') - opnieuw 2 ('anew, again') - kieuw 2 ('gill' - fish breathing)
journalist ('reporter' - also French OU) - journaal ('TV News' - also French OU) - jam ('jelly, jam' - also English A) - jus 2 ('gravy' - also French -US ending)
knie ('knee') - knokkel ('knuckle') knal ('a bang') - knoop 2 ('button; knot') - knop 2 ('a bud') - knippen ('to cut' - with scissors) - knecht 2 ('servant') - knikkers 2 ('marbles' - glass) - kneden 2 ('to knead')
failliet 2 ('bankrupt') - faillisement 2 3 ('bankruptcy') - fouilleren 2 ('to frisk, body-search') - vanille 2 ('vanilla')
ringvinger ('ring finger') - eng ('scary, creepy') - engerd ('a creep') - lang ('long, tall') - angst ('fear, dread') - ding ('thing') - dinges ('what's-its-name, what's-his-name') - tong 2 ('tongue' - in mouth) - honger ('hunger') - gemengd 2 3 ('mixed') - helling ('slope, ramp') - verlangen 2 ('desire; to desire') - brengen 2 ('to bring' ->>)
Occasionally N and G are pronounced separately in compound words:
- aangenaam 2 ('pleasant')
bank ('bank' / 'bench') - compare with: ban ('ban') /and/ bang ('afraid')
inkt 2 ('ink') - donker 2 ('dark')
is pronounced like EW in English NEW (somewhat like
Dutch IE combined with
initiatief 2 ('initiative') - T of -TIA- is pronounced as S
- unlike in English, K before N is pronounced
French LL - like
NG - like in English 'hanger' but not like
in 'anger' or 'danger'
NK - pronounced as NGK, like in English
nylon ('nylon')- nylons ('sheer stockings') - Y pronounced as Dutch EI/IJ, somewhat imitating the English word)
(an artist's body of work) and
('maneuver' - movement) - but:
French OU - pronounced like OO (Dutch OE)
ik douche 2 ('I'm taking a shower') - blouse ('shirt') - bouillon 2 ('broth') - bouillonblokje 2 ('beef cube') - tournooi 2 ('tournament') - loupe ('small magnifying glass') - rouge 2 3 ('rouge' - make-up) - route ('route, way, course') - routine ('routine, habit') - Louis (boys' name) - zouaven ('zouaves' - volunteer soldiers for the Pope)
There have been other examples of the French OU above
portefeuille (French) ('wallet')
portemonnaie (French) ('purse')
is quite different from
At the beginning of a word, English R starts with the tongue
touching the top of the palate, and then moving down; it's a
'rolling' sound formed in the middle of the mouth.
Dutch R keeps the tongue flat, its tip touching the lower teeth, and it's formed in the back of the mouth.
Compare English and Dutch R:
's-Gravenhage 2 (the official name of the Dutch seat of government The Hague) - the G in SGR is dropped, similar to CH in SCHR. It's really exaggerated to clearly pronounce that first G: 's-GGGravenhage - the city is usually called Den Haag 2
's-Hertogenbosch (French: Bois-le-Duc - the official name of the capital of the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant 2 ) - the first H is dropped, and the old-spelling CH at the end is not pronounced - the city is usually called Den Bosch
('an orange') - the double A is usually said as 'voiceless,
It sounds weird to me to say it with
or even with 'short A'
sinaasappels ('oranges') - sinaasappelschillen ('orange peels') - sinaasappelpers ('orange juicer') - sinaasappelsap 2 ('orange juice') - een glas sinaasappelsap ('a glass of orange juice') - the word derives from China - appel ('apple')
tandarts 2 ('dentist') - a compound word, 'tooth-doctor.' You'd expect pronunciation as tanT-arts but (like in aardappel) there was an irregular syllables shift to tan-darts - also: - tandartsassistente 2 3 ('dentist's assistant' - female)
-TIE ending is pronounced:
regular, as -TEE (Dutch -tie) after S
but as -TSEE (Dutch -tsie) after vowels and N
politie 2 ('police') - combinatie 2 ('combination') - tolerantie ('tolerance')
and as -SEE (Dutch -sie) after C, P and R
reactie ('reaction') - infectie ('infection') - frictie 2 ('friction') - corruptie ('corruption') - portie 2 ('portion, serving')
But other endings like -tief, tiek, -tiel and -tier are not irregular: actief 2 ('active') - politiek ('politics') - reptiel 2 ('reptile') - kwartier ('quarter, 15 minutes') - portier 2 3 ('doorman' / 'car door')
Y is usually pronounced as I - 'long' or 'short'
according to the
symptoom ('symptom') - synthetisch ('synthetic') - hygiëne 2 3 4 ('hygiene') - lyrisch 2 ('lyrical') - exception: systeem ('system')
In a very small number of Dutch words, usually in front of a vowel, Y is like English consonant Y (Dutch J)
yoghurt 2 ('yogurt') - royaal 2 ('generous, ample') - loyaal 2 ('loyal') - loyaliteit 2 ('loyalty') - rayon 2 ("area")
'voiceless, unstressed E'
there is a little pause, no connecting consonant.
beangstigend 2 ('frightening') - denneappel 2 ('pinecone') - geavanceerd 2 ('advanced') - geëerd 2 ('honored, respected') - geïnteresseerd ('interested') - geopend ('opened, open') - beoordeling ('assesment, judgement, review') - beëindigen 2 ('to end, stop') - geuit 2 ('voiced,' "uttered")
does not end in a consonant sound (or maybe in H) and
after A before another vowel there is a short pause:
chaotisch ('chaotic') - aorta ('aorta') - naïef 2 ('naive') - astma-aanval 2 (3) ('asthma attack')
AE is either an old-fashioned spelling 'long A' or a 'long E' in words from Latin - see above
The I in AI and AAI is like 'consonant Y' (Dutch J) - saai ('boring') - see 'Consonant I' above
by itself already ends in a faint
(Dutch J) sound, which remains or becomes
more pronounced when
the 'long E' is followed by another vowel.
creatie 2 ('creation, making') - ideeën 2 ('ideas') - weeën ('contractions' - birth) - theïne 2 (=caffeine) - theorie 2 ('theory') - geoloog ('geologist')
'Long I' (also written
by itself already ends in a faint consonant Y
(Dutch J) which remains or becomes more
pronounced when 'long I' is followed
by a vowel or diphtong
piano ('piano') - via ('via, by way of') - ammoniak ('ammonia') - triviaal 2 ('trivial')
exception: in many common words with -CIA- the I has become a consonant-Y (Dutch J): speciaal 2 ('special') - specialiteit ('specialty') - sociaal ('social') - asociaal 2 ('anti-social') - socialisme ('socialism')
- but a less common word still has IyA: cruciaal ('very important')
- dieet 2 ('diet') - De Geallieerden 2 ('The WWII Allies') - drieëenheid 2 ('trinity') - drieëneenhalf 2 ('3½') - 'Ons Indië' ('Our India' - the Indonesia of the Dutch colonial era.)
efficiënt ('efficient') has a similar change to 'consonant I' as the -CIA- examples above - compare with: ingrediënt ('ingredient')
- pion ('a pawn') - idioot 2 ('idiot; idiotic') - riool 2 ('sewer') - radio 2 ('radio') - bioloog ('biologist') - prioriteit ('priority')
exception: ion ('ion') / ionen ('ions') - here, I is pronounced as consonant Y; also note that O is short in the singular and long in the plural, very unusual for a 'modern' word
- kalium ('Potassium') - natrium ('Sodium') - jodium ('Iodine') - many more examples of IU in chemistry
- miauw ('meow') - poezen/katten miauwen: 'miauw' ('cats meow: "meow"')
- superieur ('superior') - inferieur ('inferior') - ingenieur ('engineer' - note G pronounced like Z) - ingenieus 2 ('ingenious, technically clever') - serieus ('serious') - furieus ('furious, very angry') - ambitieus ('ambitious' - T pronounced as TS) - religieus ('religious') - curieus 2 ('strange, odd, makes you wonder')
already ends in a faint Dutch W sound
which remains or becomes more pronounced when O is followed by
another vowel. There may be a short pause after the W-sound.
zoals 2 ('like, as') - oase ('oasis') - Joannes (a boys' name) - zoëven 2 3 ('a moment ago') - in the latest spelling reform this was changed to 'zoeven.'
It actually doesn't make much difference if the W is written. Compare with: zowaar 2 3 ('~actually') - zowel 2 ('both, each') - also compare: Johannes 2 (a boys' name)
does not end in a vowel sound, or maybe in a faint H, but when
connecting to another vowel a Dutch W is
inserted. There is barely a difference in sound when this W is written
First compare: U ('you' - polite) / Uw ('your' - polite)
situatie ('situation') - januari ('January') - duel ('duel') - minuet ('minuet') - duo 2 ('duo') - ritueel ('ritual; a ritual') - compare with written W: fluweel ('velvet') - juweel 2 ('jewel')
AU and OU
are two ways to write the same diphthong
- which by itself already ends in a faint Dutch W-sound
that remains or gets stronger when followed by another vowel,
although I can only think of one example. Both AU
and OU are also often followed by W in writing.
jou 2 ('you') ->> and - jouw ('your') sound very alike.
au! ('ouch!') - nou ('now') - pauw 2 ('peacock') - mouw ('sleeve') - jijen en jouen (addressing each other in an informal manner, 'on a first-name basis')
Not to be confused with OU in words from French.
EI and IJ represent the same diphthong
which by itself already ends in a
a faint 'consonant Y'
(Dutch J) sound that may get more
pronounced when connecting EI or IJ with a
beiaard 2 ('church bells player') - compare with: - bejaard 2 ('over 65')
eieren ('eggs') - heiig (heiïg) ('hazy') vrij / vrijer ('free / more free') - dij / dijen ('thigh / thighs') - zijig ('silky, slimy' - person)
by itself ends in a Dutch W-sound but it
connects to a following vowel with a consonant Y
The only example I can think of: - smeuïg 2 ('appetizing food (or a story) that goes down easily')
Not to be confused with French EUILLE
by itself is followed by a very faint
koe ('cow') - gedoe 2 ("doing," 'hassle')
OE is often followed by I, turning that I into 'Consonant I' - groei 2 ('growth') - koeien ('cows') - moeilijk ('difficult') - but I cannot think of a good example of OE connecting with another vowel. - uilen roepen 'oehoe' ("owls call 'oohoo'" 'owls hoot')
by itself ends in a Dutch W-sound, but when connecting UI with
another vowel, a consonant Y
(Dutch J) is inserted and W is dropped.
Listen again to the 'trema' examples above for more connecting and not-connecting
vowels and diphthongs.
- ui 2 ('onion') / uien ('onions')
- lui / luie ('lazy')
- luiaard 2 3 ('sloth' - animal)
Unlike in English, almost all letters of a word that are written are
pronounced, but occasionally a consonant in a row of three or four is
B in MBT: ambtenaar ('civil servant, government worker') - beambte ('an official')
T in CHTJ: zachtjes ('softly') - nichtje ('cousin (female); niece') - luchtje ('a smell; something fishy')
T in STJ: nestje ('a bird's nest') - feestje 2 ('small party') - kastje ('small cabinet') - worstjes ('small sausages')
T in STZ: postzegel ('stamp' - mail) - postzegels ('stamps')
It's just too much mouth gymnastics to commonly say: pos-t-zegel 2 or: toch-t-je
final N's: Many people in Holland do not pronounce the N's at the end of verbs and plurals, but I do not recommend you do that too, dear students. You have to write those N's anyway so it would just add a rule, make Dutch less phonetic
Listen again to the 'trema' examples above for more connecting and not-connecting vowels and diphthongs.