East Flemish

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East Flemish
Uest-Vloams, Uust-Vloams, Oeëst-Vloams
Native to Belgium, Netherlands
Region East Flanders
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog oost1241  Oost-Vlaams [1]
oost1242  Oostvlaams [2]
Position of East Flemish (colour: light brown) among the other minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux Languages Benelux.PNG
Position of East Flemish (colour: light brown) among the other minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux

East Flemish (Dutch : Oost-Vlaams, French : flamand oriental) is a collective term for the two easternmost subdivisions ("true" East Flemish, also called Core Flemish, [3] and Waaslandic and their transitional and city dialects) of the so-called Flemish dialects, native to the southwest of the Dutch language area, which also include West Flemish. [4] Their position between West Flemish and Brabantian has caused East Flemish dialects to be grouped with the latter as well. [5] They are spoken mainly in the province of East Flanders and a narrow strip in the southeast of West Flanders in Belgium and eastern Zeelandic Flanders in the Netherlands. Even though the dialects of the Dender area are often discussed together with the East Flemish dialects because of their location, the latter are actually South Brabantian. [6]

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Flemish variety of the Dutch language as spoken in Flanders (Belgium)

Flemish (Vlaams) also called Flemish Dutch (Vlaams-Nederlands), Belgian Dutch, or Southern Dutch (Zuid-Nederlands), is a Lower Franconian / Dutch dialect. It is spoken in the whole northern region of Belgium as well as French Flanders and the Dutch Zeelandic Flanders by approximately 6.5 million people. The term is used in at least five ways. These are:

  1. as an indication of Dutch written and spoken in Flanders including the Dutch standard language as well as the non-standardized dialects, including intermediate languages between dialect and standard. Some linguists avoid the term Flemish in this context and prefer the designation Belgian-Dutch or South-Dutch.
  2. as a synonym for the so-called intermediate language in Flanders region, the Tussentaal.
  3. as an indication for the non-standardized dialects and regiolects of Flanders region.
  4. as an indication of the non-standardized dialects of only the former County of Flanders, ie the current provinces of West Flanders and East Flanders, Zeelandic Flanders and Frans-Vlaanderen.
  5. as an indication of the non-standardized West Flemish dialects of the province of West Flanders, the Dutch Zeelandic Flanders and French Frans-Vlaanderen.



Before the occurrence of written records, the dialect continuum that took shape in the Old Dutch language area was characterised mainly by differences from east to west, with the east showing more continental Germanic traits and the west having more coastal Germanic features. [6] In East Flanders, it can be noted that not a single typical eastern Low Franconian trait has reached the region, but coastal characteristics are fairly common, albeit less so than more to the west. [6]

A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a spread of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighbouring varieties differ only slightly, but the differences accumulate over distance so that widely separated varieties are not mutually intelligible. That happens, for example, across large parts of India or the Arab world (Arabic). It also happened between Portugal, southern Belgium (Wallonia) and southern Italy and between Flanders and Austria. Leonard Bloomfield used the name dialect area. Charles F. Hockett used the term L-complex. It is analogous to a ring species in evolutionary biology.

Old Dutch set of Franconian dialects spoke in the Low Countries during the Early Middle Ages

In linguistics, Old Dutch or Old Low Franconian is the set of Franconian dialects spoken in the Low Countries during the Early Middle Ages, from around the 5th to the 12th century. Old Dutch is mostly recorded on fragmentary relics, and words have been reconstructed from Middle Dutch and Old Dutch loanwords in French.

East Flanders Province of Belgium

East Flanders is a province of Belgium. It borders the Netherlands and the Belgian provinces of Antwerp, Flemish Brabant, Hainaut and West Flanders. It has an area of 2,991 km², divided into six administrative districts containing 60 municipalities, and a population of 1,408,484. The capital is Ghent.

In the 15th century, the dominant position in the Low Countries shifted from the County of Flanders to the Duchy of Brabant, which brought an expansian of linguistic traits from Brabant, the so-called 'Brabantic Expansion'. As the Scheldt formed a large barrier in the north, those traits were introduced mainly from South Brabant, particularly the city of Brussels. [6] The Dender area probably already started the process in the 14th century, but Ghent (and probably the rest of the province) resisted those changes for at least another century, as writings from Ghent still indicated a phonology that was typically West Flemish phonology in the mid-16th century. [6] Eventually, two processes caused the spread of Brabantian traits in eastern Flanders:

Low Countries historical coastal landscape in north western Europe

The Low Countries, the Low Lands, or historically also the Netherlands, is a coastal lowland region in northwestern Europe, forming the lower basin of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers, divided in the Middle Ages into numerous semi-independent principalities that consolidated in the countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, as well as today's French Flanders.

County of Flanders French fiefdom and historic territory in the Low Countries

The County of Flanders was a historic territory in the Low Countries.

Duchy of Brabant State of the Holy Roman Empire

The Duchy of Brabant was a State of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1183. It developed from the Landgraviate of Brabant and formed the heart of the historic Low Countries, part of the Burgundian Netherlands from 1430 and of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1482, until it was partitioned after the Dutch revolt.

Ghent Municipality in Flemish Community, Belgium

Ghent is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province, and the second largest municipality in Belgium, after Antwerp. The city originally started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe, with some 50,000 people in 1300. It is a port and university city.

While the second process has caused a fairly wide extension of some traits, the traits spread by the first process have reached only the eastern quarter of the province: the Dender and Waasland areas. [6]

The Waasland is a Belgian region. It is part of the Belgian provinces of East Flanders and Antwerp. The other borders of the Land van Waas are with the Scheldt and Durme rivers. The (informal) capital and major city of the region is Sint-Niklaas.

Having been dominated by the French, the Austrians and the Spanish, their languages have been other influences on the vocabulary of East Flemish.[ citation needed ]

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.


Principal dialects

Transitional and mixed dialects

A special mention should go to continental West Flemish, which, despite being a West Flemish dialect, has some East Flemish colouring, as Kortrijk was historically governed under Ghent. [10]

Notable characteristics

Even though the East Flemish dialect area is one of the most diverse linguistic landscapes in Belgium, [6] the dialects share some traits that set them apart from Standard Dutch as well as the neighbouring dialects:


As the realisation of phonemes can be quite divergent in different East Flemish dialects, the phonemes represented here are based on the most common Core East Flemish realisations.


Alveolar Post-
Nasal mnŋ
Plosive p bt dk (ɡ)
Fricative f vs z(ʃ) (ʒ)xɣ
Affricate ts
Approximant β̞lj
Trill r



The following table gives an overview of some common phonemes in stressed syllables. Many East Flemish dialects have lost the phonemic vowel length distinction, but the distincition is made in the following table for the dialects that have kept it. Also, the central vowel /ə/ occurs only in unstressed syllables and is often heavily reduced or even omitted in many dialects. [4] [13]

Close iyu
Close-mid ɪ   e(ː)ʏ   ø(ː)o   (oː)
Open-mid ɛœɔ
Open æɑ



The following table shows the common diphthong phonemes in East Flemish, but it also includes some allophones or alternative realisations of the vowels mentioned above. [4]

Starting pointEnding point
Front Central Back
Close front unroundediə̯iu̯
front roundedyə̯ ~ uə̯
Close-mid front unroundedɪə̯
front roundedøi̯øə̯
Open-mid front unroundedɛi̯ɛə̯
front roundedœi̯
Open frontæi̯æu̯ ~ ɑu̯




As in many other southern Dutch dialects, verbal constructions can take several forms, depending on stress, the position of the subject and the next word. [6] Unlike West Flemish, however, there is no subjunctive mood. [12] The following table gives the general rules of conjugation in the present tense and the regular example of zwieren ("to toss"). The spelling is based on Dutch orthography with the addition of  ̊  to show devoicing and  ̆  to show vowel shortening.

EndingRegular order (SVO)Inversed order (VSO or OVS)Subordinate clauses (SOV)
Person and numberUnstressedDuplicatedStressedUnstressedStressedUnstressedStressed
1st sing.-e / -∅ / (-n)'k zwiere'k zwiere-kikik zwierezwiere-kzwiere-kikda-k ... zwiereda-kik ... zwiere
2nd sing.-tge zwiertge zwier-g̊ijgij zwiertzwier-dezwier-de gijda-de ... zwiertda-de gij ... zwiert
3rd sing. masc.-t / ̆-tij zwiertij zwiert-jijjij zwiertzwiert-ijzwiert-jijdat-ij ... zwiertdat-jij ... zwiert
3rd sing. fem.ze zwiertze zwier-z̊ijzij zwiertzwier-z̊ezwier-z̊e zijda-z̊e ... zwiertda-z̊e zij ... zwiert
3rd sing. ntr.'t zwiert--zwier-et-da-t ... zwiert-
1st plural-enme zwieren(-me(n))me zwiere-me wij/wulderwij/wulder zwieren(-me(n))zwiere-me(n)zwiere-me wij/wulderda-me(n) ... zwierenda-me wij/wulder ... zwieren
2nd plural-tge zwiertge zwier-g̊uldergulder zwiertzwier-dezwier-de gulderda-de ... zwiertda-de gulder ... zwiert
3rd plural-enze zwierenze zwieren zulderzulder zwierenzwieren zezwieren zulderdan ze ... zwierendan zulder ... zwieren



Like most other Germanic languages, East Flemish differentiates between strong verbs and weak verbs. Even though there are a few strong verbs in East Flemish that are weak in Standard Dutch, the overall tendency is that East Flemish has more weak verbs. [6] Unlike many other Germanic languages, the rules for the conjugation of the strong preterite are exactly the same as in the present tense. [15] The weak preterite is formed by adding the suffix "-dege" ("-tege" when the stem ends in a voiceless consonant) to the verbal stem. [6] While an -n is usually added in the first-person and the third-person plural, the t-ending is not added except in a few southwestern dialects. [15]

Ghent dialect

The dialect of the province's capital, Ghent, is also different from the language of the surrounding region. The Brabantic expansion is believed to have started in Ghent, which has separated its speech from the other Flemish dialects. Some Brabantic traits were exported to other East Flemish dialects, but many were not. The most notable differences include n-dropping and the more extreme diphthongisation of ii and uu. At the same time, Ghent resisted many innovations characteristic for rural East Flanders. In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, the French uvular r was adopted. [19]

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Further reading