Friday, October 12, 2018

Dutch loanwords in Italian and vice versa

The Arnolfini Wedding (detail), The National Gallery, London

Contacts between the people of the Italian peninsula and the Low Countries go back thousands of years. The Romans occupied much of the Low Countries. The name of Utrecht, partially derived from a Latin word, Traiectum, is witness to this. In the Middle Ages, there were extensive trading contacts between Italy and the Low Countries. Dante refers to 'Quali Fiamminghi tra Guizzante e Bruggia' ('Those Flemings between Ghent and Bruges') in Inferno Canto XV in his Divina Commedia and a century later Jan van Eyck would immortalize Giovanni Arnolfini, a banker from Lucca, and his bride, in a painting that now hangs in London. It is often thought that it was primarily Italian art that influenced Netherlandish art at this time. While this is true, Paula Nuttall has persuasively argued that the influence also went the other way. Such artistic exchange is a good example of bilateral cultural transfer.
But what of language? Of course, many musical terms such as belcanto and aria have entered Dutch as well as other categories often associated with Italy such food and finance. The Dutch word 'bank' for the financial institution derives from the Italian banco.
As for the Dutch influence on Italian, this is perhaps harder to trace. One example from the sixteenth century is beurs. This was the name of the place in Bruges where merchants and bankers came to trade. The Florentine Lodovico Guicciardini suggested it was named after the Van der Beurze family, whose emblem was three money bags (beurzen). The association between beurs and financial exchanges has continued in other languages, including Italian (la borsa). 
Nicoline van der Sijs calculates that there are some 150 Dutch loanwords in Italian, although many are what she describes as 'internationalisms' i.e., Dutch words that have become common in many languages. Some have entered Dutch via Afrikaans such as apartheid. Others, though, have entered Italian via English. In the Italian sentence il boss vede lo skipper dello yacht ('the boss sees the skipper of the yacht') we find three English loanwords that are in turn Dutch loanwords in English (baas, schipper and jacht(schip)). This is a good example of what one might call 'the circulation of loanwords' and specifically of how Dutch has often exerted influence indirectly on the lexis of many other languages.

Further reading:
Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse woorden wereldwijd, The Hague, SDU Uitgevers, 2010
Paula Nuttall, From Flanders to Florence: The Impact of Netherlandish Painting, 1400-1500, 2004.
Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Colchester, oysters ... and the Dutch language

Colchester in the county of Essex is said to be Britain’s oldest permanently inhabited town and for a time was the capital of Roman Britain. Less well known is the place of a Dutch community and the Dutch language in the town’s history. Colchester lies on the River Colne and is a fairly short boat-trip away from the Low Countries. Flemish weavers had been in the town since the fourteenth century, but their numbers increased significantly from the 1560s as a result of religious and economic problems in the Netherlands. By 1586 there were well over 1,000 Flemish and Dutch in Colchester. Indeed, they were so numerous that some moved to nearby Halstead, where there was a Flemish weaving community for thirteen years. In Colchester, wills, letters and other documents were written in Dutch and a Dutch-language church was established, which functioned for over 150 years. Perhaps its most notable minister was Jonas Proost (b. 1572), who was born in the Dutch/Flemish community in London. Proost was a minister for over 40 years and wrote much poetry including Dutch sonnets. However, perhaps the most well-known Dutch poem written in Colchester was penned by the merchant, Jan Six van Chandelier (1620-1635). On a visit to England, he passed through Colchester and enjoyed eating the local oysters. This inspired him to write Oesters te Kolchester ('Oysters at Colchester'):

O! oestertjen, met groene baardjes,
O! blanke bolle, en volle beet
Betaal myn snoeplust vry, met schaartjes,
Aan ‘t mes, ter schulpknops breuk, gesmeedt…

[Oh! Green-bearded little oyster,
Oh! Pale ball and full bite,
Freely repay my craving, with notches
On my knife, forged to break you shell…]

One person born in the Flemish community in Colchester who returned to the Low Countries was the grammarian, Petrus Leupenius (1607-1670). He was the author of Aanmerkingen op de Neerderduitsche taale (‘Observations on the Dutch language’). In 1728/9 with numbers in the community falling, the doors of the Bay Hall were closed and the Dutch church ceased to function. In memory of the Flemish/Dutch presence in Colchester, an area of the town is called the Dutch Quarter. One possible loanword in the Essex dialect, is ‘dwoile/dwile’ from the Dutch dweil (cloth or rag).

Further reading: Christopher Joby, The Dutch Language in Britain (1550-1702). Leiden, Brill, 2015.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Dutch loanwords in Chinese

Although the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had many successes in the seventeenth century, the prize of a foothold in mainland China eluded it. An attempt to take Macau in 1622 was unsuccessful. The VOC subsequently built a trading colony in Taiwan between 1624 and 1662, but was eventually ejected from the island by the Ming-loyalist, Koxinga. An embassy to Beijing did not manage to obtain the trading rights the VOC had hoped for and attempts to establish a trading post in the port of Fuzhou achieved little. In the eighteenth century, the VOC managed to trade with China through Kanton (Guangzhou), exporting tea and porcelain and importing spices from the East Indies. Despite this, direct contact with China had little effect on varieties of Chinese. It was in fact primarily through its long contact with Japanese that most Dutch loanwords were adopted by standard Chinese. One way in which these loanwords were incorporated into Chinese was on the basis of sound. For example, the Dutch word gas (gas) was adopted by Japanese as gasu (in katakana ガス and hiragana がす). It can also be rendered in Japanese characters (kanji), based not on meaning, but on sound (瓦斯). It was in this form that it was adopted by Chinese, where 瓦斯 is pronounced wǎsī.

Another way in which the Chinese lexis was influenced by Dutch via Japanese was through loan translations. For example, the Dutch word for the appendix in the stomach is blindedarm, which literally means ‘blind intestine’. This was adopted by Japanese as 盲腸 (mōchō), which also literally means ‘blind intestine’. Chinese uses the same kanji (hànzì in Chinese) but pronounces them mángcháng, again literally ‘blind intenstine’. As one might expect, ‘appendicitis’ is also derived from this loan translation 盲腸炎 (mángchángyán).Finally, Korean adopted this loan translation as maengjang (맹장). Clearly the sound of these forms is completely different from the Dutch, but these and similar examples provide yet more evidence that the Dutch language has influenced many other languages in a variety of ways.

Further reading:

Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse woorden wereldwijd. The Hague: SDU, 2010. Kanton, Fuzhou

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Dutch community in Edinburgh

St. Giles Cathedral, or the High Kirk in Edinburgh 

It is perhaps unsurprising that there was a Dutch/Flemish community in early modern Edinburgh. Lowland Scotland was primarily for the Reformation, with a church similar in theology to the Dutch Reformed church. The city lies on the other side of the North Sea from the Low Countries (well, a little to the north) and there were plenty of trading connections between Scotland and the Low Countries in the Middle Ages. The Dutch/Flemish community in Edinburgh included textile workers. Indentures were made in Dutch between local employers and weavers for the Low Countries. The Dutch artist Adrian Vanson worked at the court of James VI and his wife, Susanna de Colone, traded in Edinburgh on her own account. 
In 1587 an Act of Parliament was passed to allow 'Flemings […] to have a kirk and minister of their own'. This is suggestive of a Dutch-language church although to date I have found no firm evidence of this. In 1630, the Burgh records indicate that a Dutch schoolmaster was appointed: 'David Phorbous, Dutche scoolemaister for teaching the Dutch language within the Burgh'. Dutch diplomats such as Hadrianus Damman, came to the Scottish court and Dutch and Flemish merchants and sailors came to Edinburgh and the nearby port of Leith. Any linguistic influence of Dutch on Scots is not easy to evaluate given their common roots -for example the Scots 'kirk' is cognate with the Dutch 'kerk' for church. One suggestion for Edinburgh is that the unpopular town guard, the Toun Rats, take their name from the Dutch 'rot(e)' meaning a file of soldiers. Flemish weavers introduced dolls known as 'Flanders Babies', a type of chest,  'the Flanders kist' and mirrors called 'keeking glasses' (kijken = 'to look' in Dutch).  

Further reading: 

Christopher Joby, The Dutch Language in Britain (1550-1702). Leiden: Brill, 2015, esp. Chapter 7.
Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal, 'rot'.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Dutch in the Spice Islands


The Indonesian archipelago has a rich diversity of languages. Several varieties of Malay are spoken in the area including the official language of Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia, and Manado Malay, the subject of an earlier blog, spoken in Northern Sulawesi. Another variety is Ambon Malay, a Malay creole spoken on Ambon and surrounding islands collectively known as Maluku (the Moluccas) or the Spice Islands. Arab traders and Muslim missionaries brought Malay to the islands in the fourteenth century. In the early sixteenth century, the Portuguese arrived bringing their language and Catholic religion with them. By the time that the Dutch arrived at the turn of the seventeenth century, there were two languages of wider communication in the islands, Malay and Portuguese. After ejecting the Portuguese in 1605 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a base at Ambon. They made two attempts to introduce their language to the local people. In 1607 they established a school and taught in Malay and Dutch. However, by 1615 it was clear that these attempts were making little headway, in part because local people found Dutch a difficult language. Another attempt to introduce Dutch was made in the 1620s, using Malay as the medium of instruction. However, these efforts too eventually foundered and in 1665 the VOC decided it would no longer promote the use of Dutch among the inhabitants of Maluku. Another reason why Dutch was not adopted by local people was that although the Dutch had managed to dislodge Portuguese as an LWC, they could not or did not do so with the other pre-existing LWC, Malay. Despite this, as Nicoline van der Sijs has written, as a result of the continued presence of the Dutch in the area, there are some 570 Dutch loanwords in Ambon Malay. Among these are ambtenaar (official), belasting (tax) and jaloers (jealous). Other varieties of Malay spoken in Maluku such as Ternate Malay and Bahasa Indonesia also have plenty of Dutch loanwords.

Further reading: Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse woorden wereldwijd. The Hague: SDU, 2010, pp. 47-48.
Kees Groeneboer, ‘The Dutch Language in Maluku’, Cakalele, Maluku Research Journal Majalah Penelitian Maluku, 5 (1994), pp. 1-10. 
François Valentijn, Omstandig Verhaal van de Geschiedenissen en Zaaken het kerkelyke ofte den Godsdienst betreffende, zoo in Amboina, als in alle de Eylanden […] (Amsterdam: Joannes van Braam, 1726), pp. 2-44.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Forms of address in Norwich Dutch (of Norwichs Vlaams)

So far this blog has often discussed Dutch as a contact language and Dutch loanwords borrowed by other languages as a result of this contact. However, this post looks at forms of address, which in English are typically 'you'. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, thousands of Dutch or nederduytsch speakers left the Low Countries for religious and or economic reasons. Some settled in England, including my hometown Norwich. I am working on a project looking at Dutch as an emigrant language in Norwich. One source for this is a series of letters written by Dutch-speakers, mainly from West Flanders, to friends and relatives who remained in the Low Countries. These tend to be fairly informal in nature and the language probably comes quite close to the Dutch/Flemish that would have been heard on the streets of early modern Norwich. It should be noted that they only survive in transcription, so we must use the results from them with caution. 
Another source for 'Norwich Dutch' is correspondence written by leaders of the Dutch church in Norwich to leaders of Dutch churches elsewhere in England, above all in London. I have compared the forms of address in each set of letters and the results are quite unequivocal. The dominant subject form of address is the g-form, ghy (or variant spellings). This is to be expected as this was the dominant form in Flanders at this time. Perhaps less expected is the total absence of the older pronoun du (cf. German Du), which still persisted in Flanders in the sixteenth century, although it was in recession. As for the church letters, the dominant form there is ulieden or u.l (the u-form). The result for these two sets of letters is statistically significant,  χ2 (1) = 21.0022, p < .01. So it can be tentatively asserted that there was what linguists call a T-V (Tu/Vos) distinction in Norwichs Vlaams between the informal g-form and the formal u-form. The detailed results of this study are on the Facebook page 'The History of Language in Norfolk'. I would like to compare these results with those from other sets of letters in (West)-Flemish - please let me know of any such collections.

A letter written by a Flemish 'Stranger' in Norwich to family in Ieper

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dutch Sundays in Japan

The Dutch word for 'Sunday' turns up in two different forms on the island of Kyushu in Western Japan. In May each year, the city of Hakata holds the extravagant Dontaku Festival. Dontaku is derived from the Dutch word for Sunday 'zondag'. According to one account, in Meiji Japan (late 19th Century), the Dutch word was appropriated for 'holiday' and then came to be applied specifically to festivals held on holidays and now survives as the name of the Hakata Festival. The term, has however, spread. There is now a wrestling event held close to or during the festival in Hakata called Resuringu Dontaku (Wrestling Dontaku). One other word to come from this rendering of 'Sunday' is 'handon'. This means 'half Sunday or half holiday' and seems in fact to refer to Saturdays in parts of Kyushu.
More recently, the town of Hirado has introduced the Hirado Zondag. This is held on every third Sunday of the month  Here, the local women dress up in Dutch clothing and tea is served free. While the use of dontaku may originate from the Dutch and indeed European custom of making Sunday a day of rest, the Hirado Zondag seems aimed at celebrating the historic link between the Dutch and Hirado, where the Dutch had a trading post from 1609-1641. In both cases, there is also at least one eye on the tourist trade.

Hakata Dontaku Festival 

Further information: