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Afrikaans is an Indo-European language derived from Dutch and thus classified as Low Franconian West Germanic. It is mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibiamarker, with smaller numbers of speakers living in Botswanamarker, Angolamarker, Swazilandmarker, Zimbabwemarker, Lesothomarker, Zambiamarker, Australia, New Zealandmarker, the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Taiwanmarker and Argentinamarker. Due to emigration and migrant labour, there are possibly over 100,000 Afrikaans speakers in the United Kingdommarker, with other substantial communities found in Brusselsmarker, Amsterdammarker, Perthmarker, Mount Isamarker, Torontomarker and Aucklandmarker. It is the primary language used by two related ethnic groups in South Africa: the Afrikaans people (Afrikaners) and the Coloureds (in Afrikaans: kleurlinge or bruinmense – including Basters, Cape Malays and Griqua).

Afrikaans is the majority language of the western one-third of South Africa (Northern and Western Cape, in which it is spoken at home by 69% and 58% of the population, respectively). It is also the most common first language in the adjacent southern third of Namibia (Hardap and Karas, where it is the first language of 44% and 40% of the population, respectively).

Afrikaans and Dutch are largely mutually intelligible.


Afrikaans developed among the Dutch-speaking Protestant settlers, and the indentured or slave workforce of the Cape area in southwestern South Africa that was established by the Dutch East India Company ( ) between 1652 and 1705. A relative majority of these first settlers were from the United Provinces (now Netherlandsmarker), though there were also many from Germanymarker, a considerable number from Francemarker, and some from Norwaymarker, Portugalmarker, Scotlandmarker, and various other countries. The indentured workers and slaves were Asians, Malay, and Malagasy in addition to the indigenous Khoi and Bushmen.

The Afrikaans School has long seen Afrikaans as a natural development from the South-Hollandic Dutch dialect. Because of the absence of historical indication of the development of the dialect (language), some have implied Afrikaans to be a creolisation of conceptual Dutch.However, this theory is rather implausible since it implies that a language systematically developed out of a vocabulary.Furthermore, this theory would fail to explain the systematic process of simplification from dialectical 17th century Dutch to Afrikaans, its geographically widespread and cohesive nature and also the persistent structural similarities between Afrikaans and other regional Franconic dialects including West Flemish and Zeelandic.This indicates rather a linear, though isolated linguistic path.

Afrikaans also remains akin to other West-Germanic languages (except English) in that it remains a V2 language which features verb-final structures in subordinate clauses, just like Dutch and German.


Following early dialectical studies of Afrikaans it was theorised that three main historical dialects probably existed before the Great Trek in the 1830s. These dialects are defined as the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape dialects. Remnants of these dialects still remain in present-day Afrikaans although the standardising effect of Standard Afrikaans has contributed to a great levelling of differences in modern times.

There is also a prison cant known as soebela, or sombela which is based on Afrikaans yet heavily influenced by Zulu. This language is used as a secret language in prison and is taught to initiates.

Expatriate geolect

The geolect of Afrikaans spoken outside South Africa in predominantly English-speaking countries have been referred to as "soutmielie".


The linguist Paul Roberge suggests that the earliest 'truly Afrikaans' texts are doggerel verse from 1795 and a dialogue transcribed by a Dutch traveller in 1825. Printed material among the Afrikaners at first used only standard European Dutch. By the mid-19th century, more and more were appearing in Afrikaans, which was very much still regarded as a set of regional dialects.

In 1861, L.H. Meurant published his , which is considered by some to be the first authoritative Afrikaans text. Abu Bakr Effendi also compiled his Arabic Afrikaans Islamic instruction book between 1862 and 1869, although this was only published and printed in 1877. The first Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the ('Society for Real Afrikaners') in Cape Townmarker.

The First and Second Boer Wars further strengthened the position of Afrikaans. The official languages of the Union of South Africa were English and Dutch until Afrikaans was subsumed under Dutch on 5 May 1925.

The main Afrikaans dictionary is the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language), which is as yet incomplete due to the scale of the project, but the one-volume dictionary in household use is the Verklarende Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (HAT). The official orthography of Afrikaans is the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls, compiled by Die Taalkommissie.

The Afrikaans Bible

A major landmark in the development of Afrikaans was the full translation of the Bible into the language. Prior to this most Cape Dutch-Afrikaans speakers had to rely on the Dutch Statenbijbel. The aforementioned Statenvertaling had its origins with the Synod of Dordrecht and was thus in an archaic form of Dutch. This rendered understanding difficult at best to Dutch and Cape Dutch speakers, moreover increasingly unintelligible to Afrikaans speakers.

C. P. Hoogehout, Arnoldus Pannevis, and Stephanus Jacobus du Toit were the first Afrikaans Bible translators. Important landmarks in the translation of the Scriptures were in 1878 with C. P. Hoogehout's translation of the Evangelie volgens Markus (Gospel of Mark), however this translation was never published. The manuscript is to be found in the South African National Library, Cape Town.

The first official Bible translation of the entire Bible into Afrikaans was in 1933 by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet. This monumental work established Afrikaans as a suiwer and oordentlike taal, i.e. a "pure" and "suitable language" for religious purposes, especially amongst the deeply Calvinist Afrikaans religious community that had hitherto been somewhat sceptical of a Bible translation out of the original Dutch language to which they were accustomed.

In 1983 there was a fresh translation in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the original 1933 translation and provide much needed revision. The final editing of this edition was done by E. P. Groenewald, A. H. van Zyl, P. A. Verhoef, J. L. Helberg, and W. Kempen.

Afrikaans Version of the Lord's Prayer. Onse Vader.
Onse Vader wat in die hemele is,laat U naam geheilig word.Laat U koninkryk kom,laat U wil geskied,soos in die hemel net so ook op die aarde.Gee ons vandag ons daaglikse brood,en vergeef ons ons skulde,soos ons ook ons skuldenaars vergewe.En lei ons nie in versoeking nie,maar verlos ons van die bose.Want aan U behoort die Koninkryk en die krag en die heerlikheid, tot in ewigheid.Amen.

Classic Dutch Protestant version of the Lord's Prayer. Onze Vader'.
Onze Vader die in de hemelen zijt,Uw Naam worde geheiligd;Uw koninkrijk kome;Uw wil geschiede,gelijk in de hemel alzo ook op de aarde.Geef ons heden ons dagelijks brood;en vergeef ons onze schulden,gelijk ook wijvergeven onze schuldenaren;en leidt ons niet in verzoeking,maar verlos ons van de boze.Want van U is het koninkrijken de kracht en de heerlijkheidtot in eeuwigheid.Amen.


In Afrikaans grammar, there is no distinction between the infinitive and present forms of verbs, with the exception of the verbs 'to be' and 'to have':
infinitive form present indicative form Dutch English
wees is zijn be
het hebben have

In addition, verbs do not conjugate differently depending on the subject. For example,
Afrikaans Dutch English
ek is ik ben I am
jy/u is jij/U bent you are (sing.)
hy/sy/dit is hij/zij/het is he/she/it is
ons is wij zijn we are
julle is jullie zijn you are (plur.)
hulle is zij zijn they are

The preterite looks exactly like the present but is indicated by adverbs like toe, the exception being 'to be'.

Afrikaans Dutch English
ek was ik was I was

The perfect tense is sometimes preferred over the preterite in literature where the preterite would be used in Dutch or English, for example, in the case of the verb to drink:
Afrikaans Dutch English
ek het gedrink. ik dronk. I drank.

In other respects, the perfect tense in Afrikaans follows Dutch and English.
Afrikaans Dutch English
ek het gedrink ik heb gedronken. I have drunk.


In Afrikaans, many consonants are dropped from the earlier Dutch (see also the grammar section for a description of how consonant dropping affects the morphology of Afrikaans adjectives and nouns). This is a similar process to what happened with modern English. (compare: Afrikaans; regen=reën, and English; regn=rain.)

The spelling of Afrikaans words is also considerably more phonetic than those of Dutch. A notable feature is the indefinite article, which, as noted in the grammar section, is ′n , not ' ' as in Dutch. 'A book' is ' ', whereas in Dutch it would be ' '. (Note that ' ' is still allowed in Dutch; Afrikaans uses only ' ' where Dutch uses it next to ' '. When letters are dropped, an apostrophe is mandatory. Note that this ′n is usually pronounced as a weak vowel ( ; like the Afrikaans 'i') and is not as a consonant. The Afrikaans word een is the number 'one'.

Other features include the use of 's' instead of 'z', and therefore, 'South Africa' in Afrikaans is written as , whereas in Dutch it is . (The Dutch name for South Africa is the source of .za being the internet top level domain for the country.) The Dutch letter 'IJ' is written as 'Y', except where it replaces the Dutch suffix —lijk, as in = .

The diminutive suffix in Afrikaans is -jie, whereas in Dutch it is -je, hence a 'little bit' in Afrikaans is biet'jie - in Dutch it is beet'je.

The use of the hard 'k' is analogous to the pronunciation in parts of West Flandersmarker. Although the first 90 VOC settlers came from Haarlemmarker in the Northern Netherlands, the majority of the population of that city at that time consisted of Southern Dutch immigrants. (Recent academic research also points to Afrikaans probably being a modern perpetuation of an earlier Dutch dialect, Amsterdams (Paardekoper)).

The letters "c","q","x" and "z" are rarely seen in Afrikaans, and words containing them are almost exclusively borrowings from French, English, Greek, or Latin. This is usually because words that had c and ch in the original Dutch are spelt with k and g respectively in Afrikaans (in many dialects of Dutch (including the Hollandic ones), a g is pronounced like a ch (IPA ), which explains the use of the g in Afrikaans language). Similarly original qu and x are spelt kw and ks respectively. For example instead of 'equatoriaal' and instead of 'excuus'.

Letter combinations in Dutch such as cht are simplified, for example, slechts (only) in Dutch becomes slegs in Afrikaans.


All letters in the Latin alphabet are acceptable in Afrikaans, although for non-loan words only the 26 letters of the English alphabet and certain vowels with diacritics are used.

The vowels with diacritics in non-loanword Afrikaans are: á, é, è, ê, ë, í, î, ï, ó, ô, ú, û, ý. For the purpose of alphabetic ordering, these diacritic letters are regarded as equivalent to their non-diacritic counterparts. It is not acceptable to replace them by their non-diacritic equivalents in situations where typing the diacritic forms may be difficult. In the early days of e-mail and on primitive computer systems, the diacritics were often left out or written next to the character, and some users may still do so today.

Initial apostrophes

A few short words in Afrikaans take initial apostrophes. In modern Afrikaans, these words are always written in lower case (except if the entire line is uppercase), and if they occur at the beginning of a sentence, the next word is capitalised. Three examples of such apostrophed words are 't, 'k, 'n . The most common is 'n , which is the indefinite article, and the other two may soon be regarded as archaic.

'k Het hom lief (I love him)
similar to Dutch words: ik heb hem lief
'k 't Dit gesê (I said it)
similar to Dutch words: ik heb dit gezegd
'n Man loop daar (A man walks there)
similar to Dutch words: een man loopt daar
Daar is 'n man (There is a man)
similar to Dutch words: daar is een man

The apostrophe and the following letter are regarded as two separate characters, and are never written using a single glyph, although a single character variant of the indefinite article appears in Unicode, .

Some modern word-processors have auto-correct features that incorrectly treat an apostrophe (also known as a 9-quote) at the beginning of a word as a single quote (also known as a 6-quote).

In non-stylised fonts, it is acceptable to use a straight quotation mark for the apostrophe, and this is often done in electronic communication.

Table of characters

letter(s) value(s) in IPA notes
a ,
au, ow
ch found only in words borrowed from French; typically 'sj' is used instead
c , found only in borrowed words; it is pronounced 's' before 'e', 'i', or 'y', otherwise 'k'
d , 'd' is pronounced 't' in final position
dj used to transcribe foreign words
e , ,
ei, ey, y
g ,
gh used for the sound when it is not an allophone of ; found only in borrowed words
i ,
n , 'n' is 'ŋ' before 'c', 'k', 'q', and 'x'; otherwise 'n'
o ,
oi, oy
q found only in foreign words with original spelling maintained; typically 'k' is used instead
tj , 'tj' is 'tʃ' at the beginning of a word, but 'k' in '-tjie'
u ,
ui, uy
w , 'w' is 'w' after a consonant; otherwise 'v'
x used only in foreign words with original spelling maintained; typically 'ks' is used
z found only in borrowed words

Afrikaans phrases

Afrikaans is a very centralised language, meaning that most of the vowels are pronounced in a very centralised (i.e. very schwa-like) way. Although there are many different dialects and accents, the transcription should be fairly standard.

Afrikaans IPA Dutch English
Hallo! Hoe gaat het? Hello! How is it going (Hello! How are you?)
Heel goed, dank je. Very well, thank you.
Spreek je Afrikaans? Do you speak Afrikaans?
Spreek je Engels? Do you speak English?
Ja. Yes.
Nee. No.
Een beetje. A little.
Wat is jouw naam?

More common: Hoe heet je?
What is your name?
De kinderen praten Afrikaans. The children are speaking Afrikaans.
Ik heb je lief.

More common: Ik hou van jou.
I love you.

Note: The word Afrikaans means African (in the general sense) in the Dutch language. Although considered incorrect, the word Zuid-Afrikaans, lit. "South African", is sometimes used to avoid confusion when referring specifically to the Afrikaans language. This problem also occurs in Afrikaans itself, resolved by using the words Afrika and Afrikaan to distinguish from Afrikaans(e) and Afrikaner respectively.

A sentence having the same meaning and written identically (but pronounced more closely to Dutch) in Afrikaans and English is:
  • My pen was in my hand. ( )
Closely in Dutch: Mijn pen was in mijn hand.

Similarly the sentence:
  • My hand is in warm water. ( )
Closely in Dutch: Mijn hand is in warm waterhas almost identical meaning in Afrikaans and English although the Afrikaans warm corresponds more closely in meaning to English hot and Dutch heet (Dutch warm corresponds to English warm, but is closer to Afrikaans in pronunciation).

Sample text in Afrikaans

Psalm 23. 1983 Translation:
  1. Die Here is my Herder, ek kom niks kort nie.
  2. Hy laat my in groen weivelde rus. Hy bring my by waters waar daar vrede is.
  3. Hy gee my nuwe krag. Hy lei my op die regte paaie tot eer van Sy naam.
  4. Selfs al gaan ek deur donker dieptes, sal ek nie bang wees nie, want U is by my. In U hande is ek veilig.

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not be in want: He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters:He restores my soul. he guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me

Lord's prayer (Dutch Traditional translation) Lord's prayer (Afrikaans New Living translation) Lord's prayer (Dutch Living and literal translation of Afrikaans version)
Onze Vader die in de hemel zijt, uw naam worde geheiligd.Uw rijk kome.Uw wil geschiede op de aarde zoals in de hemel.Geef ons heden ons dagelijks brood.En vergeef ons onze schuld, zoals ook wij aan anderen hun schuld vergeven.En leid ons niet in bekoring, maar verlos ons van het kwade. Ons Vader in die hemel, laat u Naam geheilig word.Laat u koningsheerskappy spoedig kom.Laat u wil hier op aarde uitgevoer word soos in die hemel.Gee ons die porsie brood wat ons vir vandag nodig het.En vergeef ons ons sondeskuld soos ons ook óns skuldenaars vergewe het.Bewaar ons sodat ons nie aan verleiding sal toegee nie; en bevry ons van die greep van die Bose. Onze vader in de hemel, laat uw naam geheiligd worden.Laat uw koninkrijk spoedig komen.Laat uw wil op aarde uitgevoerd worden zoals in de hemel.Geef ons de portie brood die wij voor vandaag nodig hebben.En vergeef ons onze zonde(schuld) zoals ook wij onze schuldenaars vergeven hebben.Bescherm ons zodat we niet aan de verleiding zullen toegeven; en bevrijd ons van de greep van het kwade.


Geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: Afrikaans-speakers as a proportion of the population.
Geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: density of Afrikaans-speaking population.

Afrikaans is the first language of over 80% of Coloured South Africans (3.1 million people) and approximately 60% of White South Africans(2.5 million). Around 200,000 black South Africans speak it as their first language. Large numbers of Bantu-speaking and English-speaking South Africans also speak it as their second language.

Some state that the term Afrikaanses should be used as a term for all people who speak Afrikaans, without respect to ethnic origin, instead of 'Afrikaners', which refers to an ethnic group, or 'Afrikaanssprekendes' (lit. people that speak Afrikaans). Linguistic identity has not yet established that one term be favoured above another and all three are used in common parlance.

Geographical distribution of Afrikaans in Namibia.

It is also widely spoken in Namibia, where it has had constitutional recognition as a national, but not official, language since independence in 1990. Prior to independence, Afrikaans had equal status with German as an official language. There is a much smaller number of Afrikaans speakers among Zimbabwemarker's white minority, as most have left the country since 1980. Afrikaans was also a medium of instruction for schools in Bophuthatswana Bantustan.

Many South Africans living and working in Belgiummarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Australia, New Zealandmarker, Canadamarker, the United Statesmarker, Kuwaitmarker, and the United Kingdommarker are also Afrikaans-speaking. There are Afrikaans websites, among them, news sites such as, and radio broadcasts over the web, such as those from Radio Sonder Grense and Radio Pretoria. New Zealand has an Afrikaans club based in Auckland which organises Afrikaans dances and meetings />.

Afrikaans has been influential in the development of South African English. Many Afrikaans loanwords have found their way into South African English, such as 'bakkie' ('pickup truck'), 'braai' ('barbecue'), 'tekkies' ('sneakers'). A few words in standard English are derived from Afrikaans, such as 'aardvark' (lit. 'earth pig'), 'trek' ('pioneering journey', in Afrikaans lit. 'pull' but used also for 'migrate'), 'spoor' ('animal track'), 'veld' ('Southern African grassland' in Afrikaans lit. 'field'), 'commando' from Afrikaans 'kommando' meaning small fighting unit, 'boomslang' ('tree snake') and apartheid ('segregation'; more accurately 'apartness' or 'the state or condition of being apart').

In 1976, high school students in Sowetomarker began a rebellion in response to the government's decision that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction for half the subjects taught in non-White schools (with English continuing for the other half). Although English is the mother tongue of only 8.2 per cent of the population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second language of a majority of South Africans. Afrikaans is more widely spoken than English in the Northern and Western Cape provinces, several hundred kilometers from Soweto. The Black community's opposition to Afrikaans and preference for continuing English instruction was underscored when the government rescinded the policy one month after the uprising: 96% of Black schools chose English (over Afrikaans or native languages) as the language of instruction.

Under South Africa's Constitution of 1996, Afrikaans remains an official language, and has equal status to English and nine other languages. The new policy means that the use of Afrikaans is now, in effect, often reduced in favour of English, or to accommodate the other official languages. In 1996, for example, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reduced the amount of television airtime in Afrikaans, while South African Airways dropped its Afrikaans name from its livery. Similarly, South Africa's diplomatic missions overseas now only display the name of the country in English and their host country's language, and not in Afrikaans.

In spite of these moves, the language has remained strong, and Afrikaans newspapers and magazines continue to have large circulation figures. Indeed, the Afrikaans-language general-interest family magazine Huisgenoot has the largest readership of any magazine in the country. In addition, a pay-TV channel in Afrikaans called KykNet was launched in 1999, and an Afrikaans music channel, MK, in 2005. A large number of Afrikaans books are still published every year, mainly by the publishers Human & Rousseau, Tafelberg Uitgewers, Struik, and Protea Boekhuis.

Afrikaans has two monuments erected in its honour. The first was erected in Burgersdorpmarker, South Africa, in 1893, and the second, better-known Afrikaans Language Monumentmarker ( ) was built in Paarlmarker, South Africa, in 1975.

When the British design magazine Wallpaper described Afrikaans as "one of the world's ugliest languages" in its September 2005 article about the Monument, South African billionaire Johann Rupert (chairman of the Richemont group), responded by withdrawing advertising for brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill from the magazine. The author of the article, Bronwyn Davies, was an English-speaking South African.

Modern Dutch and Afrikaans share 85-plus per cent of their vocabulary. Afrikaans speakers are able to learn Dutch within a comparatively short time. Native Dutch speakers pick up written Afrikaans even more quickly, due to its simplified grammar, whereas understanding spoken Afrikaans might need more effort. Afrikaans speakers can learn Dutch pronunciation with little training. This has enabled Dutch and Belgian companies to outsource their call centre operations to South Africa.

Future of Afrikaans

Post-apartheid South Africa has seen a loss of government support for Afrikaans, in terms of education, social events, media (TV and Radio), and general status throughout the country, given that it now shares its place as official language with ten other languages. Nevertheless, Afrikaans remains more prevalent in the media - radio, newspapers and television - than all the other official languages, except for English. More than 300 titles in Afrikaans are published per year.

Through all the problems of depreciation and migration that Afrikaans faces today, the language still competes well, with Afrikaans DSTV channels (pay channels) and high newspaper and CD sales as well as popular internet sites. The incredible resurgence in Afrikaans popular music (from the late 1990s) has added new momentum to the language especially among the younger generations in South Africa. The latest contribution to building the Afrikaans language is the availability of pre-school educational CDs and DVDs. These are also popular with large Afrikaans-speaking expatriate communities seeking to retain the language in family context. After years of inactivity, the Afrikaans language cinema is also starting to reactivate. With the 2007 film 'Ouma se slim kind', the first full length Afrikaans movie since Paljas from 1998, a new era for Afrikaans cinema started. Several short-films have been created and more feature-length movies as Poena is Koning and Bakgat, both from 2008 have been produced.

Afrikaans also seems to be returning to the SABC. SABC3 stated in the beginning of 2009 that it will increase Afrikaans programming because of the needs of the 'growing Afrikaans-language market and their need for working capital as Afrikaans advertising is the only advertising that sells in the current South African TV market'. In April 2009, SABC3 started showing several Afrikaans-language programmes.

Further latent support for the language is the de-politicised view of younger-generation South Africans: it is less and less viewed as "the language of the oppressor" and this is supported to a large extent by new-generation Afrikaans youths openly supporting change and rejecting the old racial policies.

Afrikaans is one of 45 search-languages available on Google search.

See also


Further reading

  • Roberge, P. T., 2002. Afrikaans - considering origins, in Language in South Africa, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. ISBN 0-521-53383-X

External links

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