This page uses content from Wikipedia and is licensed under CC BY-SA.

Dutch phonology

Dutch phonology is similar to that of other West Germanic languages.

While the spelling of Dutch is officially standardised by an international organisation (the Dutch Language Union), the pronunciation has no official standard and relies on a de facto standard documented in reference works such as The Phonetics of English and Dutch by Beverley Collins and Inger M. Mees,[1] The Phonology of Dutch by Geert Booij,[2] Dutch by Carlos Gussenhoven,[3] Belgian Standard Dutch by Jo Verhoeven[4] or pronunciation dictionaries such as Uitspraakwoordenboek ("Pronunciation Dictionary") by Josée Heemskerk and Wim Zonneveld.[5]

Standard Dutch has two main de facto pronunciation standards: Northern and Belgian. Northern Standard Dutch is the most prestigious accent in the Netherlands. It is associated with high status, education and wealth. Even though its speakers seem to be concentrated in the provinces of North Holland, South Holland and Utrecht (especially in the Randstad), it cannot be considered a regional dialect. It is often impossible to tell where its speakers were born or brought up. Belgian Standard Dutch is used by the vast majority of Flemish journalists, which is why it is sometimes called VRT-Nederlands ("VRT Dutch"; formerly BRT-Nederlands "BRT Dutch"), after VRT, the national public-service broadcaster for the Flemish Region.[6][7]


The following table shows the consonant phonemes of Dutch:

Labial Alveolar Post-
Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k (ʔ)
voiced b d (ɡ)
Fricative voiceless f s (ʃ) x
voiced v z (ʒ) ɣ ɦ
Approximant ʋ l j
Rhotic r


  • The glottal stop [ʔ] is inserted before vowel-initial syllables within words after /aː/ and /ə/ and often also at the beginning of a word.
  • Apart from /r/, all alveolar consonants are laminal[8][9] and can be realized as denti-alveolar in Belgium.
  • /b/ and /d/ are fully voiced.[8]
  • /ɡ/ is not a native phoneme of Dutch and occurs only in borrowed words, like goal. In native words, [ɡ] occurs as an allophone of /k/ when it undergoes voicing assimilation, like in zakdoek [ˈzɑɡduk].
  • In the north, /ɣ/ often devoices and merges with /x/; the quality of that merged sound has been variously described as:
    • Voiceless post-velar trill fricative [ʀ̝̊˖] which, before /j/, can be fronted to [ç];[10]
    • Voiceless post-velar [] or uvular [χ] fricative.[11]
  • In the south, the distinction between /x/ and /ɣ/ is generally preserved as velar [x, ɣ] or post-palatal [, ɣ˖].[11][12][13] Some southern speakers may alternate between the velar and post-palatal articulation, depending on the backness of the preceding or succeeding vowel. Velar, post-velar and uvular variants are called harde g "hard g", while the post-palatal variants are called zachte g "soft g". There is also a third variant called zwakke harde g "weak hard g", in which /ɣ/ is realized as [ɦ] and /x/ is realized as [h] and is used in Zeeland and West Flanders, which are h-dropping areas, so that /ɦ/ does not merge with glottal variants of /ɣ/ and /x/.
  • In the Netherlands, /v/ can devoice and merge with /f/.[11][14] According to Collins & Mees (2003), there are hardly any speakers of Northern Standard Dutch who consistently contrast /v/ with /f/.[14]
  • In low-prestige varieties of Netherlandic Dutch (such as the Amsterdam accent)[14] also /z/ can devoice and merge with /s/.[11][14]
  • Speakers who devoice /v/ and /z/ may also hypercorrectively voice /f/ and /s/: concert "concert" may thus be [kɔnˈzɛrt] compared to the more usual [kɔnˈsɛrt].
  • Some speakers pronounce /ɦ/ as a voiceless [h]. Some dialects, particularly those from the southwest, exhibit h-dropping.
  • In the Netherlands, /s/ and /z/ may have only mid-to-low pitched friction, and for many Netherlandic speakers, they are retracted. In Belgium, they are more similar to English /s, z/.[8][15]
  • The sequences /sj/ and /zj/ are often assimilated to palatalised [sʲ, zʲ], alveolo-palatal [ɕ, ʑ], postalveolar [ʃ, ʒ] or similar realisations.
  • Before /j/, /k/ is realized as a voiceless post-palatal affricate [c̠͡ç̠].[16]
  • The sequences /tj/ and /dj/ are assimilated to [ç] intervocalically and after /n/ unless they're at the beginning of a stressed syllable, barring loanwords and some names.
  • /ʃ, ʒ/ are not native phonemes of Dutch and usually occur only in borrowed words, like show and bagage "baggage". Depending on the speaker and the position in the word, they may or may not be distinct from the assimilated realisations of the clusters /sj, zj/. If they are not distinct, they will have the same range of realisations noted above.


  • /m/ and /n/ assimilate their articulation to a following obstruent in many cases:
    • Both become [m] before /p, b/, and [ɱ] before /f, v/.
    • /n/ merges into /ŋ/ before velars (/k, ɡ, x, ɣ/). The realisation of /ŋ/, in turn, depends on how a following velar fricative is realised. For example, it will be uvular [ɴ] for speakers who realise /x, ɣ/ as uvulars.
    • /n/ is realised as [ɲ] before /j/.[8] That occurs also before /ʃ/ or /ʒ/ and, under assimilation, before /sj/ and /zj/.
  • The exact pronunciation of /l/ varies regionally:
    • In the North, /l/ is 'clear' before vowels and 'dark' before consonants and pauses. Intervocalic /l/ tends to be clear except after the open back vowels /ɔ, ɑ/. However, some speakers use the dark variant in all intervocalic contexts.[17]
    • Some accents, such as the Amsterdam and the Rotterdam ones, have dark /l/ in all positions. Conversely, some accents in the eastern regions, along the German border (for example around Nijmegen), as well as some Standard Belgian speakers, have clear /l/ in all contexts.[17]
    • The quality of dark /l/ varies; in the North it is pharyngealized [lˤ], but in a final position, many speakers produce a strongly pharyngealized vocoid with no alveolar contact ([ɤˤ]) instead. In Belgium, it is either velarized [lˠ] or post-palatalized [lʲ̠].[18]
  • The realization of /r/ phoneme varies considerably from dialect to dialect and even between speakers in the same dialect area:
    • The historically original pronunciation is an alveolar trill [r], with the alveolar tap [ɾ] as a common allophone.
    • The uvular trill [ʀ] is a common alternative, found particularly in the central and southern dialect areas. Uvular pronunciations appear to be gaining ground in the Randstad.[19] Syllable-finally, it may be debuccalized to [ɐ], much as in German. This is more common in the (south)eastern areas (Limburg, southeast Brabantian, Overijssel).
    • The coastal dialects of South Holland produce a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ].
    • The retroflex approximant [ɻ] or "bunched approximant" is found at the end of a syllable by some speakers in the Netherlands, especially those from the Randstad, but not in Belgium. Its use has been increasing in recent years.[20]
  • The realization of /ʋ/ also varies by area (and less so by speaker):
    • The main realisation is a labiodental approximant [ʋ], found in central and northern Netherlands.[21]
    • Speakers in southern Netherlands and Belgium use a bilabial approximant [β̞].[21] It is like [w] but without velarization.
    • In Suriname and among immigrant populations, [w] is usual.[citation needed][clarification needed]
  • An epenthetic [ə] may be inserted between /l, r/ and word-final /m, n, p, k, f, x/. Thus melk /mɛlk/ "milk" may be pronounced [ˈmɛlək]. This may extend to compounds, e.g. melkboer [ˈmɛləkbuːr] "milkman". Although this pronunciation is mistakenly thought of as non-standard, it is found in all types of Dutch, including the standard varieties. There is also another type of [ə]-insertion that occurs word-medially (e.g. helpen [ˈɦɛləpə] "to help"), which is considered non-standard.[22]

In many areas the final 'n' of the ending -en (originally /ən/, with a variety of meanings) is pronounced only when a word is being individually stressed; this makes -en words homophonous with otherwise identical forms ending in -e alone. The -n is dropped both word-finally and, in compound words, word-internally. This pronunciation can be morphologically sensitive and serve to distinguish words, since the -n is dropped only when it is part of the distinct ending -en and not when the word consists of an indivisible stem which happens to end in -en. Thus, the teken of ik teken ('I draw') always retains its -n because it is part of an indivisible stem whereas in teken ('ticks') it is dropped because it is part of a plural ending. Such pairs (teken = 'draw'; teken = 'ticks') are therefore not homophones in dialects that drop -n, despite being written identically.

Final -n is retained in the North East (Low Saxon) and the South West (East and West Flemish), where it is the schwa that disappears instead. This creates a syllabic [n] or (after velars) syllabic [ŋ] sounds: laten [ˈlaːtn̩]; maken [ˈmaːkŋ̍]. Some Low Saxon dialects that have uvular pronunciations of /ɣ/ and /x/ (or one of them) also have a syllabic uvular nasal, like in lagen and/or lachen [ˈlaːχɴ̩]

Final devoicing and assimilation

Dutch devoices all obstruents at the ends of words, as is partly reflected in the spelling. The voiced "z" in plural huizen [ˈɦœy̑zə] becomes huis [ɦœy̑s] ('house') in singular. Also, duiven [ˈdœy̑və] becomes duif [dœy̑f] ('dove'). The other cases are always written with the voiced consonant, but a devoiced one is actually pronounced: the "d" in plural baarden [ˈbaːrdə] is retained in singular spelling baard ('beard'), but the pronunciation of the latter is [baːrt], and plural ribben [ˈrɪbə] has singular rib ('rib'), pronounced [rɪp].

Because of assimilation, the initial /v z ɣ/ of the next word is often also devoiced: het vee ('the cattle') is [(ɦ)ət feː]. The opposite may be true for other consonants: ik ben ('I am') [ɪg bɛn].

Example words for consonants

Consonants with example words
Phoneme Phonetic IPA Orthography English translation
p About this sound [pɛn] pen 'pen'
b About this sound [bit] biet 'beetroot'
t About this sound [tɑk] tak 'branch'
d About this sound [dɑk] dak 'roof'
k About this sound [kɑt] kat 'cat'
ɡ About this sound [ɡoːl] goal 'goal'
f About this sound [fits] fiets 'bicycle'
v About this sound [vɛif] vijf 'five'
s About this sound [sɔk] sok 'sock'
z About this sound [zeɪ̯p] zeep 'soap'
ʃ About this sound [ʃɛf] chef 'chief'
ʒ About this sound [ʒyːri] jury 'jury'
x About this sound [ɑxt]
About this sound [ɑx̟t]
acht (north)
acht (south)
ɣ About this sound [ˌsɛrtoːɣənˈbɔs]
About this sound [χeːu]
About this sound [ɣ̟eːβ̞]
geeuw (north)
geeuw (Belgium)
ɦ About this sound [ɦut] hoed 'hat'
m About this sound [mɛns] mens 'human'
n About this sound [nɛk] nek 'neck'
ŋ About this sound [ɛŋ] eng 'scary'
l About this sound [lɑnt]
About this sound [ɡoːɫ]
r About this sound [rɑt]
About this sound [ʀɑt]
About this sound [peˈɾu]
About this sound [ˈneɪ̯dəˌlɑndəɹs]
About this sound [ˈʝɪːʁt ˈbuʁʒwa]
Nederlanders (north)
Geert Bourgeois (Belgium)
'Geert Bourgeois'
ʋ About this sound [ʋɑŋ]
About this sound [β̞ɑŋ]
About this sound [bəˈβ̞ɪːrɪŋ]
wang (north)
wang (Belgium)
bewering (Belgium)
j About this sound [jɑs] jas 'coat'


Dutch has an extensive vowel inventory consisting of at least twelve plain vowels and at least three diphthongs. Vowels can be grouped as back rounded, front unrounded and front rounded. They are also traditionally distinguished by length or tenseness. The vowels /eː, øː, oː/ are included in the diphthong chart further below because many dialects realize them as diphthongs, but they behave phonologically like the other long monophthongs.


Monophthongs of Northern Standard Dutch, from Gussenhoven (1999:76)
Monophthongs of Belgian Standard Dutch, from Verhoeven (2005:245)
Dutch allophones of unrounded monophthongs, from Collins & Mees (2003:92, 130, 132, 134). Black vowels occur before /r/ in Northern Standard Dutch and Randstad Dutch, and the red vowel occurs before the dark /l/.[23]
Dutch allophones of rounded monophthongs, from Collins & Mees (2003:92, 130, 132, 134). Black vowels occur before /r/ in Northern Standard Dutch and Randstad Dutch, and the blue vowel occurs before /ŋ/.[24]

Vowel length is not always considered a distinctive feature in Dutch phonology, because it normally co-occurs with changes in vowel quality. One feature or the other may be considered redundant, and some phonemic analyses prefer to treat it as an opposition of tenseness. However, even if not considered part of the phonemic opposition, the long/tense vowels are still realised as phonetically longer than their short counterparts. The changes in vowel quality are also not always the same in all dialects, and in some dialects, there may be little difference at all, with length remaining the primary distinguishing feature. Although older words always pair vowel length with a change in vowel quality, new loanwords have reintroduced phonemic oppositions of length. Compare zonne(n) /ˈzɔnə(n)/ ('suns') versus zone /ˈzɔːnə/ ('zone') versus zonen /ˈzoːnə(n)/ ('sons'), or kroes /krus/ ('mug') versus cruise /kruːs/ ('cruise').

Short/lax vowels
Front Central Back
unr. rnd.
Close ɪ ʏ
Mid ɛ (ə) ɔ
Open ɑ
Long/tense vowels
Front Back
unr. rnd.
Close i, () y, () u, ()
Close-mid øː
Open-mid (ɛː) (œː) (ɔː)

Close vowels

The distinction between short /i, y, u/ and long /iː, yː, uː/ is very slight, and it may be considered allophonic for most purposes. In most environments except before /r/, most dialects realise them as short vowels. However, some recent loanwords have introduced distinctively long /iː, yː, uː/, making the length distinction marginally phonemic.

Before /r/, /i, y, u/ become [iə̯, yə̯, uə̯] or are allophonically lengthened to [iː, yː, uː].

Mid vowels

/eː, øː, oː/ are often realized as narrow diphthongs [eɪ̯, øʏ̯, oʊ̯]. Dialects which use monophthongal pronunciations [eː, øː, oː] in all or most positions include most eastern and southern Netherlandic ones, Standard Belgian and also many other Belgian accents.

  • Certain dialects of southern Holland have a more central starting position of these diphthongs, tending towards [əɪ̯, əʏ̯, əʊ̯].
  • Before /r/, they are commonly raised to near-close [ɪː, ʏː, ʊː] or converted to centering diphthongs [eə̯, øə̯, oə̯] or [ɪə̯, ʏə̯, ʊə̯], depending on the dialect. Some speakers may not have such allophones at all, and pronounce [eː, øː, oː] in every position. Some, particularly Netherlandic speakers have similar allophones before coda /l/, while others may maintain a long monophthong or even the usual closing diphthongs before /l/.

Several dialects have retained the distinction between the so-called "sharp-long" and "soft-long" e and o, a distinction that dates to early Middle Dutch. The sharp-long varieties originate from the Old Dutch long ē and ō (Proto-Germanic ai and au), while the soft-long varieties arose from short i/e and u/o that were lengthened in open syllables in early Middle Dutch. The distinction is not preserved in most modern Standard Dutch pronunciations and is not recognised in educational materials, but it is still present in many non-standard local dialects, such as Antwerpian, West Flemish and Zealandic. In these dialects, the sharp-long vowels are often opening diphthongs such as [ɪə̯, ʊə̯], while the soft-long vowels are either plain monophthongs [eː, oː] or slightly closing [eɪ̯, oʊ̯].

The long open-mid vowels /ɛː, œː, ɔː/ occur only in a handful of loanwords, mostly from French. /œː/ is extremely rare, and the only words of any frequency in which it occurs are oeuvre About this sound [ˈœːvrə], manoeuvre About this sound [maˈnœːvrə] and freule. In the more common words, /ɛː/ tends to be replaced with the native /ɛ/, whereas /ɔː/ can be replaced by either /ɔ/ or /oː/ (Belgians typically select the latter).[25]

Open vowels

In Northern Standard Dutch and some other accents, /ɑ, aː/ are realised so that the former is a back vowel [ɑ], whereas the latter is central [äː] or front [].[26][27] Other accents may have different realisations:

  • Many accents (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Antwerp) realize this pair with 'inverted' backness, so that /ɑ/ is central [ä] (or, in the case of Utrecht, even front [a]), whereas /aː/ is closer to cardinal [ɑː].[28]
  • Outside the Randstad, fronting of /ɑ/ to central [ä] is very common, and it occurs in at least some speakers of Belgian Standard Dutch. On the other hand, in Rotterdam and Leiden, the short /ɑ/ sounds even darker than the Standard Northern realization, being realized as a fully back and raised open vowel, unrounded [ɑ̝] or rounded [ɒ̝].[29]
  • In Groningen, /aː/ tends to be particularly front, similar to the quality of the cardinal vowel [], whereas in The Hague and in the affected Standard Northern accent, /aː/ may be raised and fronted to [æː], particularly before /r/.[30]


Diphthongs of Northern Standard Dutch, from Gussenhoven (1999:76)
Diphthongs of Belgian Standard Dutch, from Verhoeven (2005:245)
Dutch tense backing diphthongs, from Collins & Mees (2003:137)
Dutch tense fronting diphthongs, from Collins & Mees (2003:137)

Dutch also has several diphthongs. All of them end in a non-syllabic close vowel [i̯, y̑, u̯], but they may begin with a variety of other vowels. They are grouped here by their former element.

Short/lax diphthongs
Front Back
unr. rnd.
Mid ɛi̯ œy̑ (ɔi̯)
Open ɑu̯ (ɑi̯)
Long/tense diphthongs
Front Back
unr. rnd.
Close iu̯ yu̯ ui̯
Mid eːu̯ oːi̯
Open aːi̯
  • /ɛi̯, œy̑, ɑu̯/ are the most common diphthongs and commonly the only ones considered "true" phonemes in Dutch. /ɑi̯, ɔi̯/ are rare and occur only in a few words.
  • The "long/tense" diphthongs are generally analysed phonemically as a long/tense vowel followed by a glide /j/ or /ʋ/, in which the latter has the allophone [w] between vowels, and [u̯] between a vowel and a consonant. Thus, what is underlyingly /eːʋ/ is realised on the surface as [eːw] or [eːu̯] and likewise for the others.
  • The first element of /ɛi̯/ is pronounced more open than the short vowel /ɛ/ by many speakers and so it may be more accurately transcribed as [ɛ̞i̯]. For some Netherlandic speakers, it may be as open as [æi̯] or even [ai̯].[31] On the other hand, the Brabantian subdialect of Antwerp realises /ɛi̯/ as [aə̯].[32] Many Belgians tend to monophthongize it [ɛ̞ː].
  • In most of the northern areas, /œy̑/ is pronounced with an unrounded onset ([ʌ̈y̑]).[33] Some people in Belgium pronounce a monophthong [œː] instead. Before a vowel and sometimes also word-finally, a glide is added as final element: [œy̑j] or [œj].
  • The first element of /ɑu̯/ is often raised by many speakers. In Belgium, a common pronunciation is [ɔu̯], but the first element is more open: [ɔ̞u̯]. Many Belgians tend to monophthongize it to [ɔ̞ː]. In the North, it is generally unrounded, giving [ʌu̯]. In some areas, particularly in North and South Holland, the first element may be fully open [au̯].[31]
  • The first element of the long mid diphthongs /eːu̯, oːi̯/ may be raised or lowered: [ɪːu̯] and [ɔːi̯] respectively. However, not all speakers do this. Speakers who diphthongise /eː, oː/ sometimes also do it to the diphthong, resulting in a falling triphthong with two closing elements: [eɪ̯u̯, oʊ̯i̯] or the more centralised [əɪ̯u̯, əʊ̯i̯].

Example words for vowels and diphthongs

Vowels with example words
Phoneme Phonetic IPA Orthography English translation
ɪ About this sound [kɪp] kip 'chicken'
i About this sound [bit] biet 'beetroot'
About this sound [diːr]
About this sound [ɑnɑˈliːzə]
ʏ About this sound [ɦʏt] hut 'cabin'
y About this sound [fyt] fuut 'grebe'
About this sound [dyːr] duur 'expensive'
u About this sound [ɦut] hoed 'hat'
About this sound [buːr]
About this sound [kruːs]
ɛ About this sound [bɛt] bed 'bed'
ɛː About this sound [blɛːr] blèr 'yell'
About this sound [beɪt]
About this sound [beːt]
beet (north)
beet (Belgium)
ə About this sound [də] de 'the'
œː About this sound [ˈœːvrə] oeuvre 'oeuvre'
øː About this sound [nøʏs]
About this sound [nøːs]
neus (north)
neus (Belgium)
ɔ About this sound [bɔt] bot 'bone'
ɔː About this sound [ˈrɔːzə] roze 'pink'
About this sound [boʊt]
About this sound [boːt]
boot (north)
boot (Belgium)
ɑ About this sound [bɑt] bad 'bath'
About this sound [zaːt] zaad 'seed'
ɛi About this sound [ɑrχənˈtɛ̞i̯n]
About this sound [ɑrʝənˈtɛin]
Argentijn (north)
Argentijn (Belgium)
œy About this sound [ɐyt]
About this sound [œy]
ɑu About this sound [fɑut]
About this sound [fɔut]
fout (South Holland - coastal)
fout (Belgium)
ɑi About this sound [ɑi] ai 'ouch'
ɔi About this sound [ɦɔi] hoi 'hi'
iu About this sound [niu] nieuw 'new'
yu About this sound [dyu] duw 'push'
ui About this sound [ɣrui] groei 'growth'
eːu About this sound [leːu] leeuw 'lion'
oːi About this sound [moːi] mooi 'nice'
aːi About this sound [ɦaːi] haai 'shark'


Most native Germanic words (the bulk of the core vocabulary) are stressed on the root syllable, which is usually the first syllable of the word. Germanic words may also be stressed on the second or later syllable if certain unstressed prefixes are added (particularly in verbs). Non-root stress is common in loanwords, which are generally borrowed with the stress placement unchanged. In polysyllabic words, secondary stress may also be present. Certain prefixes and suffixes will receive secondary stress: /ˌvoːrˈkoːmə(n)/, /ˈʋeːrˌloːs/. The stressed syllable of a word receive secondary stress within a compound word: /ˈbɔmˌmɛldɪŋ/, /ˈɑlkoːɦɔl pɛrsɛnˌtaːʒə/.

The vast majority of compound nouns are stressed on the first element: appeltaart /ˈɑpəlˌtaːrt/, luidspreker /ˈlœytˌspreːkər/.[34][Please elaborate on exceptions]

While stress is phonemic, minimal pairs are rare,[26] and marking the stress in written Dutch is always optional, but it is sometimes recommended to distinguish homographs that differ only in stress. The most common practice is to distinguish een (indefinite article, which, as a clitic, bears no stress) from één (the cardinal number one).[35] It also distinguishes some verbs, as stress placement on prefixes also carries a grammatical distinction, such as in vóórkomen ('to occur') and voorkómen ('to prevent'). In vóórkomen and other verbs with a stressed prefix, the prefix is separable and separates as kom voor in the first-person singular present, with the past participle vóórgekomen. On the other hand, verbs with an unstressed prefix are not separable: voorkómen becomes voorkóm in the first-person singular present, and voorkómen in the past participle, without the past participle prefix ge-.

Dutch has a strong stress accent like other Germanic languages, and it uses stress timing because of its relatively complex syllable structure. It has a preference for trochaic rhythm, with relatively stronger and weaker stress alternating between syllables in such a way that syllables with stronger stress are produced at a more or less constant pace. Generally, every alternate syllable before and after the primary stress will receive relative stress, as far secondary stress placements allow: Wá.gə.nì.ngən. Relative stress preferably does not fall on /ə/ so syllables containing /ə/ may disrupt the trochaic rhythm. To restore the pattern, vowels are often syncopated in speech: kín.də.rən > /ˈkɪn.drə(n)/, há.ri.ngən > /ˈɦaːr.ŋə(n)/, vər.gə.líj.king > /vər.ˈɣlɛi.kɪŋ/. In words for which the secondary stress is imposed lexically onto the syllable immediately following the stressed syllable, a short pause is often inserted after the stressed syllable to maintain the rhythm to ensure that the stressed syllable has more or less equal length to the trochaic unit following it: bóm..mèl.ding, wéér..lò.zə.

Historically, the stress accent has reduced most vowels in unstressed syllables to [ə], as in most other Germanic languages. This process is still somewhat productive, and it is common to reduce vowels to [ə] in syllables carrying neither primary nor secondary stress, particularly in syllables that are relatively weakly stressed due to the trochaic rhythm. Weakly stressed long vowels may also be shortened without any significant reduction in vowel quality. For example, politie (phonemically /poːˈlitsi/) may be pronounced [poˈli(t)si], [pəˈli(t)si] or even [ˈpli(t)si].


The syllable structure of Dutch is (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C)(C). Many words, as in English, begin with three consonants such as straat (street). Words that end in four consonants are mostly superlative adjectives.

Historic sound changes

Dutch (with the exception of the Limburg dialects) did not participate in the second Germanic consonant shift except for the last stage:

  • /-k-/ > /-x-/: German machen vs. Dutch About this sound maken , English make
  • /-p-/ > /-f-/: German Schaf vs. Dutch About this sound schaap , English sheep
  • /-t-/ > /-s-/: German Wasser vs. Dutch About this sound water , English water
  • /-θ-/ > /-d-/: German das, Dutch About this sound dat  vs. English that

Dutch generalised the fricative variety of Proto-Germanic */ɡ/ as [ɣ] or [ʝ], in contrast with German, which generalised the stop [ɡ], and English, which lost the fricative variety through regular sound changes.

Dutch also underwent a few changes on its own:

  • Words with -old, -olt or -ald and -alt lost the /l/ in favor of a diphthong as a result of l-vocalisation. Compare English old, German alt, Dutch About this sound oud .
  • /ft/ changed to /xt/ (phonetically [χt ~ xt ~ x̟t]), spelled ⟨cht⟩, but it was later reverted in many words by analogy with other forms. Compare English loft, German Luft, Dutch lucht (pronounced About this sound [lʏxt]  or About this sound [lʏx̟t] ).
  • Proto-Germanic */uː/ turned into /yː/ through palatalisation, which, in turn, became the diphthong About this sound /œy/ , spelled ⟨ui⟩. Long */iː/ also diphthongised to About this sound /ɛi/ , spelled ⟨ij⟩.


The sample text is a reading of the first sentence of The North Wind and the Sun.

Standard Northern

The phonetic transcription illustrates a Western Netherlandic, educated, middle-generation speech and a careful colloquial style.[26]

Orthographic version

De noordenwind en de zon hadden een discussie over de vraag wie van hun tweeën de sterkste was, toen er juist iemand voorbijkwam die een dikke, warme jas aanhad.[26]

Phonemic transcription

/də ˈnoːrdənʋɪnt ɛn də ˈzɔn | ɦɑdə(n) ən dɪsˈkʏsi oːvər də ˈvraːx | ˈʋi vɑn ɦʏn ˈtʋeːən də ˈstɛrkstə ʋɑs | tun ɛr ˈjœy̑st imɑnt voːrˈbɛi̯ kʋɑm | di ən ˈdɪkə ˈʋɑrmə ˈjɑs aːnɦɑt/

Phonetic transcription

[də ˈnoə̯ɾdəʋɪnt ɛn də ˈzɔn | ɦɑdə ən dɪsˈkʏsi oʊ̯vəɾ də ˈfɾaːχ | ˈʋi fɑn ɦʏn ˈtʋeɪ̯ə də ˈstɛɾəkstə ʋɑs | tun əɾ ˈjœy̑st imɑnt foə̯ɾˈbɛi̯ kʋɑm | di ən ˈdɪkə ˈʋɑɾmə ˈjɑs aːnɦɑt][36]

Standard Belgian

The phonetic transcription illustrates the speech of "a highly educated 45-year-old male who speaks Belgian Dutch with a very slight regional Limburg accent." Sentence stress is not transcribed.[37]

Orthographic version

De noordenwind en de zon waren ruzie aan het maken over wie het sterkste was toen er een reiziger voorbij kwam met een warme jas aan.[37]

Phonemic transcription

/də noːrdənʋɪnt ɛn də zɔn | ʋaːrən ryzi aːn ət maːkən | oːvər ʋi ɦɛt stɛrkstə ʋɑs | tun ɛr ən rɛi̯zɪɣər voːrbɛi̯ kʋɑm mɛt ən ʋɑrmə jɑs aːn/

Phonetic transcription

[də noːʀdəwɪntˢ ʔɛn də zɔn | waːʀə ʀyzi aːn ət maːkə | ʔoːvər wi ɦət stɛʀkstə wɑs | tun əʀ ən ʀɛi̯zɪɣəʀ voːʀbɛi̯ kwɑm mɛt ən wɑʀmə jɑzaːn][37]

See also


  1. ^ Collins & Mees (2003).
  2. ^ Booij (1999).
  3. ^ Gussenhoven (1999).
  4. ^ Verhoeven (2005).
  5. ^ Heemskerk & Zonneveld (2000).
  6. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 4–5.
  7. ^ "VRT-Nederlands". ANW (Algemeen Nederlands Woordenboek) (in Dutch). Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d Gussenhoven (1999), p. 75.
  9. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 189–202.
  10. ^ Collins & Mees (2003:191–192). The source says that the main allophone of this sound is a fricative with a "very energetic articulation with considerable scrapiness", i.e. a trill fricative.
  11. ^ a b c d Gussenhoven (1999), p. 74.
  12. ^ Verhoeven (2005), pp. 243, 245.
  13. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 191–192.
  14. ^ a b c d Collins & Mees (2003), p. 48.
  15. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 190.
  16. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 193.
  17. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), p. 197.
  18. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 58, 197, 222.
  19. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 209.
  20. ^ Sebregts (2014), pp. 196–198.
  21. ^ a b Booij (1999), p. 8.
  22. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 197–198, 201.
  23. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 92, 130, 132, 234.
  24. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 98, 130, 132, 234.
  25. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 137–138.
  26. ^ a b c d Gussenhoven (1999), p. 76.
  27. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 104, 128, 132–133.
  28. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 131, 133.
  29. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 132.
  30. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 133.
  31. ^ a b Stroop (1999).
  32. ^ Camerman (2007), p. 24.
  33. ^ Rietveld & van Heuven (2009), p. 70.
  34. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 237–238.
  35. ^ The current collection at nl.wiktionary
  36. ^ Source: Gussenhoven (1999:76). Close-mid vowels are transcribed as diphthongs according to the same page.
  37. ^ a b c Verhoeven (2005), p. 247.


  • Booij, Geert (1999). The Phonology of Dutch. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-823869-X. 
  • Camerman, Filip (2007). Antwerps schrijven (in Dutch). Uitgeverij De Vries - Brouwers. pp. 19–24. ISBN 9789059271753. 
  • Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003) [First published 1981]. The Phonetics of English and Dutch (PDF) (5th ed.). Leiden: Brill Publishers. ISBN 9004103406. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 December 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos (1999). "Dutch". Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 74–77. ISBN 0-521-65236-7. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  • Heemskerk, Josée; Zonneveld, Wim (2000). Uitspraakwoordenboek (in Dutch). Utrecht: Het Spectrum. ISBN 90-274-4482-X. 
  • Rietveld, Antonius C.M.; van Heuven, Vincent J. (2009) [First published 1997]. Algemene Fonetiek (in Dutch) (3rd ed.). Bussum: Uitgeverij Coutinho. ISBN 978-90-469-0163-2. 
  • Sebregts, Koen (2014). The Sociophonetics and Phonology of Dutch r (PDF) (dissertation). Utrecht: LOT. ISBN 978-94-6093-161-1. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  • Stroop, Jan (1999). Young Women's Farewell to Standard Dutch. Conference on Methods in Dialectology. St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2017. 
  • Verhoeven, Jo (2005). "Belgian Standard Dutch". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 35 (2): 243–247. doi:10.1017/S0025100305002173. 

Further reading

External links

Media related to Dutch pronunciation at Wikimedia Commons