The Afrikaans language reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Afrikaans language

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Language codes:
afr(ISO 639-2)
af(ISO 639-1)
Language classification
Indo-European languages
Germanic languages
West Germanic languages
Low German languages
Low Franconian language
Language Spread
South Africa, Namibia

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia. It was originally the dialect that developed among the Afrikaner Calvinist settlers and the indentured or slave workforce brought to the Cape area in southwestern South Africa by the Dutch East India Company (NL: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie - VOC) between 1652 and 1705. A relative majority of these settlers were from the Netherlands, though there were also many from Germany, a considerable number from France, a few from Scotland, and various other countries.  The indentured workers and slaves were Malayss and the indigenous Khoi and San.

Research by J. A. Heese indicates that until 1807, 36.8% of the forefathers of the White Afrikaans speaking population were Dutch, 35% were German, 14.6% were French and 7.2% Non-White. Also, a sizeable minority of those who spoke Afrikaans as a first language were not White. The dialect became known as "Cape Dutch". Later, Afrikaans was sometimes also referred to as "African Dutch". Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect until the early 20th century, when it began to be widely recognized as a distinct language. The name Afrikaans is simply the Dutch word for African.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Grammar
3 Orthography
4 Sociolinguistics
5 Afrikaans Phrases
6 External links


Afrikaans is linguistically closely related to 17th century Dutch, and to modern Dutch by extension. It is similar to Flemish. Speakers of each language can make themselves easily understood by speakers of the other. Other less closely related languages include the Low Saxon spoken in northern Germany and the Netherlands, German, and English. Cape Dutch vocabulary diverged from the Dutch vocabulary spoken in the Netherlands over time as Cape Dutch absorbed words from other European settlers, East Indian slaves, and native African languages. Printed material among the Afrikaners at first used only proper European Dutch. By the mid-19th century, more and more was appearing in Afrikaans, which was very much still regarded as a spoken regional dialect. The first Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaanders (Society for Real Afrikaners) in Cape Town. Official government proclamation of Afrikaans as a distinct language from Dutch came in 1925. The official languages of the Union of South Africa were English and Dutch until that time. Dutch was replaced as an official language by Afrikaans.

Besides vocabulary, the most striking difference from Dutch is its much more regular grammar, which is likely the result of mutual interference with one of more creole languages based on the Dutch language spoken by the relatively large number of non-Dutch speakers (Khoisan, Khoikhoi, German, French, Malay, and speakers of different African languages) during the formation period of the language in the second half of the 17th century. In 1710, slaves outnumbered free settlers.

There are a lot of different theories about how Afrikaans came to be. The Afrikaan School have long seen Afrikaans as a natural development from the South-Hollandic Dutch dialect, but have also only considered the Afrikaans as spoken by the whites. The Afrikaan School have also rejected all alternative ideas.

Most linguistics scholars today are certain that Afrikaans has been influenced by creole languages based on the South-Holland Dutch dialect. It is very hard finding out how this influence took place, since there are almost no written material written in the Dutch based creole languages; only a few sentences found in unrelated books often written by non-speakers.

Although much of the vocabulary of Afrikaans reflects its origins in 17th century South-Hollandic Dutch, it also contains words loaned from Indonesian languages, Malay, Portuguese, French, Khoi and San dialects, English, isiXhosa and many other languages. Consequently, many words in Afrikaans are very different from Dutch, as demonstrated by the names of different fruits:


* from Malay pisang (a word that is known in Dutch as well through the Dutch East Indies link)


Grammatically, Afrikaans is very analytical, being the most analytical Indo-European language. Unlike most other Indo-European languages, verbs do not conjugate differently depending on the subject: Ek is, "I am"; Jy is, "you are"; Hy is, "he is", Ons is, "we are"; etc. There are no grammatical cases and nouns do not have gender. A particular feature of Afrikaans is its use of the double negative, something that is absent from the other West Germanic standard languages, e.g:Hy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie. (literally 'he cannot Afrikaans speak not'). Both French and San origins for this have been suggested. Double negation is still found in Low Franconian dialects in West-Flandern and in some isolated villages in the center of Holland (i.e. Garderen), so some suggest this being a Dutch feature brough to South Africa by the settlers. This does not seem to be the case, since this is another kind of double-negation that found in Afrikaans (ie. ikne wil dat nie doen - I not will that not do). The -ne was the Old Franconian way to negate, but it is suggested that since it became highly non-voiced 'nie' or 'niet' was needed to complement the -ne. With time the -ne disappeared in most Low Franconian ("Dutch") dialects.


Written Afrikaans differs from Dutch in that the spelling reflects a phonetically simplified language, and so many consonants are dropped. The spelling is also a lot more phonetical that the Dutch counterpart. A notable feature is the indefinite article, which is "'n", not "een" as in Dutch. "A book" is "'n Boek", whereas in Dutch it would be "Een boek". Other features include the use of 's' instead of 'z', hence South Africa in Afrikaans is written as Suid-Afrika, whereas in Dutch it is Zuid-Afrika. (This accounts for ZA being used as South Africa's internet top level domain.) The Dutch letter combination 'ij' is written as 'y'.

goeienaandgoedenavondgood evening
oormôreovermorgenthe day after tomorrow


Afrikaans is the first language of approximately 60% of South Africa's whites, and over 90% of the "Coloured" (mixed-race) population. Large numbers of black, Asian, and English South Africans also speak it as a second language. It is also widely spoken in Namibia, where it has had constitutional recognition as a national, not official, language since independence in 1990. Prior to independence, Afrikaans, along with German, had equal status as an official language. There is a much smaller number of Afrikaans speakers among Zimbabwe's white minority, but most left the country in 1980.

Afrikaans has been influential in the development of South African English. Many Afrikaans loanwords have found their way into South African English, such as "veld", "braai", "boomslang", and "lekker". A few words in standard English are derived from Afrikaans, such as "trek", "spoor", and, of course, apartheid.

In 1976, rioting broke out in Soweto as the result of the apartheid government's requirement that Afrikaans rather than English be used as the medium of instruction in black schools. See History of South Africa.

Under South Africa's multiracial Constitution of 1994, Afrikaans remained an official language, but there were now nine other official languages with which it now had equal status. The new dispensation meant that Afrikaans was often downgraded by, in favour of English, or so as to accommodate the new 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 only display the name of the country in English and their host country's language, but not in Afrikaans.

Although these moves have, understandably, angered Afrikaans speakers, the language has remained strong, with newspapers and magazines in the language continuing to have wide circulations, and a pay-TV channel in Afrikaans called KykNet being launched in 1999.

An Afrikaans wikipedia has been started, but is in the very early stages of development: Die Afrikaanse Wikipedia.

Afrikaans Phrases

The phonetical transcription is done in IPA. This requires a font that supports unicode IPA like Arial Unicode MS; otherwise you will see the wrong IPA letters.

Afrikaans is a very centralized language, meaning that most of the vowels are pronounced very centralized (ie. very schwa like). There are a lot of different dialects and different pronouncations - but the transcription should be pretty standard.

A sentence that is written the same in Afrikaans as in English:

External links