Wednesday, September 17, 2008

a comparison of numbers in Dutch and Afrikaans

Afrikaans is a language which is descended from the Boers, the Dutch settlers of the south of Africa. Though similar to Dutch, it is sufficiently different to be classified as a separate language. The similarity between the two languages can be seen in the numbers from one to ten. Here they are:

Dutch Afrikaans

een een
twee twee
drie drie
vier vier
vijf vyf
zes ses
zeven sewe
acht agt
negen nege
tien tien

The words for "one", "two", "three", "four" and "ten" are identical. The others are very similar and show differences in the spelling systems of both languages.

The Dutch diphthong "ij" as "ijs" (ice) corresponds to the Afrikaans "y". The Afrikaans language does not have a "z", thus the word for "six" starts with an "s".

The lack of a "z" in Afrikaans is natural. If a language lacks a consonant, it if far more likely to lack a voiced one instead of a voiceless one. The reason is that voiced consonants require greater articulatory effort. As a result, they are more marked.

The Afrikaans word for "seven" does not have a word-final nasal. However, many Dutch speakers do not pronounce the nasal, either. In fact, word-final "n" is often not pronounced in Dutch.

The word for "eight" varies but the "g" and the "ch" have the same sound in Dutch and Afrikaans. This word is pronounced with the final sound in the name "Bach".

The word for "nine" is almost identical, but Afrikaans does not have a word-final "n". Many Dutch, however, also pronounce this word without a final nasal.

The pronunciation of Dutch and Afrikaans is also a little different. The word "een" has a diphthong in the pronunciation of many Dutch speakers. In Afrikaans speakers, this vowel is a monophthong.

The word "twee" is pronounced with a labiovelar glide in Afrikaans and tends to have a word-final schwa after the monophthong. In Belgium, the labiovelar glide is also common, but in Dutch speakers the labiodental approximant is common. Also, many Dutch speakers use a diphthong.

In Afrikaans, "drie" is always pronounced with an alveolar trill. In Dutch, however, the "r" has many varieties such as the uvular trill.

The word for "five" has a more cardinal diphthong in Afrikaans than in Dutch. In Dutch, the first component of the diphthong is lower and more fronted than in Afrikaans.

The word "sewe" has palatalization. A palatal glide is produced before the first vowel. This is not the case in Dutch. However, the "w" here is not a labiovelar glide but rather a labiodental approximant.

The word "nege" also has palatalization. As in the word "sewe", a palatal glide is produced before the first vowel.

The Dutch and Afrikaans languages are similar but clearly they also have a number of differences. One is that the Afrikaans language lacks a voiced alveolar fricative as in the Dutch word "zes". By looking at the numbers from one to ten, one can see important differences between the two languages.

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