Amsterdam – Europe is home to various ethnicities and in one of its countries, the Netherlands, the majority of the people are Dutch. As a place known for its flat landscape of canals and windmills, what else is there to know about the Netherlands and its people? For one, many are intrigued by the community’s unique name. Why are the people of Netherlands called Dutch? Well, there are a number of terms and historical connotations to learn first before fully understanding the ethnic group’s name.
Language use and history
The Netherlands is a place where people speak different languages, even within one community. Among the people of the Netherlands, communication is mainly through their two official languages: Dutch and Frisian. Dutch is a western Germanic language that may be seen as being between German and English, while Frisian is closer to English. However, the latter is mostly used by a small group of people living in the northern part of the country. Moreover, people are also well versed in speaking English, German, and French so it is no surprise to meet Dutch people who are fluent in three or more languages.
This kind of language prowess is also brought about by the historical and cultural influences observed within the country. As Europe is a place where international communication comes across borders, there are plenty of similarities with the language structures and vocabularies between languages, which help people learn languages a lot faster.
What’s with the name and the ethnicity?
Now that we know a bit about the language of the Dutch, there is now that thought of how the Netherlands came to be the home of the Dutch. Well, there is a need to understand two major terms: Netherlands and Dutch.
In Old English, the word dutch simply meant “people or nation.” Thus, it is the word used to determine the ethnic people of the country. It is somehow similar to how the term Deutschland is used in German.
Over the course of time, English-speaking people used the word to describe both people coming from the Netherlands and Germany. However, there are still distinctions between the Low Dutch (referring to people from the flatlands, or the Netherlands) and the High Dutch (referring to people from the mountainous area, southern Germany). These terms were widely used by people across the two regions. However, when the two countries formally became separate countries in 1815, the term Dutch was carried over to refer to the people of the entire country of the Netherlands. In addition, the name the Netherlands is the one used to describe the people from the low-lying (nether) region (land).
Isn’t it wonderful to note that the use of a particular term that once served as simple identification of the geographical features of a particular land or community can now be the identifier of a person’s ethnicity? Many ethnic communities evolved and so have their language. Just by learning words of a particular language, one can already have a glimpse into the history of a country.
Image from Hylda on Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/79925372@N00/