Official language in
|New Netherland |
Amerikaens Free State
|Regulated by||Amerikaens Taelkomisie|
Amerikaens (Amerikaens: /ɑ.mi.riˈkɑːns/) is a West Germanic language spoken across and native to vast swathes of North America. The language is a descendant of numerous Dutch dialects introduced to New Netherland in the 17th century which were spoken by settlers from the Netherlands. Distance from Europe, the impact of indigenous and immigrant lects, as well as preservation of archaic dialectal features caused Amerikaens to develop distinguishing characteristics over the next few centuries. In 1910, a standardized orthography devised by the Amerikaens Taelkomisie and based on the prestigious New Amsterdammer accent was adopted.
Today, Amerikaens serves as the official language of a number of Amerikaener states such as New Netherland, Tussenland, Boschland, and several others. Since 1951, it has also become one of the official languages of the Association of North American Nations. As of the late 20th century, Amerikaens was widely spoken as the native language of the majority of the population of New Netherland, Tussenland (except the provinces of Meerenland and the Vorstlands), the Free State, and Boschland. It serves as the official lingua franca of South Tussenland and Opdamsland and a prominent minority language in Mexico and Panama City.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, variants of the Dutch language spoken in America were commonly referred to as Nederduytsch or Lîg Duyts ('Low Dutch'). With the independence of New Netherland in the late 18th century, the term Amerikaens gained popularity as the Amerikaener identity formed. The two archaic terms are still used in academia and in casual and regional parlance.
In Dutch, the language is generally called Amerikaans and sometimes Amerikaans-Nederlands ('American Dutch'), the latter often with paternalistic or patronizing intent. Anglophones use the word Amerikaens and less often American Dutch, New Dutch, or New Netherland Dutch.
Due to Amerikaens phonology differing greatly by dialect, the Juys Mondordt (/jœus mondɔːrt/, 'correct speech') accent of New Amsterdam is widely considered to be the standard and most prestigious variety of the language. It has 21 consonants, 12 vowels, and 6 diphthong phonemes.
Sound changes from Dutch
The Juys Mondordt accent, as well as several other Amerikaens varieties, are incredibly phonologically distinct from the standard Dutch of the Netherlands and non-American Batavosphere countries. The phonological base for Amerikaens largely rests upon the lects spoken by the founding settlers — dialects which evidently share a strong similarity with modern dialects spoken in Utrecht, north Brabant, and south Holland. Generally, short front vowels were lowered while long front vowels were backed; meanwhile, back vowels were variously raised, rounded and umlaut-ed. This vowel shift can be described as counterclockwise (Linksom). Consonants remain relatively closer to Dutch despite some undergoing palatalization and mergers.
Other phonological traits Amerikaens possesses that differentiates it from the standard Dutch of the Netherlands include:
- Lenition of word-medial consonants, such as tie /tsi/ becoming sie /si/.
- Deletion of word-final sounds, most commonly n /n/ and e /ə/.
- Dutch uw /yu/ becoming ouw /ɑu/, as characteristic of the Brabant and Utrecht dialects.
Consonants in the middle of words have experienced lenition. Most notably, it affects the suffix -tie. Initially, the suffix was realized as /tsi/ but has since shifted solely to /si/. Deletion of final sounds (coda) is also common; final consonants and vowels, commonly n and e, are elided. These changes are markedly reflected in modern Amerikaens orthography; for example, Dutch politie has become Amerikaens polisie ('police').
Modern Amerikaens orthography is based on a number of phonemic innovations and historical principles inherited from Dutch. In 1903, the Amerikaens Taelkomisie, a regulatory institution for the Amerikaens language, was established by Raedpensionaris Mees van Haerst. Seven years later, the first edition of the Taelbück was published with the Placaet of 19 August 1910, creating a standardized orthography for the language. Aside from the nativization of loan words and minor spelling corrections, Amerikaens orthography has remained largely unchanged since then.
Many innovative features found in modern Amerikaens orthography were popularized by their use in Amerikaener publications and works of the 19th century, most notably the newspaper De Amerikaense Telegraef.
The digraphs oo and oe were converted to the German-derived accented vowels ö and ü respectively. These letters were initially adopted to show umlaut in closed syllables but eventually came to replace the previous digraphs completely, whether the vowel is phonologically fronted or not. For example, both zön (/zøːn/, 'son', Dutch zoon) and dü (/du/ 'do', Dutch doe) use umlauted letters, despite only zön being phonologically fronted.
The Dutch digraph ee became î to express the raising of /eː/ > /i/ in certain contexts, but similarly came to replace ee completely regardless if the specific phonological change was realized.
Preservation of archaic features
Amerikaens has preserved many archaic orthographic features, both standard and dialectal, used in the Netherlands from the 16th to 19th centuries. One may trace early consolidation of these retentions to the Nieuw-Nederduytsch spraekkonst by Flemish-American grammarian Nicholas de Haze in 1775. De Haze's native Flanders, unlike Holland and much like New Netherland, had little to no standardized spelling among any class of people during much of the 18th century, allowing rarer and unconventional forms to survive into the 20th century and beyond.
One of the landmark texts that firmly established the preservation of these spellings was the First Constitution of 1797 passed during the early stadtholdership of Marÿn van der Beeke, which was written with the graphemes ÿ, ae, uy, and ue — ones that had become largely outdated for the upper classes of Holland at the time.
Sound to spelling correspondences
Amerikaens has 50 regularly-occurring graphemes which represent its 39 standard consonants, vowels, and diphthong phonemes. A number of exceptions to the table below exist, albeit small, as do a handful of rarer graphemes.
Compared to other Germanic languages, Amerikaens is considered weakly inflected, genderless, and by far more analytic of a language. The simplification of several features is usually attributed to the language's early role as a lingua franca between several ethnolinguistic groups.
Nouns and pronouns
|1st singular||Ik ('k)||Mÿ (me)||Mÿn (men)|
|2nd singular||Jÿ (je)||Jou (ju)||Jouw (juw)|
|3rd singular, masculine||Hÿ (he)||Hem (em)||Hÿs (hes)|
|3rd singular, feminine||Sÿ (se)||Her (er)||Hers (ers)|
|1st plural||Wÿ (we)||Ons|
|3rd plural, for a person||Hun||Huns|
|3rd plural, for an object||It||Its|
Amerikaens only differs between the singular and plural forms, much like English. The plural form is usually created by the addition of the suffix -s (/s/ or /z/). If a word already ends in an s, then an -en (/ən/) is added instead in order to signify plurality.
Amerikaens also preserves the possessive genitive case from archaic Dutch declension unlike other Netherlandic varieties. Its survival beyond the early 18th century most probably was influenced by the English language.
- Dutch de vriend van de man lit. 'the friend of the man' → Amerikaens des mans friendt lit. 'the man's friend'
Like Dutch, Amerikaens pronouns retain case distinction; subject (nominative), object (accusative), and possessive (genitive). Pronouns occur in a stressed form and an unstressed form (shown in brackets). The stressed form retains the whole original vowel and is used mainly in formal situations or when distinction is needed.
Only two articles, the definitive de 'the' and the indefinitive în 'a(n)' exist in Amerikaens. They may be inflected in the genitive form (for example, Koninckrÿck der Nederlandts lit. 'Kingdom of the Netherlands').
Demonstratives are words used to distinguish entities being referred to. As grammatical gender does not exist, there are only four demonstrative determiners in Amerikaens. Proximal indicates that the entities are close to the speaker, while distal indicates that they are far away.
|Possessive||dies||dier||Their's, the latter's|
Much like its sister language Afrikaans, Amerikaens does not inflect or conjugate, nor is there a distinction between the infinitive and present forms of verbs. In order to form different verb forms such as tense, aspect, and modality, the infinitive form of the verb is accompanied by a pronoun and an auxiliary verb. The below table uses the example of the verb ît (/it/, 'eat') in the perfect and continuous tenses.
|Present||Ik||∅||ît||Ik eet||I eat|
|Past||hab||Ik at||I ate|
|Future||zhal||Ik zal eten||I will eat|
|Present continuous||dü||Ik ben aan het eten||I am eating|
|Past continuous||dîd||Ik was aan het eten||I was eating|
|Future continuous||zhal dü||Ik zal eten||I will be eating|