Dutch orthography

Dutch Orthography

Dutch orthography

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Dutch orthography uses the Latin alphabet according to a system which has evolved to suit the needs of the Dutch language. The regular relationship of graphemes to phonemes is listed in the article on Dutch language. This article will explain the present spelling system, and then trace the development of Dutch spelling as it has evolved from the Middle Ages through to the last two centuries when frequent government decrees sought to improve and simplify the system.


Dutch orthography is fairly logical. For the foreign learner it is relatively easy as, once one knows the system, one can almost always deduce pronunciation from spelling, if proper names and foreign loan-words are discounted. For Dutch children learning to write, the system is not quite so kind, as the reverse operation, deducing spelling from pronunciation, is more complicated: can be spelled ‹c› or ‹k› in loan words for example, and ‹ou› and ‹au› sound the same, as well as ‹ij› and ‹ei› in the standard dialect. Critics also complain that even when the system is regular it is occasionally antiquated: the digraphs ‹ie› and ‹oe› are spelled in this way because they were once diphthongs, but now they are simple vowels and ; the combination ‹sch› for in the ending -isch is also historically conditioned. All in all, at least among the Western European languages, Dutch is closer than average to a phonemic spelling.

Present spelling system

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