Dutch spelling and Alphabetic Ordering
A short text on spelling and ordering regarding historical Dutch names (surnames and places)
- In Dutch, the combination 'ij' is considered a single letter, sometimes denoted as 'ÿ'. It ought to have dots; except for a few rare cases 'y' is not used in modern Dutch (but in the past it was, and still is in Frisian. And it is still used in some surnames). If a name starts with 'ij', both letters should be capitals (e.g. the river IJssel). Please note that the letter 'ij' is commonly sorted under 'i' (at least by computers, but older (manual) lists may have it under 'y'/'ÿ').
To complicate matters further, 'ij' sounds the same as 'ei' in Dutch, and is sometimes switched by mistake.
- There have been several (official) spelling changes in Dutch over the years. Old Dutch is hard to read, in particular when in handwriting (in particular on microfiche), hard to understand even for Dutch people and certainly when it is in officialese with its specific abbreviations.
Some notable cases of spelling changes:
- the combination 'sch' is commonly written as 's' nowadays (but not always);
- 'g' was often swapped for 'ch', and the other way around;
- 'c' and 'ck' were swapped for 'k', and sometimes the other way around;
- in some combinations, 'y'/'ÿ' became 'i' (e.g. '~sluys' => '~sluis', 'Leyden' => 'Leiden').
- the combination 'ae' changed to 'aa';
- sometimes the combination 'aa' changed to 'a' now, 'ee' to 'e', 'oo' to 'o' and 'uu' to 'u' (these cases depend on current pronunciation rules).
- See Background on Names for more about surnames.
- Prepositions like 'van', 'de', 'den', 'der', 'het', 'in', 'te', 'ten' and 'ter' are ignored in Dutch when ordering names alphabetically (i.e. treated like given names). In most other languages (e.g. English), the prepositions are treated as separate words, and sorting is on the first word. So for 'van der Heide' you have to look under the letter 'H' in the Netherlands, and under the letter 'V' anywhere else).
- In Dutch databases, prepositions are commonly treated in a separate field called 'tussenvoegsel(s)'.
- Note that prepositions do not start with a capital (e.g. 'Jan van der Heide'). There is –of course– an exception: when used without first name or initials, the (first) preposition must start with a capital (e.g. 'mister Van der Heide').
- Prepositions are often abbreviated: 'van' to 'v.', 'van de' or 'van der' or 'van den' to 'v./d.' or simply 'v/d'.
- Note that in Belgium (Flemish) the prepositions are commonly attached to the name (e.g. 'Vanderheide'), with all the consequences for sorting.
- The prefix 's- (like in 's-Gravenland) is short for 'des' meaning 'of the' (in this example 'land of the count'); as a preposition it is ignored when sorting (i.e. it is sorted under the next letter, in this case 'G').
The prefix 't is short for 'het' meaning 'the', and this preposition is ignored similarly.
The prefix St. is short for 'Sint' meaning 'Saint' (as in 'St. Louis'); this is not a preposition but a separate abbreviated word (and consequently sorted under 'S').
- Frisian: One of the provinces of the Netherlands is Friesland.
There they have a language of their own: Frisian (seems based on Celtic).
The word Frisian is not only used to indicate a famous type of cow, but also for the language or a person from that province.
The language uses some letters not found in Dutch, e.g. the Æ-ligature as in Ængwirden.