Pronouncing Dutch

is not easy for people whose native language is English.

Sure it is. It rhymes with words like "hutch" or "such", but starts with a D. :)

The sch in its three variants (compare electrisch, schenken, and schrijven), the vowel clusters (ieuw, eeuw, auw, and the notorious ij and ui) also demand a lot of the non-native speaker. Fortunately, the Dutch have forgiving ears.

Actually, as far as I (Dutch) know, sch only comes in two forms; schenken and schrijven are really the same.
The following from EwDijkstra:

I've been wondering how to pronounce his name Dijkstra, since I first saw it a dozen of years ago. Could anyone help me?

See http://www.wi.leidenuniv.nl/~mmeijeri/dijkstra.wav for a sample of someone saying 'Edsger Wiebe Dijkstra'. (BrokenLink 2004-07-07) -- Hey, I knew I was right to keep a copy of that file... Here it is: http://badibulgator.free.fr/Dijkstra.wav

A few years ago I got to attend a nine-day seminar taught by Dijkstra, C.A.R. Hoare, Wim Feijen, and David Gries. Heady stuff! All of the English-speaking folks pronounced his name "DIKE-strah"; a few of the speakers of non-English European languages pronounced it "DEEK-strah". He politely answered to either, although I think his pronounciation was a bit closer to the first - Dutch has some vowel sounds that do not map directly to English (or American ;-). -- JoelNeely

The first "Dike-strah" is much closer. The 'a' though is much more like the first a in "alphabet" - a shorter and higher sound than "ah". -- WillemVanDenEnde (Dutch)


Dutch ij is somewhere between the vowel sounds in hay and high.
It is a dipthong. The English long i starts with an "ah". The Dutch ij ends with the same sound as the English long i, but starts with the "e" of "pet". -- HendrikBoom (dutch immigrant to Canada)

[I can't detect any 'ah' starting a long i in English.]

Try saying "time" in slow motion... [I think that's from the t]


According to HendrikBoom, the vowel must sound something like /eah/, but WillemVanDenEnde, also a Dutchman, said it's closer to /ahi/ as in icon. And someone, maybe Dutch as well, argued it's somewhere between hay and high. Who's right? -- JuneKim

It depends on where in the Netherlands you are from. The diphtong ij is pronounced with varying degrees of openness/closedness depending on the region.

I'd guess that JoelNeely is right, because he's the only one who's written something here who has actually met the guy, and I'd say that we should trust the expert. Everyone else is just generalising from their knowledge of the language. Dijkstra's name may be Indian for all we know, just because he is Dutch doesn't mean his name is, even if it looks sort of Dutch. -- BryanDollery

Except that names like that are very common in the Netherlands. dijk means "dike" and stra is an ending very common in Dutch surnames. And he himself is Dutch, so the burden of proof is on someone who wants to make an extraordinary claim in the face of this evidence.
Dijkstra is a common Dutch name. It means "from the dike". My wife is a Terpstra, which means "from the terp". A terp is a large mound that is made to protect an important building in times of flood.

Continuing in this vein, Hofstra... Errrm, this vowel varies by region in Holland, as I have found. So "all of the above" to the Dutch contributions. In Amsterdam the sound is more like the "hay" sound, in some areas it is more like the "fry" sound, and it is a wacky dipthong in old-style Dutch. I don't know which part Ew is from. Still, his first name is likely to cause more problems with that 'g' in it :). -- RIH. Not if he's from Limburg ;-)
Actually, no. I think Dijkstra (and other names ending in -stra) are Frisian, not Dutch. While Friesland is part of the Netherlands, the FrisianLanguage is very different from Dutch. Other Frisian forms are Deickstra, Dijkstra, Dykstra, Dijkema, Dykema. The corresponding Dutch/Flemish forms would be Van Dijck, Van Dijk, Van Dyck, Van Dyk, Van Dijken, Van Dyken, Dijkman, Dykman.
If Dijkstra had been a Frisian himself (and not just his ancestors) he would probably pronounce his name as DEEK-strah. However, he was born in Rotterdam (in Holland proper) which makes it far more likely that his family would use the DIKE-strah pronunciation.
Has one of the Dutch people the means to create a sound file and put it on a common (non-wiki) web-page (eventually I put some place at your disposal)? -- MaxWildgrube
How should I pronounce his name "Edsger"?

Yeah! is that a soft 'g' or a hard one: eds-grrr or edsjer. Next time I'll ask about the r being closed or open. -- Bob Bockholt
We indeed use the 'Dikestrah' pronunciation and not an original Frisian one. Here is the requested sound file: http://hex.xs4all.nl/EdsgerWybeDijkstra.wav . As one can hear, "Edsger" is with a hard 'g'; the pronunciation of the letter 'r' varies a lot. -- Rutger M. Dijkstra


hmmm... my ancestors are Frisian. My last name is Zwaagstra. I believe I pronounce it correctly, as would my Frisian born Grandmother. Any takers?

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