Last updated

Pronunciation [afriˈkɑːns]
Native to
Native speakers
7.2 million (2016)
10.3 million L2 speakers in South Africa (2011) [1]
Early forms
Latin script (Afrikaans alphabet), Arabic script
Signed Afrikaans [2]
Official status
Official language in
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by Die Taalkommissie
Language codes
ISO 639-1 af
ISO 639-2 afr
ISO 639-3 afr
Glottolog afri1274
Linguasphere 52-ACB-ba
Idioma afrikaans.png
   spoken by a majority
   spoken by a minority
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Colin speaking Afrikaans
Alaric speaking Afrikaans
Rossouw speaking Afrikaans

Afrikaans ( /ˌæfrɪˈkɑːns/ AF-rih-KAHNSS, /ˌɑːf-,-ˈkɑːnz/ AHF-, -KAHNZ) [3] [4] is a West Germanic language, spoken in South Africa, Namibia and (to a lesser extent) Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It evolved from the Dutch vernacular [5] [6] of South Holland (Hollandic dialect) [7] [8] spoken by the predominantly Dutch settlers and enslaved population of the Dutch Cape Colony, where it gradually began to develop distinguishing characteristics in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. [9]


Obelisks of the Afrikaans Language Monument near Paarl AfrikaanseTaalmonumentObelisks.jpg
Obelisks of the Afrikaans Language Monument near Paarl

Although Afrikaans has adopted words from other languages, including German and the Khoisan languages, an estimated 90 to 95% of the vocabulary of Afrikaans is of Dutch origin. [n 1] Differences between Afrikaans and Dutch often lie in the more analytic morphology and grammar of Afrikaans, and different spellings. [n 2] There is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages, especially in written form. [10]


The name of the language comes directly from the Dutch word Afrikaansch (now spelled Afrikaans) [11] meaning "African". [12] It was previously referred to as "Cape Dutch" (Kaap-Hollands/Kaap-Nederlands), a term also used to refer to the early Cape settlers collectively, or the derogatory "kitchen Dutch" (kombuistaal) from its use by slaves of colonial settlers "in the kitchen".



The Afrikaans language arose in the Dutch Cape Colony, through a gradual divergence from European Dutch dialects, during the course of the 18th century. [13] [14] As early as the mid-18th century and as recently as the mid-20th century, Afrikaans was known in standard Dutch as a "kitchen language" (Afrikaans: kombuistaal), lacking the prestige accorded, for example, even by the educational system in Africa, to languages spoken outside Africa. Other early epithets setting apart Kaaps Hollands ("Cape Dutch", i.e. Afrikaans) as putatively beneath official Dutch standards included geradbraakt, gebroken and onbeschaafd Hollands ("mutilated/broken/uncivilised Dutch"), as well as verkeerd Nederlands ("incorrect Dutch"). [15] [16]

'Hottentot Dutch'
Dutch-based pidgin
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog hott1234

Den Besten theorises that modern Standard Afrikaans derives from two sources: [17]

Thus, in his view, Afrikaans is neither a creole nor a direct descendant of Dutch, but a fusion of two transmission pathways.


Standard Dutch used in a 1916 South African newspaper before Afrikaans replaced it for use in media Stuttafords Huisgenoot.jpg
Standard Dutch used in a 1916 South African newspaper before Afrikaans replaced it for use in media

Most of the first settlers whose descendants today are the Afrikaners were from the United Provinces (now Netherlands), [19] with up to one-sixth of the community of French Huguenot origin, and a seventh from Germany. [20]

African and Asian workers, Cape Coloured children of European settlers and Khoikhoi women, [21] and slaves contributed to the development of Afrikaans. The slave population was made up of people from East Africa, West Africa, India, Madagascar, and the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). [22] A number were also indigenous Khoisan people, who were valued as interpreters, domestic servants, and labourers. Many free and enslaved women married or cohabited with the male Dutch settlers. M. F. Valkhoff argued that 75% of children born to female slaves in the Dutch Cape Colony between 1652 and 1672 had a Dutch father. [23] Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman argue that Afrikaans' development as a separate language was "heavily conditioned by nonwhites who learned Dutch imperfectly as a second language." [24]

Beginning in about 1815, Afrikaans started to replace Malay as the language of instruction in Muslim schools in South Africa, written with the Arabic alphabet: see Arabic Afrikaans. Later, Afrikaans, now written with the Latin script, started to appear in newspapers and political and religious works in around 1850 (alongside the already established Dutch). [13]

In 1875, a group of Afrikaans-speakers from the Cape formed the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaaners ("Society for Real Afrikaners"), [13] and published a number of books in Afrikaans including grammars, dictionaries, religious materials and histories.

Until the early 20th century, Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect, alongside Standard Dutch, which it eventually replaced as an official language. [10] Before the Boer wars, "and indeed for some time afterwards, Afrikaans was regarded as inappropriate for educated discourse. Rather, Afrikaans was described derogatorily as 'a kitchen language' or 'a bastard jargon', suitable for communication mainly between the Boers and their servants." [25] [ better source needed ]


"Dit is ons erns"
("This is our passion"), at the Afrikaans Language Monument The Afrikaans Language Monument 23.JPG
"Dit is ons erns" ("This is our passion"), at the Afrikaans Language Monument

In 1925, Afrikaans was recognised by the South African government as a distinct language, rather than simply a vernacular of Dutch. [13] On 8 May 1925, twenty-three years after the Second Boer War ended, [25] the Official Languages of the Union Act of 1925 was passed—mostly due to the efforts of the Afrikaans-language movement—at a joint sitting of the House of Assembly and the Senate, in which the Afrikaans language was declared a variety of Dutch. [26] The Constitution of 1961 reversed the position of Afrikaans and Dutch, so that English and Afrikaans were the official languages, and Afrikaans was deemed to include Dutch. The Constitution of 1983 removed any mention of Dutch altogether.

The Afrikaans Language Monument is located on a hill overlooking Paarl in the Western Cape Province. Officially opened on 10 October 1975, [27] it was erected on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Real Afrikaners, [28] and the 50th anniversary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa in distinction to Dutch.


The side view of the Pretoria Art Museum in Arcadia, Pretoria, with its name written in Afrikaans, Xhosa and Southern Ndebele. Pretoriase kunsmuseum 1.jpg
The side view of the Pretoria Art Museum in Arcadia, Pretoria, with its name written in Afrikaans, Xhosa and Southern Ndebele.

The earliest Afrikaans texts were some doggerel verse from 1795 and a dialogue transcribed by a Dutch traveller in 1825. Afrikaans used the Latin alphabet around this time, although the Cape Muslim community used the Arabic script. In 1861, L.H. Meurant published his Zamenspraak tusschen Klaas Waarzegger en Jan Twyfelaar ("Conversation between Nicholas Truthsayer and John Doubter"), which is considered to be the first book published in Afrikaans. [29]

The first grammar book was published in 1876; a bilingual dictionary was later published in 1902. The main modern Afrikaans dictionary in use is the Verklarende Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (HAT). A new authoritative dictionary, called Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT), was under development as of 2018. The official orthography of Afrikaans is the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls, compiled by Die Taalkommissie . [29]

The Afrikaans Bible

The Afrikaners primarily were Protestants, of the Dutch Reformed Church of the 17th century. Their religious practices were later influenced in South Africa by British ministries during the 1800s. [30] A landmark in the development of the language was the translation of the whole Bible into Afrikaans. While significant advances had been made in the textual criticism of the Bible, especially the Greek New Testament, the 1933 translation followed the Textus Receptus and was closely akin to the Statenbijbel . Before this, most Cape Dutch-Afrikaans speakers had to rely on the Dutch Statenbijbel . This Statenvertaling had its origins with the Synod of Dordrecht of 1618 and was thus in an archaic form of Dutch. This was hard for Dutch speakers to understand, and increasingly unintelligible for Afrikaans speakers.

C. P. Hoogehout, Arnoldus Pannevis  [ af ], and Stephanus Jacobus du Toit were the first Afrikaans Bible translators. Important landmarks in the translation of the Scriptures were in 1878 with C. P. Hoogehout's translation of the Evangelie volgens Markus (Gospel of Mark, lit. Gospel according to Mark); however, this translation was never published. The manuscript is to be found in the South African National Library, Cape Town.

The first official translation of the entire Bible into Afrikaans was in 1933 by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet. [31] [32] This monumental work established Afrikaans as 'n suiwer en ordentlike taal, that is "a pure and proper language" for religious purposes, especially amongst the deeply Calvinist Afrikaans religious community that previously had been sceptical of a Bible translation that varied from the Dutch version that they were used to.

In 1983, a fresh translation marked the 50th anniversary of the 1933 version. The final editing of this edition was done by E. P. Groenewald, A. H. van Zyl, P. A. Verhoef, J. L. Helberg and W. Kempen. This translation was influenced by Eugene Nida's theory of dynamic equivalence which focused on finding the nearest equivalent in the receptor language to the idea that the Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic wanted to convey.

A new translation, Die Bybel: 'n Direkte Vertaling was released in November 2020. It is the first truly ecumenical translation of the Bible in Afrikaans as translators from various churches, including the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, were involved. [33]


Afrikaans descended from Dutch dialects in the 17th century. It belongs to a West Germanic sub-group, the Low Franconian languages. [34] Other West Germanic languages related to Afrikaans are German, English, the Frisian languages, and the unstandardised languages Low German and Yiddish.

Geographic distribution


The geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks Afrikaans at home.
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80-100% South Africa Afrikaans speakers proportion map.svg
The geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks Afrikaans at home.
CountrySpeakersPercentage of speakersYearReference
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 6500.001%2019 [35]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 49,3750.68%2021 [36]
Flag of Botswana.svg  Botswana 8,0820.11%2011[ citation needed ]
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 23,4100.32%2016 [37]
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 11,2470.16%2011 [38]
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland 580.001%2021 [39]
Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan 2,2280.03%2016 [40]
Flag of Mauritius.svg  Mauritius 360.003%2011[ citation needed ]
Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 219,7603.05%2011[ citation needed ]
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 36,9660.51%2018 [41]
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 6,855,08294.66%2011[ citation needed ]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 28,4060.39%2016 [42]


The geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: density of Afrikaans home-language speakers.
<1 /km
1-3 /km
3-10 /km
10-30 /km
30-100 /km
100-300 /km
300-1000 /km
1000-3000 /km
>3000 /km South Africa Afrikaans speakers density map.svg
The geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: density of Afrikaans home-language speakers.
  <1 /km
  1–3 /km
  3–10 /km
  10–30 /km
  30–100 /km
  100–300 /km
  300–1000 /km
  1000–3000 /km
  >3000 /km
The geographical distribution of Afrikaans in Namibia. Distribution of Afrikaans in Namibia.png
The geographical distribution of Afrikaans in Namibia.

Afrikaans is also widely spoken in Namibia. Before independence, Afrikaans had equal status with German as an official language. Since independence in 1990, Afrikaans has had constitutional recognition as a national, but not official, language. [43] [44] There is a much smaller number of Afrikaans speakers among Zimbabwe's white minority, as most have left the country since 1980. Afrikaans was also a medium of instruction for schools in Bophuthatswana, an Apartheid-era Bantustan. [45] Eldoret in Kenya was founded by Afrikaners. [46]

In 1976, secondary-school pupils in Soweto began a rebellion in response to the government's decision that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction for half the subjects taught in non-White schools (with English continuing for the other half). Although English is the mother tongue of only 8.2% of the population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second language of a majority of South Africans. [47] Afrikaans is more widely spoken than English in the Northern and Western Cape provinces, several hundred kilometres from Soweto. [48] The Black community's opposition to Afrikaans and preference for continuing English instruction was underlined when the government rescinded the policy one month after the uprising: 96% of Black schools chose English (over Afrikaans or native languages) as the language of instruction. [48] Afrikaans-medium schools were also accused of using language policy to deter Black African parents. [49] Some of these parents, in part supported by provincial departments of education, initiated litigation which enabled enrolment with English as language of instruction. By 2006 there were 300 single-medium Afrikaans schools, compared to 2,500 in 1994, after most converted to dual-medium education. [49] Due to Afrikaans being viewed as the "language of the white oppressor" by some, pressure has been increased to remove Afrikaans as a teaching language in South African universities, resulting in bloody student protests in 2015. [50] [51] [52]

Under South Africa's Constitution of 1996, Afrikaans remains an official language, and has equal status to English and nine other languages. The new policy means that the use of Afrikaans is now often reduced in favour of English, or to accommodate the other official languages. In 1996, for example, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reduced the amount of television airtime in Afrikaans, while South African Airways dropped its Afrikaans name Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens from its livery. Similarly, South Africa's diplomatic missions overseas now display the name of the country only in English and their host country's language, and not in Afrikaans. Meanwhile, the constitution of the Western Cape, which went into effect in 1998, declares Afrikaans to be an official language of the province alongside English and Xhosa. [53]

The Afrikaans-language general-interest family magazine Huisgenoot has the largest readership of any magazine in the country. [54]

When the British design magazine Wallpaper described Afrikaans as "one of the world's ugliest languages" in its September 2005 article about the monument, [55] South African billionaire Johann Rupert (chairman of the Richemont Group), responded by withdrawing advertising for brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill from the magazine. [56] The author of the article, Bronwyn Davies, was an English-speaking South African.

Mutual intelligibility with Dutch

An estimated 90 to 95% of the Afrikaans lexicon is ultimately of Dutch origin, [57] [58] [59] and there are few lexical differences between the two languages. [60] Afrikaans has a considerably more regular morphology, [61] grammar, and spelling. [62] There is a high degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages, [61] [63] [64] particularly in written form. [62] [65] [66]

Afrikaans acquired some lexical and syntactical borrowings from other languages such as Malay, Khoisan languages, Portuguese, [67] and Bantu languages, [68] and Afrikaans has also been significantly influenced by South African English. [69] Dutch speakers are confronted with fewer non-cognates when listening to Afrikaans than the other way round. [66] Mutual intelligibility thus tends to be asymmetrical, as it is easier for Dutch speakers to understand Afrikaans than for Afrikaans speakers to understand Dutch. [66]

In general, mutual intelligibility between Dutch and Afrikaans is far better than between Dutch and Frisian [70] or between Danish and Swedish. [66] The South African poet writer Breyten Breytenbach, attempting to visualise the language distance for Anglophones once remarked that the differences between (Standard) Dutch and Afrikaans are comparable to those between the Received Pronunciation and Southern American English. [71]

Current status

Use of Afrikaans as a first language by province
Province1996 [72] 2001 [72] 2011 [72] 2022 [73]
Western Cape 58.5%55.3%49.7%41.2%
Eastern Cape 9.8%9.6%10.6%9.6%
Northern Cape 57.2%56.6%53.8%54.6%
Free State 14.4%11.9%12.7%10.3%
KwaZulu-Natal 1.6%1.5%1.6%1.0%
North West 8.8%8.8%9.0%5.2%
Gauteng 15.6%13.6%12.4%7.7%
Mpumalanga 7.1%5.5%7.2%3.2%
Limpopo 2.6%2.6%2.6%2.3%
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 14.4% [74] 13.3% [75] 13.5% [76] 10.6% [73]

Afrikaans is an official language of the Republic of South Africa and a recognised national language of the Republic of Namibia. Post-apartheid South Africa has seen a loss of preferential treatment by the government for Afrikaans, in terms of education, social events, media (TV and radio), and general status throughout the country, given that it now shares its place as official language with ten other languages. Nevertheless, Afrikaans remains more prevalent in the media – radio, newspapers and television [77] – than any of the other official languages, except English. More than 300 book titles in Afrikaans are published annually. [78] South African census figures suggest a decreasing number of first language Afrikaans speakers in South Africa from 13.5% in 2011 to 10.6% in 2022. [79] The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) projects that a growing majority of Afrikaans speakers will be Coloured. [80] Afrikaans speakers experience higher employment rates than other South African language groups, though as of 2012 half a million were unemployed. [81]

Despite the challenges of demotion and emigration that it faces in South Africa, the Afrikaans vernacular remains competitive, being popular in DSTV pay channels and several internet sites, while generating high newspaper and music CD sales. A resurgence in Afrikaans popular music since the late 1990s has invigorated the language, especially among a younger generation of South Africans. A recent trend is the increased availability of pre-school educational CDs and DVDs. Such media also prove popular with the extensive Afrikaans-speaking emigrant communities who seek to retain language proficiency in a household context.

Afrikaans-language cinema showed signs of new vigour in the early 21st century. The 2007 film Ouma se slim kind, the first full-length Afrikaans movie since Paljas in 1998, is seen as the dawn of a new era in Afrikaans cinema. Several short films have been created and more feature-length movies, such as Poena is Koning and Bakgat (both in 2008) have been produced, besides the 2011 Afrikaans-language film Skoonheid , which was the first Afrikaans film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. The film Platteland was also released in 2011. [82] The Afrikaans film industry started gaining international recognition via the likes of big Afrikaans Hollywood film stars, like Charlize Theron ( Monster ) and Sharlto Copley ( District 9 ) promoting their mother tongue.

SABC3 announced early in 2009 that it would increase Afrikaans programming due to the "growing Afrikaans-language market and [their] need for working capital as Afrikaans advertising is the only advertising that sells in the current South African television market". In April 2009, SABC3 started screening several Afrikaans-language programmes. [83] There is a groundswell movement within Afrikaans to be inclusive, and to promote itself along with the indigenous official languages. In Namibia, the percentage of Afrikaans speakers declined from 11.4% (2001 Census) to 10.4% (2011 Census). The major concentrations are in Hardap (41.0%), ǁKaras (36.1%), Erongo (20.5%), Khomas (18.5%), Omaheke (10.0%), Otjozondjupa (9.4%), Kunene (4.2%), and Oshikoto (2.3%). [84]

Some native speakers of Bantu languages and English also speak Afrikaans as a second language. It is widely taught in South African schools, with about 10.3 million second-language students. [1]

Afrikaans is offered at many universities outside South Africa, including in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Russia and the United States. [85]


In Afrikaans grammar, there is no distinction between the infinitive and present forms of verbs, with the exception of the verbs 'to be' and 'to have':

infinitive formpresent indicative formDutchEnglish
weesiszijn or wezenbe

In addition, verbs do not conjugate differently depending on the subject. For example,

ek isik benI am
jy/u isjij/u bentyou are (sing.)
hy/sy/dit ishij/zij/het ishe/she/it is
ons iswij zijnwe are
julle isjullie zijnyou are (plur.)
hulle iszij zijnthey are

Only a handful of Afrikaans verbs have a preterite, namely the auxiliary wees ("to be"), the modal verbs, and the verb dink ("to think"). The preterite of mag ("may") is rare in contemporary Afrikaans.

ek isek wasik benik wasI amI was
ek kanek konik kanik konI canI could
ek moetek moesik moetik moestI must(I had to)
ek wilek wouik wilik wilde/wouI want toI wanted to
ek salek souik zalik zouI shallI should
ek mag(ek mog)ik magik mochtI mayI might
ek dinkek dogik denkik dachtI thinkI thought

All other verbs use the perfect tense, het + past participle (ge-), for the past. Therefore, there is no distinction in Afrikaans between I drank and I have drunk. (In colloquial German, the past tense is also often replaced with the perfect.)

ek het gedrinkik dronkI drank
ik heb gedronkenI have drunk

When telling a longer story, Afrikaans speakers usually avoid the perfect and simply use the present tense, or historical present tense instead (as is possible, but less common, in English as well).

A particular feature of Afrikaans is its use of the double negative; it is classified in Afrikaans as ontkennende vorm and is something that is absent from the other West Germanic standard languages. For example,

Afrikaans: Hy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie, lit.'He can not Afrikaans speak not'
Dutch: Hij spreekt geen Afrikaans.
English: He can not speak Afrikaans. / He can't speak Afrikaans.

Both French and San origins have been suggested for double negation in Afrikaans. While double negation is still found in Low Franconian dialects in West Flanders and in some "isolated" villages in the centre of the Netherlands (such as Garderen), it takes a different form, which is not found in Afrikaans. The following is an example:

Afrikaans: Ek wil nie dit doen nie.* (lit. I want not this do not.)
Dutch: Ik wil dit niet doen.
English: I do not want to do this.

* Compare with Ek wil dit nie doen nie, which changes the meaning to "I want not to do this." Whereas Ek wil nie dit doen nie emphasizes a lack of desire to act, Ek wil dit nie doen nie emphasizes the act itself.

The -ne was the Middle Dutch way to negate but it has been suggested that since -ne became highly non-voiced, nie or niet was needed to complement the -ne. With time the -ne disappeared in most Dutch dialects.

The double negative construction has been fully grammaticalised in standard Afrikaans and its proper use follows a set of fairly complex rules as the examples below show:

AfrikaansDutch (literally translated)More correct DutchLiteral EnglishIdiomatic English
Ek het (nie) geweet dat hy (nie) sou kom (nie).Ik heb (niet) geweten dat hij (niet) zou komen.Ik wist (niet) dat hij (niet) zou komen.I did (not) know that he would (not) come.I did (not) know that he was (not) going to come.
Hy sal nie kom nie, want hy is siek. [n 3] Hij zal niet komen, want hij is ziek.Hij komt niet, want hij is ziek.He will not come, as he is sick.He is sick and is not going to come.
Dis (Dit is) nie so moeilik om Afrikaans te leer nie.Het is niet zo moeilijk (om) Afrikaans te leren.It is not so difficult to learn Afrikaans.

A notable exception to this is the use of the negating grammar form that coincides with negating the English present participle. In this case there is only a single negation.

Afrikaans: Hy is in die hospitaal, maar hy eet nie.
Dutch: Hij is in het ziekenhuis, maar hij eet niet.
English: He is in [the] hospital, though he doesn't eat.

Certain words in Afrikaans would be contracted. For example, moet nie, which literally means "must not", usually becomes moenie; although one does not have to write or say it like this, virtually all Afrikaans speakers will change the two words to moenie in the same way as do not is contracted to don't in English.

The Dutch word het ("it" in English) does not correspond to het in Afrikaans. The Dutch words corresponding to Afrikaans het are heb, hebt, heeft and hebben.

hetheb, hebt, heeft, hebbenhave, has
diede, hetthe


A voice recording of Die Stem van Suid-Afrika ('The Voice of South Africa'), the former national anthem, read in poetic form


Monophthong phonemes [86] [87]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded unroundedrounded
short long shortlongshortlongshortlongshortlong
Close i ( ) y u ( )
Mid e ə ( əː ) œ ( œː ) o ( )
Near-open ( æ )( æː )
Open a ɑː


Diphthong phonemes [94] [95]
Starting pointEnding point
Front Central Back
Mid unroundedɪø,əiɪə
Open unroundedai, ɑːi
  • /ɔi,ai/ occur mainly in loanwords. [96]


Consonant phonemes
Labial Alveolar Post-
Dorsal Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t t͡ʃ k
voiced b d ( d͡ʒ )( ɡ )
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ ( ɹ̠̊˔ ) χ
voiced v ( z ) ʒ ɦ
Approximant l j
Rhotic r ~ ɾ ~ ʀ ~ ʁ


A warning sign in Afrikaans: Gevaar Slagysters
or "Danger, Traps". Graham Maclachlan - Gevaar Slagysters.jpg
A warning sign in Afrikaans: Gevaar Slagysters or "Danger, Traps".

Following early dialectal studies of Afrikaans, it was theorised that three main historical dialects probably existed after the Great Trek in the 1830s. These dialects are the Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape dialects. [104] Northern Cape dialect may have resulted from contact between Dutch settlers and the Khoekhoe people between the Great Karoo and the Kunene, and Eastern Cape dialect between the Dutch and the Xhosa. Remnants of these dialects still remain in present-day Afrikaans, although the standardising effect of Standard Afrikaans has contributed to a great levelling of differences in modern times. [105] [ better source needed ]

There is also a prison cant, known as Sabela, which is based on Afrikaans, yet heavily influenced by Zulu. This language is used as a secret language in prison and is taught to initiates. [105]

Patagonian Afrikaans dialect

Patagonian Afrikaans is a distinct dialect of Afrikaans is spoken by the 650-strong South African community of Argentina, in the region of Patagonia. [106]

Influences on Afrikaans from other languages


Due to the early settlement of a Cape Malay community in Cape Town, who are now known as Coloureds, numerous Classical Malay words were brought into Afrikaans. Some of these words entered Dutch via people arriving from what is now known as Indonesia as part of their colonial heritage. Malay words in Afrikaans include: [107]


Some words originally came from Portuguese such as sambreel ("umbrella") from the Portuguese sombreiro, kraal ("pen/cattle enclosure") from the Portuguese curral and mielie ("corn", from milho). Some of these words also exist in Dutch, like sambreel "parasol", [108] though usage is less common and meanings can slightly differ.

Khoisan languages

Some of these words also exist in Dutch, though with a more specific meaning: assegaai for example means "South-African tribal javelin" [110] and karos means "South-African tribal blanket of animal hides". [111]

Bantu languages

Loanwords from Bantu languages in Afrikaans include the names of indigenous birds, such as mahem and sakaboela, and indigenous plants, such as maroela and tamboekie(gras). [112]


The revoking of the Edict of Nantes on 22 October 1685 was a milestone in the history of South Africa, for it marked the beginning of the great Huguenot exodus from France. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 Protestants left France between 1685 and 1700; out of these, according to Louvois, 100,000 had received military training. A measure of the calibre of these immigrants and of their acceptance by host countries (in particular South Africa) is given by H. V. Morton in his book: In Search of South Africa (London, 1948). The Huguenots were responsible for a great linguistic contribution to Afrikaans, particularly in terms of military terminology as many of them fought on the battlefields during the wars of the Great Trek.

Most of the words in this list are descendants from Dutch borrowings from French, Old French or Latin, and are not direct influences from French on Afrikaans.

ammunisieammunitie, munitiemunitionammunition
kardoeskardoes, cartouchecartouchecartridge
marsjeermarcheer, marcherenmarcher(to) march
muitmuit, muitenmutiner(to) mutiny
rondterondte, ronderonderound


The Afrikaans writing system is based on Dutch, using the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet, plus 16 additional vowels with diacritics. The hyphen (e.g. in a compound like see-eend 'sea duck'), apostrophe (e.g. ma's 'mothers'), and a whitespace character (e.g. in multi-word units like Dooie See 'Dead Sea') is part of the orthography of words, while the indefinite article ʼn is a ligature. All the alphabet letters, including those with diacritics, have capital letters as allographs; the ʼn does not have a capital letter allograph. This means that Afrikaans has 88 graphemes with allographs in total.

Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
aá ä b c deé è ê ë fghií î ï jklmn ʼn oó ô ö p q rstuú û ü v w xyýz

In Afrikaans, many consonants are dropped from the earlier Dutch spelling. For example, slechts ('only') in Dutch becomes slegs in Afrikaans. Also, Afrikaans and some Dutch dialects make no distinction between /s/ and /z/, having merged the latter into the former; while the word for "south" is written zuid in Dutch, it is spelled suid in Afrikaans (as well as dialectal Dutch writings) to represent this merger. Similarly, the Dutch digraph ij , normally pronounced as /ɛi/, corresponds to Afrikaans y, except where it replaces the Dutch suffix –lijk which is pronounced as /lək/, as in waarschijnlijk > waarskynlik.

Another difference is the indefinite article, 'n in Afrikaans and een in Dutch. "A book" is 'n boek in Afrikaans, whereas it is either een boek or 'n boek in Dutch. This 'n is usually pronounced as just a weak vowel, [ə], just like English "a".

The diminutive suffix in Afrikaans is -tjie, -djie or -ie, whereas in Dutch it is -tje or dje, hence a "bit" is ʼn bietjie in Afrikaans and beetje in Dutch.

The letters c, q, x, and z occur almost exclusively in borrowings from French, English, Greek and Latin. This is usually because words that had c and ch in the original Dutch are spelled with k and g, respectively, in Afrikaans. Similarly original qu and x are most often spelt kw and ks, respectively. For example, ekwatoriaal instead of equatoriaal, and ekskuus instead of excuus.

The vowels with diacritics in non-loanword Afrikaans are: á, ä, é, è, ê, ë, í, î, ï, ó, ô, ö, ú, û, ü, ý. Diacritics are ignored when alphabetising, though they are still important, even when typing the diacritic forms may be difficult. For example, geëet ("ate") instead of the 3 e's alongside each other: *geeet, which can never occur in Afrikaans, or , which translates to "say", whereas se is a possessive form. The acute's (á, é, í, ó, ú, ý) primary function is to place emphasis on a word (i.e. for emphatic reasons), by adding it to the emphasised syllable of the word. For example, sál ("will" (verb)), néé ('no'), móét ("must"), ("he"), gewéét ("knew"). The acute is only placed on the i if it is the only vowel in the emphasised word: wil ('want' (verb)) becomes wíl, but lui ('lazy') becomes lúi. Only a few non-loan words are spelled with acutes, e.g. dié ('this'), ('after'), óf ... óf ('either ... or'), nóg ... nóg ('neither ... nor'), etc. Only four non-loan words are spelled with the grave: ('yes?', 'right?', 'eh?'), ('here, take this!' or '[this is] yours!'), ('huh?', 'what?', 'eh?'), and appèl ('(formal) appeal' (noun)).

Initial apostrophes

A few short words in Afrikaans take initial apostrophes. In modern Afrikaans, these words are always written in lower case (except if the entire line is uppercase), and if they occur at the beginning of a sentence, the next word is capitalised. Three examples of such apostrophed words are 'k, 't, 'n. The last (the indefinite article) is the only apostrophed word that is common in modern written Afrikaans, since the other examples are shortened versions of other words (ek and het, respectively) and are rarely found outside of a poetic context. [119]

Here are a few examples:

Apostrophed versionUsual versionTranslationNotes
'k 't Dit gesêEk het dit gesêI said itUncommon, more common: Ek't dit gesê
't Jy dit geëet?Het jy dit geëet?Did you eat it?Extremely uncommon
'n Man loop daarA man walks thereStandard Afrikaans pronounces 'n as a schwa vowel.

The apostrophe and the following letter are regarded as two separate characters, and are never written using a single glyph, although a single character variant of the indefinite article appears in Unicode, ʼn.

Table of characters

For more on the pronunciation of the letters below, see Help:IPA/Afrikaans .

Afrikaans letters and pronunciation
GraphemeIPAExamples and Notes
a/a/, /ɑː/appel ('apple'; /a/), tale ('languages'; /ɑː/). Represents /a/ in closed syllables and /ɑː/ in stressed open syllables
á/a/, /ɑ:/ (after)
ä/a/, /ɑ:/sebraägtig ('zebra-like'). The diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable.
aa/ɑː/aap ('monkey', 'ape'). Only occurs in closed syllables.
aai/ɑːi/draai ('turn')
ae/ɑːə/vrae ('questions'); the vowels belong to two separate syllables
ai/ai/baie ('many', 'much' or 'very'), ai (expression of frustration or resignation)
b/b/, /p/boom ('tree')
c/s/, /k/Found only in borrowed words or proper nouns; the former pronunciation occurs before 'e', 'i', or 'y'; featured in the Latinate plural ending -ici (singular form -ikus)
ch/ʃ/, /x/, /k/chirurg ('surgeon'; /ʃ/; typically sj is used instead), chemie ('chemistry'; /x/), chitien ('chitin'; /k/). Found only in recent loanwords and in proper nouns
d/d/, /t/dag ('day'), deel ('part', 'divide', 'share')
dj/d͡ʒ/, /k/djati ('teak'), broodjie ('sandwich'). Used to transcribe foreign words for the former pronunciation, and in the diminutive suffix -djie for the latter in words ending with d
e/e(ː)/, /æ(ː)/, /ɪə/, /ɪ/, /ə/bed (/e/), mens ('person', /eː/) (lengthened before /n/) ete ('meal', /ɪə/ and /ə/ respectively), ek ('I', /æ/), berg ('mountain', /æː/) (lengthened before /r/). /ɪ/ is the unstressed allophone of /ɪə/
é/e(ː)/, /æ(ː)/, /ɪə/dié ('this'), mét ('with', emphasised), ék ('I; me', emphasised), wéét ('know', emphasised)
è/e/Found in loanwords (like crèche) and proper nouns (like Eugène) where the spelling was maintained, and in four non-loanwords: ('yes?', 'right?', 'eh?'), ('here, take this!' or '[this is] yours!'), ('huh?', 'what?', 'eh?'), and appèl ('(formal) appeal' (noun)).
ê/eː/, /æː/ ('to say'), wêreld ('world'), lêer ('file') (Allophonically /æː/ before /(ə)r/)
ë-Diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus ë, ëe and ëi are pronounced like 'e', 'ee' and 'ei', respectively
ee/ɪə/weet ('to know'), een ('one')
eeu/ɪu/leeu ('lion'), eeu ('century', 'age')
ei/ei/lei ('to lead')
eu/ɪɵ/seun ('son' or 'lad')
f/f/fiets ('bicycle')
g/x/, /ɡ//ɡ/ exists as the allophone of /x/ if at the end of a root word preceded by a stressed single vowel + /r/ and suffixed with a schwa, e.g. berg ('mountain') is pronounced as /bæːrx/, and berge is pronounced as /bæːrɡə/
gh/ɡ/gholf ('golf'). Used for /ɡ/ when it is not an allophone of /x/; found only in borrowed words. If the h instead begins the next syllable, the two letters are pronounced separately.
h/ɦ/hael ('hail'), hond ('dog')
i/i/, /ə/kind ('child'; /ə/), ink ('ink'; /ə/), krisis ('crisis'; /i/ and /ə/ respectively), elektrisiteit ('electricity'; /i/ for all three; third 'i' is part of diphthong 'ei')
í/i/, /ə/krísis ('crisis', emphasised), dít ('that', emphasised)
î/əː/wîe (plural of wig; 'wedges' or 'quoins')
ï/i/, /ə/Found in words such as beïnvloed ('to influence'). The diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable.
ie/i(ː)/iets ('something'), vier ('four')
j/j/julle (plural 'you')
k/k/kat ('cat'), kan ('can' (verb) or 'jug')
l/l/lag ('laugh')
m/m/man ('man')
n/n/nael ('nail')
ʼn/ə/indefinite article ʼn ('a'), styled as a ligature (Unicode character U+0149)
ng/ŋ/sing ('to sing')
o/o/, /ʊə/, /ʊ/op ('up(on)'; /o/), grote ('size'; /ʊə/), polisie ('police'; /ʊ/)
ó/o/, /ʊə/óp ('done, finished', emphasised), gróót ('huge', emphasised)
ô/oː/môre ('tomorrow')
ö/o/, /ʊə/Found in words such as koöperasie ('co-operation'). The diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus ö is pronounced the same as 'o' based on the following remainder of the word.
oe/u(ː)/boek ('book'), koers ('course', 'direction')
oei/ui/koei ('cow')
oo/ʊə/oom ('uncle' or 'sir')
ooi/oːi/mooi ('pretty', 'beautiful'), nooi ('invite')
ou/ɵu/By itself means ('guy'). Sometimes spelled ouw in loanwords and surnames, for example Louw.
p/p/pot ('pot'), pers ('purple' — or 'press' indicating the news media; the latter is often spelled with an <ê>)
q/k/Found only in foreign words with original spelling maintained; typically k is used instead
r/r/rooi ('red')
s/s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/ses ('six'), stem ('voice' or 'vote'), posisie ('position', /z/ for first 's', /s/ for second 's'), rasioneel ('rational', /ʃ/ (nonstandard; formally /s/ is used instead) visuëel ('visual', /ʒ/ (nonstandard; /z/ is more formal)
sj/ʃ/sjaal ('shawl'), sjokolade ('chocolate')
t/t/tafel ('table')
tj/tʃ/, /k/tjank ('whine like a dog' or 'to cry incessantly'). The latter pronunciation occurs in the common diminutive suffix "-(e)tjie"
u/ɵ/, /y(ː)/stuk ('piece'), unie ('union'), muur ('wall')
ú/œ/, /y(:)/búk ('bend over', emphasised), ú ('you', formal, emphasised)
û/ɵː/brûe ('bridges')
ü-Found in words such as reünie ('reunion'). The diaeresis indicates the start of a new syllable, thus ü is pronounced the same as u, except when found in proper nouns and surnames from German, like Müller.
ui/ɵi/uit ('out')
uu/y(ː)/uur ('hour')
v/f/, /v/vis ('fish'), visuëel ('visual')
w/v/, /w/water ('water'; /v/); allophonically /w/ after obstruents within a root; an example: kwas ('brush'; /w/)
x/z/, /ks/xifoïed ('xiphoid'; /z/), x-straal ('x-ray'; /ks/).
y/əi/byt ('bite')
ý/əi/ ('he', emphasised)
z/z/Zoeloe ('Zulu'). Found only in onomatopoeia and loanwords

Sample text

Psalm 23 1983 translation: [120]

Die Here is my Herder, ek kom niks kort nie.
Hy laat my rus in groen weivelde. Hy bring my by waters waar daar vrede is.
Hy gee my nuwe krag. Hy lei my op die regte paaie tot eer van Sy naam.
Selfs al gaan ek deur donker dieptes, sal ek nie bang wees nie, want U is by my. In U hande is ek veilig.

Psalm 23 1953 translation: [121]

Die Here is my Herder, niks sal my ontbreek nie.
Hy laat my neerlê in groen weivelde; na waters waar rus is, lei Hy my heen.
Hy verkwik my siel; Hy lei my in die spore van geregtigheid, om sy Naam ontwil.
Al gaan ek ook in 'n dal van doodskaduwee, ek sal geen onheil vrees nie; want U is met my: u stok en u staf die vertroos my.

Lord's Prayer (Afrikaans New Living Version translation): [122]

Ons Vader in die hemel, laat u Naam geheilig word.
Laat u koninkryk kom.
Laat u wil hier op aarde uitgevoer word soos in die hemel.
Gee ons die porsie brood wat ons vir vandag nodig het.
En vergeef ons ons sondeskuld soos ons ook óns skuldenaars vergewe het.
Bewaar ons sodat ons nie aan verleiding sal toegee nie; maar bevry ons van die greep van die bose.
Want aan U behoort die koningskap,
en die krag,
en die heerlikheid,
vir altyd.

Lord's Prayer (Original translation):[ citation needed ]

Onse Vader wat in die hemel is,
laat U Naam geheilig word;
laat U koninkryk kom;
laat U wil geskied op die aarde,
net soos in die hemel.
Gee ons vandag ons daaglikse brood;
en vergeef ons ons skulde
soos ons ons skuldenaars vergewe
en laat ons nie in die versoeking nie
maar verlos ons van die bose
Want aan U behoort die koninkryk
en die krag
en die heerlikheid
tot in ewigheid.

See also


  1. Afrikaans borrowed from other languages such as Portuguese, German, Malay, Bantu, and Khoisan languages; see Sebba 1997, p. 160, Niesler, Louw & Roux 2005, p. 459.
    90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin; see Mesthrie 1995, p. 214, Mesthrie 2002, p. 205, Kamwangamalu 2004, p. 203, Berdichevsky 2004, p. 131, Brachin & Vincent 1985, p. 132.
  2. For morphology; see Holm 1989, p. 338, Geerts & Clyne 1992, p. 72. For grammar and spelling; see Sebba 1997, p. 161.
  3. kan would be best used in this case because kan nie means cannot and since he is sick he is unable to come, whereas sal is "will" in English and is thus not the best word choice.

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