East Flemish

East Flemish
Uest-Vloams, Uust-Vloams, Oeëst-Vloams
Native to Belgium, Netherlands
Region East Flanders
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog oost1241  (Oost-Vlaams)[1]
oost1242  (Oostvlaams)[2]
Position of East Flemish (colour: light brown) among the other minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux

East Flemish (Dutch: Oost-Vlaams, French: flamand oriental) is a collective term for the two easternmost subdivisions ("true" East Flemish, also called Core Flemish,[3] and Waaslandic, as well as their transitional and city dialects) of the so-called Flemish Dialects, a group of dialects native to the southwest of the Dutch language area, which also includes West Flemish.[4] Though due to their intermediary position between West Flemish and Brabantian, the East Flemish dialects have also been grouped with the latter.[5] They are mainly spoken in the province of East Flanders and a narrow strip in the southeast of West Flanders in Belgium and eastern Zeelandic Flanders in the Netherlands. Even though the dialects of the Dender area are often discussed together with the East Flemish dialects due to their location, these dialects are actually South Brabantian.[6]


Before the occurrence of written records, the dialect continuum which took shape in the old Dutch language area was mainly characterized by differences from East to West, with the West showing more coast Germanic influences and the East more continental Germanic traits.[6] When looking at East Flanders, it can be noted that not a single typical eastern Low Franconian trait has reached the region, while coastal characteristics are fairly common, be they less so than further to the west.[6]

In the 15th century, the dominant position in the Low Countries shifted from the County of Flanders to the Duchy of Brabant, which brought an expansian of linguistic traits from this duchy with it, the so-called 'Brabantic Expansion'. As the Scheldt formed a large barrier in the North, these traits were mainly introduced from South Brabant, and the city of Brussels in particular.[6] The Dender area probably already started this process in the 14th century, while Ghent (and probably the rest of the province) resisted these changes for at least a century more, as literature from Ghent still indicates a typically West Flemish phonology by the mid 16th century.[6] Eventually two processes have caused the spread of Brabantian traits in eastern Flanders:

While the second process has caused a fairly wide extension of some traits, traits spread through the first process have only reached the eastern quarter of the province, namely the Dender and Waasland areas.[6]

Having been dominated by the French, Austrians and Spaniards, their languages also have had influence on the vocabulary of East Flemish.

Subdivisions of East Flemish

Principal dialects

Transitional and mixed dialects

A special mention should go to continental West Flemish, which, despite being a West Flemish dialect, has some East Flemish colouring, as Kortrijk was historically governed under Ghent.[10]


Even though the East Flemish dialect area comprises one of the most diverse linguistic landscapes in Belgium,[6] they do share some traits that set them apart from standard Dutch and the neighbouring dialects:


As the realisation of phonemes can be quite divergent in different East Flemish dialects, the phonemes represented here are based on the most common Core East Flemish realisations.


Alveolar Post-
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p   b t   d k   (ɡ)
Fricative f   v s   z (ʃ)   (ʒ) x ɣ
Affricate ts
Approximant β̞ l j
Trill r



The following table gives an overview of some common phonemes in stressed syllables. A lot of East Flemish dialects have lost the phonemic vowel length distinction, nevertheless the distincition is made in the following table for those dialects that still make it. Apart from these vowels there is also the central vowel /ə/, which only occurs in unstressed syllables and is often heavily reduced or even omitted in a lot of dialects.[4][13]

Close i y u
Close-mid ɪ   e(ː) ʏ   ø(ː) o   (oː)
Open-mid ɛ œ ɔ
Open æ ɑ



The following table shows the common diphthong phonemes in East Flemish, though it also includes some allophones or alternative realizations of the vowels mentioned above.[4]

Starting point Ending point
Front Central Back
Close front unrounded iə̯ iu̯
front rounded yə̯ ~ uə̯
back ui̯
Close-mid front unrounded ɪə̯
front rounded øi̯ øə̯
back oə̯ ou̯
Open-mid front unrounded ɛi̯ ɛə̯
front rounded œi̯
back ɔi̯ ɔu̯
Open front æi̯ æu̯ ~ ɑu̯
back ɑi̯




As in many southern Dutch dialects verbal constructions can take several forms depending on stress, position of the subject, and the following word.[6] Unlike West Flemish however a subjunctive mood doesn't occur.[12] The following table gives the general rules of conjugation in the present tense and the regular example of zwieren (to toss). The spelling is based on Dutch orthography with the addition of  ̊  to show devoicing and  ̆  to show vowel shortening.

Ending Regular order (SVO) Inversed order (VSO or OVS) Subordinate clauses (SOV)
Person and number Unstressed Duplicated Stressed Unstressed Stressed Unstressed Stressed
1st sing. -e / -∅ / (-n) 'k zwiere 'k zwiere-kik ik zwiere zwiere-k zwiere-kik da-k ... zwiere da-kik ... zwiere
2nd sing. -t ge zwiert ge zwier-g̊ij gij zwiert zwier-de zwier-de gij da-de ... zwiert da-de gij ... zwiert
3rd sing. masc. -t / ̆-t ij zwiert ij zwiert-jij jij zwiert zwiert-ij zwiert-jij dat-ij ... zwiert dat-jij ... zwiert
3rd sing. fem. ze zwiert ze zwier-z̊ij zij zwiert zwier-z̊e zwier-z̊e zij da-z̊e ... zwiert da-z̊e zij ... zwiert
3rd sing. ntr. 't zwiert - - zwier-et - da-t ... zwiert -
1st plural -en me zwieren(-me(n)) me zwiere-me wij/wulder wij/wulder zwieren(-me(n)) zwiere-me(n) zwiere-me wij/wulder da-me(n) ... zwieren da-me wij/wulder ... zwieren
2nd plural -t ge zwiert ge zwier-g̊ulder gulder zwiert zwier-de zwier-de gulder da-de ... zwiert da-de gulder ... zwiert
3rd plural -en ze zwieren ze zwieren zulder zulder zwieren zwieren ze zwieren zulder dan ze ... zwieren dan zulder ... zwieren



Like most Germanic languages, East Flemish differentiates between strong verbs and weak verbs. And even though there are a few strong verbs in East Flemish that are weak in standard Dutch, the overall tendency is that East Flemish has more weak verbs.[6] Unlike many Germanic languages the rules of conjugation of the strong praeterite are exactly the same as in the present tense.[15] The weak praeterite is formed by adding the suffix "-dege" ("-tege" when the stem ends in a voiceless consonant) to the verb stem.[6] While an "n" is usually added in the first and third person plural, the t-ending is only added to this form in a few southwestern dialects.[15]

Ghent dialect

The dialect of the province's capital, Ghent, is also different from the language of the surrounding region. The abovementioned Brabantic expansion is believed to have started in Ghent, setting its speech apart from the other Flemish dialects. Some of these Brabantic traits were exported to other East Flemish dialects, but many were not. Differences include n dropping and more extreme diphthongisation of ancient ii and uu. At the same time, Ghent resisted many innovations characteristic for rural East Flanders. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the French (uvular) r was adopted. Ghent's dialect is especially known by these traits.[19]


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Oost-Vlaams". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Oostvlaams". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 Hoppenbrouwers, Cor; Hoppenbrouwers, Geer (2001): De Indeling van de Nederlandse streektalen. ISBN 90 232 3731 5
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 Taeldeman, Johan (1979): Het klankpatroon van de Vlaamse dialecten . Een inventariserend overzicht. In: Woordenboek van de Vlaamse Dialecten. Inleiding.
  5. Belgium (2005). Keith Brown, ed. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 Taeldeman, Johan (2005): Taal in Stad en Land: Oost-Vlaams.
  7. 1 2 Taeldeman, Johan (2004): Variatie binnen de Oost-Vlaamse dialecten. In: Azuuë Gezeid, Azuuë Gezoeng'n, Vol. II: Oost-Vlaanderen. Wild Boar Music WBM 21902.
  8. 1 2 Van Driel, Lo (2004): Taal in Stad en Land: Zeeuws.
  9. 1 2 Taeldeman, Johan (1979): Op fonologische verkenning in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. Taal en Tongval. Tijdschrift voor de studie van de Nederlandse volks- en streektalen, 31, 143-193
  10. 1 2 Debrabandere, Frans (1999), "Kortijk", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal, Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 289–299
  11. Ooms, Miet; Van Keymeulen, Jacques (2005): Taal in Stad en Land: Vlaams-Brabants en Antwerps.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Devos, Magda; Vandekerckhove, Reinhild (2005): Taal in Stad en Land: West-Vlaams.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Lievevrouw-Coopman, Lodewijk (1950-1954): Gents Woordenboek. Gent, Erasmus.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Taeldeman, Johan (1999), "Gent", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal, Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 273–288
  15. 1 2 3 Goeman, Ton; Van Oostendorp, Marc; Van Reenen, Pieter; Koornwinder, Oele; Van den Berg, Boudewijn; Van Reenen, Anke (2008) Morfologische Atlas van de Nederlandse Dialecten, deel II. ISBN 9789053567746.
  16. 1 2 3 Blancqaert, Edgar; Pée, Willem (1925 - 1982) Reeks Nederlandse Dialectatlassen
  17. 1 2 3 4 De Vogelaer, Gunther; Neuckermans, Annemie; Van den Heede, Vicky; Devos, Magda; van der Auwera, Johan (2004): De indeling van de Nederlandse dialecten: een syntactisch perspectief.
  18. Winkler, Johan (1974): Algemeen Nederduitsch en Friesch Dialecticon. 's-Gravenhage.
  19. Johan Taeldeman (1985): De klankstructuren van het Gentse dialect. Een synchrone beschrijving en een historische en geografische situering.

Further reading

  • Taeldeman, Johan (1999), "Gent", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal (PDF), Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 273–299 
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