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Popular English usage applies the term Dutch to the language of the Netherlands and the term Flemish to the language of Belgium, but in fact they are one and the same standard language.
In its various forms, standard and dialectal, Dutch is the indigenous language of most of the Netherlands (all but the Frisian-speaking province of Friesland), of northern Belgium, and of a small part of France immediately to the west of Belgium.
The most striking changes that distinguish them from the other Germanic languages are the loss of nasal sounds before the Proto-Germanic voiceless fricatives * A thousand years or so ago Frisian was apparently spoken throughout a North Sea coastal area extending from the modern Netherlands province of Noord-Holland (North Holland) on up to modern German Schleswig and the adjacent offshore islands.
During the following centuries the Frisian of much of this area was gradually replaced by local Dutch and Low German dialects, so that Modern Frisian is now spoken in only three remaining areas: (1) West Frisian, in the Dutch province of Friesland, including the island of Schiermonnikoog and two-thirds of the island of Terschelling (altogether some 400,000 speakers), (2) East Frisian, in the German Saterland (some 1,000 speakers; this area was apparently settled in the 12th or 13th century from the former East Frisian area to the north), and (3) North Frisian, along the west coast of German Schleswig and on the offshore islands of Sylt, Föhr, Amrum, the Halligen, and Helgoland (altogether some 8,000 speakers).
Very slowly, the aims of this “Frisian movement” came to be realized, especially in the Netherlands province of Friesland, where in 1937 Frisian was accepted as an optional course in elementary schools; a Frisian Academy was founded in 1938; and in 1943 the first Frisian translation of the Bible was published.
In 1955 Frisian was approved as the language of instruction in the first two years of elementary school (though only about one-fourth of all schools use it in this way), and in 1956 the use of Frisian in courts of law was approved.
Dutch, formally called Netherlandic, is the national language of the Netherlands and with French is a national language of Belgium.The area to the north is called East Frisia (German Ostfriesland), and the local dialect East Frisian (German Ostfriesisch), although it is actually not Frisian but the local variety of Low German.Though North Frisian is spoken in only a small geographic area by only some 8,000 persons, it exists in an extraordinary number of local dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible.The three exceptions are the island dialect of East and West Terschelling and the dialects of the city of Hindeloopen and of the island of Schiermonnikoog.These latter two differ so greatly that they are not intelligible to other speakers of West Frisian and are both dying out.
West Germanic languages, group of Germanic languages that developed in the region of the North Sea, Rhine-Weser, and Elbe.