WNT ONLINE.

Mark Liberman at Language Log reports that the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT), the Dutch equivalent of the OED, will become freely available on the internet on January 27 (the site is here). The news came to him from Ruud Visser, whose blog has a full report on the development (including a translation of the account in the Leiden University newsletter), as well as a great follow-up on BabelFish’s bizarre “translation” of the name Harm Beukers as “Harm tired cherry.”

Comments

  1. How do you say “My dictionary is bigger than your dictionary” in Dutch?

  2. “Mijn woordenboek is grooter dan jouw woordenbook.”
    /mɛin ˈʋoːrdənˌbuk ɪs ˈɣroːtər dən jʌuw ˈʋoːrdənˌbuk/

  3. The WNT site linked to is an example of the amount of English that’s infiltrating Dutch. There’s “online,” “hardware,” “downloaden” “getest,” and [in the FAQ popup] “fonts” and “gedownload.”

  4. But isn’t “font” a French word?

  5. Paul Clapham says:

    “Font” is certainly an English word. In its typography sense the OED’s first citation for it is 1683 (“A Fount (properly a Fund) of Letter of all Bodies”) and in its ecclesiastic sense the OED cites it as circa 1000.
    Probably it’s the former meaning that’s been borrowed by Dutch, and probably in its computer sense as Dutch programmers often deliberately write their programs using English words rather than Dutch words.

  6. Not only Dutch programmers are borrowing English words — I’m finding any random Dutch newspaper article is filled with English terms as well. In a small regional paper I follow, today there are “coordinator,” “Gymclub,” “Summits,” and “continent” (the word I learned as a child was “werelddeel”).
    I believe I’ve mentioned before here there is a Dutch purist movement, but it’s not likely to go anywhere — they have gone so far as to rename all the months to avoid the foreign borrowings in those names. I suspect that the tendency to throw English words into Dutch is basically code-switching, since the average Dutch person needs to use a lot of English in everyday life.
    The recent official Dutch spelling makeover (they’ve done this two or three times in the last hundred years) even has a section on special rules for spelling derivatives of English borrowings, for example, the diminutive of “baby” requires an apostrophe: “baby’tjes.”
    In any event, having the “Dutch OED” online will be pretty cool.

  7. It’s kind of funny that it uses the obsolete spelling “Nederlandsche” rather than the now-correct “Nederlandse”.
    It also seems to be the “Dutch OED” only in the Netherlands themselves. In Belgium, the Grote Van Dale seems to be regarded as the standard.

  8. @James Crippen: That would be the pre-’34 spelling. “Grooter” is spelled “groter” nowadays. (or, in other words, bigger became smaller…)
    @Cairnarvon: The van Dale is very much the standard in the Netherlands as well – spellingwise.
    You wouldn’t want to use the WNT to look up the spelling of a word anyway. For one thing, it is a historical dictionary – a lot of it is in an obsolete spelling, which explains the title -) and secondly, most people don’t want 36 or so volumes cluttering up their bookshelves…

  9. @SN: The Van Dale the spelling authority? I should say the Wdl (Woordenlijst Nederlandse Taal, or “het Groene Boekje” as it is colloquially dubbed) is more of an authority (at least by official regulations).
    At any rate, the WNT is by no means intended to set a standard. It did originate as a prescriptivist work, but saw the error of its ways and was morphed into a descriptivist diachronic dictionary. In other terms, it was conceived to be a resource for linguists and literature researchers – nor for everyday queries, unless the reader is prepared to thumb through lengthy expositions. There are eighty pages on “vallen” (the verb “to fall”).
    Incidentally, I do hope this sets a precedent for many more dictionaries to become FREE. If we have such an excellent tool as the Internet, why would we start fending off every bit of truly useful informarion?

  10. @SN: The Van Dale the spelling authority? I should say the Wdl (Woordenlijst Nederlandse Taal, or “het Groene Boekje” as it is colloquially dubbed) is more of an authority (at least by official regulations).
    At any rate, the WNT is by no means intended to set a standard. It did originate as a prescriptivist work, but saw the error of its ways and was morphed into a descriptivist diachronic dictionary. In other terms, it was conceived to be a resource for linguists and literature researchers – nor for everyday queries, unless the reader is prepared to thumb through lengthy expositions. There are eighty pages on “vallen” (the verb “to fall”).
    Incidentally, I do hope this sets a precedent for many more dictionaries to become FREE. If we have such an excellent tool as the Internet, why would we start fending off every bit of truly useful informarion?

  11. Britons living in The Netherlands find it very difficult to speak Dutch, not because it’s a difficult language but because they’re not allowed to. Once they hear the accent, the Dutch immediately start speaking English to them.
    So, the standing joke in English Dutch-language classes is to learn a special sentence after which the Dutch will always reply in Dutch to you (“I do not understand you because I don’t speak English, I am from Lithuania”)

  12. David Marjanović says:

    (“I do not understand you because I don’t speak English, I am from Lithuania”)
    LOL! Just be careful they don’t speak German to you after that. (German is taught a lot in Lithuania. I still wonder why — just because it’s not Russian? German isn’t that useful.)
    Question about nederlandsche: did the pronunciation change since 1863? Or was the old spelling just sucking up to German?

  13. Wikipedia has a nice history of Dutch spelling reforms of 1804, 1883, 1934, 1947 and 1996 on this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_spelling. Going forward the plan is to do a review and possible overhaul every 10 years.
    Pronunciations did not change, the “sche” ending (basically meaning “ish”), has been pronounced as “se” for a long time. But I assume at some point in the past it was more similar to the German pronunciation of “Niederlandisch.” Even within the Netherlands there is a lot of regional variation in how a word like “Nederlands” is pronounced.

  14. Dutch is in decline. It will totally give way to englis in 10 yrs. no point for a wnt.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    “isn’t FONT a French word?”
    - not with the modern meaning of “alphabetic character set”, for which the French word is “police (de caractères)”.
    The only use of “font” in modern French is in the plural, in the phrase “les fonts baptismaux”, for which I don’t know the English equivalent: it refers to a kind of stone basin on top of a column, of a height convenient for a priest to dip a hand in the water in order to pour a little of it on the head of the baby he is holding with his other arm, thus administering the sacrament of baptism. I don’t know why the word is plural since there is normally only one of these in a church. The last name “Lafont” or “Delafont” is fairly common in France, but here “la font” meaning “la fontaine” is of Occitan origin (in Southern France).

  16. joeri samson says:

    @martin
    Looking up “continent” in the wnt reveals that it was probably from french origin (and was in use probably long before you went to school, the earliest date given is 1847, but that is from Kramers, so it’s use in dutch probably dates from long before)

  17. >>”isn’t FONT a French word?”
    >>- not with the modern meaning of “alphabetic character set”, for which the French word is “police (de caractères)”.
    Isn’t POLICE an English word?

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