It seems to me that Dutch is closer to German in its pronunciation than in its writing. It is a bit approximative to say so, and that's rather a personal impression, shared by some German native speaker and non-Dutch speaker I could talk to.

For example, "einfach" and "eenvoudig" are quite dissimilar in writing. However, when pronounced, the proximity is obvious. We could also mention "verduidelijk" and "verdeutlichen" or "Waarden" and "Werte".

In this regard, speaking myself German and learning / reading Dutch, I have the impression that Dutch is spoken dialect of German with a different writing (a different phonetics).

  • What in the history of those languages could explain a greater proximity in the pronunciation than in writing for German and Dutch?

  • Did Dutch derive from German or a common ancestor more similar to German, so that it could be thought as a "deformation" or a "dialect" of German?

What are some reference books, web sources, or experts on this question?

  • 3
    What you call "German", as well as what you call "Dutch", are modern national standardized languages. If you go to Germany or the Low Countries, you will find a patchwork quilt of dialects, many of them rarely written and not standardized. There is a big divide between the languages of the North (the flat coast, hence Low German) and the languages of the South (the Alps, hence High German). Standard High German, taught in school and used on TV, is a mixture by Martin Luther of High German consonants with Low German vowels (very roughly). As for spelling, ignore it; sounds are what count.
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 15:45
  • 2
    So, basically, German and Dutch are merely two varieties of a vast Germanic continuum. The spelling changes erratically, even in the same country, as the local lect intrudes. I recommend Trask's Historical Linguistics, which isn't limited to German, but will explain everything.
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 15:48
  • 1
    Additional anecdotal evidence. For me coming from the northern half of Germany, Dutch is easier to understand/ guess then Bavarian, Swiss German or similar southern German dialects. Reading Dutch also works quite well once you learn/ memorize the few and simple Dutch pronounciation rules and then compare the Dutch pronounciation to known German words.
    – quarague
    Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 9:49
  • Wikipedia has a page on History of Dutch orthography. There have been a lot of debates and disagreements on how to spell Dutch!
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 11:19
  • @jlawler thanks, is there any reference book or material on the history / formation of the dutch language specifically ?
    – kiriloff
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 11:21

1 Answer 1


Well, the language vs. dialect question is not really a linguistic one but more a political one: A language is a dialect with an army and a navy. By this criterion, Dutch is clearly a language.

But there is a still existing dialect continuum connecting High German, Low Franconian, and Dutch dialects along river Rhine, see Rheinischer Fächer for an overview. I quote the German Wikipedia article here because it is more comprehensive than the English one.

Historically, many innovations of High German (second sound shift, diphthongisations of long i and u) originated in the South of the Germanic dialect continuum and spread northward, but did not reach the Netherlands. Dutch acquired some innovations of its own (e.g. /ft/ -> /xt/) adding to the differences.

After getting acquainted to Dutch spelling and a few signature sound changes I, a native speaker of German, can read Dutch text to a good amount, but usually I am lost at spoken Dutch.

  • the English wikipedia link to the Rhenish Fan may be more helpful here, if Kiriloff isn't a German speaker, although unfortunately it is missing the helpful table at the bottom of the German page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhenish_fan
    – Tristan
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 16:09
  • : ( In this regard, speaking myself German and learning / reading Dutch
    – kiriloff
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 17:59
  • Dutch isn't really *a* language even by this criterion. Hasn't it occured to anyone to consider Millitary in diachrony?
    – vectory
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 12:39

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