New Dutch dictionary sparks debate

13th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

13 October 2005, BRUSSELS — The new official Dutch dictionary which revised spelling was unveiled on Thursday, 10 years after the last edition was released.

13 October 2005

BRUSSELS — The new official Dutch dictionary which revised spelling was unveiled on Thursday, 10 years after the last edition was released.

However, the publication of the new Woordenlijst Nederlandse taal — otherwise known as the Groene Boekje (Green Book) — has sparked heated debate.

It comes a decade after the last great spelling amendment sent a shockwave through the Dutch language community.

Nothing had changed for 40 years until the 1995-released dictionary changed words such as pannekoek (pancake) to pannenkoek (note the 'n' in the middle).

The message back then was that the radical (and necessary) changes had been made and that in future, only modernising updates will be needed.

The current message from the Dutch Language Union — which supervises the evolution of the Dutch language — the latest changes were not changes, but simplifications.

The 'adaptations' have now occurred, but how radical are the changes? The answers to that question differ significantly.

According to the Dutch Language Union — which wants to minimise fuss — the new dictionary contained 1,300 spelling amendments. On the other hand, publisher Lannoo says there are 9,000 changes.

Insiders claim the true figure is about 2,000. They said the publisher is keen to sell the idea of a high number of changes to convince the public of the need to buy the latest version.

However, many of the changes are ones that have already filtered through, such as the new spelling for 'kenningsmakingsgesprek' (get to know you conversation), which is now spelled as kennismakingsgesprek.

The Green Book is divided into two sections, there is the dictionary, but there are also the spelling rules that are found at the start of the book.

And there are changes found there also, where the middle 'n' rule has been made simpler. Mushroom is thus spelled 'paddenstoel' again, instead of paddestoel.

That is logical, writes Flemish newspaper 'Het Nieuwsblad', but elsewhere, logic appears to have been discarded.

Try to follow this: When Dutch-language speakers talk about Jews as a population group, it must have a capital letter. But if they want to refer to Jews as a religious group, it must have a lower case 'j'.

You can thus write: Not all Jews are jews or Not all jews are Jews.

What is also strange is the entry of the word 'handknie', which is combination of the Dutch words for hand and knee, but which means elbow in Suriname.

It is here where the Dutch Language Union has shown its political correctness.

Since Suriname became a member of the union in 2004, joining Belgium and the Netherlands, several Surinamese words have been officially added to the Dutch language.

The new Green Book is now available in bookstores, but the new spelling rules will not be officially applied until August 2006, when publishers will need to start amending their publications. An expensive operation.

But there is also good news, a large number of dictionaries have agreed to introduce the new spelling rules. The correct spelling will thus be found in the new Van Dale, for example.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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