Afrikaans and Dutch as closely-related languages: A comparison to West Germanic languages and Dutch dialects

Wilbert Heeringa, Febe de Wet, Gerhard B. van Huyssteen


Following Den Besten’s (2009) desiderata for historical linguistics of Afrikaans, this article aims to contribute some modern evidence to the debate regarding the founding dialects of Afrikaans. From an applied perspective (i.e. human language technology), we aim to determine which West Germanic language(s) and/or dialect(s) would be best suited for the purposes of recycling speech resources for the benefit of developing speech technologies for Afrikaans. Being recognised as a West Germanic language, Afrikaans is first compared to Standard Dutch, Standard Frisian and Standard German. Pronunciation distances are measured by means of Levenshtein distances. Afrikaans is found to be closest to Standard Dutch. Secondly, Afrikaans is compared to 361 Dutch dialectal varieties in the Netherlands and North-Belgium, using material from the Reeks Nederlandse Dialectatlassen, a series of dialect atlases compiled by Blancquaert and Pée in the period 1925-1982 which cover the Dutch dialect area. Afrikaans is found to be closest to the South-Holland dialectal variety of Zoetermeer; this largely agrees with the findings of Kloeke (1950). No speech resources are available for Zoetermeer, but such resources are available for Standard Dutch. Although the dialect of Zoetermeer is significantly closer to Afrikaans than Standard Dutch is, Standard Dutch speech resources might be a good substitute.


human language technologies, speech resources, Afrikaans, Dutch, acoustic distance

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ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

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