vowel multiplicity

February 12th, 2007

Dutch words love double vowels. We don't have that in Norwegian, we have the opposite - double consonants. When there's one, the preceding vowel is long, when there's two it's short.

hele - the whole

helle - to pour

The pronounciation is distinct.

In Dutch you have double vowels that sort of maybe sometimes are pronounced differently than single ones, but if so I can't tell. So to me it's like they pop up for no apparent reason. I have no clue when to expect them, it's a hassle. Or if I'm actually pronouncing it right.

hel - hell (and many more meanings)

heel - a whole

Maybe I misunderstood the meaning, but that's not the point. The point is that they sound the same to me. Now take a word like this.

helemaal - completely

How the frick am I supposed to know the multiplicity here? Double the first e, the second e, or maybe the a?

If you think it's just the last vowel that doubles..

heelal - space

I remember my English teachers always told us it's fine whether we prefer the British or the American spelling, so long as we're consistent. Perhaps I could apply the same principle here?

:: random entries in this category ::

8 Responses to "vowel multiplicity"

  1. erik says:

    Most difficult part of the Dutch language, you had to bring it up

    Double vowels: prolonged pronunciation.
    Single vowels: when followed by one consonant, the preceding vowel is long. When followed by two consonants it’s short. If a word starts with a single vowel, it is always short.

    Additionally: when a word ends in an "e" - it sounds like "uh", more or less.

    Hele = first e is long (because 1 consonant follows) and second e sounds like "uh" (because it's the last letter)

    Helemaal = hele+maal. First e is long (because 1 consonant follows) and second e sounds like "uh" (because it's the last letter). The aa of course is long.

    Hel = short e because one consonant.

    Heel = long e because there's two of them.

    Heelal = heel+al. Double vowel combination is obviously long, a in al is short because it's the first letter of the word.

    These rules don't change if several words are combined into one word, such as "heelal" (heel+al) and "helemaal" (hele+maal)

  2. numerodix says:

    When you say "long" and "short" are they supposed to be discernible in speech? Do you have any examples? Cause to me they sound the same.

    Btw what about names? Bastian Baastian Bastiaan Baastiaan

  3. erik says:

    Names work the same.

    And hell yeah there's a difference in sound. Geez

    Amsterdam = Ahm (short) - ster - dahm (short)

    Alphen aan den Rijn = Ahl (short) - phen - aahn (long) - den - Ryn

  4. erik says:

    Oops my bad. Second link is supposed to be this:


  5. numerodix says:

    What are you trying to prove with the audio?

    Alphen aan de Rijn?

    Well slight difference perhaps, but not very much. Certainly in common speech.

  6. erik says:

    You'll notice the difference when you get a bit more comfortable with the language.

  7. numerodix says:

    Bah, sounds like parking advice

  8. erik says:

    Cliché but true, live with it