East Flemish
Uest-Vloams, Uust-Vloams, Oeëst-Vloams
Native toBelgium, Netherlands
RegionEast Flanders
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottologoost1241  Oost-Vlaams
oost1242  Oostvlaams
Position of East Flemish (colour: light brown) among the other minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux
Position of East Flemish (colour: light brown) among the other minority languages, regional languages and dialects in the Benelux

East Flemish (Dutch: Oost-Vlaams, French: flamand oriental) is a collective term for the two easternmost subdivisions ("true" East Flemish, also called Core Flemish,[1] and Waaslandic) of the so-called Flemish dialects, native to the southwest of the Dutch language area, which also include West Flemish.[2] Their position between West Flemish and Brabantian has caused East Flemish dialects to be grouped with the latter as well.[3] They are spoken mainly in the province of East Flanders and a narrow strip in the southeast of West Flanders in Belgium and eastern Zeelandic Flanders in the Netherlands. Even though the dialects of the Dender area are often discussed together with the East Flemish dialects because of their location, the latter are actually South Brabantian.[4]


Before the occurrence of written records, the dialect continuum that took shape in the Old Dutch language area was characterised mainly by differences from east to west, with the east showing more continental Germanic traits and the west having more coastal Germanic features.[4] In East Flanders, it can be noted that not a single typical eastern Low Franconian trait has reached the region, but coastal characteristics are fairly common, albeit less so than more to the west.[4]

In the 15th century, the dominant position in the Low Countries shifted from the County of Flanders to the Duchy of Brabant, which brought an expansian of linguistic traits from Brabant, the so-called 'Brabantic Expansion'. As the Scheldt delta formed a large barrier in the north, those traits were introduced mainly from South Brabant, particularly the city of Brussels.[4] The Dender area probably already started the process in the 14th century, but Ghent (and probably the rest of the province) resisted those changes for at least another century, as writings from Ghent still indicated a phonology that was typically West Flemish phonology in the mid-16th century.[4] Eventually, two processes caused the spread of Brabantian traits in eastern Flanders:

While the second process has caused a fairly wide extension of some traits, the traits spread by the first process have reached only the eastern quarter of the province: the Dender and Waasland areas.[4]

Having been dominated by the French, the Austrians and the Spanish, their languages have been other influences on the vocabulary of East Flemish.[citation needed]


Principal dialects

Transitional and mixed dialects

A special mention should go to continental West Flemish, which, despite being a West Flemish dialect, has some East Flemish colouring, as Kortrijk was historically governed under Ghent.[8]

Notable characteristics

Even though the East Flemish dialect area is one of the most diverse linguistic landscapes in Belgium,[4] the dialects share some traits that set them apart from Standard Dutch as well as the neighbouring dialects:


As the realisation of phonemes can be quite divergent in different East Flemish dialects, the phonemes represented here are based on the most common Core East Flemish realisations.


  Labial Alveolar Post-
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p   b t   d k   (ɡ)
Fricative f   v s   z (ʃ)   (ʒ) x ɣ
Affricate ts
Approximant β̞ l j
Trill r



The following table gives an overview of some common phonemes in stressed syllables. Many East Flemish dialects have lost the phonemic vowel length distinction, but the distincition is made in the following table for the dialects that have kept it. Also, the central vowel /ə/ occurs only in unstressed syllables and is often heavily reduced or even omitted in many dialects.[2][11]

Close i y u
Close-mid ɪ   e(ː) ʏ   ø(ː) o   (oː)
Open-mid ɛ œ ɔ
Open æ ɑ



The following table shows the common diphthong phonemes in East Flemish, but it also includes some allophones or alternative realisations of the vowels mentioned above.[2]

Starting point Ending point
Front Central Back
Close front unrounded iə̯ iu̯
front rounded yə̯ ~ uə̯
back ui̯
Close-mid front unrounded ɪə̯
front rounded øi̯ øə̯
back oə̯ ou̯
Open-mid front unrounded ɛi̯ ɛə̯
front rounded œi̯
back ɔi̯ ɔu̯
Open front æi̯ æu̯ ~ ɑu̯
back ɑi̯




As in many other southern Dutch dialects, verbal constructions can take several forms, depending on stress, the position of the subject and the next word.[4] Unlike West Flemish, however, there is no subjunctive mood.[10] The following table gives the general rules of conjugation in the present tense and the regular example of zwieren ("to toss"). The spelling is based on Dutch orthography with the addition of  ̊  to show devoicing and  ̆  to show vowel shortening.

Ending Regular order (SVO) Inversed order (VSO or OVS) Subordinate clauses (SOV)
Person and number Unstressed Duplicated Stressed Unstressed Stressed Unstressed Stressed
1st sing. -e / -∅ / (-n) 'k zwiere 'k zwiere-kik ik zwiere zwiere-k zwiere-kik da-k ... zwiere da-kik ... zwiere
2nd sing. -t ge zwiert ge zwier-g̊ij gij zwiert zwier-de zwier-de gij da-de ... zwiert da-de gij ... zwiert
3rd sing. masc. -t / ̆-t ij zwiert ij zwiert-jij jij zwiert zwiert-ij zwiert-jij dat-ij ... zwiert dat-jij ... zwiert
3rd sing. fem. ze zwiert ze zwier-z̊ij zij zwiert zwier-z̊e zwier-z̊e zij da-z̊e ... zwiert da-z̊e zij ... zwiert
3rd sing. ntr. 't zwiert - - zwier-et - da-t ... zwiert -
1st plural -en me zwieren(-me(n)) me zwiere-me wij/wulder wij/wulder zwieren(-me(n)) zwiere-me(n) zwiere-me wij/wulder da-me(n) ... zwieren da-me wij/wulder ... zwieren
2nd plural -t ge zwiert ge zwier-g̊ulder gulder zwiert zwier-de zwier-de gulder da-de ... zwiert da-de gulder ... zwiert
3rd plural -en ze zwieren ze zwieren zulder zulder zwieren zwieren ze zwieren zulder dan ze ... zwieren dan zulder ... zwieren



Like most other Germanic languages, East Flemish differentiates between strong verbs and weak verbs. Even though there are a few strong verbs in East Flemish that are weak in Standard Dutch, the overall tendency is that East Flemish has more weak verbs.[4] Unlike many other Germanic languages, the rules for the conjugation of the strong preterite are exactly the same as in the present tense.[13] The weak preterite is formed by adding the suffix "-dege" ("-tege" when the stem ends in a voiceless consonant) to the verbal stem.[4] While an -n is usually added in the first-person and the third-person plural, the t-ending is not added except in a few southwestern dialects.[13]

Ghent dialect

The dialect of the province's capital, Ghent, is also different from the language of the surrounding region. The Brabantic expansion is believed to have started in Ghent, which has separated its speech from the other Flemish dialects. Some Brabantic traits were exported to other East Flemish dialects, but many were not. The most notable differences include n-dropping and the more extreme diphthongisation of ii and uu. At the same time, Ghent resisted many innovations characteristic for rural East Flanders. In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, the French uvular r was adopted.[17]


  1. ^ a b Hoppenbrouwers, Cor; Hoppenbrouwers, Geer (2001): De Indeling van de Nederlandse streektalen. ISBN 90 232 3731 5
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Taeldeman, Johan (1979): Het klankpatroon van de Vlaamse dialecten. Een inventariserend overzicht. In Woordenboek van de Vlaamse Dialecten. Inleiding.
  3. ^ Belgium (2005). Keith Brown (ed.). Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-044299-4.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao Taeldeman, Johan (2005): Taal in Stad en Land: Oost-Vlaams.
  5. ^ a b Taeldeman, Johan (2004): Variatie binnen de Oost-Vlaamse dialecten. In: Azuuë Gezeid, Azuuë Gezoeng'n, Vol. II: Oost-Vlaanderen. Wild Boar Music WBM 21902.
  6. ^ a b Van Driel, Lo (2004): Taal in Stad en Land: Zeeuws.
  7. ^ a b Taeldeman, Johan (1979): Op fonologische verkenning in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. Taal en Tongval. Tijdschrift voor de studie van de Nederlandse volks- en streektalen, 31, 143-193
  8. ^ a b Debrabandere, Frans (1999), "Kortijk", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal, Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 289–299
  9. ^ Ooms, Miet; Van Keymeulen, Jacques (2005): Taal in Stad en Land: Vlaams-Brabants en Antwerps.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Devos, Magda; Vandekerckhove, Reinhild (2005): Taal in Stad en Land: West-Vlaams.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Lievevrouw-Coopman, Lodewijk (1950-1954): Gents Woordenboek. Gent, Erasmus.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Taeldeman, Johan (1999), "Gent", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline, Honderd Jaar Stadstaal, Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 273–288
  13. ^ a b c Goeman, Ton; Van Oostendorp, Marc; Van Reenen, Pieter; Koornwinder, Oele; Van den Berg, Boudewijn; Van Reenen, Anke (2008) Morfologische Atlas van de Nederlandse Dialecten, deel II. ISBN 9789053567746.
  14. ^ a b c Blancqaert, Edgar; Pée, Willem (1925 - 1982) Reeks Nederlandse Dialectatlassen
  15. ^ a b c d De Vogelaer, Gunther; Neuckermans, Annemie; Van den Heede, Vicky; Devos, Magda; van der Auwera, Johan (2004): De indeling van de Nederlandse dialecten: een syntactisch perspectief.
  16. ^ Winkler, Johan (1974): Algemeen Nederduitsch en Friesch Dialecticon. 's-Gravenhage.
  17. ^ Johan Taeldeman (1985): De klankstructuren van het Gentse dialect. Een synchrone beschrijving en een historische en geografische situering.

Further reading

  • Taeldeman, Johan (1999), "Gent", in Kruijsen, Joep; van der Sijs, Nicoline (eds.), Honderd Jaar Stadstaal (PDF), Uitgeverij Contact, pp. 273–299