Last updated
Native to Belgium, Netherlands, France
Region Flanders, Zeelandic Flanders, French Flanders
Ethnicity Flemings
Native speakers
6.5 million [1]  (2016)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 nl
ISO 639-2 dut  (B)
nld  (T)
ISO 639-3 nld Dutch
Glottolog dutc1256  Dutch
Official languages of Belgium:
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French, and
German. Brussels is a bilingual area where both Dutch and French have an official status. BelgieGemeenschappenkaart.svg
Official languages of Belgium:   Dutch,   French, and   German. Brussels is a bilingual area where both Dutch and French have an official status.

Flemish (Vlaams) [2] [3] [4] is a Low Franconian dialect cluster of the Dutch language. It is sometimes referred to as Flemish Dutch (Vlaams-Nederlands), Belgian Dutch (Belgisch-Nederlands [ˈbɛlɣis ˈneːdərlɑnts] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )), or Southern Dutch (Zuid-Nederlands). Flemish is native to Flanders, a historical region in northern Belgium; it is spoken by Flemings, the dominant ethnic group of the region. [5] [6] [7] [8] Outside of Flanders, it is also spoken to some extent in French Flanders and the Dutch Zeelandic Flanders. [1] [9] [10]



The term Flemish itself has become ambiguous. Nowadays, it is used in at least five ways, depending on the context. These include:

  1. An indication of Dutch written and spoken in Flanders including the Dutch standard language as well as the non-standardized dialects, including intermediate forms between vernacular dialects and the standard. Some linguists avoid the term Flemish in this context and prefer the designation Belgian-Dutch or South-Dutch
  2. A synonym for the so-called intermediate language in Flanders region, the Tussentaal
  3. An indication of the non-standardized dialects and regiolects of Flanders region
  4. 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 French Flanders [11]
  5. An indication of the non-standardized West Flemish dialects of the province of West Flanders, the Dutch Zeelandic Flanders and French Frans-Vlaanderen

MultiTree considers Flemish to include the four principal Dutch dialects in the Flemish region (Flanders): Brabantian, East Flemish, West Flemish and Limburgish as well as three other dialects. [12] Glottolog considers Western Flemish to be a separate language, classified as a part of the Southwestern Dutch family together with the Zeelandic language. According to Glottolog, Western Flemish includes the dialects of French Flemish and West Flemish. Brabantian and East Flemish are classified as Dutch dialects, under the Central Southern Dutch dialect group. [13] Ethnologue considers Limburgish and West Flemish to be separate (regional) languages. [14] [15]


Map showing the historical dialects spoken in the Low Countries. This map does not portray dialect zones of the modern Dutch language family, wherein Dutch and Flemish are distinct varieties of Dutch. Languages Benelux.PNG
Map showing the historical dialects spoken in the Low Countries. This map does not portray dialect zones of the modern Dutch language family, wherein Dutch and Flemish are distinct varieties of Dutch.

Dutch is the majority language in northern Belgium, being used in written language by three-fifths of the population of Belgium. It is one of the three national languages of Belgium, together with French and German, and is the only official language of the Flemish Region.

The various Dutch dialects spoken in Belgium contain a number of lexical and a good amount of grammatical features that distinguish them from the standard Dutch. Basic Dutch words can have a completely different meaning in Flemish or imply different context. [16] As in the Netherlands, the pronunciation of Standard Dutch is affected by the native dialect of the speaker.

All Dutch dialect groups spoken in Belgium are spoken in adjacent areas of the Netherlands as well. East Flemish forms a continuum with both Brabantic and West Flemish. Standard Dutch is primarily based on the Hollandic dialect [17] (spoken in the Western provinces of the Netherlands) and to a lesser extent on Brabantian, which is the dominant dialect in Flanders, as well as in the south of the Netherlands.


The supra-regional, semi-standardized colloquial form (mesolect) of Dutch spoken in Belgium uses the vocabulary and the sound inventory of the Brabantic dialects. It is often called an "in-between-language" or "intermediate language," intermediate between dialects and standard Dutch. [18] Despite its name, Brabantian is the dominant contributor to the Flemish Dutch tussentaal.

It is a rather informal variety of speech, which occupies an intermediate position between vernacular dialects and the standard language. It incorporates phonetic, lexical and grammatical elements not part of the standard language but drawn from local dialects.

It is a relatively new phenomenon that has been gaining popularity during the past decades. Some linguists note that it seems to be undergoing a process of (limited) standardisation [19] [20] or that it is evolving into a koiné variety. [21]

Tussentaal is slowly gaining popularity in Flanders because it is used a lot in television dramas and comedies. Often, middle-class characters in a television series will be speaking tussentaal, lower-class characters use the dialect of the location where the show is set (such as Western Flanders), and upper-class characters will speak Flemish. [22] That has given tussentaal the status of normalcy in Flanders. It is slowly being accepted by the general population, but it has met with objections from writers and academics who argue that it dilutes the usage of Standard Dutch. [23] Tussentaal is used in entertainment television but rarely in informative programmes (like the news), which normally use Flemish accents with standard Dutch vocabulary.


A belgicism is a word or expression that occurs only in the Belgian variant of Dutch. Some are rarely used, others are used daily and are considered part of the Belgian-Dutch standard language. Many belgicisms are loanwords and words or expressions literally translated from French (also called gallicisms); others, in response, are actually remarkably purist, such as droogzwierder (a compound of Dutch droog "dry" and zwierder "spinner") meaning "centrifuge" (common standard Dutch: centrifuge, a loanword from French), and duimspijker (a compound of Dutch duim "thumb" and spijker "nail") meaning "thumbtack" (common standard Dutch: punaise, a loanword from French). Among the belgicisms, there are also many words that are considered obsolete, formal, or purist in standard Dutch. Moreover, many belgicisms have their origin in the Belgian official nomenclature. For example, misdaad "felony" is not a legal term in the Netherlands, but it is in Belgium.


The English adjective Flemish (first attested as flemmysshe, c.1325; [24] compare Flæming, c.1150), [25] meaning "from Flanders", was probably borrowed from Old Frisian. [26] The Old Dutch form is flāmisk, which becomes vlamesc, vlaemsch in Middle Dutch and Vlaams in Modern Dutch. [27]

The word Vlaams itself is derived from flâm, [28] [29] an Ingaevones word, from the Germanic flauma (a cognate to the English flow and the Old German word flaum), which means 'flow or current'. The name Vlaanderen was formed from a stem flâm-, with a suffix -ðr- attached. [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

Low Franconian Language family

Low Franconian, Low Frankish, Netherlandic is a linguistic category used to classify a number of historical and contemporary West Germanic varieties closely related to, and including, the Dutch language. Most dialects and languages included within the category are spoken in the Netherlands, northern Belgium (Flanders), in the Nord department of France, in western Germany, as well as in Suriname, South Africa and Namibia.

Zeelandic Flanders Region in Zeeland, Netherlands

Zeelandic Flanders is the southernmost region of the province of Zeeland in the south-western Netherlands. It lies south of the Western Scheldt that separates the region from the remainder of Zeeland and the Netherlands to the north. Zeelandic Flanders is bordered to the south by Belgium.

Flemish Movement Political movement for emancipation and greater autonomy of the Belgian region of Flanders

The Flemish Movement is an umbrella term which encompasses various political groups in the Belgian region of Flanders and, less commonly, in French Flanders. Ideologically, it encompasses groups which have sought to promote Flemish culture and Dutch language as well as those who have sought greater political autonomy for Flanders within Belgium. It also encompasses nationalists who have sought the secession of Flanders from Belgium, either through outright independence or unification with the Netherlands.

Limburgish Low Franconian language spoken in the provinces of Limburg

Limburgish, also called Limburgan, Limburgian, or Limburgic, is a West Germanic language spoken in the Dutch and Belgian provinces of Limburg and in the neighbouring regions of Germany.

Flemish Region Region of Belgium

The Flemish Region, usually simply referred to as Flanders, is one of the three regions of Belgium—alongside the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region. It occupies the northern part of Belgium and covers an area of 13,625 km2 (5,261 sq mi). It is one of the most densely populated regions of Europe with around 490/km2 (1,300/sq mi).

Flemish Community Community of Belgium in Belgium

The Flemish Community is one of the three institutional communities of Belgium, established by the Belgian constitution and having legal responsibilities only within the precise geographical boundaries of the Dutch-language area and of the bilingual area of Brussels-Capital. Unlike in the French Community of Belgium, the competences of the Flemish Community have been unified with those of the Flemish Region and are exercised by one directly elected Flemish Parliament based in Brussels.

Hollandic or Hollandish is the most widely spoken dialect of the Dutch language. Other important language varieties of spoken Low Franconian languages are Brabantian, Flemish, Zeelandic and Limburgish.

Brabantian dialect Dialect group of the Dutch language

Brabantian or Brabantish, also Brabantic or Brabantine, is a dialect group of the Dutch language. It is named after the historical Duchy of Brabant, which corresponded mainly to the Dutch province of North Brabant, the Belgian provinces of Antwerp and Flemish Brabant as well as the Brussels-Capital Region and the province of Walloon Brabant. Brabantian expands into small parts in the west of Limburg, and its strong influence on the Flemish dialects in East Flanders weakens toward the west. In a small area in the northwest of North Brabant (Willemstad), Hollandic is spoken. Conventionally, the South Guelderish dialects are distinguished from Brabantian but for no objective reason other than geography.

East Flemish is a collective term for the two easternmost subdivisions of the so-called Flemish dialects, native to the southwest of the Dutch language area, which also include West Flemish. Their position between West Flemish and Brabantian has caused East Flemish dialects to be grouped with the latter as well. 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.


Zeelandic is a group of Friso-Franconian language varieties spoken in the southwestern parts of the Netherlands. It is currently considered a Low Franconian dialect of Dutch, but there have been movements to promote the status of Zeelandic from a dialect of Dutch to a separate regional language, which have been denied by the Dutch Ministry of Internal Affairs. More specifically, it is spoken in the southernmost part of South Holland (Goeree-Overflakkee) and large parts of the province of Zeeland, with the notable exception of eastern Zeelandic Flanders.

Flemish Sign Language is a deaf sign language of Belgium. VGT and French Belgian Sign Language are very closely related, but now generally recognized as distinct languages. VGT is estimated to include around 6,000 sign-language users.

Dutch is a West Germanic language, that originated from the Old Frankish dialects.

Terminology of the Low Countries Terminology

The Low Countries comprise the coastal Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta region in Western Europe, whose definition usually includes the modern countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Both Belgium and the Netherlands derived their names from earlier names for the region, due to nether meaning "low" and Belgica being the Latinized name for all the Low Countries, a nomenclature that went obsolete after Belgium's secession in 1830.

Languages of Belgium Overview of the languages spoken in the Kingdom of Belgium

The Kingdom of Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. A number of non-official, minority languages and dialects are spoken as well.

Languages of the Netherlands Overview of languages spoken in the Netherlands

The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, spoken by almost all people in the Netherlands. Dutch is also spoken and official in Aruba, Bonaire, Belgium, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten and Suriname. It is a West Germanic, Low Franconian language that originated in the Early Middle Ages and was standardised in the 16th century.

Dutch dialects are primarily the dialects that are both cognate with the Dutch language and are spoken in the same language area as the Dutch standard language. Dutch dialects are remarkably diverse and are found in the Netherlands and northern Belgium.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by about 24 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting most of the population of the Netherlands and more than half of the population of Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Flemish people Western European ethnic group native to present-day Flanders, Belgium

The Flemish or Flemings are a West Germanic ethnic group native to Flanders, in modern Belgium, who speak Flemish Dutch. They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons. Flemish people make up the majority of the Belgian population.

The Dutch language used in Belgium can also be referred to as Flemish Dutch or Belgian Dutch. Dutch is the mother tongue of about 60% of the population in Belgium, spoken by approximately 6.5 million out of a population of 11 million people. It is the only official language in Flanders, that is to say the provinces of Antwerp, Flemish Brabant, Limburg, and East Flanders and West Flanders. Alongside French, it is also an official language of Brussels. However, in the Brussels Capital Region and in the adjacent Flemish-Brabant municipalities, Dutch has been largely displaced by French as an everyday language.

Hugo Ryckeboer was a Belgian West Flemish dialectologist who specialized in French Flemish dialects.


  1. Depending on the definition of "Flemish" in context. Brabantian is classified as a dialect of Dutch. It is spoken in the historical Duchy of Brabant, spanning the Belgian provinces of Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and Brussels that are part of the modern region of Flanders.
  2. Depending on the definition of "Flemish" in context. Limburgish is either classified as a dialect of Dutch or as a separate language altogether. It is spoken in the historical Duchy of Limburg and County of Loon, spanning the Belgian province of Limburg that is part of the modern region of Flanders.
  1. 1 2 "ATLAS - Dutch: Who speaks it?". University College London. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  2. "Flemish, Vlaams". BBC. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  3. De Cock, Barbara (2006), Flemish language policy in an era of globalisation (PDF), Gencat.cat, retrieved 3 May 2017
  4. "Flemish language, alphabet and pronunciation". Omniglot. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  5. Lichfield, John (18 December 2007). "Belgium: A nation divided". The Independent. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  6. Leidraad van de Taaltelefoon. Dienst Taaladvies van de Vlaamse Overheid (Department for Language advice of the Flemish government).
  7. Harbert, Wayne (2007). The Germanic Languages. Cambridge University Press.
  8. Kooij, Jan (2009). "Dutch". In Comrie, Bernard (ed.). The World's Major Languages (2nd ed.). Routledge.
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  10. "About Belgium - Language Matters". Beer Tourism. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
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  13. "Vlaams". Glottolog. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  14. "Linguistic map of Benelux". Ethnologue. 1999-02-19. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  15. Their ISO 639-3 codes are vls and lim, respectively.
  16. Janssens, Guy; Marynissen, Ann (2005). Het Nederlands vroeger en nu. Leuven & Voorburg: Acco., 155 ff.
  17. "De gesproken standaardtaal: het Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands" [The standard spoken language: General Civilized Dutch]. Structuur en geschiedenis van het Nederlands Een inleiding tot de taalkunde van het Nederlands (in Dutch). Niederländische Philologie, Freie Universität Berlin. 2014-06-10. Retrieved 2015-08-10.
  18. Geeraerts, Dirk (2001), "Een zondagspak? Het Nederlands in Vlaanderen: gedrag, beleid, attitudes" (PDF), Ons Erfdeel (in Dutch), 44, pp. 337–344, retrieved 2012-01-19
  19. Janssens, Guy; Marynissen, Ann (2005). Het Nederlands vroeger en nu. Leuven & Voorburg: Acco., 196.
  20. "Algemeen Vlaams". VlaamseTaal.be. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  21. Rys, K. & J. Taeldeman (2007). Fonologische ingrediënten van Vlaamse tussentaal. In: D. Sandra, R. Rymenans, P. Cuvelier et al. (red.), Tussen taal, spelling en onderwijs. Essays bij het emeritaat van Frans Daems. Gent: Academia Press, 1-9, p.2.
  22. Standaardtaal of tussentaal op televisie (PDF) (in Dutch), Universiteit Gent, retrieved 2014-08-28
  23. Vervaeke, Leen (8 February 2014). "Actie tegen onverstaanbare Vlaamse 'tussentaal' op televisie". De Volkskrant (in Dutch). Retrieved 2014-08-28.
  24. "Flēmish", Middle English Dictionary (MED)
  25. "Flēming", Middle English Dictionary (MED), retrieved 2013-10-17
  26. "Flemish". Online Etymological Dictionary. Etymonline.com. which cites Flemische as an Old Frisian form; but compare "entry FLĀMISK, which gives flēmisk". Oudnederlands Woordenboek (ONW). Gtb.inl.nl.
  27. "FLĀMISK", Oudnederlands Woordenboek (ONW)
  28. www.culturamavzw.be http://www.culturamavzw.be/index.php?id=30#naam.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. Vloanderngouwe
  30. "Entry VLAENDREN; ONW, entry FLĀMINK; Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT), entry VLAMING". Vroeg Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek (VMNW). Gtb.inl.nl.