Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Afrikaans language

Language codes:
afr(ISO 639-2)
af(ISO 639-1)
Language classification
Indo-European languages
Germanic languages
West Germanic languages
Low German languages
Low Franconian language
Language Spread
   South Africa

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa and Namibia. It was originally the dialect that developed among the Afrikaner Calvinist settlers brought to the Cape area in southwestern South Africa by the Dutch East India Company (nl: Neederlandse Oostindische Compagnie) between 1652 and 1705. Most of these settlers were from the Netherlands, though there were also some from Germany, France, Scotland, and various other countries.

Research by J. A. Heese indicates that until 1807, 36.8% of the forefathers of the "white" Afrikaans speaking population were Dutch, 35% were German, 14.6% were French and 7.2% "Non White". Their dialect became known as "Cape Dutch". Later, Afrikaans was sometimes also referred to as "African Dutch". Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect until the early 20th century, when it began to be widely recognized as a distinct language.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Grammar
3 Orthography
4 Sociolinguistics
5 Afrikaans Phrases
6 External links


Afrikaans is linguistically closely related to 17th century Dutch, and to modern Dutch by extension. Other less closely related languages include the Low Saxon spoken in northern Germany and the Netherlands, German, and English. Cape Dutch vocabulary diverged from the Dutch vocabulary spoken in the Netherlands over time as Cape Dutch absorbed words from other European settlers, East Indian slaves, and native African languages. Printed material among the Afrikaners at first used only proper European Dutch. By the mid-19th century, more and more was appearing in Afrikaans, which was very much still regarded as a spoken regional dialect. The first Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaanders (Society for Real Afrikaners) in Cape Town. Official government proclamation of Afrikaans as a distinct language from Dutch came in 1925.

Besides vocabulary, the most striking difference from Dutch is its much more regular grammar, which is likely the result of mutual interference with a Creole language based on the Dutch language spoken by the relatively large mumber of non-Dutch speakers (Khoisan, German, French, Malay, and speakers of different African languages) during the formation period of the language in the second half of the 17th century. In 1710, slaves outnumbered free settlers.

Although much of the vocabulary of Afrikaans reflects its origins in 17th century Dutch, it also contains words loaned from Indonesian languages, Malay, Portuguese, French, Khoi and San dialects, English, isiXhosa and many other languages. Consequently, many words in Afrikaans are very different from Dutch, as demonstrated by the names of different fruits:



Grammatically, Afrikaans is very analytical, being the most analytical Indo-European language. Unlike most other Indo-European languages, verbs do not conjugate differently depending on the subject: Ek is, "I am"; Jy is, "you are"; Hy is, "he is", Ons is, "we are"; etc. There are no grammatical cases and nouns do not have gender. A particular feature of Afrikaans is its use of the double negative, something that is absent from the other West Germanic languages, e.g:Hy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie. (literally 'he cannot Afrikaans speak not'). Both French and San origins for this have been suggested.


Written Afrikaans differs from Dutch in that spelling is simplified, and many consonants are dropped. A notable feature is the indefinite article, which is "'n", not "een" as in Dutch. "A book" is "'n Boek", whereas in Dutch it would be "Een boek". Other features include the use of 's' instead of 'z', hence South Africa in Afrikaans is written as Suid Afrika, whereas in Dutch it is Zuid Afrika. (This accounts for ZA being used as South Africa's internet top level domain.) The Dutch letter combination 'ij' is replaced with 'y'.

goeienaandgoedenavondgood evening


Afrikaans is the first language of approximately 60% of South Africa's whites, and over 90% of the "coloured" (mixed-race) population. Large numbers of black, Indian, and English South Africans also speak it as a second language.

Afrikaans has been influential in the development of South African English. Many Afrikaans loanwords have found their way into South African English, such as "veld", "braai", "boomslang", and "lekker". A few words in standard English are derived from Afrikaans, such as "trek", "spoor", and, of course, apartheid.

In 1976, rioting broke out in Soweto as the result of the apartheid government's requirement that Afrikaans rather than English be used as the medium of instruction in black schools. See History of South Africa.

An Afrikaans wikipedia has been started, but is in the very early stages of development: Die Afrikaanse Wikipedia.

Afrikaans Phrases

Feel free to translate pronounciations to IPA

A phrase that is written the same in Afrikaans as in English is:

External links