The Alphabet 3
The Dutch alphabet has 26 letters, which are divided into vowels (klinkers) and consonants (medeklinkers).
As in many other languages, Dutch vowels (though not consonants) sometimes receive accent marks.
- Acute accent: é, á, ó, ú.
- The numeral een (‘one’) normally receives these accent marks (één) to distinguish it in writing from the indefinite article een (‘a’).
- The accent is often given to the word hé: Hé, mag ik misschien jouw adres? (‘Hey, could I have your address?’)
- It is also placed on any vowel that requires stress: Luuk, kom nú naar binnen! (‘Luuk, come inside NOW!’) Je pen ligt dáár. (‘Your pen is (over) there.’)
- Diaresis (the two ‘dots’ on a vowel; Dutch trema ). Most frequent on the letter <e>, you’ll see it when two vowels follow one another, but are pronounced separately. The diaresis always occurs on the second vowel and tells the reader that it has to be pronounced separately. It occurs in various situations. Some common ones are:
- in non-compound words, to prevent two vowels being read as one sound. For instance, if the <e> did not have a diaresis in the word *poezie, the two vowels in the middle would be read as the sound /oe/. To prevent this from happening, the word is written poëzie, telling the reader that the <o> and the <e> have to be pronounced separately. Examples of words with the diaresis on other letters than <e> are: intuïtie, coöperatie and reünie.
- in the spelling of numbers as in tweeëndertig (‘thirty-two’) to separate twee and en.
- at the end of many names of countries: Italië, België.
- Grave accent. This accent mark is placed on short vowel sounds, mainly on <e> to indicate a short /ε/ sound: Hè, moet ik echt naar binnen? (‘Ahh, do I really have to come inside?’); carrière (‘career’), caissière (‘cashier’).
- Circumflex. You’ll only find this accent mark in loan words like enquête (‘questionnaire’) to indicate the pronunciation as the long French /ε/.