Student Projects on the Dutch Language

This page describes three different projects suitable for students wishing to receive credit for the course "Curious about the Dutch". You may choose any one of these for a paper, and you may also suggest other topics for my approval, but please note that prior approval is essential for credit. Please let me know whether you intend to carry out this project by Nov. 1, and please turn in the paper by Dec. 15. Students wishing to earn five ECTS credits are required to write 2,500 - 5,000 words (5-10 single-spaced pages).

Please take care with the written form in which you present your work! Definitely consult the guidelines, but especially if you are inexperienced in writing.

1. The Influence of Dutch on English

Thomas Pyles The Origins and Development of the English Language (Harcourt: New York, 1971) identifies a large number of English words as derived from "Dutch and other forms of Low German" (p.334):
boor booze brake hop kit wagon
luck pickle spool snap brandywine wiseacre
cambric duffel easel frolic gimp
gin landscape rant skate split
buoy cruise deck luff pea jacket
scow skipper sloop yacht yawl
trek commandeer commando outspan apartheid
American import
boss bowery coleslaw Santa Claus cooky dope
pit 'fruit stone' sleigh snoop spook waffle

Check which Dutch words these English words have derived from, and note especially how the Dutch words have changed in form or meaning as they were taken into English. Please add to this list from other sources.

Other sources could be You must acknowledge all sources properly!


Please describe the full set of borrowings, and identify general patterns you see -- in the type of word it is (noun, verb, etc.), the trade or activity it comes from, or the sorts of changes it underwent. Compare the trends you spot to the general remarks in the chapters on language history in David Crystal's The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), especially Chap. 50 "Families of Languages", Chap. 51 "The Indo-European Family", and Chap.54 "Language Change". Again, you are encouraged to seek out other general accounts of patterns in borrowed words (always with acknowledgment).

2. The Influence of Dutch on Another Language

You can examine the effect of Dutch on German, French or Russian instead of English, but you'll need to gather literature on this yourself.

3. The History of Dutch

B.C.Donaldson's Dutch: A Linguistic History of Holland and Belgium (Martinus Nijhoff: Leiden) sketches the history of the Dutch language. Compare this to the general remarks in the chapter on "Language History" in David Crystal's The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, see above for more exact references). Again, you are encouraged to seek out other sources for both the history of Dutch and the general patterns of linguistic development.


Identify unusual developments in Dutch linguistic history, and, if possible, suggest why things developed the way they did. I suggest a focus on Chapter 8, "Vocabulary and Word Formation", especially on his information about the source of Dutch vocabulary. Again, you may compare this to the the overhead sheets for the lecture. If you choose to develop the focus I suggest, then this paper would be similar to the one described under (1), only you'll describe the influence of other languages on Dutch vocabulary.

Warning: other foci for this project clearly need to be kept to a small number of topics, otherwise the paper will be either too long or too superficial. Pick one of the three topics.

Turn in your paper by Dec. 15

John Nerbonne
Last modified: Wed Sep 13 08:29:58 CEST 2006