Mij pa fok dieren

Disclaimer: I don't know any Dutch or Afrikaans, and can't vouch for this story, which was told to me some years back by a reader of Linguist List

Once a young man from the Netherlands moved with his family to South Africa, where he was naturally put in the Afrikaans-speaking class. Afrikaans is an offshoot of Dutch, retaining older spellings and word meanings, and with a fair amount of English mixed in (among other languages). He was asked to write an essay describing himself and his family, and then to read out loud to the class. It contained the harmless Dutch sentence "Mij pa fok dieren" (My father breeds animals), which in Afrikaans (under English influence) has a very different meaning!


Ed said...

Actually it is Afrikaans that has the newer spellings, not Dutch. Afrikaans is a very new language and is heavily simplified in terms of its grammar and spelling compared with Dutch. For example in Afrikaans virtually all the old Dutch irregular verbs have been made regular, the Dutch grammatical gender has been lost and only the perfect tense is used to express the past. Where Dutch uses the letter C it has been replaced by K or S in Afrikaans, CH has been replaced by G, IJ by Y, Q by KW and X by KS.

This mistaken view that Afrikaans is a form of old Dutch seems to be a result of false logic. Afrikaans is decended from 17th Century Dutch, therefore it must be like 17th Century Dutch. Wrong, the language that is closest to 17th Century Dutch is of course Modern Dutch - Afrikaans has diverged a long way since then because of its isolation from Dutch and contact with other languages.

Interestingly the 'progressive' spellings of many Dutch words are similar to or the same as the Afrikaans versions.

From an English point of view, imagine a language descended from English in which one said 'I has singed', 'you has singed', 'he has singed' 'we has singed' instead of 'I have sung', 'you have sung', 'he has sung' and 'I is cold', 'you is cold', 'he is cold', 'we is cold' etc.

John Cowan said...

Fair enough, although the Y for IJ is a survival of older Dutch spelling conventions. Modern written Dutch is conservative, as most written standards are, but many Afrikaans features are also found in Dutch spoken dialects. The reasons for calling it a separate language are essentially sociolinguistic -- note that Afrikaans is not subtitled on Dutch TV.

Anonymous said...

Goed,ek is 'n nuwe leerder van die taal,so in wat cases weet jy wanneer to/aan pronounce die letter "g" as die engels "g" en nie die afrikaans "ch"?