LONG & SHORT VOWELS: Copying the sound

In two previous blog posts, I discussed how you can identify short and long vowels in Dutch. I introduced a 10 word guide-system to use as a point of comparison when writing down or reading out new words. In this blog post, I’ll be discussing one last important rule to remember when writing vowels in Dutch which involves, you guessed it, “copying the sound”.

SHORT & LONG SYLLABLES: A REVISION

As we’ve seen previously, the syllables with short vowels will always end in a consonant and have only one vowel in the middle: “(C)VC”. E.g. ik, dik, dom, bus, kort, man, ben …

The long vowels have two configurations:

  1. a syllable ending in a consonant with two vowels in the middle: “(C)VVC”: e.g. oog, groot, uur, maan, been
  2. a syllable ending in one vowel (remember the rule: a syllable can never end in two letters that are the same!): “(C)V“: ne-men, wo-nen, hu-ren, na-men

USE THE ROOT WORD!

The rule of copying the sound means that we always copy the pronunciation of the original root word. By root woord, I mean three types of words:

  1. substantives in singular form (e.g. “boom”, “huis”)
  2. undeclensed adjectives (e.g. “groot”, “klein”) (without an “e” added at the end)
  3. verbs in the infinitive form (e.g. “werken”, “wonen”)

TRANSFORM THE ROOT WORD!

We will copy the sound / pronunciation of the central vowel of these three root words when making:

  1. substantives in plural form (e.g. “bomen”, “huizen”)
  2. declensing adjectives, meaning adding an non-emphasized “e” at the end (e.g. “grote”, “kleine”)
  3. making the “stam” (ik-vorm) of the verb (e.g. “werk”, “woon”)

LET’S COPY THE SOUND!

Let’s now look at some examples of how the rule of copying the sound would play out in practice.

“LANG” STAYS “LANG” (*)

  • SUBSTANTIVES: SINGULAR ==> PLURAL

naam ==> namen (1)
deel ==> delen
oor ==> oren
buur ==> buren

  • ADJECTIVES: UNDECLENSED ==> DECLENSED (+E)

traag ==> trage
geel ==> gele
rood ==> rode
duur ==> dure

  • VERBS: INFINITIVE ==> STAM (ik-vorm, mostly inifinitive minus -en)

slapen ==> slaap
weten ==> weet
wonen ==> woon
huren ==> huur (2)

“KORT” STAYS “KORT”

  • SUBSTANTIVES: SINGULAR ==> PLURAL

bal ==> ballen (3)
kat ==> katten
pen ==> pennen
pot ==> potten
bus ==> bussen
zus ==> zussen

  • ADJECTIVES: UNDECLENSED ==> DECLENSED (+E)

nat ==> natte
snel ==> snelle
wit ==> witte
slim ==> slimme
dom ==> domme
vlug ==> vlugge

  • VERBS: INFINITIVE ==> STAM (ik-vorm, mostly inifinitive minus -en)

stappen ==> stap
zeggen ==> zeg
tellen ==> tel
tikken ==> tik
stoppen ==> stop
kussen ==> kus

SOME FINAL FOOTNOTES…

(*) In none of the examples of this category, the long “i” is included here, since the issue of syllables or words ending in two vowels that are the same doesn’t play out. Long “i” is always written as “ie” so there are no complications.

(1) note that it would be impossible to write “naamen” since it would be illogical to split the word “na-amen” and a syllable can never end in two letters that are the same. You can hear where the “natural” syllable break would be because there’s always a slight, slight pause between the two “na(.)men”.

(2) there’s really only one major exception to this rule with the verb “komen” (to come), which is long in the infinitive, but short in the conjugation: “kom”. Most of the other verbs in the present tense will always copy the sound of the infinitive into the conjugation.

(3) The word is split like this: “bal-len”, between the two consonants, since, yes, a syllable can never in two letters that are the same. Note that if I were to write here “balen” with only one consonant, I would split it “ba-len” which would turn the word long and which would be against the rule of copying the sound. Doesn’t it all dovetail each other nicely?

As a final remark, in a follow-up blog post, I discussed the impact of being able to distinguish long vs. short. Mastering this, is one of the most important things you need to know when writing and speaking Dutch, mostly because we have so many similar words and syllables that can change from meaning radically depending on whether you write/pronounce them as long or short.

To practice the Dutch variation of vowel combinations specifically, check Taalmenu.

EXERCISES & LINKS

If you want some more exercise material, check out these links:

Apps:
Uitsprekend (Flemish pronunciation, for free)
Spreek Beter (Dutch pronunciation, 1.99€)
Nederlandse spelling (mostly made for kids who are Dutch native speakers, but could also be practical for adults learning Dutch)

Websites:
Van Dale NT2 Woordenboek (usable both on the Van Dale app and online, amazing Dutch to simplified Dutch for students dictionary with pronunciation examples of each word in both Flemish and Dutch variation, a bargain for 4.99€ / year!)
Studiebazaar Uitspraakoefeningen (Flemish pronunciation, organized according to vowels, vowel & consonant combinations)
Klankbord (Dutch pronunciation)
Forvo (a free online dictionary where you can hear how regular Flemish & Dutch people would pronounce a word, also available for many, many other languages)

Books
In terms of books, check out Nu versta ik je, available in both Dutch and Flemish versions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top