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Hi there! Welcome to the second post on tweeklanken, or vowel combinations. Here’s last week’s post on ae, ai, aai, and au/ou. Today we have an exciting one, because we will discuss the ij, one very special letter in the Dutch alphabet and in the realm of tweeklanken. Apart from the ij, we will discuss the ie and ieu(w) today, because they also start with an i. I will also talk about ei, because ij and ei are very much related. You will see. Let’s dive into it!
ie is pretty simple: it sounds like a normal i but longer. A normal i is pronounced as the i in ik (I). The i-e combination gives it a sound as in fiets (bike). You say it like the English ee as in need, keep, sleep. Still, it is a bit shorter, though, best comparable with knie (Dutch for knee): knie and knee. Unlike the next one, ie is very common.
Eeeew! Yeah, yucky. That’s how you can remember ieu best. The w is in brackets, because officially, it is not part of the tweeklank. However, the sound is rounded off best with a w, as it might otherwise sound too much like a french -ieu. So ieu is a combination of ie and u. It is not so common, and you will find it in words as nieuw (new) and benieuwd (curious). Caution with the word interview – we just write it the English way!
ij is quite a different story. While it is considered a tweeklank, it is also a more strict letter combination. It is the only letter combination that is capitalized together: IJ. In alphabetical order, you should place it just in the i-row. IJ started being used in the Middle Ages because words like prise (price) had to be pronounced with a long i, a lange ij. So prise evolved into prijs. This ij is still called lange ij today. I will get to the korte ei below.
For a long time, the y was still used in a lot of words. Words like tyd and bevryd would now be written with ij (tijd (time) and bevrijd (freed)).
This y is called griekse y (greek y), i-grec, or ypsilon in Dutch.
There is a thing with pronunciation though.
There are words where the ij is still pronounced as the medieval i, such as bijzonder or the name of the town Wijchen.
It is also pronounced differently in words that end with -lijk, such as eerlijk (honest, fair) or gevaarlijk (dangerous).
In all normal cases, it sounds like ij as in dijk (dyke) or wijk (neighborhood).
And pronounced the same as the lange ij is… de korte ei.
The korte ei sounds exactly like the lange ij, and is also very common. It is used a lot in words that end with -heid, such as eenheid (unit, unity) or overheid (government).
It is achieved by “gliding together” the e and i sound.
There are also words that sound the same but because of their ij/ei mean something else:
lijden means “to suffer”, whereas leiden means “to lead”.
The korte ei is not considered to be its own letter, and so only the e is capitalized, not the i, just like all other tweeklanken.
So the ij is really special!
Do you have any questions left? Let me know in the comments below!