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Native to
Native speakers
7.2 million  (2011 census)[1][2]
Total: 15–23 million[n 1]
Signed Afrikaans[3]
Official status
Official language in
 South Africa
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byDie Taalkommissie
Language codes
ISO 639-1af
ISO 639-2afr
ISO 639-3afr
Regions shaded dark blue represent areas of concentrated Afrikaans-speaking communities
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
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Native to
Native speakers
7.2 million  (2011 census)[1][2]
Total: 15–23 million[n 1]
Signed Afrikaans[3]
Official status
Official language in
 South Africa
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byDie Taalkommissie
Language codes
ISO 639-1af
ISO 639-2afr
ISO 639-3afr
Regions shaded dark blue represent areas of concentrated Afrikaans-speaking communities
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Afrikaans /ɑːfrɪˈkɑːns/ or /æfrɪˈkɑːns/[5] is one of the official languages of South Africa. It is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It is an offshoot of several Dutch dialects spoken by the mainly Dutch settlers of what is now South Africa, where it gradually began to develop independently in the course of the 18th century.[6] Hence, historically, it is a daughter language of Dutch, and was previously referred to as "Cape Dutch" (a term also used to refer collectively to the early Cape settlers) or "kitchen Dutch" (a derogatory term used to refer to Afrikaans in its earlier days).[n 2]

Although Afrikaans has adopted words from other languages, including Portuguese, the Bantu languages, Malay, and the Khoisan languages, an estimated 90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is of Dutch origin.[n 3] Therefore, differences with Dutch often lie in the more analytic morphology and grammar of Afrikaans, and a spelling that expresses Afrikaans pronunciation rather than standard Dutch.[n 4] There is a large degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages—especially in written form.[n 5]

With about 7 million native speakers in South Africa, or 13.5% of the population, it is the third-most-spoken mother tongue in the country.[1] It has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all the official languages of South Africa, and is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language.[n 6] It is the majority language of the western half of South Africa — the provinces of the Northern Cape and Western Cape — and the first language of 75.8% of Coloured South Africans (3.4 million people), 60.8% of White South Africans (2.7 million) and at 4.6% the second most spoken first-language among Asian South Africans (58,000). About 1.5% of black South Africans (600,000 people) speak it as their first language.[7] Large numbers of Bantu-speaking and English-speaking South Africans also speak it as their second language. It is taught in schools, with about 10.3 million second language learners. [8] One reason for the expansion of Afrikaans is its development in the public realm: it is used in newspapers, radio programs, TV, Grammar, and has Bible portions translated from 1933–1983.[9]

In neighbouring Namibia, Afrikaans is widely spoken as a second language and used as lingua franca,[n 7] while as a native language it is spoken in 11% of households, mainly concentrated in the capital Windhoek and the southern regions of Hardap and Karas.[n 8] It is no longer considered an "official language" of Namibia, but rather a recognised regional language; in 1990, 25% of the population of Windhoek spoke Afrikaans at home.[10]

Estimates of the total number of Afrikaans-speakers range between 15 and 23 million.[n 1]



The Afrikaans language arose in the Dutch Cape Colony, through a gradual divergence from European Dutch dialects, during the course of the 18th century.[11][12] As early as the mid-18th century and as recently as the mid-20th century, Afrikaans was known in standard Dutch as a "kitchen language" (Afr. kombuistaal), lacking the prestige accorded, for example even by the educational system in Africa, to languages spoken outside Africa; other early epithets setting apart Kaaps Hollands ("Cape Dutch", i.e. Afrikaans) as putatively beneath official Dutch standards included geradbraakt/gebroken/onbeschaafd Hollands ("mutilated/broken/uncivilised Dutch"), as well as verkeerd Nederlands ("incorrect Dutch").[13][14] An estimated 90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin,[15][16][17] and there are few lexical differences between the two languages;[18] however, Afrikaans has a considerably more regular morphology,[19] grammar, and spelling.[20] There is a degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages,[19][21][22] particularly in written form.[20][23][24]

Afrikaans acquired some lexical and syntactical borrowings from other languages such as Malay, Khoisan languages, Portuguese,[25] and of the Bantu languages,[26] and to a lesser extent, French. Afrikaans has also been significantly influenced by South African English.[27] Nevertheless, Dutch speakers are confronted with fewer noncognates when listening to Afrikaans than the other way round.[24] Mutual intelligibility thus tends to be asymmetrical, as it is easier for Dutch speakers to understand Afrikaans than for Afrikaans speakers to understand Dutch.[24] In general, mutual intelligibility between Dutch and Afrikaans is better than between Dutch and Frisian[28] or between Danish and Swedish.[24] The South African poet writer Breyten Breytenbach, attempting to visualize the language distance to anglophones once remarked that the differences between (Standard) Dutch and Afrikaans are comparable to those between the Received Pronunciation and Southern American English.[29]


Beginning in about 1815, Afrikaans started to replace Malay as the language of instruction in Muslim schools in South Africa, written with the Arabic alphabet. Later, Afrikaans, now written with the Latin alphabet, started to appear in newspapers and political and religious works in around 1850. [30]

In 1875, a group of Afrikaans-speakers from the Cape formed the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaanders (Society for Real Afrikaners), [31]and published a number of books in Afrikaans including grammars, dictionaries, religious materials and histories. In 1925, Afrikaans was recognised by the South African government as a real language, rather than simply a slang version of Dutch proper. [32]


Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect in South Africa until the early 20th century, when it became recognised as a distinct language under South African law, alongside Standard Dutch, which it eventually replaced as an official language.[33] A relative majority of the first settlers whose descendants today are the Afrikaners were from the United Provinces (now Netherlands and Belgium), though there were also many from Germany, a considerable number from France, and some from Madeira, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, and various other countries.

The workers and slaves who contributed to the development of Afrikaans were Asians (especially Malays) and Malagasys, as well as the Khoi, San, and Bantu peoples who also lived in the area. African creole people in the early 18th century — documented on the cases of Hendrik Bibault and patriarch Oude Ram — were the first to call themselves Afrikaner (Africans). Only much later in the second half of the 19th century did the Boers adopt this attribution, too.[34] The Khoi and mixed-race groups became collectively referred to as 'Coloureds'.[35]


Slogan in front of the Afrikaans Language Monument, near Paarl, South Africa. It reads, roughly, "we are earnest [about this]", or "this is our earnestness").

The Afrikaans Language Monument (Afrikaans: Afrikaanse Taalmonument) is located on a hill overlooking Paarl, Western Cape Province, South Africa. Officially opened on 10 October 1975,[36] it commemorates the semicentenary of Afrikaans being declared an official language of South Africa separate from Dutch. Also, it was erected on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (the Society of Real Afrikaners) in Paarl, the organization that helped strengthen Afrikaners' identity and pride in their language.[37]


Side view of the Pretoria Art Museum in Arcadia, Pretoria, with Afrikaans language sign.

The linguist Paul Roberge suggested the earliest 'truly Afrikaans' texts are doggerel verse from 1795 and a dialogue transcribed by a Dutch traveller in 1825. Printed material among the Afrikaners at first used only standard European Dutch. By the mid-19th century, more and more were appearing in Afrikaans, which was very much still regarded as a set of regional dialects.

In 1861, L.H. Meurant published his Zamenspraak tusschen Klaas Waarzegger en Jan Twyfelaar ("Conversation between Claus Truthsayer and John Doubter"), which is considered by some to be the first authoritative Afrikaans text.[citation needed]Abu Bakr Effendi also compiled his Arabic Afrikaans Islamic instruction book between 1862 and 1869, although this was only published and printed in 1877. The first Afrikaans grammars and dictionaries were published in 1875 by the Genootskap vir Regte Afrikaners ('Society for Real Afrikaners') in Cape Town.[citation needed]

Sign in Afrikaans: "Gevaar Slagysters"

The First and Second Boer Wars further strengthened the position of Afrikaans.[citation needed] The official languages of the Union of South Africa were English and Dutch until Afrikaans was subsumed under Dutch on 5 May 1925.

The main Afrikaans dictionary is the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT) (Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language), which is as yet incomplete owing to the scale of the project, but the one-volume dictionary in household use is the Verklarende Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (HAT). The official orthography of Afrikaans is the Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls, compiled by Die Taalkommissie.

The Afrikaans Bible[edit]

A major landmark in the development of the language was the translation of the whole Bible into Afrikaans. Before this, most Cape Dutch-Afrikaans speakers had to rely on the Dutch Statenbijbel. This Statenvertaling had its origins with the Synod of Dordrecht of 1618 and was thus in an archaic form of Dutch. This was hard for Dutch and Cape Dutch speakers to understand, and increasingly unintelligible for Afrikaans speakers.

C. P. Hoogehout, Arnoldus Pannevis, and Stephanus Jacobus du Toit were the first Afrikaans Bible translators. Important landmarks in the translation of the Scriptures were in 1878 with C. P. Hoogehout's translation of the Evangelie volgens Markus (Gospel of Mark, lit. Gospel according to Mark), however this translation was never published. The manuscript is to be found in the South African National Library, Cape Town.

The first official translation of the entire Bible into Afrikaans was in 1933 by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet.[38][39] This monumental work established Afrikaans as 'n suiwer en oordentlike taal, that is "a pure and proper language" for religious purposes, especially amongst the deeply Calvinist Afrikaans religious community that previously had been rather sceptical of a Bible translation that varied from the Dutch version that they were used to.

In 1983 a fresh translation marked the 50th anniversary of the 1933 version and provided a much needed revision. The final editing of this edition was done by E. P. Groenewald, A. H. van Zyl, P. A. Verhoef, J. L. Helberg and W. Kempen.

Geographic distribution[edit]


Geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: proportion of the population that speaks Afrikaans at home.
Geographical distribution of Afrikaans in South Africa: density of Afrikaans home-language speakers.

Some state that instead of "Afrikaners" which refers to an ethnic group, the terms Afrikaanses or "Afrikaanssprekendes" (lit. Afrikaans speakers) should be used for people of any ethnic origin who speak Afrikaans. Linguistic identity has not yet established which terms shall prevail, and all three are used in common parlance.[40]

Geographical distribution of Afrikaans in Namibia.

Afrikaans is also widely spoken in Namibia. Before independence, Afrikaans had equal status with German as an official language. Since independence in 1990, Afrikaans has had constitutional recognition as a national, but not official, language.[41][42] There is a much smaller number of Afrikaans speakers among Zimbabwe's white minority, as most have left the country since 1980. Afrikaans was also a medium of instruction for schools in Bophuthatswana Bantustan.[43]

Many South Africans living and working in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Kuwait are also Afrikaans-speaking. They have access to Afrikaans websites, news sites such as and Sake24, and radio broadcasts over the web, such as those from Radio Sonder Grense and Radio Pretoria.

Afrikaans has been influential in the development of South African English. Many Afrikaans loanwords have found their way into South African English, such as 'bakkie' ("pickup truck"), 'braai' ("barbecue"), 'naartjie' ("tangerine"), 'tekkies' (AE "sneakers"/BE "trainers"/CE "runners"). A few words in standard English are derived from Afrikaans, such as 'aardvark' (lit. "earth pig"), 'trek' ("pioneering journey", in Afrikaans lit. "pull" but used also for "migrate"), "spoor" ("animal track"), "veld" ("Southern African grassland" in Afrikaans lit. "field"), "commando" from Afrikaans "kommando" meaning small fighting unit, "boomslang" ("tree snake") and apartheid ("segregation"; more accurately "apartness" or "the state or condition of being apart").

In 1976, secondary school pupils in Soweto began a rebellion in response to the government's decision that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction for half the subjects taught in non-White schools (with English continuing for the other half). Although English is the mother tongue of only 8.2% of the population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second language of a majority of South Africans.[44] Afrikaans is more widely spoken than English in the Northern and Western Cape provinces, several hundred kilometers from Soweto. The Black community's opposition to Afrikaans and preference for continuing English instruction was underscored when the government rescinded the policy one month after the uprising: 96% of Black schools chose English (over Afrikaans or native languages) as the language of instruction.[45]

Under South Africa's Constitution of 1996, Afrikaans remains an official language, and has equal status to English and nine other languages. The new policy means that the use of Afrikaans is now often reduced in favour of English, or to accommodate the other official languages. In 1996, for example, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reduced the amount of television airtime in Afrikaans, while South African Airways dropped its Afrikaans name Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens from its livery. Similarly, South Africa's diplomatic missions overseas now only display the name of the country in English and their host country's language, and not in Afrikaans.

In spite of these moves, the language has remained strong, and Afrikaans newspapers and magazines continue to have large circulation figures. Indeed, the Afrikaans-language general-interest family magazine Huisgenoot has the largest readership of any magazine in the country.[46] In addition, a pay-TV channel in Afrikaans called KykNet was launched in 1999, and an Afrikaans music channel, MK (Musiek kanaal) (lit. 'Music Channel'), in 2005. A large number of Afrikaans books are still published every year, mainly by the publishers Human & Rousseau, Tafelberg Uitgewers, Struik, and Protea Boekhuis.

Afrikaans has two monuments erected in its honour. The first was erected in Burgersdorp, South Africa, in 1893, and the second, better-known Afrikaans Language Monument (Afrikaanse Taalmonument) was built in Paarl, South Africa, in 1975.

When the British design magazine Wallpaper described Afrikaans as "one of the world's ugliest languages" in its September 2005 article about the monument, South African billionaire Johann Rupert (chairman of the Richemont Group), responded by withdrawing advertising for brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill from the magazine.[47] The author of the article, Bronwyn Davies, was an English-speaking South African.

Modern Dutch and Afrikaans share over 90 per cent of their vocabulary. Afrikaans speakers are able to learn Dutch within a comparatively short time. Native Dutch speakers pick up written Afrikaans even more quickly, due to its simplified grammar, whereas understanding spoken Afrikaans might need more effort. Afrikaans speakers can learn Dutch pronunciation with little training. This has enabled Dutch and Belgian companies to outsource their call centre operations to South Africa.[48]

Current Status[edit]

Future of Afrikaans[edit]

Use of Afrikaans as a first language by province
Western Cape58.5%55.3%49.7%
Eastern Cape9.8%9.6%10.6%
Northern Cape57.2%56.6%53.8%
Free State14.4%11.9%12.7%
North West8.8%8.8%9.0%
 South Africa14.4%[50]13.3%[51]13.5%[52]

Post-apartheid South Africa has seen a loss of preferential treatment by the government for Afrikaans, in terms of education, social events, media (TV and radio), and general status throughout the country, given that it now shares its place as official language with ten other languages. Nevertheless, Afrikaans remains more prevalent in the media – radio, newspapers and television[53] – than any of the other official languages, except English. More than 300 book titles[clarification needed] in Afrikaans are published annually.[54] South African census figures suggest a growing number of speakers in all 9 provinces, a total of 6.85 million in 2011 compared to 5.98 million a decade earlier.[55] The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) project that a growing majority will be Coloured Afrikaans speakers.[56] Afrikaans speakers enjoy higher employment rates than other South African language groups, though half a million remain unemployed.[55]

Despite the challenges of demotion and emigration that it faces in South Africa, the Afrikaans vernacular remains competitive, being popular in DSTV pay channels and several internet sites, while generating high newspaper and music CD sales. A resurgence in Afrikaans popular music since the late 1990s has invigorated the language, especially among a younger generation of South Africans. A recent trend is the increased availability of pre-school educational CDs and DVDs. Such media also prove popular with the extensive Afrikaans-speaking expatriate communities who seek to retain language proficiency in a household context.

After years of slumber, Afrikaans language cinema is showing signs of new vigour. The 2007 film Ouma se slim kind, the first full-length Afrikaans movie since Paljas of 1998, is seen as the dawn of a new era in Afrikaans cinema. Several short films have been created and more feature-length movies, such as Poena is Koning and Bakgat (both in 2008) have been produced, besides the 2011 Afrikaans-language film Skoonheid, which was the first Afrikaans film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. The film Platteland was also released in 2011.[57]

Afrikaans seems to be returning to the SABC. SABC3 announced early in 2009 that it would increase Afrikaans programming due to the "growing Afrikaans-language market and [their] need for working capital as Afrikaans advertising is the only advertising that sells in the current South African television market". In April 2009, SABC3 started screening several Afrikaans-language programmes.[58] Further latent support for the language derives from its de-politicised image in the eyes of younger-generation South Africans, who less and less often view it as "the language of the oppressor".[citation needed] Indeed, there is a groundswell movement within Afrikaans to be inclusive, and to promote itself along with the other indigenous official languages.

In Namibia, the percentage of Afrikaans speakers declined from 11.4% (2001 Census) to 10.4% (2011 Census). The major concentrations are in Hardap (41.0%), Karas (36.1%), Erongo (20.5%), Khomas (18.5%), Omaheke (10.0%), Otjozondjupa (9.4%), Kunene (4.2%), and Oshikoto (2.3%).[59]


Following early dialectical studies of Afrikaans, it was theorised that three main historical dialects probably existed after the Great Trek in the 1830s. These dialects are the Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape dialects.[60] Northern Cape dialect may have resulted from contact between Dutch settlers and the Khoi-Khoi people between the Great Karoo and the Kunene, and Eastern Cape dialect between the Dutch and the Xhosa. Remnants of these dialects still remain in present-day Afrikaans, although the standardising effect of Standard Afrikaans has contributed to a great levelling of differences in modern times.[citation needed]

There is also a prison cant, known as soebela or sombela, which is based on Afrikaans, yet heavily influenced by Zulu. This language is used as a secret language in prison and is taught to initiates.[61]

Kaapse Afrikaans[edit]

The term Kaapse Afrikaans ("Cape Afrikaans") is sometimes erroneously used to refer to the entire Western Cape dialect; it is more commonly used for a particular sociolect spoken in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. Kaapse Afrikaans was once spoken by all population groups. However, it became increasingly restricted to the Cape Coloured ethnic group in Cape Town and environs.

Kaapse Afrikaans preserves some features more similar to Dutch than to Afrikaans.[62]

Kaapse Afrikaans has some other features not typically found in Afrikaans.

Kaapse Afrikaans is also characterised by much code-switching between English and Afrikaans, especially in the inner-city and lower socio-economic status areas of Cape Town.

An example of characteristic Kaapse Afrikaans


The term Oranjeriverafrikaans ("Afrikaans of the Orange River") is sometimes erroneously used to refer to the Northern Cape dialect; it is more commonly used for the regional peculiarities of standard Afrikaans spoken in the Upington/Orange River wine district of South Africa.

Some of the characteristics of Oranjerivierafrikaans are the plural form -goed (Ma-goed, meneergoed), variant pronunciation such as in kjerk (Church) and gjeld (money) and the ending -se, which indicates possession.

Expatriate geolect[edit]

Although Afrikaans is mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia, smaller Afrikaans-speaking populations live in Argentina,[63] Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Lesotho, Malawi, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Swaziland, the UAE, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.[64] Most, if not all, Afrikaans-speaking people living outside Africa are emigrants and their descendants. Because of emigration and migrant labour, more than 100,000 Afrikaans speakers may live in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]


Main article: Afrikaans grammar

In Afrikaans grammar, there is no distinction between the infinitive and present forms of verbs, with the exception of the verbs 'to be' and 'to have':

infinitive formpresent indicative formDutchEnglishGerman
weesiszijn / wezenbesein

In addition, verbs do not conjugate differently depending on the subject. For example,

ek isik benI amich bin
jy/u isjij/u bentyou are (sing.)du bist
hy/sy/dit ishij/zij/het ishe/she/it iser/sie/es ist
ons iswij zijnwe arewir sind
julle isjullie zijnyou are (plur.)ihr seid
hulle iszij zijnthey aresie sind

Only a handful of Afrikaans verbs have a preterite, namely the auxiliary wees ("to be"), the modal verbs, and the verb dink ("to think"). The preterite of mag ("may") is rare in contemporary Afrikaans.

ek isek wasik benik wasI amI was
ek kanek konik kanik konI canI could
ek moetek moesik moetik moestI mustI had to
ek wilek wouik wilik wilde/wouI wantI wanted
ek salek souik zalik zouI willI would
ek mag(ek mog)ik magik mochtI mayI was allowed
ek dinkek dogik denkik dachtI thinkI thought

All other verbs use the perfect tense ( + past participle) for the past. Therefore there is no distinction in Afrikaans between I drank and I have drunk. (Also in colloquial German, the past tense is also widely replaced with the perfect.)

ek het gedrinkik dronkI drank
ek het gedrinkik heb gedronkenI have drunk

When telling a longer story, Afrikaans speakers usually avoid the perfect and simply use the present tense instead (as is possible, but less common, in English as well).

A particular feature of Afrikaans is its use of the double negative; it is classified in Afrikaans as ontkennende vorm and is something that is absent from the other West Germanic standard languages. For example,

Afrikaans: Hy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie. (lit. He can not Afrikaans speak not.)
Dutch: Hij kan geen Afrikaans praten / Hij spreekt geen Afrikaans.
English: He speaks no Afrikaans.
German: Er spricht kein Afrikaans.
French: Il ne parle pas Afrikaans.

Both French and San origins have been suggested for double negation in Afrikaans. While double negation is still found in Low Franconian dialects in West-Flanders and in some "isolated" villages in the center of the Netherlands (i.e. Garderen), it takes a different form, which is not found in Afrikaans. The following is an example:

Ek wil dit nie doen nie.* (lit. I want this not do not.)Ik wil dit niet doen.I do not want to do this.

* Compare with "Ek wil nie dit doen nie", which changes the meaning to "I want not to do this." Whereas "Ek wil nie dit doen nie" emphasizes a lack of want to act, "Ek wil dit nie doen nie" emphasizes the act itself.

The -ne was the Middle Dutch way to negate but it has been suggested that since -ne became highly non-voiced, nie or niet was needed to complement the -ne. With time the -ne disappeared in most Dutch dialects.

The double negative construction has been fully grammaticalized in standard Afrikaans and its proper use follows a set of fairly complex rules as the examples below show:

AfrikaansDutch (literally translated)More common DutchEnglish
Ek het nie geweet dat hy sou kom nie.Ik heb niet geweten dat hij zou komen.Ik wist niet dat hij zou komen.I did not know that he would come.
Ek het geweet dat hy nie sou kom nie.Ik heb geweten dat hij niet zou komen.Ik wist dat hij niet zou komen.I knew (did know) that he would not come.
Ek het nie geweet dat hy nie sou kom nie.Ik heb niet geweten dat hij niet zou komen.Ik wist niet dat hij niet zou komen.I did not know that he would not come.
Hy sal[65] nie kom nie, want hy is siek.Hij zal niet komen, want hij is ziek.Hij komt niet, want hij is ziek.
He will not come, as he is sick.
Dis (Dit is) nie so moeilik om Afrikaans te leer nie.Het is niet zo moeilijk om Afrikaans te leren.It is not so difficult to learn Afrikaans.

The Dutch word het ("it" in English) does not correspond to het in Afrikaans; the Dutch word heb corresponds to het in Afrikaans.

hetheb, hebt, heeft, hebbenhave, has
diede, hetthe

A notable exception to this is the use of the negating grammar form that coincides with negating the English present participle. In this case there is only a single negation.

Hy is in die hospitaal, maar hy eet nie.Hij is in het ziekenhuis/hospitaal, maar hij eet niet.He is in [the] hospital, though he eats not.

Certain words in Afrikaans arise due to grammar. For example, moet nie, which literally means "must not", usually becomes moenie; although one does not have to write or say it like this, virtually all Afrikaans speakers will change the two words to moenie in the same way as do not shifts to don't in English.


Main article: Afrikaans phonology
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A voice recording of 'Stem van Suid-Afrika'

Afrikaans' sound system is similar to that of other West Germanic languages like Dutch or Frisian.[citation needed]


Afrikaans has an extensive vowel inventory consisting of 14 plain vowels (not counting [ə æ æː]), and seven diphthongs.

Afrikaans vowels[66] with example words
3veətweet'to know'
^1 [æ] and [æː] are not separate phonemes in Afrikaans, but allophones of /ɛ/. [æ] is dialectal, and substitutes /ɛ/ before /k ɡ l r/, most commonly in the former Transvaal and Free State provinces.[67] [æː] is part of the standard language, and is pronounced before /rs/ /rt/ /rd/.[67]
^2 /a aː əi œu/ are also transcribed as /ɐ ɑː ɛi ɵu/ respectively.
^3 /oə øə eə/ are also transcribed as long monophthongs /oː øː eː/, though it's not accurate to do so.[68] /oə/ and /eə/ are also commonly realized as [uə] and [iə] respectively, and such pronunciation is already considered standard.[68] In Western Cape /oə eə/ can also be pronounced [uː] and [iː] respectively.[68]




^1 /m/ and /n/ are labiodental [ɱ] before /f/ and /v/. /k χ/ may be somewhat more front before front vowels; the fronted allophone of /k/ also occurs in diminutives ending in -djie and -tjie.[69]
^2 Only in loanwords.
^3 Like in American English, the lateral /l/ is velarized [ɫ] non-prevocalically, and also lightly velarized in other positions [lˠ].[69]
^4 /r/ is most commonly realized as the alveolar trill [r],[69] but voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] and the uvular trill [ʀ] may occur instead in some southern dialects.[69] Trilled versions may be pronounced with single contact: [ɾ], [ʀ̆].
Afrikaans consonants with example words
ŋsɪ̈ŋsing'to sing'


There are many parallels to the Dutch orthography conventions and those used for Afrikaans. There are 26 letters.

In Afrikaans, many consonants are dropped from the earlier Dutch spelling. For example, slechts ('only') in Dutch becomes slegs in Afrikaans. For example, Afrikaans and some Dutch dialects make no distinction between /s/ and /z/, having merged the latter into the former; while the word for "south" is written "zuid" in Dutch, it is spelled "suid" in Afrikaans to represent this merger. Similarly, the Dutch digraph "ij", normally pronounced as /ɛi/, is written as "y", except where it replaces the Dutch suffix –lijk which is pronounced as /lœk/ or /lik/, as in waarschijnlijk > waarskynlik.

Another difference is the indefinite article, 'n in Afrikaans and een in Dutch. 'A book' is 'n boek in Afrikaans, whereas it is either een boek or 'n boek in Dutch. This 'n is usually pronounced as just a weak vowel, [ə].

The diminutive suffix in Afrikaans is "-tjie", whereas in Dutch it is "-tje", hence a "bit" is bietjie in Afrikaans and beetje in Dutch.

The letters "c", "q", "x", and "z" occur almost exclusively in borrowings from French, English, Greek and Latin. This is usually because words that had "c" and "ch" in the original Dutch are spelled with "k" and "g", respectively, in Afrikaans. Similarly original "qu" and "x" are spelt "kw" and "ks" respectively. For example "ekwatoriaal" instead of "equatoriaal", and "ekskuus" instead of "excuus".

The vowels with diacritics in non-loanword Afrikaans are: "á, é, è, ê, ë, í, î, ï, ó, ô, ú, û, ý". Diacritics are ignored when alphabetising, though they are still important, even when typing the diacritic forms may be difficult. For example "geëet" instead of the 3 e's alongside each other: geeet which can never occur in Afrikaans or "" which translates to say, whereas "se" is a possessive form.

Initial apostrophes[edit]

A few short words in Afrikaans take initial apostrophes. In modern Afrikaans, these words are always written in lower case (except if the entire line is uppercase), and if they occur at the beginning of a sentence, the next word is capitalised. Three examples of such apostrophed words are 'k, 't, 'n. The last (the indefinite article) is the only apostrophed word that is common in modern written Afrikaans, since the other examples are shortened versions of other words (ek and het respectively) and are rarely found outside of a poetic context.,[70]

Here are a few examples:

Apostrophed VersionUsual VersionTranslationNotes
'k 't Dit gesêEk het dit gesêI said itUncommon, more common: Ek't dit gesê
't Jy dit geëet?Het jy dit geëet?Did you eat it?Extremely uncommon
'n Man loop daarA man walks thereStandard Afrikaans pronounces "'n" as a schwa vowel.

The apostrophe and the following letter are regarded as two separate characters, and are never written using a single glyph, although a single character variant of the indefinite article appears in Unicode, ʼn.

Table of characters[edit]

For more on the pronunciation of the letters below, see Wikipedia:IPA for Dutch and Afrikaans.

Afrikaans letters and pronunciation
GraphemeIPAExamples and Notes
a/ɐ/, /ɑː/appel ('apple'; /ɐ/), tale ('languages'; /ɑː/). Represents /ɐ/ at word end and before double consonants and /ɑː/ before single consonant-vowel
aa/ɑː/aap ('monkey', 'ape')
aai/ɑːi/draai ('turn')
ai/aj/baie ('many', 'much' or 'very'), ai (expression of frustration or resignation)
b/b/boom ('tree').
c/s/, /k/Found mainly in borrowed words or proper nouns; the former pronunciation occurs before 'e', 'i', or 'y'; featured in the plural form -ici, as in the plural of medikus ('medic'), medici
ch/ʃ/, /x/, /k/chirurg ('surgeon'; /ʃ/; typically 'sj' is used instead), chemie ('chemistry'; /x/), chitien ('chitin'; /k/). Found only in loanwords and proper nouns
d/d/dag ('day'), deel ('part', 'divide', 'share')
dj/d͡ʒ/djati ('teak'), djihad ('jihad'). Used to transcribe foreign words
e/ɛ/, /eə/, /ə/bed ('bed'; /ɛ/), ete ('meal'; /eə/), se (/ə/; indicates possession, for example 'Johan se boom', meaning 'John's tree')
è/ɛ/ ('yes?', 'right?'), ('here, take this!' or '[this is] yours!')
ê/eː/, /ɛː/ ('to say'). Represents /ɛː/ word-finally
ë-Diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus 'ë', 'ëe' and 'ëi' are pronounced like 'e', 'ee' and 'ei' respectively
ee/iə/weet ('to know'), een ('one')
eeu/iːu/sneeu ('snow'), eeu, ('century')
ei/ɛi/lei ('to lead')
eu/iø/seun ('son' or 'lad')
f/f/fiets ('bicycle')
g/x/goed ('good'), geel ('yellow')
gh/ɡ/gholf ('golf'). Used for /ɡ/ when it is not an allophone of /x/; found only in borrowed words
h/ɦ/hael ('hail'), hond ('dog')
i/i/, /ə/kind ('child'; /ə/), ink ('ink'; /ə/), krisis ('crisis'; /i/ for first 'i' and /ə/ for second 'i'), elektrisiteit ('electricity'; /i/ for first and second 'i'; third 'i' is part of diphthong 'ei')
î/əː/wîe (plural of wig; 'wedges' or 'quoins')
ï-Found in words such as beïnvloed ('to influence'). The diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus 'ï' and 'ïe' are pronounced like 'i' and 'ie' respectively
ie/i/iets ('something')
j/j/jonk ('young')
k/k/kat ('cat'), kan ('can' (verb) or 'jug')
l/l/lag ('laugh')
m/m/man ('man')
n/n/nael ('nail')
ng/ŋ/sing ('to sing')
o/ɔ/op ('on' or 'up')
ô/ɔː/môre ('tomorrow')
ö-Found in words such as mikroörganisme ('micro-organism'). The diaeresis indicates the start of new syllable, thus 'ö' is pronounced the same as 'o'
oe/u/boek ('book'), koel ('cool')
oei/ui/koei ('cow')
oi/oj/mooi ('pretty', 'beautiful'). Sometimes spelled 'oy' in loanwords and surnames
oo/uə/oor ('ear' or 'over')
ooi/ɔːi/nooi ('saying for little girl' or 'invitation')
ou/ɵu/oupa ('grandpa', 'grandfather'), koud ('cold'). Sometimes spelled 'ouw' in loanwords and surnames, for example Louw.
p/p/pot ('pot'), pers ('purple' or 'press' (indicating the news media)
q/k/Found only in foreign words with original spelling maintained; typically 'k' is used instead
r/r/rooi ('red')
s/s/, /z/, /ʃ/ses ('six'), stem ('voice' or 'vote'), posisie ('position', /z/ for first 's', /s/ for second 's'), rasioneel ('rational', /ʃ/)
sj/ʃ/sjaal ('shawl'), sjokolade ('chocolate')
t/t/, /ʃ/tafel ('table'), 'aktuaris' ('actuary'; /ʃ/)
tj/tʃ/, /k/tjank ('whine like a dog' or 'to cry incessantly'). The former pronunciation occurs at the beginning of a word and the latter in "-tjie"
u/œ/, /yː/kus ('coast' or 'kiss'), skadu ('shade'). The latter is rare and most commonly found as the word u (formal 'you')
û/œː/brûe ('bridges')
ü-Found in words such as reünie ('reunion'). The diaeresis indicates the start of a new syllable, thus 'ü' is pronounced the same 'u', except when found in proper nouns and surnames from German, like Müller.
ui/œj/uit ('out')
uu/yː/uur ('hour')
v/f/vis ('fish'), vir ('for')
w/v/, /w/water ('water'; /v/), kwart ('quarter'; /w/)
x/z/, /ks/xifoïed ('xiphoid'; /z/), x-straal ('x-ray'; /ks/).
y/ɛi/byt ('bite')
z/z/Zoeloe ('Zulu'). Found only in onomatopoeia and loanwords

Afrikaans phrases[edit]

Afrikaans is a very centralised language, meaning that most of the vowels are pronounced in a very centralised (or schwa-like) way. Although there are many different dialects and accents, the transcription would be fairly standard.

Hallo! Hoe gaan dit?[ɦaləu ɦu xaˑn dət]Hallo! Hoe gaat het (met je/jou/u)?
Also used: Hallo! Hoe is het?
Hello! How is it going? (Hello! How are you?)Hallo! Wie geht's? (Hallo! Wie geht's dir/Ihnen?)
Baie goed, dankie.[bajə xuˑt daŋki]Heel goed, dank je.Very well, thank you.Sehr gut, danke.
Praat jy Afrikaans?[prɑˑt jəi afrikɑ̃ˑs]Spreek/Praat je/jij Afrikaans?Do you speak Afrikaans?Sprichst du Afrikaans?
Praat jy Engels?[prɑˑt jəi ɛŋəls]Spreek/Praat je/jij Engels?Do you speak English?Sprichst du Englisch?
'n Bietjie.[ə biki]Een beetje.A bit.Ein bisschen.
Wat is jou naam?[vat əs jəu nɑˑm]Hoe heet je? / Wat is jouw naam?What is your name?Wie heißt du? / Wie ist dein Name?
Die kinders praat Afrikaans.[di kənərs prɑˑt afrikɑ̃ˑns]De kinderen spreken/praten Afrikaans.The children speak Afrikaans.Die Kinder sprechen Afrikaans.
Ek is lief vir jou.
Less common: Ek het jou lief.
[æk əs lif vɯr jəʊ]Ik hou van je/jou.
Common in Southern Dutch: Ik heb je/jou/u lief.
I love you.Ich liebe dich.
Also: Ich habe dich lieb. (Colloquial; virtually no romantic connotation)

It should be noted that in the Dutch language the word "Afrikaans" means African, in the general sense. Consequently Afrikaans is commonly but incorrectly denoted as "Zuid-Afrikaans". This ambiguity also exists in Afrikaans itself and is either resolved in the context of its usage, or by using "Afrikaan" for an African person, and "Afrika-" in the adjective sense.

The following Afrikaans sentences, which have the same meaning in English, are also written identically though their pronunciation differs:

Sample text[edit]

Psalm 23 1983 translation:[citation needed]

Die Here is my Herder, ek kom niks kort nie.
Hy laat my in groen weivelde rus. Hy bring my by waters waar daar vrede is.
Hy gee my nuwe krag. Hy lei my op die regte paaie tot eer van Sy naam.
Selfs al gaan ek deur donker dieptes, sal ek nie bang wees nie, want U is by my. In U hande is ek veilig.

Psalm 23 alternative translation:[citation needed]

Die Here is my Herder, niks sal my ontbreek nie.
Hy laat my neerlê in groen weivelde; na waters waar rus is, lei Hy my heen.
Hy verkwik my siel; Hy lei my in die spore van geregtigheid, om sy Naam ontwil.
Al gaan ek ook in 'n dal van doodskaduwee, ek sal geen onheil vrees nie; want U is met my: u stok en u staf die vertroos my.

Lord's Prayer (Afrikaans New Living translation)[citation needed]

Ons Vader in die hemel, laat U Naam geheilig word.
Laat U koningsheerskappy spoedig kom.
Laat U wil hier op aarde uitgevoer word soos in die hemel.
Gee ons die porsie brood wat ons vir vandag nodig het.
En vergeef ons ons sondeskuld soos ons ook óns skuldenaars vergewe het.
Bewaar ons sodat ons nie aan verleiding sal toegee nie; en bevry ons van die greep van die Bose.
Want van U is die koninkryk,
en die krag,
en die heerlikheid,
tot in ewigheid. Amen

Lord's Prayer (Original translation):[citation needed]

Onse Vader wat in die hemel is,
laat U Naam geheilig word;
laat U koninkryk kom;
laat U wil geskied op die aarde,
net soos in die hemel.
Gee ons vandag ons daaglikse brood;
en vergeef ons ons skulde
soos ons ons skuldenaars vergewe
en laat ons nie in die versoeking nie
maar verlos ons van die Bose
Want aan U behoort die koninkryk
en die krag
en die heerlikheid
tot in ewigheid. Amen

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b What follows are estimations. Afrikaans has 16.3 million speakers; see de Swaan 2001, p. 216. Afrikaans has a total of 16 million speakers; see Machan 2009, p. 174. About 9 million people speak Afrikaans as a second or third language; see Alant 2004, p. 45, Proost 2006, p. 402. Afrikaans has over 5 million native speakers and 15 million second language speakers; see Réguer 2004, p. 20. Afrikaans has about 6 million native and 16 million second language speakers; see Domínguez & López 1995, p. 340. In South Africa, over 23 million people speak Afrikaans, of which a third are first-language speakers; see Page & Sonnenburg 2003, p. 7. L2 "Black Afrikaans" is spoken, with different degrees of fluency, by an estimated 15 million; see Stell 2008-11, p. 1.
  2. ^ Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see Booij 1995, p. 2, Jansen, Schreuder & Neijt 2007, p. 5, Mennen, Levelt & Gerrits 2006, p. 1, Booij 2003, p. 4, Hiskens, Auer & Kerswill 2005, p. 19, Heeringa & de Wet 2007, pp. 1, 3, 5.
    Afrikaans was historically called Cape Dutch; see Deumert & Vandenbussche 2003, p. 16, Conradie 2005, p. 208, Sebba 1997, p. 160, Langer & Davies 2005, p. 144, Deumert 2002, p. 3, Berdichevsky 2004, p. 130.
    Afrikaans is rooted in seventeenth century dialects of Dutch; see Holm 1989, p. 338, Geerts & Clyne 1992, p. 71, Mesthrie 1995, p. 214, Niesler, Louw & Roux 2005, p. 459.
    Afrikaans is variously described as a creole, a partially creolised language, or a deviant variety of Dutch; see Sebba 2007, p. 116.
  3. ^ Afrikaans borrowed from other languages such as Portuguese, Malay, Bantu and Khoisan languages; see Sebba 1997, p. 160, Niesler, Louw & Roux 2005, p. 459.
    90 to 95% of Afrikaans vocabulary is ultimately of Dutch origin; see Mesthrie 1995, p. 214, Mesthrie 2002, p. 205, Kamwangamalu 2004, p. 203, Berdichevsky 2004, p. 131, Brachin & Vincent 1985, p. 132.
  4. ^ For morphology; see Holm 1989, p. 338, Geerts & Clyne 1992, p. 72. For grammar and spelling; see Sebba 1997, p. 161.
  5. ^ Dutch and Afrikaans share mutual intelligibility; see Gooskens 2007, p. 453, Holm 1989, p. 338, Baker & Prys Jones 1997, p. 302, Egil Breivik & Håkon Jahr 1987, p. 232.
    For written mutual intelligibility; see Sebba 2007, p. 116, Sebba 1997, p. 161.
  6. ^ It has the widest geographical and racial distribution of all the official languages of South Africa; see Webb 2003, pp. 7, 8, Berdichevsky 2004, p. 131. It has by far the largest geographical distribution; see Alant 2004, p. 45.
    It is widely spoken and understood as a second or third language; see Deumert & Vandenbussche 2003, p. 16, Kamwangamalu 2004, p. 207, Myers-Scotton 2006, p. 389, Simpson 2008, p. 324, Palmer 2001, p. 141, Webb 2002, p. 74, Herriman & Burnaby 1996, p. 18, Page & Sonnenburg 2003, p. 7, Brook Napier 2007, pp. 69, 71.
    An estimated 40% have at least a basic level of communication; see Webb 2003, p. 7 McLean & McCormick 1996, p. 333.
  7. ^ Some 85% of Namibians can understand Afrikaans; see Bromber & Smieja 2004, p. 73.
    There are 152,000 native speakers of Afrikaans in Namibia; see Deumert & Vandenbussche 2003, p. 16.
    Afrikaans is a lingua franca of Namibia; see Deumert 2004, p. 1, Adegbija 1994, p. 26, Batibo 2005, p. 79, Donaldson 1993, p. xiii, Deumert & Vandenbussche 2003, p. 16, Baker & Prys Jones 1997, p. 364, Domínguez & López 1995, p. 399, Page & Sonnenburg 2003, p. 8, CIA 2010.
  8. ^ Afrikaans is spoken in 11 percent of Namibian households; see Namibian Population Census 2001. In the Hardap Region it is spoken in 44% of households, in the Karas Region by 40% of households, in the Khomas Region by 24% of households; see Census Indicators, 2001 and click through to "Regional indicators".


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  53. ^ Oranje FM, Radio Sonder Grense, Jacaranda FM, Radio Pretoria, Rapport, Beeld, Die Burger, Die Son, Afrikaans news is run everyday; the PRAAG website is a web-based news service. On pay channels it is provided as second language on all sports, Kyknet
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  58. ^ SABC3 "tests" Afrikaans programming, Screen Africa, 15 April 2009
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  60. ^ They were named before the establishment of the current Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape provinces, and are not dialects of those provinces per se.
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  69. ^ a b c d Donaldson (1993:15)
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]