Brabantian dialect

For the British kayaker, see Tim Brabants.
Native to Belgium, Netherlands
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog brab1242[1]
Linguasphere 52-ACB-ak (varieties:
52-ACB-aka to-akk)

Brabantian or Brabantish, also Brabantic (Dutch: Brabants, Standard Dutch pronunciation: [ˈbraːbɑnts], Brabantian: [ˈbrɑ:bans]), is a dialect group of the Dutch language. It is named after the historical Duchy of Brabant, part of the Duchy of Burgundy, which corresponded mainly to the Dutch provinces of North Brabant and southern Gelderland, the Belgian provinces of Antwerp and Flemish Brabant, as well as the Brussels-Capital Region (where its native speakers have become a minority) and the province of Walloon Brabant. Brabantian expands into small parts in the west of Limburg while its strong influence on the Flemish dialects in East-Flanders weakens towards the west. In a small area in the northwest of North Brabant (Willemstad), Hollandic is spoken. Conventionally, the South Guelderish dialects are distinguished from Brabantian, but there are no objective criteria apart from geography to do so.

Because of the relatively large area in which Brabantian is spoken, it can be roughly divided in three sub-dialects:

Over 5 million people live in an area with some form of Brabantian being the predominant colloquial language out of the area's 22 million Dutch-speakers.[2][3]


Compared to the other dialects and sublanguages of Dutch, Brabantian has historically been a major influence on the development of Dutch. During the Middle Ages, manuscripts from the 10th to 15th centuries show that first Limburgish and then West Flemish were the predominant literary languages, but there is no evidence of literary manuscripts farther north.

In the second half if the 14th century, the societal emphasis shifted to Brabant and so the Brabantian dialect became dominant. A migration to the north was occurring; the West Flemish dialect influenced the coastal area of the province of South Holland ('s-Gravenhage and Leiden) and the migrants from Brabant came to the provinces of North Holland, and Utrecht.

In the 16th century, when the Low Countries were in turmoil, another migration occurred from the Spanish Netherlands (roughly the current Betoward to the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The migration made the cultural elite move from the oppressive Spanish/Roman Catholic region to the more liberal (and Protestant) north. Dutch linguistics historian Nicoline van der Sijs[4] says that it is a popular myth that Brabantian was a dominant influence in the process of standardization of the Dutch language beginning in the 16th century. She says that Standard Dutch is a standardized Hollands dialect. However, researchers of variance linguistics at the University of Gent[5] and Dutch linguists in Berlin[6] recognise the distinctive influence of Brabantian on the first Dutch standardisation in the 16th century. The first major formation of Standard Dutch also took place in Antwerp, where a Brabantian dialect is spoken. The default language being developed around then thus mainly Brabantian influences.

Current use


The early modern Dutch written language was initially influenced primarily by Brabantian, with strong influence from the Hollandic dialect after the 16th century. Since then, it has diverged from Standard Dutch, evolving in its own way, but it is still similar enough for both to be mutually intelligible.[7]

The Berlin scientists point to a very important phenomenon in the 20th century in the south of the Dutch language area: there has been an expansion in the use of Brabantian by the dominant presence of native Brabantian speakers in the modern mass media, such as radio and television.

About one quarter of the Dutch-speaking population lives in the Brabantian dialect zone. In the Netherlands, rural areas still somewhat retain their original Brabantian dialects. In large Dutch cities, such as Breda and Eindhoven, where the Industrial Revolution, drew many people from other parts of the country, and the dialect has been diluted by contact with Standard Dutch. Because people tended to migrate towards the cities from the surrounding rural areas, Brabantian influence is still seen in certain vocabulary items and in pronunciation (the "Brabantian accent" of Dutch, but the original Brabantian city dialects have largely disappeared there.

However, some large cities, such as Tilburg and 's-Hertogenbosch, still have a large number of people speaking the original Brabantian dialect.


In Belgium, dialects are still the common spoken language and are still spoken in most large cities, particularly in Antwerp, where Antwerpian, a dialect in the city that is rather distinct from that of the surrounding area, remains common. In Brussels-Capital Region, French largely replaced Dutch in the mid-20th century, but there are many cultural activities using the Brussels dialect, such as at masses in a church in Jette. Moreover, use of Dutch is reviving because of young Dutch-speaking families moving back from the suburbs to the old city centre, the City of Brussels.

Differences from standard

The Brabantian is rather close to and contributed to the development of Standard Dutch. A characteristic phrase, houdoe ("take care"), derives from houd u goed (literally, "keep yourself all right"), but colloquial Dutch/Hollandic uses doei ("bye").

In South Brabantian (Belgium), "Ale, salu(kes) e!", a calque from French "Allez!" and "Salut!", is a common greeting.

Brabantian dialects have a characteristic historical tendency towards accusativism, the use of the accusative case instead of the nominative case as well. While the cases themselves have fallen out of use in the modern language, the accusative form survives in Brabantian rather than the nominative as in the more northern dialects (nominativism). As the accusative case had different forms for masculine and feminine nouns, that allowed the two genders to remain distinguished, and speakers of Brabantian dialects still keep them separate.

In areas with nominativism, the two genders merged, as the older nominative was the same for both genders.


The first attempts on standardising Dutch were in the 1540s and based on the Brabantian dialect, of Antwerp and its surroundings. However, following the Dutch Revolt, the Dutch economical and political focus shifted north and centred on the County of Holland, and the importance of Brabantian dwindled. More recent attempts to establish a standard form of Brabantian have met little success. However, the new phenomenon of tussentaal is becoming widespread.

Position of Brabantian (beige) among the other minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Brabants". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Belgium FOD economy Statbel official demographic statistics
  3. Netherlands gouvernement CBS official demographic statistics
  4. "ABN was vooral een Hollandse uitvinding from 2004" (in Dutch).
  5. Brabants
  6. nederlands in vlaanderen
  7. "Taal in Nederland .:. Brabants". Retrieved 2014-04-24.


  • Jos Swanenberg (2002). "Brabantish". Language in the Netherlands. Retrieved 2007-06-03.  Dutch versions: Brabants or as pdf

Further reading

  • Belemans, Rob (1999), "Brussel", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal (PDF), Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 317–333 
  • de Schutter, G. (1999), "Antwerpen", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal (PDF), Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 301–315 
  • Peters, Jörg (2010), "The Flemish–Brabant dialect of Orsmaal–Gussenhoven", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 40 (2): 239–246, doi:10.1017/S0025100310000083 
  • Swanenberg, Cor (1999), "'s-Hertogenbosch", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal (PDF), Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 207–222 
  • van Oostendorp, Marc (2001), "The phonology of postvocalic /r/ in Brabant Dutch and Limburg Dutch", in van de Velde, Hans; van Hout, Roeland, 'r-atics, Brussels: Etudes & Travaux, pp. 113–122, ISSN 0777-3692 
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