The Alphabet 3
The Dutch alphabet has 26 letters, which are divided into vowels (klinkers) and consonants (medeklinkers).
These are the Dutch vowels:
The vowels <a>,<e>,<i>,<o> and <u>in the above examples are all pronounced as short vowel sounds. These vowels can also be pronounced as long sounds, in which case certain spelling rules apply (spelling of long vowel sounds)
The letter <e> can be pronounced in three different ways: as the short vowel /ε/ as in bel, the long vowel /e:/ as the first in leren, and also as the unstressed /ə/, which is called a ‘schwa’. The schwa can be heard for example in the suffix -en to make the plural of verbs and nouns; e.g. bellen /belən/, leren /le:rən/, tassen /tasən/.
Note that the schwa is also heard in the indefinite article een, which is pronounced /ən/ or in the suffix -lijk, such as in natuurlijk.
All of the above vowels can be written together with another vowel. The combinations <ie>, <oe> and <eu> are pronounced as a singular sound:
In the pronunciation of the other combinations of vowels, however, the two different vowels can be identified. These are called diphthongs. The letter combinations <au> and <ou> represent the same sound (i.e. <au> and <ou> sound the same), as do <ei> and <ij> (i.e. <ei> and <ij> sound the same).