a question for linguists

October 12, 2010, 02:33 PM posted in General Discussion

Hi all,

Today my Chinese classmate asked me a question:

"Gesa, Germany is "Deutschland", right? But "Dutch" is not spoken in Germany, right? How comes?"


My first reaction was that there is just no relation between the German word "Deutschland" and the English word "Dutch"...and they might look or sound more similar for a Chinese person as for Westerners, same as e.g. "chan" and "chang" might sound similar to Westerners but make a big difference in Chinese...


But then I thought...I don't know. There are a lot of words with the same word stem in German and English, I don't know where the word "Dutch" is coming from...etc.


Anyone any comments about this? 



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October 12, 2010, 03:19 PM

A little search on wikipedia proves your student right!

The origins of the word Dutch go back to Proto-Germanic, the ancestor of all Germanic languages, *þeudiskaz (meaning "national/popular"); a cognate of Old Dutch dietsOld High German duitschOld English þeodisc and Gothic þiuda all meaning "(of) the common (Germanic) people".

[..] On the continent *theudo evolved into two meanings: Diets(meaning "Dutch (people)" <archaic>[9]) and Deutsch (German, meaning "German (people)"). At first the English language used (the contemporary form of) Dutch to refer to any or all of the Germanic speakers on the European mainland (e.g. the Dutch, the Flemish and the Germans). For example, in Gulliver's Travels, German is called "High Dutch", whereas what we call Dutch today is called "Low Dutch". Gradually its meaning shifted to the Germanic people they had most contact with, both because their geographical proximity, but also because of the rivalry in trade and overseas territories: the people from the Dutch Republic, the Dutch.

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Thank you very much! I will tell Zhihui (my classmate not my student, obviously I wouldn't make a good German teacher ;-)) next time in class!