For the British ship, see SS Zealandic.
Native to Netherlands
Native speakers
(undated figure of 220,000)[1]
Zeelandic alphabet (Latin)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 zea
Glottolog zeeu1238[2]
Linguasphere 52-ACB-af

Distribution of Zeelandic (blue) in the Low Countries

Zeelandic (Zeêuws in Zeelandic, Zeeuws in Standard Dutch) is a West Flemish dialect of Dutch[3] spoken in the Dutch province of Zeeland and on the South Holland island of Goeree-Overflakkee.

It has notable differences mainly in pronunciation but also in grammar and vocabulary, which sets it clearly apart from Standard Dutch and makes comprehension by unskilled Dutch speakers difficult.


In the Middle Ages and early modern age, Zeeland was claimed by the Count of Holland as well as the Count of Flanders, and the area was exposed to influence from both directions. The dialects clearly show a gradual increase of Hollandic elements as one goes northwards. Yet Zeelandic is fairly coherent with easily defined borders, as the broad sea-arms form strong isoglosses.


The main differences from Standard Dutch are the following: Zeelandic has three rather than two grammatical genders, as a result of the fact that it retained the final schwas in feminine words; it kept the monophthongs [i] and [y] for ij and ui rather than breaking them into [ɛi] and [œy]; it umlauted most [aː] into [ɛː]s; it renders the old Germanic [ai] and [au] as falling diphthongs ([ɪə ~ ɪɐ ~ iɐ] and [ʊə ~ ʊɐ ~ uɐ], respectively - the exact realization depends on the dialect), whereas Dutch merged them with etymological [eː] and [oː]; and finally it drops [h].

The present table illustrates these differences (note: the orthography is Dutch):

Zeelandic Dutch English
d'n boer de boer the farmer
de boerinne de boerin the farmer's wife
uus huis house
kieke(n) kijken to look
tw twee two
d hoofd head


The province of Zeeland consists of several former islands which were difficult to reach until well into the 20th century. As a result, there is roughly one dialect per island. The respective dialects differ clearly, but only slightly. The Goeree-Overflakkee dialect, for example, does not drop the h, and the Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland dialects have umlauted words where the northern ones do not (for example: beuter [bøtər] against boter [botər]. Within the island dialects themselves dialectal differences also exist: native speakers can frequently tell which village (at least on their own island) a person is from by the specific dialect he or she speaks, even if the differences are imperceptible to outsiders.

Geographic distribution and social aspects

Zeelandic bears the burden of being strongly associated with the rural population, being spoken chiefly in the countryside. The town dialects of Middelburg and Vlissingen are both much closer to Hollandic than the rural variants and on the edge of extinction. Surveys held in the nineties showed that at least 60% of the Zeeland population still use Zeelandic as their everyday language. There are an estimated 250,000 people who speak it as mother tongue (West Zeelandic Flemish is included in this count), and although it is in decline, just as any other regional language, it is in no direct danger of extinction, since in some villages with strong isolated communities more than 90% of the youngsters will speak Zeelandic. On the other hand, in several villages that have seen much immigration, the local dialect is spoken only by the adult population, as children are no longer taught it.

There is a lobby for recognising the Zeelandic regional language under the European charter for minority languages. As of 2005, they failed so far to achieve this status.


  1. Zeelandic at Ethnologue (15th ed., 2005)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Zeeuws". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Marco Evenhuis. "Zeelandic". Language in the Netherlands. Streektaal.net. Retrieved 2007-06-03. Together with West-Flemish and the Flemish spoken in northern France, Zeeuws is part of a cluster of remarkably homogenic dialects Dutch versions: Zeeuws or as pdf

Further reading

  • Berns, J. B. (1999), "Zierikzee", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal (PDF), Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 223–232 
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